There’s more to running a family business than just keeping the books, especially when that business captures the essence of a storied winemaking region. “My father’s motto ‘Wine is our whole life’ still rings in my ears today,” explains Cristina Forner, a fifth-generation winemaker and CEO of the celebrated Marqués de Cáceres of Rioja Alta, Spain. “His words continue to guide me and motivate me to craft wines of the highest quality so that Marqués de Cáceres is synonymous with the best that Spanish wine has to offer.”
The Forners’ Spanish winemaking journey is as rich and complex as Spain’s history itself. Cristina’s paternal grandparents were forced to abandon their homeland and their wine business during the Spanish Civil War, going into exile in France and later acquiring two châteaux in the Haut-Médoc region of Bordeaux. In 1970, Cristina’s father returned to Spain, establishing the Marqués de Cáceres winery in Cenicero, Rioja Alta.
Cenicero, whose rolling hills border the Ebro River, benefits from an extreme microclimate of hot summers, cold winters, and relatively high rainfall, which is common for the Sierra de Cantabria Mountains to the north and the Sierra de la Demanda range to the south. This microclimate produces ideal Rioja grape-growing conditions. Marqués de Cáceres has gone on to lead the “Rioja Renaissance,” shifting the region’s approach to winemaking and growing with the introduction of the “Bordeaux Concept,” which includes estate-bottling and aging in French oak barrels.
Today, Cristina carries on the family legacy. Born in the Loire Valley, she received her wine training in Bordeaux at her family’s properties while studying business administration. After joining Marqués de Cáceres in 1984, she worked alongside her father, spearheading the company’s international expansion into 130 markets around the world. “When I assumed the presidency in 2007, I was determined to honor my roots, and my family’s ambitious nature,” she says, explaining her decision in 2014 to make the company’s first foray into a region outside Rioja and expand the business into the Rueda appellation by acquiring 309 acres to produce Verdejo, Sauvignon Blanc, and other premium whites.
But it is the boutique winery Finca La Capilla in Ribera del Duero that is Cristina Forner’s latest passion, crafting expressive, bold red wines from the region’s signature Tempranillo grape. “In 2019, after five years of searching for the perfect location in Ribera del Duero, I discovered Finca La Capilla,” she declares, with great enthusiasm. “With 150 acres of unique vineyard plots, I was confident this boutique winery was the right place to invest my time and passion. Finca La Capilla has not only satisfied my desire to explore one of Spain’s best appellations, but also has kept alive the persevering spirit of my family.”
The vineyard is distributed between La Horra, Anguix, and Roa, areas of prestige within the appellation to which Tempranillo is ideally suited. The area’s high altitude and significant temperature variation (cold, harsh winters and hot, dry summers) lead to the slow ripening of the grape, producing rich, vibrant wines with layered tannins, deep color, and excellent polyphenolic structure.
“This is like a dream come true,” continues Forner. “Ribera del Duero is one of Spain’s most prestigious appellations and makes some of the top red wines in this country. We have an extraordinary potential at Finca La Capilla to make high-quality wines. The same way my father revolutionized Rioja by creating a new style of wine, I am determined to follow in his footsteps and to create one of the top-quality wines from Ribera del Duero.”
Forner notes that Finca La Capilla Crianza is the “soul and essence of old vines that express structure and elegance. This wine treasures the weight of our history and passion: experience, feeling, and craftsmanship come together in the glass, ultimately displaying the great dimension of the terroir. The Crianza has a deep, fresh nose with fine balsamic notes, spices, and ripe fruit undertones. Seeking to interpret each plot of land, it is agile, frank, and tasty, with tannins that melt onto an elegant palate.”
“When I look at a property like Marqués de Cáceres, I see a commitment to quality like no other,” says Marika Vida, wine educator, sommelier and former wine director for the Ritz-Carlton. “Their Spanish-Franco background of five generations in the wine biz is a testament to spirited innovation. While the commitment to quality is always paramount, Cristina also provides a deep sense of adventure and expansion into other regions. Their project Finca La Capilla in Ribera del Duero is no exception and shows Tempranillo at its finest while not breaking the bank.”
“Marqués de Cáceres embraces the traditional style of Rioja while continuing to push for higher and higher quality,” according to Andy McNamara, Master Sommelier. “While some Rioja producers rely heavily on American oak influence in their wines, Marqués de Cáceres shows a defter touch, allowing the fruit and expression of the vineyard to lead the way. As such, Marqués de Cáceres is a leader in the market for producing wines that are traditional, but also consumer-friendly, in both style and price point. Rioja as a region is focusing more and more on the vineyard sourcing — something that Marqués de Cáceres has been doing since the very beginning.”
And no matter what your tastes may be, there is an ideal bottle of Marqués de Cáceres. “Each bottle is made with great care. We customize the vinification and aging process to every single grape variety and bottling, from Rioja to Ribera del Duero, from Ruedea to Penedès,” says Forner. Within the robust Marqués de Cáceres portfolio, there is wine for every occasion that transports you to a different region of Spain with each bottle. The Cava Brut, for instance, which features grapes hand-harvested in the Penedès from 25-year-old-vines, is a charming and well-rounded sparkling wine with a refreshing, balanced structure that is perfect for festive events. For the dinner table or a picnic, choose the Verdejo, made from 100 percent Verdejo grapes from Rueda, with a bouquet of citrus and floral notes that produce a refreshing mouthfeel. For a timeless expression of Rioja, try the Crianza with soft spice, refined oak, and red berry fruit, or the Reserva, which offers a complex, silky palate. Salud!
This article is sponsored by Marqués de Cáceres.