Be prepared to step into a visionary’s dream. Decantos was created by a family of artists. Alonso Granados, visionary and son of matriarch and painter, Gina Romo, was propelled into winemaking because of land that was purchased in the Guadalupe Valley. Decanto’s tour guide, Alex Ford relates the history of how it started with Alonso setting out for Spain to learn the art of winemaking. During his course of study, he was required to draw his ideal winery. His vision was so unique and innovative that the professors said it was not possible. His revolutionary idea was rejected six times. The seventh time it was accepted and we will never know if it was Alonso’s tenacity that made the learned enologists of Spain to pass his idea or if they finally saw the brilliance.
Before you enter the massive complex of metal and stone, you will see seated a lifesize sculpture of the “Thinking Man” that is made of metal bars and ten penny nails. Stepping inside the spacious arrangements leads you first to selecting a wine tasting package to fit your tastes from the easy to drink young wines to the rich premiums. Alex Ford, witty and knowledgeable, welcomes visitors to Decantos’ unique wine bar. He himself is on the way to becoming a sommelier, but clarifies, “I am a sommelier “junior” having six years of study and practice.” The amazing wood and glass bar was created using the trunk of a 200-year-old oak tree that had fallen and was being cut for fire wood. Part of its massive trunk weighing two and a half tons was moved to the winery and a glass top was formed to fit the contours. Alex pointed out that the line of wines available are mostly from 2016. The reason is Decantos has gotten extremely popular very rapidly and they quickly sell out. The newly paved road out of El Porvenir is nearly finished to their door step and is a contributing factor as the drive is fast and easy going, albeit less adventurous all the way up the hill.
You are welcome to take a tour before or after the winetasting. Tours are given every hour starting at 12:00. Tours are included in the price of wine tasting and should not be missed. To see inside Alonso’s dream world creates a deep appreciation for Decantos’ origins. On an upper floor is the special wine tasting area where one wall is the earth left as it was excavated. Looking over the railing is an amazing experience of vertigo as the line of sight plummets deep into the earth. The dirt wall shows the great teeth marks of the machine that gouged out the chasm that was to become the production room and cava. Grinning Alex points down the stairs into the abyss. The metal stairs lead to the fermentation and bottling room. Here the state of the art stainless steel and concrete tanks are arranged in a mind boggling experience. Stopping fully to appreciate this man’s vision furthers appreciation to what goes into making one bottle of fine wine. Alonso took many traditional concepts and added his own signature which requires only gravity to move the wine. The name Decantos means the decanting of wine and his concept was to completely eliminate all mechanical pumps, using only the natural low of gravity from fermentation process to the final bottling. This was accomplished by the construction of the three different levels. Alex directs the attention into one of the deep and open concrete tanks, saying with a certain pride, “We actually stomp some of our grapes as in the old tradition. We do however, wear protective and sanitized booties.” From here the tour takes the visitor deeper into the earth. The temperature drops. Along the curved ramp is a virtual art gallery, featuring Gina’s large oil paintings and other women from the valley.
AStepping into the barrel room, water cascades down a flagstone wall into a pool keeping the room moist, reducing wine evaporation. In an impressive glassed in area, bottles are racked from floor to ceiling, each year stacked vertically. It is an amazing ramp to see so many bottles precisely arranged up the wall. Alex explains in detail, adding, “When you have a vertical tasting you can experience clearly how the quality of the wine is enhanced by time in the bottle. This special room when filled will hold 16,000 bottles.” Turning from here, the barrels slumber deep into the cave’s darkness. Instead of the barrels placed at ground level, the barrels are elevated on stilts off the ground by several feet. It is part of the complex system of gravity transportation for which this winery is famous. From fermentation to bottle, not one electric pump or conveyance is used, there by not disturbing the wine as it progresses. We wind our way upward featuring more works of art. Here Alex flips a switch turning on subtle lighting, flooding the spacious cava, highlighting a remarkable stock of 160 barrels. Alex offers, “Alonso gives a very special VIP tour here. He will pour individual glasses right out of these barrels. We never know how long the tour will last as Alonso is so excited about his wine, he loves to share it with equally passionate people.”
We return to ground level, through a door out onto the expansive lawn when guests can enjoy a casual setting. A gigantic golden hand seem incongruent, yet it is in the sign of the big heart of the owners saying “Thank You!” to the visitors. The wines of Decantos are superb for being so young. The Chardonnay from Stainless tanks will be favored by white wine lovers. Nebbiolo fans will not believe the lusciousness of the 2016 bottling. One of the favorites is the process of making the Maceración Carbónica 2016. Tempranillo grape clusters are not crushed, allowing the juice to ferment inside the whole grape. The resulting wine is an explosion of fruit with very low tannins like a Beaujolais.
Finishing the last sip of wine, dark folds deepen in the hills as the sun begins to slide to the west. There has been a sense of time disappearing and having been transported to a world that is hard to leave behind. But you can carry home a bottle of the Decantos’ experience to be enjoyed again whenever you want.