This winery was born during the production boom that took Rioja by storm in the second half of the 19th century thanks to the arrival of French négociants who fled phylloxera in search of wines. Francisco Javier Solano y Eulate, Marquis of Solana, followed the advice of French winemaker Jean Pinaud and started to produce Médoc-style wines in his numerous vineyards around Villabuena de Álava.
His great-grandchildren, with Juan Pablo de Simón at the helm, are the current owners. They have driven the winery's growth for the last two decades, which has seen its portfolio expanded, an improvement in the quality of its wines and a change in the name of the winery, now oficially known as “De la Marquesa” (of the Marchioness), its traditional name in the village. The fifth generation, represented by Juan Pablo's children, is fully integrated in the business, which has remained in the same hands since its beginnings.
The winery produces around 400,000 kg of grapes a year, all of them grown in the 65 hectares of 25+ year-old vineyards owned by the family in the vicinity of Villabuena. Vinification is done in stainless steel tanks and the wines are aged in American and French oak barrels which rest in 200+ year-old undeground cellars. After the aging period, wines are stored in tanks for a few months prior to bottling.
The relatively large wine portfolio, marketed under the brand Valserrano, includes traditional bottlings (Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva), a range of single varietals and some modern, ambitious reds. There are two whites: a barrel fermented bottling and a premium, structured style aged in oak for 28 months and expected to evolve in the bottle.
Clean and fruity, the Crianza is a blend of Tempranillo and 10% Mazuelo. It is an easy drinking, honest red (€9, around 300,000 bottles) and one the winery's flagship wines. Reserva (€13) and Gran Reserva (€22), both blended with 10% Graciano, mirror the work carried out in the vineyard and at the winery, specially in the best vintages. They might not be as popular as those from other Rioja Alavesa wineries, but they are complex, consistent and well made.
The single varietal range (all around €20 and under 5,000 bottles) includes the three minority grapes in Rioja: the late-ripening Mazuelo, which needs warmth to mature; Garnacha and Graciano, whose high acidity and colour make it at times better suited for blends. Production depends on the weather and is limited to the best vintages.
Premium Finca Monteviejo (€26) was launched at the turn of the 21st century and comes from Tempranillo vineyards planted in 1948 and a drop of Graciano and Garnacha. It is consistent and in fresh vintages such as 2007 it shows balance and elegance. The winery has just launched Nico (€35), made from Tempranillo personally selected by technical director Jaime de Simón to honour the birth of his first child. He is the first member of the family's sixth generation. All wines can be bought at the winery’s online shop (only for Spain-based wine lovers).