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I wish I spoke Spanish

I have written a blog about Marcos Eguren already. Visiting his grandparent’s house in Rioja and tasting wines with him was one of the highlights of my Spanish trip 3 years ago. I don’t want to repeat myself, but if you missed it, it’s worth to read it. Here is the blog about my visit at Senorio de San Vicente and Sierra Cantabria in Rioja.

So a lot was already said about this extra ordinary wine maker, but he keeps coming back with more and more extraordinary wines. His wine just stands out. I can’t help it but it is impossible to ignore it. I don’t believe he can help it either – it is in his blood and in his heart. And thank God for that!

The other day, when polishing last details in my reviews of new Marcos’ wine project in Toro, I caught Marcos on Facebook. I wish I spoke Spanish, but I don’t. So I used the Google translater (a great tool but it could sometimes scare you, when you know both languages) and sent him a message. I wrote to him that I was just working on reviews of his brand new wines Almirez, Victorino and Alabaster, grouped under Bodega Tesa la Monja. I also asked him, if there was anything interesting he would like to tell me about them.

He didn’t answer and I thought that I might have scared him away with my “Spanglish”. Maybe he didn’t even understand what the heck was I talking about. But the very next day, I received a nice email from his marketing team, in perfect English (Marcos’ English is about as good as my Spanish). It describes the whole Eguren story as probably their official promotion does. But it means a lot to me. Even though it is not as personal, it offered me all the information I was looking for.

Marcos Eguren is a man that I have a deep admiration for – his way of approaching wine, his success and a humility I saw in him personally, despite the fact that his wines are sold all over the world, consistently with the highest possible ratings. Some may say that Marcos touches a land and it turns into gold. But I know it’s not that simple. There is no fairytale, just his vision and hard work.

I am sure he is now getting closer to harvest and definitely doesn’t have much time to spend online, chatting with “nobody” from America, who just happens to love his wine.Yet, he went out of his way to accommodate me. I received a short history as an answer to my nosy question. And with his permission, you can now read it too.

They clearly described what was behind this new project in Toro. I also got some pictures from this beautiful new property of Bodegas Tesa la Monja. If you are interested, you can visit his website for more pictures.

I looked through them myself and realized one thing again: when you see such an extensive labor that his team of people puts into wine making, when you see all the super clean facilities, the perfect order how everything is kept at – I understand why his wines are so outstanding (not once, but always). It’s not just the terroire, low yield, old root stocks potential, or his luck. It is every little detail that he pays attention to, combined with all of the above.

I wish I spoke Spanish

“Dear Vera,

Since 1870, our family, rooted in San Vicente de la Sonsierra ( La Rioja ), has been devoted to grape growing, wine making and aging of wines in outstanding terroirs of Rioja, Toro and Castilla-La Mancha. Keeping alive the tradition inherited from parents and adapting it to the state-of-the art technologies, the Eguren family has made a worldwide name thanks to the wines produced in its five wineries –Sierra Cantabria, Señorío de San Vicente and Viñedos de Páganos in Rioja; Bodega Teso La Monja in Toro and Dominio de Eguren under Vinos de la Tierra.

Me, as the oenologist, with the help of my son Eduardo, and my brother Miguel, leading the business, are the men behind these projects in constant search of the terroir-driven wines that express the vineyards where they are born, wines of great versatility and personality.

Our biography is the story of long complicity between man and the vineyard. Guillermo, my father, who has always been a vineyard collector, has transmitted his passion for the terroir onto us, his sons.

We too breathe this passion, and dedicate ourselves to grape growing, respecting to the full, the fruit in the winery in order to obtain wines aligned with the new classes: wines with long life, that ensemble fruit, power and structure with elegance, freshness and finesse.

Teso La Monja represents the dawn of a new era in the Toro appellation. We have been the driving force behind the transformation of this region for over a decade thanks to the work done with Numanthia Thermes.


Later we initiated the building of a new winery, Teso La Monja with a clear focus: express the soul of the old pre-phylloxeric vineyards of Toro in wines where power and elegance goes hand by hand. Teso La Monja, a winery of outstanding architecture, gives birth to three wines: Almirez, Victorino and Alabaster.

