A ‘must see’ when touring the west side of Puerto Rico.
We had been wanting to come check out Puerto Rico’s only winery, ever since we found out about it. Some friends of me First Mate were here on vacation so we set a date to meet there. We also did the tour of the vineyard.
Bodega Andreu Solé is on the road leading to Guanica so it’s easy to find. Plus there are lots of signs too. Specifically, they are located on PR-3116, at km 2.6 in Barrio Ensenada, Guanica, PR. It is a short run off Highway 2 via highway 116, to get there. Stay on 116 until you see 3116 splitting to the right where it curves downhill to pass under 116. A look-up on GoogleMaps will put you right there, though some maps show the older designation of PR-325. The signs you will see are marked as 3116.
Though Guanica is notoriously hot, we were there in early March so it’s still pretty reasonable. It was slightly overcast the Sunday we were there. In fact, we got a very light bit of rain, but it was nothing to fret about. It was over before it ever got going.
The winery is right on the bay with their own wooden dock.
Very picturesque. The coconut palms provide plenty of shade. There is even one giant grape vine that covers a large part of the open public space, but since it is the off season, it had very few leaves on it.
The photos pretty much speak for themselves. The place is spread out like an assortment of small patios, depending on the size of the group. The main Hacienda has a full bar and some room inside to sit, but food service is outside. The rest of the Hacienda is dedicated to the processing and storing of the wines they make.
There is is a second building where the kitchen is located. The restrooms or ‘baños’ is in another building located between the parking lot and the kitchen. Another great point- lots of parking. I can’t stress what an issue parking can be, for some public venues. No issues here. Of note, because most of this facility is outside in the grass and gravel, it is somewhat difficult for those with walkers or wheelchairs to get around. Not impossible, but not easy either. Fortunately, the distances needed to traverse are relatively short.
The place has a very festive, but tranquil air about it. Relaxing.
You can see the chimney to the old Guanica sugar mill from the dock. I did a story about it a few years back. Shooting old mills is a favorite pastime.
Our guide for the day was Gabriel Berrocal. He spoke perfect English and Spanish and a few other languages as well since he had spent some time touring Europe. A very likable guy. He gave us some history and background on the local effort and how it was progressing. He explained the types of grapes they were growing here, what kind of work it takes to maintain them and what is involved with the harvesting of the grapes.
The actual vineyard is several miles from the hacienda.
A big bus took us from the grounds to the fields. Our group numbered about 20. Most were locals, but there was a family visiting from Washington DC. A word of warning. This is a working farm. So access by walkers or wheelchairs is a little tough. You also need to look out for ant hills. That said, it’s a short walk and I had no issue with keeping up. I brought my little folding stool, but never needed it. The guide made several stops along the short walk.
A Little History
In 1981, the father, Juan Andreu Roig came from Spain to start a new enterprise. He and a few partners established a vineyard of table grapes on 70 acres with another 100 acres dedicated to lemons. They did well until both crops were decimated by major flooding in 1990. After that, he returned to Spain, but came back to Puerto Rico for a few months out of each year. In that same year, his son, Juan Andreu Solé, salvaged what he could by planting alternative crops like papaya and acerola.
The farm prospered until Hurricane Georges (1998) which decimated about half of their acreage. His father returned to PR in 1999 where his son presented a new plan to establish a new vineyard dedicated to making wine. Unfortunately, Don Juan senior died in November of 2002, before he could see a finished product. After another 9 years, all the permits and pieces finally came together. The Winery opened for the first time, in January of 2009. Juan Andreu Solé passed away in November of 2014. His wife, Marilú Márquez continues with the traditions established by her husband and his father.
Guanica’s micro climate makes it the perfect spot to grow grapes in Puerto Rico. Now they produce a range of products.
Besides the wine, they also produce several flavors of sangria and handmade liqueurs.
Three types of grapes are grown for pressing- Merlot, Tempranillo and Muscat. The winery produces about 2,000 bottles of Doce Calles a year. It is only available via the winery in Guanica.
The vineyard encompasses 70 acres, though most of the land is leased to growers of other crops. A total of 3 acres is currently dedicated to growing of grapes. The vines they have now are going on 17 years old.
We were there during the off season for the growing of the grapes. In fact, most of the vines had little green on them. Fortunately, for the sake of his presentation, there was still a few bunches of grapes hanging for show.
The area in and around Guanica is prime farm land.
The Spanish started irrigating it, very early on. The fields next to the vineyard were covered in mature papaya plants and bright red tomatoes.
The tour of the vineyard took about 45 minutes.
That was not the end of it though. Once we were back at the Hacienda, our guide gave us a quick tour of the facilities where the grapes get processed. It’s a small space since this is strictly batch processing of an artisanal nature. No mass production going on here. At the back of the room under lock and key, were large oak barrels where the wine is allowed to age.
No, they do not crush grapes with their bare feet.
The tour cost $10 for adults and includes a glass of Sangria of your choice. Children under 18 get in for $5. I think that’s pretty fair. The best way to set up a reservation is to simply give them a call at 787-951-9622. Then you will have a better idea as to what’s available.
More details can be found on their website- Bodega Andreu Solé It is available in several languages. There is a page that is dedicated to their menu, but it’s best to check and see what has changed.
After the tour, time to relax
The 4 of us had ordered lunch plates before heading off to the vineyard so our food was ready, within 30 minutes of sitting down. There was a minor mixup with our tostones, but it was quickly fixed. Service was excellent and very accommodating. We also ordered the little sampler of 4 small sangrias and 6 liqueurs. We made it work by requesting 4 of the tiny coffee straws so everyone in our party could give them a try. A strange request, for sure. The 4 sangrias were excellent. I liked them all. The 6 liqueurs were all very good, with the exception of the green one made from cilantro (not to be confused with Puerto Rican recao). None of us cared for it.
Our chicken was perfectly prepared. Crispy on the outside, but fork tender. I do wish the salad had some kind of light dressing on it, but that’s a minor quibble. We were pleasantly surprised to find the tostones were made from breadfruit and not plantain. Fresh plantain is great, but I like ‘Panapen’ tostones even better.
Since I was doing the driving, I had to keep the drinking to a minimum. At least I got to sample all the things they have to offer. After dinner, we said our goodbyes and headed off to home. All in all, a great day to be in Puerto Rico
Prices for everything, were very reasonable. Especially when you factor in the quality of service and hospitality. My only regret is that I did not get a good shot of a wine bottle with their label on it… next time.
The experience absolutely rates 5 skulls.
Just keep in mind, advance reservations are required to visit the Winery or the Vineyard. It is not open to the general public.
Did I mention they often have live music on the weekends? What’s not to like?
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