On the way to San Sebastian, Spain, from Bilbao, we took a detour and visited the Rioja wine region with a tour and tapas luncheon (with our wine tasting) at Bodegas del Marques de Vargas in the Ebro Valley.
The family history notes: “The title of Marquis of Vargas is held by a family closely connected to Rioja wines. A series of illustrious names marks the family tree of the current Marquis of Vargas, names of exceptional individuals in the history and traditions of this important Spanish winegrowing region, inscribed in gold… Especially important was Hilario de la Mata, the father of the current Marquis of Vargas, who for years occupied the presidency of one of the most emblematic wineries of La Rioja. To say Marquis of Vargas in the world of wines is to name the saga of four generations dedicated to the production and sales of excellent Rioja wines.”
Our tasting was quite special, as we gained insight into the barrel aging of their wines. Each vintage’s wines are aged in three different types of oak barrels and then blended: French oak, “Russian” (often Slovenian) oak, and American oak.
We tasted last year’s vintage from three different barrels and could taste quite a difference after 9 months in the barrels. Our favorite, having nothing to do with our nationality, was the wine aged in American oak. Of course, the final bottled wine is a blend of wines from each of the three different oak sources, creating a delicious final product (see below).
The hacienda vineyards are planted with three traditional Spanish red varietals> Tempranillo, Mazuelo and Garnacha (French: Grenache).
The fermenting tanks are uniquely designed for high efficiency, with the bottoms angled so all the solids fall to the drain side for easy removal. What was most interesting on the outside was the unique spiral staircases on some of the fermenting tanks, facilitating easy access to the tops for the workers and winemaker. The entire facility works on a gravity flow system with minimal pumping.
After our tour of the vineyards and the winery, we enjoyed a delicious feast of a luncheon with quite a variety of tapas chosen to complement the estate’s red wines.
The pairing of the 2009 Rioja with the homemade chocolate truffles was excellent and a delightful end to our viisit.