Three wines that transmit the power of Tinta de Toro with the subtleness and freshness, attributes shared with the rest of the Eguren wines. By selecting privileged high altitude north facing vineyards, and adopting modern wine making techniques, we have crafted unique, profound, elegant and complex wines, without sacrificing its true essence.

The sustainable agriculture, with organic fertilization, and the delicate work in the wine cellar to extract the minerality of outstanding terroirs for grape growing, will pave the way to the Eguren family to take Toro wines to new heights, with the certainty that they will be rewarded with more success: wines that will be newly worldwide references.

We are looking forward to welcoming you in DO Toro and DOCa. Rioja to share with you our passion to make wines with soul that capture the essence of unique terroirs. With my best regards, Marcos Eguren”

Please visit my reviews of first vintage of these wines:
ALMIREZ – W/E 92 points, W/A 91 points
VICTORINO – W/E 94 points, W/A 92+ points, W/S 91 points
ALABASTER – W/E 94 points, W/A 94 points, W/S 91 points


Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo, Toro

Alabaster 2007

Winemaker: Marcos Eguren
Grape: 100% Tinta de Toro
Region: D.O.Toro, Spain

Recently reviewed:
Wine Enthusiast 94 points
Wine Advocate 94 points
Wine Spectator 91 points

See other wines from this winemaker:
Bodegas Teso la Monja Almirez, Toro
Bodegas Teso la Monja Victorino, Toro
Senorio San Vicente, Rioja

When one of my most admired Rioja’s winemakers Marcos Eguren sold his successful project Numanthia-Termes S.L. in Toro (some of the highest rated Spanish wine in history), I knew he wasn’t done with Toro just yet. It had way too much potential and so unique terroir, perfect for growing Tinta de Toro (a local clone of Tempranillo) not to challenge somebody like Marcos.And sure enough, just a few years later, he releases his first 2007 vintage of his new Toro project – Bodegas Teso la Monja. I had the pleasure to taste their wines (Almirez, Victorino and Alabaster) for the first time with Marcos’s son, Eduardo.

The vineyards that family Eguren purchased for Teso la Monja project are located at average altitude of 2,296ft above the sea level, in the small village of Valdefinjas, in Zamora province. So close to his previous Numanthia – Termes vineyards, that it must make new owners of Numanthia very nervous.

Thanks to sandy soils of Toro, the growth of phylloxera that devastated so many wine-growing regions throughout the world, didn’t stand much chance here. Therefore Marcos is able to cultivate 30-45 years old, ungrafted Tinta de Toro vines. The harvest of grapes determined for Alabaster in 2007 yielded low 10hl per hectare.

The fact that everything is done by hand and Marcos’s very strict and attentive approach is a norm for his trademark. Grapes were harvested by hand (only perfectly mature and clean clusters were picked), brought to the winery to sorting tables where an additional selection was made. Another excessive selection was done when the grapes were de-stemmed by hand, one by one. Grapes chosen for this top of the line Alabaster wine were cold macerated for 5 days, traditionally foot pressed and left for 10 days fermentation in open tanks.

The must than stayed for an extended maceration of additional 14 days. Malolactic fermentation took place in new French oak Bordelaise barriques. Another set of 100% new French oak barrels was prepared for aging Alabaster for 18 months. 2007 is the first vintage of this wine. There was only 1,500 bottles made for U.S.A.

Eduardo Eguren told me that this is a first wine project that he is personally committed to (obviously, with Marcos’s hands on approach and TLC). So, Eguren family could be proud of yet another generation of passionate ‘vino entusiasta’. Very proud!

Tasting notes:
Does this gorgeous label evokes a structure of chocolate cookie, or is it just me? That description would give me the sensation of sweet taste unless you like the darkest, highest cacao content chocolate. The kind that is so rich, so bitter, yet velvety, melts in your mouth slowly and makes your eyes roll. Alabaster is something like that. Just sensational.

When I looked up the name Alabaster, I found out that it describes this wine perfectly. This name belongs to two distinct minerals: gypsum and calcite. One is so soft that you can scratch it with the fingernails. The other hard and resistant. Very muscular, sexy, but tender. Something like fighter Arnold with warm Ralph Fiennes’s eyes.

