Bodegas Valdemar, a fifth-generation family winery based in Spain, is in the process of building a facility in Washington. The winery, which will be called Valdemar Estates, is expected to open in spring of 2019.
“We decided to do this big step to Washington State, and we are really, really excited about it,” says Jesús Martínez-Bujanda Mora, who recently relocated to Washington with his wife and three-year-old daughter to focus on the project.
The Valdemar family has been in the wine business for nearly 130 years, prior to this point focusing exclusively on producing wines from the Rioja region. Martínez-Bujanda says his family has been considering starting a new winery for some time.
“For many years we’ve been considering investing in another winery in Spain in another region, but at some point, we realized it was not exciting for us. So many wineries have gone from Rioja to Ribera del Deuro, Rías Biaxas, and the other way around. It was not unique anymore.”
A graduate of the University of Washington, Martínez-Bujanda decided to take a tour of Washington wine country with his father and sister in September of 2016.
“To be honest, we fell in love with Washington State, with the place, the vineyards, and the people,” Martínez-Bujanda says. “We liked very much the variety of terroirs that there are in Washington. We really believe that this is a top wine region of the world and believe it’s going to keep growing and keep improving.”
Valdemar Estates will be based in Walla Walla. “We arrived in Walla Walla and we knew that the winery had to be [here],” Martínez-Bujanda says. “We like the culture that is here around the wine business and the people. I cannot tell you enough how much the people have helped us. I can only be grateful to them.”
The 20,000-square foot production facility and tasting room will be located on JB George Road near Amavi Cellars and is expected to open in March of next year. “It’s a little big, but we are not thinking in the next five years. We are thinking in the next 100 years,” Martínez-Bujanda says.
Valdemar Estates also purchased 25 acres of land at two separate sites in the Rocks District region of the valley. “We like to consider ourselves first growers and then also winemakers,” Martínez-Bujanda says, noting that the family farms approximately 750 acres in Rioja. “For us, the philosophy has always been about the vineyards.”
Martínez-Bujanda expects to plant the land in 2020, mainly to Rhône varieties and in particular Grenache. “Garnacha has been very important to our family since the beginning,” he says. “The Garnacha wines that we’ve tried from the Rocks really captured our attention.”
He has high praise for Rocks District wines, saying, “Today in the wine industry, there are vineyards all over the world, but it is very difficult to find a place that translates into the wines in the unique way that the Rocks does.”
Valdemar Estates made a limited amount of wine from Washington in 2017, using Cabernet Sauvignon from Red Mountain as well as Syrah from Walla Walla Valley. If they like the results, the wines will be released in late 2019. Valdemar Estates will also offer wines from its Spanish portfolio.
“We believe our Spanish wines should be an important part of our tasting room,” Martínez-Bujanda says. “I am curious to see the reaction of the people.”
To craft its Washington wines, this summer Valdemar hired one of Washington’s most talented winemakers, Marie-Eve Gilla, formerly of Forgeron Cellars. “I know it’s funny because I’m French and they’re Spanish, but to me it’s their heritage and the culture and the tradition,” Gilla says. “That is what was really attractive to me about them.”
Gilla also notes how important it is to have a well-established, non-US based winery decide to focus on Walla Walla Valley and Washington. “I think it gives as lot of credibility to our region.”
Image of Jesús Martínez-Bujanda Mora courtesy of Valdemar Estates.