The collection of illustrious names in the vicinity of the N-122 road between Tudela de Duero and Peñafiel is not confined to prestigious wineries such as Mauro, Abadía Retuerta, Pingus, Vega Sicilia, Finca Villacreces or Arzuaga. We take you on a journey of places to visit and eat in the area.
The heart of the Duero Valley in Valladolid covers a little over 40 kilometres alongside the river between Tudela de Duero and Peñafiel. This stretch of road is known as the “Golden Mile” because of the high number of prestigious wineries dotting the route. But it would be unfair to ignore the many cultural attractions of the area, especially its remarkable architecture.
Monasteries played a pivotal role in the colonisation of the area to the east of the city of Valladolid from the 11th century onwards. It is important to remember that for some time, the Duero river acted as a natural border between the Christian and Muslim kingdoms; hence the importance of repopulating the territories that were added to the Reconquest.
Small farms and villages were created under the protection of these monasteries. The river’s water was used to build dams, irrigation ditches and water mills, locally called aceñas, that were instrumental in shaping this distinctive landscape of vegetable gardens, vineyards and fruit tree orchards alternating with pine groves that will accompany you throughout the route.
Tudela de Duero. The starting point is this picturesque village of a little under 9,000 inhabitants. Only 15 kilometres from Valladolid, it lies on a meander of the river and it still preserves vestiges of its old walls. It is part of Tierra de Pinares (pinares means pine trees, which are widely present in the area). In addition to grapevines, asparagus is cultivated and is a must-try delicacy when in season.
Asparagus is a regular ingredient in the traditional cuisine made with local products at Mesón 2,39. This restaurant, which takes its name from the last digits of its telephone number, is popular among local wine producers. All the region’s most important wineries are present in its wine list.
The monastic route begins here with the Priory of Santa María de Duero or Santa María de las Mamblas. It is three kilometres from the centre following the Camino Real de Aragón or Senda de los Aragoneses, an important medieval route that connected the kingdoms of Castile and Aragon and crossed the province on the right bank of the river. Established in the 10th century, the Priory of Santa María del Duero was under the jurisdiction of Santo Domingo de Silos. The building is surrounded by several archeological sites spanning from 2000 BC to the Visigoth period. The current façade, simulating a crenellated castle, dates from 1893 and was commissioned by the Count of la Oliva when he transformed it into a private residence.
Sardón de Duero. Much smaller than Tudela (fewer than 600 inhabitants), Sardón started out from a farm that depended on the monastery of Santa María de Retuerta, which continues to be the town’s main landmark.
Located on the left bank of the river, our abbey was listed as a historical-artistic monument in 1931 and was painstakingly restored and transformed into a hotel. If you are a regular follower of the blog, you might already be familiar with its many charms. You do not have to be lodged there to visit it or to enjoy its spa or its variety of culinary delights (including the 1* Michelin restaurant El Refectorio). Many of our activities and experiences include a visit to the abbey and the winery or allow visitors to explore the estate’s many natural resources.
Quintanilla de Onésimo and Olivares de Duero. Quintanilla de Onésimo, the next village along the N-122 road, is now part of the DO Ribera del Duero (Tudela and Sardón are outside its boundaries). This is the starting point of the Duero Canal, which was built in the 19th century to supply water to Valladolid. It is also the headquarters of Dominio de Pingus, a discreet building with an impeccable white façade and no plate indicating that the most expensive wine in Spain is made behind its walls.
We recommend following the route to Olivares de Duero through the only bridge that crosses the river between Tudela and Peñafiel. Its construction, time-consuming and expensive since being authorised by the Catholic Monarchs, was completed in 1624. It had to be rebuilt in the 18th century after the strong floods in the early part of that century. It later underwent several renovations.
Valbuena de Duero. We temporarily leave the N-122 to continue along the left bank of the river and pay a quick visit to Valbuena. The purpose of the excursion is actually a bit further, in the district of San Bernardo, where the beautiful Cistercian monastery of Santa Maria de Valbuena stands. The sobriety and purity of contours of the church and the lower cloister are a fine example of the transition of styles, from Romanesque to Gothic, in contrast to the rich ornamentation of the high cloister, built in the 16th century.
At the end of the 1990s, the Archbishop of Valladolid handed over the monastery to Las Edades del Hombre, a foundation devoted to the conservation, protection and promotion of the heritage of Catholic dioceses in Castilla y León, which established its headquarters there. Today, the monastery also houses a spa hotel that could turn into another stop to rest on the route.
Peñafiel. To get to one of the best known villages in Ribera del Duero you can drive along the local 3001 road through Bodegas Emina and neighbouring estates such as Hacienda Monasterio, Dehesa de los Canónigos (resembling a traditional farm) and Viñas del Jaro, or return to Quintanilla de Onésimo and take the N-122 to explore one of the legendary sections of the “Golden Mile” which runs between Viña Mayor, Bodegas Arzuaga, Vega Sicilia and Finca Villacreces.
Perched on the top of a cotarro or hill, Peñafiel Castle is a must-see attraction, not only because of its historical significance or because it houses the Provincial Wine Museum, but also because it commands fantastic views of the banks of the Duero, Duratón and Botijas rivers, making it possible to clearly appreciate the difference between valley, hillside and moorland areas.
At the foot of the hill is Protos, one of the oldest wineries in Ribera del Duero, founded as a cooperative by 11 grape growers in 1927. The new facilities were designed by architect Richard Rogers. On the slopes of the castle you can also see the vents of the old underground cellars carved into the rock, most of them built in the 15th century.
Peñafiel boasts a variety of traditional restaurants where you can taste Ribera del Duero’s famous suckling lamb. At Asados Mauro and El Corralillo you can also pair this dish with wines from Abadía Retuerta. Incidentally, El Corralillo has the appeal of being in an old underground cellar. Culture, wine and gastronomy go hand in hand on the banks of the Duero.