Alabaster offers intense dark color with aroma of blackberries, dark plums, spices and earthy tones. On the palate you taste super rich, very dense red and dark fruit with dust of cacao – so typical for Toro. A lot of tannins that promises super long aging potential. Espresso tones and spices on the never ending finish. Wow! This is a wine we are going to hear about! Very small production, very high reviews, hard to get = serious collectible.

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 235.00

Ideal food pairing:
I wouldn’t pair anything with this wine. O.K., maybe a great little piece of Fillet Mignon with black pepper creamy sauce….. 🙂

Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo, Toro

Victorino 2007

Winemaker: Marcos Eguren
Grape: 100% Tinta de Toro
Region: D.O.Toro, Spain

Recently reviewed:
Wine Enthusiast 94 points
Wine Advocate 92+ points
Wine Spectator 91 points

See other wines from this winemaker:
Bodegas Teso la Monja Almirez, Toro
Bodegas Teso la Monja Alabaster, Toro
Senorio San Vicente, Rioja

 

Founder of successful project Numanthia-Termes in Toro, my favorite Rioja’s winemaker Marcos Eguren came back with yet another promising project in Toro – Bodegas Teso la Monja. He just released his first 2007 vintage of 3 wines: Almirez, Victorino and Alabaster.The grapes for this wine came from Eguren vineyard in Valdefinjas, in Zamora province of Toro and Villabuena del Puente. The vines are planted in 2,300 ft above the sea level and are 45 years old.

Thanks to sandy soils of Toro, the growth of phylloxera that devastated so many wine-growing regions throughout the world, didn’t stand much chance here. Therefore Marcos was able to cultivate ungrafted Tinta de Toro vines with yields about 15 Hl per hectare.

The grapes for Victorino were harvested by hand (only perfectly mature clusters are picked), brought to the winery to sorting tables where an additional careful selection was made. Bunches were de-stemmed by hand where the staff examined berry by berry to eliminate any imperfections. The grape must was macerated for 14 days. The wine underwent malolactic fermentation in new French oak barrels.

Victorino aged 18 months in new French oak. 2007 is the first vintage of this wine and there was only 350 cases made. Eduardo Eguren (Marcos’s son) told me that this is a first wine project that he is personally committed to (obviously, with Marcos’s hands on approach and TLC). So, Eguren family could be proud of yet another generation of passionate ‘vino entusiasta’. Very proud!

Tasting notes:

Just like the bull on its beautiful label indicates, this is a serious Toro wine. The best selection of old vines gave it more focus, deep color and beautiful aroma of mature dark fruit and spices. This is one of those do-not-spill-any-on-you-because-it’s-never-gonna-go-away kind of red wines.

Really rich, it coats your glass with almost syrupy structure. Victorino has stronger tannins so it needs some time in the bottle to soften up. Taste this wine against any superstar Cabernet from California with over $ 200.00 bottle price tag and let me know who won. I say the victory belongs to Victorino! This is a bargain collectible for somebody who can appreciate perfectly made wine at the price that is not yet being commercialized. Wine, that’s recognized by significant wine critics right from its first vintage, and it’s going to hold for far more than a decade. I have yet to taste wine made by Eguren family, that wasn’t perfect…

Dry – Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 65.00

Ideal food pairing:
Steaks, grilled dark meats, aged cheeses

Red wine, Spain, Tempranillo, Toro

Almirez 2007

Winemaker: Marcos Eguren
Grape: 100% Tinta de Toro
Region: D.O.Toro, Spain

Recently reviewed: Wine Enthusiast 92 points
Wine Advocate 91 points

See other wines from this winemaker:
Bodegas Teso la Monja Victorino, Toro
Bodegas Teso la Monja Alabaster, Toro
Senorio San Vicente, Rioja

When one of my most admired Rioja’s winemakers Marcos Eguren sold his successful project Numanthia-Termes S.L. in Toro (some of the highest rated Spanish wine in history), I knew he wasn’t done with Toro just yet. It had way too much potential and so unique terroir, perfect for growing Tinta de Toro (a local clone of Tempranillo) not to challenge somebody like Marcos.And sure enough, just a few years later, he releases his first 2007 vintage of his new Toro project – Bodegas Teso la Monja. I was honored to taste their wines (Almirez, Victorino and Alabaster) for the first time with Marcos’s son, Eduardo.

