BODEGAS & BOUTIQUE HOTEL CASA BOQUERA
It’s not every day that one is invited to the inauguration of a brand new bodega here in Spain. The more so when the opening also includes a luxury boutique hotel, surrounded by its own nascent vineyards. So, you can imagine my delight when founders, Katherine and Harald Schalde*, sent us an official invitation!
We weren’t alone! Local and national press and radio were represented (including, of course, the Costa News Group and Total FM!), along with regional television too. There were also representatives of DO Yecla as well as owners of the other bodegas in the area, who have welcomed the new kids on the block with open arms.
And why not? Although Casa Boquera could be considered competition to the established bodegas, this new concern also adds a highly attractive extra dimension to the area, from which all will benefit. The concept of wine tourism is already firmly embedded in the psyche of the wineries of DO Yecla. Now, however, with the arrival of the luxury hotel whose restaurant is driven by Michelin Starred Chef, Fran Martínez, Enoturismo has been taken to the next level!
And, of this, I can talk with experience. I will soon be taking a group of twenty wine, food, culture and travel enthusiasts to stay for three days at Casa Boquera, visiting and tasting their wines, of course, but also touring other top DO Yecla bodegas where we will also taste (claro) and lunch! Plus, located as it is, equidistant from Yecla and Jumilla, visitors to Casa Boquera will also be able to take in Jumilla’s fine wine bodegas with the same ease. Everyone’s a winner!
The sight of several ladies and gentlemen dressed in the national costume of Norway must have been quite startling to any of the locals who have not been following the progress of this new venture. The reason – well Harald is Norwegian, and his wife, Katherine, whilst being originally Welsh, might just as well be considered Norwegian too – even to the point that she has forgotten some words in English, having lived for so long in Norway!
Together they have been extremely successful in business back home – they must have been, as I dread to think of the extent of their financial investment in this new oh-so-impressive business in the sunshine of Spain! After visiting the coast of South East Spain frequently in years gone by they felt, each time they returned to Norway, that something was missing. Once they realised it was not just the weather, but also the culture and people of Spain that was calling them, they set about finding a way of enjoying the best of both worlds.
They had always liked the sunshine that seemed to be bottled along with the wine that they’d tasted from Yecla and the surrounding areas, and when they heard of a bodega that was for sale, as the owners had no descendants; a bodega that had been farming organically for many years with the certificates to prove it – well it must have seemed like a sign! The purchase was a short story, however, the project has been, and will continue to be, a long story.
Old and unproductive vines were taken out. New, young vines were planted, site specifically, three of four years ago. Queen Monastrell is the principal variety, supported by Garnacha Tintorera, Syrah and Petit Verdot for the reds, with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Moscatel for white wine. The old finca that had housed the previous owners was used as a rather bucolic base camp for Katherine and Harald, and continues to be so, whilst the builders of the bodega and the hotel converged on the area set aside by the architect and design team.
Knowing that the date set aside for the official opening was 1st April, I initially visited on a cold, though sunny, January day when it was clear that there was still a lot to do. Were they being a little ambitious, I’d asked, considering the scale of the task yet to be completed. No, I was told, with unshakeable confidence, they were sure that all would be well for the Spring opening. And how right they were!
Katherine’s brother, also practically a Norwegian, played a very appropriate violin immediately before the ribbon (diplomatically decked out in the colours of the Spanish flag) was cut by their immensely proud father, whilst the, what 200 invited guests(?) looked on appreciatively. We were then invited into the pool area for cocktails whilst Claire Marie (www.clairemarie.es) sang her selection of classical and contemporary music as well as playing some flute favourites.
Some steps (as well as a ramp for disabled visitors – the hotel is very disabled friendly) led us all down to the courtyard where some impressive flamenco dancing took place, followed by a parade of those in Norwegian dress. Whilst excellent tapas (well they would be wouldn’t they, designed and cooked by such a chef!) were served, local, regional and national dignitaries and politicians addressed the crowd welcoming the newcomers and thanking them for their confidence in Spain in general, in Murcia and in Yecla specifically.
Plus, of course, the first ever wine made at Bodegas Casa Boquera, a rich, young red, was served copiously, along with white wine from nearby DO Jumilla, and beers etc, throughout the afternoon. The red wine, incidentally, was made by Casa Boquera’s Head Winemaker, Rafael Lopez Perez, from organic grapes bought in from local Yecla growers. The Casa Boquera vines are not quite mature enough to make wine, though their first, from their own vines will come on tap this vintage. Watch this space!
I knew what to expect with this wine, as I’d tasted it live on-air on Total FM with Harald and Katherine as my guests some weeks before. I’d considered it very good then and was gratified to hear my friend, Mariano, Head Winemaker at Bodegas Castaño (and surely one of the best at his trade in the whole of Spain) also praise the wine!
Our little group was then taken on a tour of the hotel by Katherine herself, as if she hadn’t enough to do! Well, luxurious alone, doesn’t really do Casa Boquera justice! It is stunningly beautiful! The rooms, termed Reserva and Grand Reserva are wonderful, all en suite, and all having superb views from their private terraces. Plus there is the private Grand Suite, which is amazing!
Some of us, and we count ourselves to be so lucky to be included, were also invited to the superb, gourmet dinner at night. Chef Fran Martínez had clearly been given carte blanche to design and cook imaginative, beautifully presented and delicious dishes, ably supported by the kitchen brigade he has himself trained. What a wonderful experience!
Please note: Katherine and Harald* will be returning to the Fine Wine & Gourmet Dine Programme, Total FM 91.8 & www.totalfm.es, on Sunday 21st May, 18:00 – 20:00 hrs, to chat about their progress since opening!