Day 10 - Bodegas Bilhar

22 December 2021

Message on my phone. David’s kid has a COVID contact at school. Can’t pick us up. Can’t host us. If we ride out, cellar door opens at 9.00 am. Javi will host us.

“Life is a long preparation for something that never happens.” ― W.B. Yeats

Eat breakfast. Buffet. Embarrassed myself. Again. Discuss riding to the Bodega.

36 km round trip. -1 Celcius. Thick fog. Shell in. Reluctantly.

The ride out was terrible. First 10 km on a busy road. Poor visibility. Fog is so thick we are drenched after 1 km. Turn off the busy road. Relief. Short-lived. Next 7 km’s incline.

Arrive at Bodegas Bilhar. Wet. Exhausted. Freezing. Greeted by unfriendly geese. Friendly Neopolitan Mastiffs and Javi. Also friendly.

Cellar door. Warm. Can’t resist rolling around with the dogs. Now exhausted. Wet. Covered in hair and dirt. Smell like a dog. Worth it.

Javi is knowledgeable. Vineyard and winery. Knows his product. We talk about winemaking philosophy. Vineyard philosophy.

David turns up. Apologies. Not necessary. He is a winemaker. His heart is in the vineyard. Biodynamic practices. Strong soil. Strong vines. Intervention not required. This is why I am here. Beyond organic.

He is a cyclist. Quizzes us about our bikes. Answer questions and steer him back to his rescue vineyards.

David is about genetics. Old genetics. Genetics that last generations. He laments the old vines ripped out thirty years ago. Planted on rootstock. Grown for volume. These vines are gone already. The old vines remain. He buys them.

David is ruthless with these old vines. He cuts them off. Cold turkey. They are junkies. Hooked on pesticides and herbicides to stay well. David lets them die. The strong survive.

In this way, David produces a range of single-vineyard wines that are born in the vineyard. Strong vines in strong soil. Ancient genetics.

David leaves. Javi begins the tasting. A red and a white. Both made by David from vineyards purchased by (or for) his wife Melanie. These are Melanie’s wines.

Not a wine blog.

I have put the notes here - Walking The Vines

We chat with Javi. Melanie comes in. We talk about her wines.

There is a building sense that only the two wines are on offer. I am thinking of single-vineyard wines. Vineyards over 100 years old. Biodynamic. And so on.

Fears founded. We move into the winery and discuss the practices. Minimal intervention. Skin contact. Natural yeasts. Carbonic maceration. No stainless. Fermentation in cement. Wood. Clay. The winery is beautiful.

We move through the warehouse to the horses that tend the vineyards. Beautiful animals. Miniature Clydesdales. About 14 hands. Thickset. Powerful. I don’t touch them. Work animals are not pets.

Our Bilhar tasting complete.

I would love to write about the Bilhar wines. Everything about the Bodega speaks of quality. Sadly, they remain a mystery. Untried. Not tasted.

The 18 km ride home was forgettable. Memorable for all the wrong reasons. The decline was chilling. The fog thick.  Home. Wet and tired.

Hungry. We jump from one tapas to the next. Drinking wine. Thinking about the tasting.

I drop Shell home. Train station. San Sebastian calling. No direct train to Miranda de Ebro. This is the station where bikes can travel to San Sebastian. No English. No Spanish. The next hour spent working on how to get there.

A long journey. Logroño to Castejón. Castejón to Miranda de Ebro. Four hours on trains to get somewhere 160 km away. A four-hour wait for a connecting train to San Sabastian. A further 2 hours to destination.

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

I walk home with the three tickets. My mind only sees three times in one day the Spanish rail system can ruin plans.

I get home. Tired. Frustrated. Stressed. Worried. Like all reasonable people, I lash out. At Shell. Blame her. Somehow. She hears me out. Brings me down. As only she can. I am an infant throwing a tantrum.

Text from Javi. He is dropping us a bottle of the Bhilar Blanco Villages on his way home. Much appreciated.

Shower. Bed. Read.

Alarm set for 5.10 am. First train tomorrow 6.15 am.


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