The San Juan Winery was founded on June 11, 1912 by Don Juan Rodríguez Quegles and his wife, Carmen Millán Socorro. The couple acquired the winery from Lieutenant Manuel Marcos Benítez who had taken part in the Cuban War of Independence.
Mr. Juan Rodríguez Quegles founded the first bank in the Canaries and was a distinguished entrepreneur. His business interests led him to become involved in commerce, especially with Cuba, from where he imported the wood used to make the ceilings in the wine press and storage rooms at the Winery (still in perfect condition and now re-purposed as event hall).
In the early 20th century, with Don Juan Rodríguez Quegles at the helm, the winery gained prominence in Europe. The phylloxera plague that devastated the Continent and decimated its wine production in the late 19th century made wines from the Canaries, which had been spared the plague, highly coveted and appreciated at the time.
Back then, the winery was already receiving frequent visits from cruise ship passengers, mostly English travelers on the so-called “grand tour.” These passengers stayed at the hotel school and visited the estate to buy wine and see the facilities. Merchants took advantage of these visits to set up stands selling their handicrafts and music bands would come entertain the visitors. After visiting the winery, the cruise passengers stopped by the neighborhood of La Atalaya to buy pottery before visiting the Bandama volcanic crater.
The Civil War marked a turning point for the winery. In fact, the winery’s history during those years has been obscured and its activity was limited during the war period. After the War, the current owner’s grandfather, Don José Millán Rodríguez, took the reigns, obtaining the winery’s first wines, which became important within the old Monte Lentiscal appellation of origin.
During this period, one especially coveted wine was the winery’s Muscat liqueur wine, which was sold to both the foreigner public and on the national market, where it became popular as an after-dinner wine and appetizer. Some old customers still stop by asking for Don José to this day. Red wine also gained prominence due to the area’s natural organoleptic properties, which produce a wine with a great personality.
Don José founded our winery’s wine museum. After collecting the sort of antique machinery and accessories that were used to make wine starting in the early 20th century, Don José set the museum up next to wine-press room. Visitors were offered an exhibit explaining the history of the winery with examples of the traditional techniques used to produce wine, harvest grapes and control the quality of the wine produced.
After Don José, the next generation took over: his sons Juan Carlos, Gabriel and José, and the younger José’s son Javier, took turns producing wine and organizing tourist visits. This most recent period brought had a more didactic side for visitors, with schools and tourists coming to visit a historic activity that had retained its artisanal flavor.
Starting in 2006, as market conditions changed, the activity was affected by circumstances in the country and the family decided to stop producing wine. The grapes were sold to other wineries within the appellation of origin and Bodega San Juan entered a long period of lethargy.
In early 2017, when the younger José’s daughter, and Javier’s sister, Cristina Millán (fifth generation) was pregnant with Inés (sixth generation), the family decided to put the winery back in operation. As a child, Cristina had soaked up her grandparents’, uncles’ and family’s tradition and know-how, complementing it her own training as an Agricultural Engineer as well as several masters in the fields of viticulture, enology and business management. After contacting Carmelo Peña–a young enologist from the Canary Islands with ample experience in leading Portuguese and European wineries–the family resumed wine production and re-vamped the estate to facilitate tourist visits.
The winery is made up of three large wine-press rooms with two wine presses, one of which is unique in the Canaries: a spindle press brought over from Lyon (France). The average volume of production is about 6,000 liters. The grape varieties found on the estate are mostly Listán Negro, and also, in smaller quantities, Negramoll, Listán Blanco and Malvasía as well as a lesser proportion of Muscat.
In the first harvest of this new stage (2017), with 2.41 hectares of vineyards on an estate covering a total of 5, the winery has produced Mocanal red wine using the estate’s own Listán Negro and Negramol grapes. But, within a few years, the idea is to start producing the Muscat liqueur wine that made the San Juan Winery famous years ago.
THE FUTURE OF THE WINERY
The winery’s objective is to uphold tradition while applying agricultural and wine-production advances and know-how. In the near future, the San Juan Winery would like to produce red, white and Muscat wine once again.
Another of our objectives is to turn our estate into a symbol of ecological wine in the Canaries, to adapt the winery so that it can receive visits from tourists–who will learn about the wine-making tradition and how wine is produced today and sample native products–every year. And, of course, to make the winery accessible to people in our own region, so that they can learn about the history and the present of wine making in the Canaries.
We also hope to use the events hall for wine tastings, exhibits, (catered) corporate meals, weddings, business events, baptisms, communions, celebrations, etc.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO VISIT THE WINERY?