The vineyards that family Eguren purchased for Teso la Monja project are located at average altitude of 2,296ft above the sea level, in the small village of Valdefinjas, in Zamora province. So close to his previous Numanthia – Termes vineyards, that it must make new owners of Numanthia very nervous.

Thanks to sandy soils of Toro, the growth of phylloxera that devastated so many wine-growing regions throughout the world, didn’t stand much chance here. Therefore Marcos is able to cultivate 30 year old, ungrafted Tinta de Toro vines with yields about 200 gallons per acre.

The grapes for Almirez were harvested by hand (only perfectly mature clusters are picked), brought to the winery to sorting tables where an additional selection was made. Wine was than fermented for 8 days (temperature controlled) and underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel.

Almirez aged 12 months in new Bordelaise barrels of French oak. 2007 is the first vintage of this wine. Eduardo Eguren told me that this is a first wine project that he is personally committed to (obviously, with Marcos’s hands on approach and TLC). So, Eguren family could be proud of yet another generation of passionate ‘vino entusiasta’. Very proud!

Tasting notes:
A great aroma of black berries, cocoa, even espresso and dark ruby color. When you take a first sniff, it promises a big, rich, muscular red. And it is exactly that! Rich and spicy dark fruit, dried plum with a slight cocoa dust so typical for Toro. Generous, silky tannins will cover your glass, but the wine is perfectly balanced.

Almirez is a modern, macho wine that is approachable right now, but it will improve with a few years in the bottle. The new oak on the long finish is pleasant and not overpowering the beauty and richness of the Tinta de Toro from this vineyard. Superb quality that definitely over delivers at this price.


Dry
– Off dry – Medium sweet – Sweet
Light – Medium – Full body
No oak – Aged in oak
Retail price: around $ 29.00

Ideal food pairing:
Steak, grilled meats, beef stew, aged cheeses

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What it takes to make exceptional wines – Part I.

“What is your favorite wine?” For me, that’s the hardest question to answer. Honestly – I don’t think I have just one. There are too many wines that I love and new, impressive ones coming out every year. My current favorite depends on my mood or what new wine I just tasted. That’s like having ten kids and someone asked you which one is your favorite!

But there is one wine that I admire for several vintages. It’s not a typical example of Rioja red (where it originated), and it is too delicate for some people’s palate. This single vineyard wine is just so different than anything else I have ever tasted from Rioja (and believe me, I have tasted plenty). It got character, charm and elegance. This wine lacks those huge, impressive tannins that some wine drinkers are so attracted to. For me, it was a love at the first sight. It’s a very special wine to me, ever since ‘we first met’

I am talking about Señorío de San Vicente. When I first tasted it (I think it was 2000 vintage), I didn’t know anything about its winemaker. So I did some research and found out that Eguren family’s wine making history goes back to 1870. The newest generation used the experience of their ancestors and modern technology to the perfection.

Then I had a chance to taste more of their exceptional wines – Sierra Cantabria, El Bosque, Numanthia, Termanthia (their project in Toro), El Puntido or super affordable line of Eguren Protocolo and Codice. All these wines (and many more) had the same name in common – Marcos Eguren.

People say that wine is made in the vineyard. Marcos believes in this philosophy as well.


I agree one hundred percent, with one addition: the winemaker makes the wine.

His approach to the vineyard, his respect for the land and the vine can expose the best of the grape and nature magic (terroire), or kill it.

That’s what fascinates me about Marcos’s work. Let it be Sierra Cantabria Crianza that sells for $16.00 a bottle, or its Gran Reserva for about $40.00 – or perhaps the boutique wine he made famous, Termanthia from Toro (Wine Advocate rated 2005 vintage 97 points) for $200.00.

It doesn’t matter. Each wine will be cared for with the same respect.
That’s the true signature of this winemaker – he let’s the wine speaks for itself. That doesn’t mean though that all those wines taste the same….

Continuation in Part II.