“No time for lunch…, but I like what I do so much…!” Harvesting at Lagar de Isilla

I went back to El Lagar de Isilla, this time for the grape harvest, and they were offering a very attractive package. There was a wine tasting in an experimental vineyard next to the winery, with 12 different types of grapes, a visit to the winery while the grapes were coming in, the chance to taste all the different types of must, a visit to the barrel room with tastings directly from the barrels, and lastly a tasting of some finished wines, with melted chocolate.

Clase magistral de cata en barrica

It sounded like it could be very interesting. I had asked Pilar Zapatero to call me for the harvesting, and she did.

Well, I have to say that the experience surpassed my expectations.

I also learned things that weren’t in the literature. I’ve now visited quite a few wineries and I suppose that that influences my experience. I’m now beginning to understand a bit better how a winery can make its wines special. Basically though, the more I learn, the more I realize there is for me to learn!

But let’s start from the beginning. First we visited the experimental vineyard right beside the winery. Here we tasted 12 different varieties of grapes, some of them typical varieties from Ribera de Duero, and some of them imported from abroad. I was left with the desire to come back another day and to walk through the vineyard for more time.

Plano de los viñedos

Then we went into the winery. My opinion hasn’t changed much since the last time I visited Lagar de Isilla. My initial impressions were confirmed. Basically, you can see at a glance that everyone here, both the family and the employees, work really hard and enthusiastically.

José Zapatero facilitated the must tastings and the barrel tastings. I’ve been to wonderful wineries before and had great experiences, but nothing compares to visiting a winery during the grape harvest, and even more so if it’s the owner himself showing you around. And if he goes into the level of detail that José did, then the experience is unrepeatable.

That was the case on this occasion. We tried three different musts from three different tanks: the first one was a young wine with 2 or 3 days maceration. The second was a first press must from two other tanks, and which will be used to make a rosé wine using much gentler techniques than is usual for this type of wine. The final product is so good that it is usually sold out within a month. The third must will be used to make a Reserva from vines that are over 70 years old. We taste these musts as if they were wines in a ‘normal’ tasting, ie following the usual visual-olfactory-taste sequence. He points out the tremendous differences between these musts. The idea is to imagine what kind of wine will emerge from the must, once the sugar has been converted to alcohol by the yeast. José explains how they work with these musts, how they use temperature control to obtain pre-fermentations that allow the colour and fruit to be expressed. This was especially so in the case of the must for the Reserva. His commentaries allowed us to appreciate how this must could be transformed into a magnificent wine. Amazing!

Catando en zona de barricas

Then we moved on to the barrel room, where we tasted a ‘Roble’ at 4 months, a Crianza at 10 months and lastly a ‘Reserva’. In these three tastings he made us smell the bungs of the barrels and the barrels themselves, explained some of the factors that come into play when making wine in oak barrels, ie species of oak, age of the barrel, intensity of toasting of the wood, etc, and told us about the day to day activities involved.

I’m sure that other wineries also invest the same amount of effort as El Lagar de Isilla, but on this occasion José explained everything in such detail, with such care, with such emotion, that I could really appreciate the cost of making a Roble, Crianza or Reserva, and I’m now more than happy to pay the higher price of these types of wines.

From the barrel room we went into the Tasting Room proper, which has a capacity for about groups of about 30 or 40 people. The room is decorated very tastefully and features some very attractive stained-glass windows, that José calls ‘picasinas’.

Maridando vinos con uvas tempranillo, merlot, cabernet y chocolate Guanaja

Pilar was waiting for us in the Tasting Room, where we tasted three wines paired in a very interesting and original way. Each wine was paired with the same grapes as were used to make the wine, along with Guanaja melted chocolate. The tree wines were a Lagar de Isilla Crianza 2007, a Lagar de Isilla Reserva 2006 and a Lagar de Isilla Vendimia Seleccionada 2006.  The idea was to taste the wines in order of increasing complexity and then taste the grapes that they were made with, combined with Guanaja melted chocolate. Pilar recommended first the Tempranillo, then the Merlot and lastly the Cabernet Sauvignon.

This pairing was an exceptional and original experience. I had never tried anything like it before.

I met José again at the exit. I told him about the upcoming Blogger’s conference in Vienna, and he answers with a smile that he hasn’t had time to think about it because he’s had so much work to do. He said that today he hasn’t even had time to stop for lunch, but that he likes what he does so much that he not really bothered! Today he spent an hour and a half with us passing on his knowledge on tasting from barrels!!!

Well, that’s the sensation I get when I drink a wine from El Lagar de Isilla – a wine very well made, with hands-on care and sensitivity, with lots of passion and hard work!

I really like the wines from El Lagar de Isilla.

El Lagar de Isilla in Facebook

Related posts: A visit to El lagar de Isilla

This post in Spanish: 

“Ni tiempo para comer, pero me gusta tanto lo que hago…” De vendimia en El Lagar de Isilla.