Should you ever have the pleasure of stepping foot in the Alonso del Yerro winery in the town of Finca Santa Marta in Ribera del Duero, the first thing you’ll notice is a stunning attention to detail and a tasteful eye. Whether it’s the winery lined with Hermès scarves, family heirlooms and photographs scattered about, and an overriding penchant for stylish elegance, it’s clear that someone has an eye for good things and precision. That very same focus and natural instinct seamlessly make their way into the wines that are produced there.
After years in the corporate world, Javier Alonso and María del Yerro knew they wanted to get back to nature and the roots — literally — of the Ribera del Duero region. Seeing the promise that the region’s tempranillo grapes (tinto fino to the locals) had, the del Yerro family — including son Miguel — set up shop in 2002, bringing in French consultant Stéphane Derenoncourt and French winemaker Lionel Gourgue to oversee the operation.
Family is everything at Alonso del Yerro, from the names of their wines (most are variations of names and nicknames of their children) to a special barrel-marking tradition, everything is done with one thing in mind: Make great wines, together.
Below, María, her son Miguel and winemaker Lionel discuss how they approach wine, what family means to them … and there’s even a little fashion advice you won’t want to miss from the uber-stylish matriarch.
We didn’t decide to incorporate our family into the products; we simply incorporated the products to our family.
If you had to tell the story of Viñedos Alonso del Yerro winery in a tweet (140 characters), what would it be?
María: It’s the story of passion, of human values, family and ethics, our goal is to enjoy with our work making the best wine from our vines.
What sets Alonso del Yerro apart in your mind?
María: Being a family-run company, we take care of every detail as if it was for our home. We take care of the soils and vines, of the people working with us, of our wines and of our customers — being always very close to them.
Wine was a second career for you. Can you explain how that decision was made?
Miguel: Even though I’m an agronomist, I joined the winery in 2011 after spending six years working in banking. The decision was almost automatic: My parents required help with so much travelling.
María: It was a continuation of my main job which was to help my husband and my children and that is what I am doing now. Fortunately I love this job.
Alonso del Yerro
Family plays a huge part in your winery – from the wine names to even the barrel room. How did you decide to incorporate your family into the products, and why is that so important to you?
María: Actually we didn’t decide to incorporate our family into the products; we simply incorporated the products to our family.
Do you want your children/family to take over the business in the future?
Miguel: I already feel very proud of continuing the project started by my parents and, of course, I would love my younger brothers to join us at some point in time. Regarding the third generation, time will tell since the eldest grandson is only 6 years old now.
María: I’d love to see my children continuing our work in the future but only if that’s their decision – no obligations from my husband and I. We already have a good example with our elder son Miguel who joined us three years ago and it’s really satisfying to see that he’s as excited with the project as we are.
What’s the balance between the intense, sometimes scientific process of winemaking while also keeping the romantic side of it?
Lionel: Oenology is a science and it’s indeed very important to assimilate the processes that regulate i.e. chemical processes during the ripening of the grape, alcoholic fermentation or relation between wine and oxygen.
Nevertheless, intuition and creativity are an essential part of our job. The greatest winemakers are known for their personality and sensitivity which reflects on the wines they produce. Despite the modernization of oenology, palate and nose are still our most valuable tools.
The Alonso del Yerro approach to making wine is:
María: To make every year the best wine possible from our vineyard and to be able to transmit our values into each bottle.
What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received about one of your wines?
María: A couple of young Americans came to the winery for a visit because he had asked his fiancé for marriage in front of a bottle of María.
Can you share a winery or winemaker in nearby Rueda that you think has an incredible story or is doing amazing work?
María: Didier Belondrade (from Belondrade y Lurton winery) has recently joined the Grandes Pagos de España Association to which we belong and they are certainly making great wines in Rueda.
What do you love most about making wine?
María: Having the opportunity to meet a lot of people in different countries who share the same passion for wine.
Finish this sentence: My key to happiness in life is …
Miguel: To make as many people as possible happy.
María: To be surrounded by my husband, children and grandchildren.
Good wine and good music pair perfectly. What’s your favourite songs/albums/artists to pair with your wine(s)?
Miguel: Music, like wine, different sounds depending on your mood. If I had to choose a song to pair our wines I would probably choose classical music but the way I truly enjoy our wines is always sharing a conversation with family and friends.
María, your personal style and taste is seen throughout your winery. What are your three favorite fashion accessories?
Loewe Amazona bag
The Tank Anglaise watch from Cartier
The Trinity bracelet from Cartier
What’s your most memorable food moment from your childhood, and what (if any) impact has that had on you?
Miguel: The first time I tasted the steak tartare with soufflé potatoes at Zalacaín restaurant in Madrid. I was 14 years old and since then I’m on a constant search for the best steak tartare in the world.
María: I think the favourite food for all children is… “huevos fritos con patatas” (fried eggs with chips)… and that was my favorite food too when I was young. I enjoy watching my grandchildren eating it.
When you’re not working, what are some of your other passions? What do you do to relax?
Miguel: I love skiing, motorbikes and hunting but what most occupies my spare time recently is playing with my three little kids: Javier (like my father) who is four years old; Álvaro two years old and Miguel who was born two weeks ago.
María: I love to be with my grandchildren, to travel with the family, to watch a film with my husband while knitting, to write on my children diary and to meet our friends.
Where can people follow Alonso del Yerro on social media?