The winery was founded in 1988 and is located in the town of Peñafiel. Pago de Carraovejas means "the place where the sheep walk by", a loose translation.
The ongoing pursuit of excellence best defines the career of José María Ruiz, Pago's founder and principal shareholder.
In 1982 the Restaurante José María opens its doors in Segovia and the ideas of the young and curious man begin to take shape. José María Ruiz starts by transforming the very concept of wine as it was served in the hearty Castilian Taverns. He began by eliminating the traditional pottery pitcher in which they were served and started serving Bottled: wine, caring meticulously about the presentation, right temperature, conditions, and the serving protocol.
The Ribera was then unknown as wine making region, but Jose María's vigorous efforts to improve the role and treatment of wine in his restaurant had led him to become an ardent explorer of the land and the wines of the area. It was clear to him from the start that it was from this region where his wine, perfectly matched to the chochinillo, had to come. Jose María, already aware, back in those early times, of the immense potential of the Ribera del Duero region his dream was to create his own wine, in that region, with those grapes, to be paired with the star dish of the region and his restaurant: the roasted suckling piglet or "cochinillo".
In 1987 José María Ruiz leads a group of wine loving Segovians and together they conceive the idea of creating a winery in a region that can produce good reds. Three reasons made them choose the hillsides of Carraovejas, in Peñafiel. First, Peñafiel has been historically, the hub of the Ribera del Duero wine making region, and the area with more potential of all the Spanish wine making regions. Second, its proximity to Segovia. And third and probably the most important reason, because the elders of the village remembered the hillsides of Carraovejas as the best grape ripening site, as later confirmed by numerous studies.
Naturally, choosing the right location, land and climate was essential. Three kilometers outside Peñafiel, in the sunny enclave formed by the valleys of the Botijas River, a tributary of the Duero River – only four kilometers apart – the land enjoys a microclimate created by the sweetening influence of the Duero River, the dominant west winds that keep the vines healthy and the south facing aspect of the softly rolling hillsides, sheltered from the damaging effects of the north wind and devastation from the spring frosts and autumn freezes. The perfect conditions for a thriving vineyard: sun and air.
They had found the place and it was Carraovejas. All they had to add was a component of quality and technological edge to optimize the already favorable conditions the area offered. This formula allowed them to make the first Ribera del Duero wine containing 25 % of Cabernet Sauvignon at a time the Tinto Fino grape ruled absolute. They were also pioneers in bringing French oak barrels to the Ribera del Duero and to install drip irrigation in the estate, a system that provides the exact amount of water to the vines in a rational and specific manner, improving the quality of the red grape allocated for crianzas and reservas.
Pago de Carraovejas is a single vineyard wine. The Finca comprises of 140 hectares, all red grapes and planted 75% to Tempranillo and 25% to Cabernet Sauvignon. The vines are situated on the southern flank of Carraovejas ridge at 850 meters above sea level. The local micro-climate is harsh and dry: cold winters, hot summers and an annual rainfall less than 400 mm. The soils are low in nutrients with a mix of limestone, chalk and sand. Carefully metered drip irrigation controls vine stress, which along with the terrain, soils and micro-climate, produces grapes of optimum concentration and ripeness, vintage after vintage.
Production is at 66,000 cases and the winery uses a 50 - 50 combination of French (Allier) and American (Ohio and Missouri) oak of which 33% is new oak each year.
They used to make Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva styles.
Since the 2015 vintage, the young winemaker, Almudena Calvo, didn't want to follow the rules of labeling wines according to the Ribera del Duero DO regulations. So now, their main focus wine, the Ribera del Duero Cosecha, is a blend of what used to be the Crianza and the Reserva. Only 10% of their wine is exported. The maceration of the reds occurs in fat stainless steel tanks suspended off of a single plane of waffled stainless.
Enologist Almudena Calvo oversees the winemaking, based on a philosophy that revolves around 4 essential points:
1) the Pago de Carraovejas hillside terrain as the only source of grapes,
2) keeping grapes as undamaged as possible as they go into the fermenters,
3) Large skin contact surface in the fermenters (unique fermentation vessels),
4) 25% of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon.
General information regarding Ribera del Duero:
7,500,000 cases of production, 98% Tinto
Red grapes (permissible): Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Garnacha
White grapes (permissible): Albillo
Ribera del Duero decame its own D.O. in 1982
52,800 acres of grapes
Former area of Rosé production, now almost all red wine
Sales: 68% Domestic, 32% Export
"Pago de Carraovejas has earned a place among Wine & Spirits' Top 100 Wineries. Wine & Spirits Magazine will feature Pago de Carraovejas in their 2016 Annual Buying Guide, thanks to the brand's outstanding performance in their tastings. W&S consider this their highest honor: Each year, their panels and critics taste more than 15,000 wines, all under blind conditions, looking for the most distinctive and delicious wines to present to their readers. The Top 100 Wineries earned the highest scores in their tastings this year, with the most consistent performance across their entire range of wines."
- Wine & Spirits Magazine (TOP 100 issue, October 2015)