Matsu’s Tinta de Toro Honors Viticulturists #CesarChavezDay

Today, March 31, is the birthday of labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez. Long commemorated in California, where Chavez did much of his important work, in 2014 President Barack Obama named March 31 as a federal holiday honoring him for his service. Because this year March 31 is a Sunday, tomorrow Monday April 1 will be a holiday with some schools, federal offices, and other sites closed for the day.

mixed media portrait of Cesar Chavez by Dianne Bennet

Among his many accomplishments, Chavez founded the United Farm Workers, and he led marches and boycotts to bring national attention to the plight of the farm workers which led to protective legislation across the United States. The leadership, strength, and sacrifices by Chavez made people pay attention to farm workers who eventually gained many rights that otherwise they may not have achieved.
These three wines from Matsu pay homage to those working in the vineyards. The labels use real-life photos of the viticulturists to showcase and represent the essential character of the wines. While not certified biodynamic or organic on the label, these practices are prevalent in these 80-100 year old vineyards and Bodega Matsu chose these vineyards in the D. O. Toro for their age but also for

“the area’s tradition of not interfering with the natural processes and the pace set by nature, while using in many cases techniques employed in biodynamic agriculture.”

Sandstone, clay and Pliocene limestone make up the soils of the undulating vineyards located from 650 to 735 meters; according to Wikipedia, back in the 1st century BC, the ancient Greeks taught the local Celtic tribes how to make wine, then In the Early Middle Ages, wines from Toro traded along the Duero river. Later, “wine producers built underground wineries (bodegas) in order to obtain better quality wines and to have more effective temperature control.”

During the phylloxera crisis in France and Spain in the 1870’s, local vines were protected by sandy soil so provided replacement wines and vines for other regions. The result is that Toro has many older vineyards of Tinta de Toro, an autochthonous or native/indigenous variety that is very similar genetically but looks and taste a little different from Tempranillo (much like Sangiovese is the grape grown in Brunello).

Of the wine and the region, Jancis Robinson says, “In the small, warmer but extremely fashionable Toro wine region to the north, the local, loose-bunched form of Tempranillo is known as Tinta de Toro. So far Toro wine has been made quite simply and is a sort of exuberant, turbo-charged fruity essence of Tempranillo. But sophisticated winemakers have been moving in and we can expect to see more subtle, longer-lived wines emerging.”

According to Wikipedia, “In 1990, the Junta de Castilla y León was involved in a clonal selection and vine sanitation plan, recovering and multiplying the autochthonous varieties of the Autonomous Community. Among these varieties is the Tinta de Toro, which is currently certified as an autochthonous variety, with its own name and well defined agronomous and ampelographic characteristics. It is commercialised under a blue label and its corresponding clone number.”

  • 2016 – Matsu – El Picaro  – 100% Tinta De Toro – 14.5% alcohol SRP $14
  • 2015 – Matsu – El Recio – Tinta De Toro – 14.5% alcohol SRP $22
  • 2015 – Matsu – El Viejo – 100% Tinto De Toro – 15% alcohol SRP $47


  • Cheese plate:
    Bay Blue from Point Reyes, Moliterno (pasteurized sheep’s milk, rennet, salt, black truffles), 12 month aged Manchego El Trigal, salt cured olives, spiced pecan.
  • Filet mignon with rosemary
  • Roasted potatoes and brussels sprouts with Spanish seasoning

Earlier in March, Gretel Meys Compton of Clos des Amis , Sue Hill of Cantara Cellars and Sue’s sweetie John came over for paella and Spanish wines, but while the whites, roses, red and sparkling wines I’ll be writing up soon went well with the paella, we weren’t satisfied with how these reds paired with the paella so the next night I paired them with filet mignon — much better! More tasting notes and pairing ideas below.

2016 – Matsu – El Picaro  – 100% Tinta De Toro (Tempranillo) – 14.5% alcohol SRP $14

While we were tasting, we called this one “the young dude.”

Color: Reddish plum with a rose ring

Nose: Wicker, straw, cherry,  cocoa nibs, forest floor, herbs, violets, black pepper

Palate: A lot of tannins, acids, tart cranberry, pomegranate, but especially rhubarb — when we came up with that descriptor, it was like hitting the head on the nose. Sarsaparilla on the finish.

This is not a cocktail wine. Bring this young dude to a dinner party and people will be impressed with his manners!

Pairing: I’d consider being a vegetarian if I could live on blue cheese and this wine. Sue felt it went nice with the aged manchego, but Gretel  didn’t agree; we all thought it was great with ham or prosciutto. Wonderful with the filet mignon and roasted vegetables. This wine really opened up nicely over a few days.

2015 – Matsu – El Recio – Tinta De Toro – 14.5% alcohol SRP $22

While we were tasting, we called this one “the hot guy.”

Color: Very similar in color to the El Picaro, but it is more dense. In El Picaro you can see the bottom of the glass, but in El Recio it had a bit more of a coral ring; could be the one year age difference.

Nose: Peppery, herbs, menthol, chapparal, rosemary, sweet red dried fruit.

Palate: Front of the palate tart red fruit, forest, mesquite, beautiful finish, manzanita, sage and chaparral with the dryness of sage. John found incense cedar.

Pairing: It really likes the manchego cheeses especially the 18 month old manchego; my favorite of the three wines with the filet mignon. I’d love to try this with a rack of lamb. (P.S. My friends and I enjoyed sharing sunset with him in the desert!)

2015 – Matsu – El Viejo – 100% Tinto De Toro – 15% alcohol SRP $47

While we were tasting, we called this one the old guy.

These century old vines only produce a small amount of fruit meaning very limited production and grown using biodynamic techniques and aged for 16 months in oak.

Color: Denser than the El Recio, dense rich in color, plum, you cannot see the bottom of the glass easily.

Nose: Inviting and engaging red stone fruit, plum and cherry. slate, graphite, sage, pennyroyal, so much going on!!

Palate: Silky tannins, this wine is so very smooth, very nice roundness throughout the palate, nice bright cherry, the textural feel of this wine is so much more pleasant. Floral elements of carnation and rose plus black licorice mid palate throughout the finish. John got elements of cloves; I felt it was closer to clove oil.

Pairing: Very nice with strong blue cheese, excellent with the rosemary and filet mignon.

I shared the final glass of the old guy camping in the desert with a group of friends and a simple dinner of sausage at sunset. That was the moment when it was the best. Sigh. A taste was not enough! I’m glad I shared but I would have loved to have kept it to myself!


  • Grateful for the samples of The El Picaro, El Recio and El Viejo ($13.99, $21.99 and $46.99 respectively); they are widely available through Monsieur Touton Selection.
  • Time to toast the men and women that grow the grapes and get the finished wine to our tables!
  • Happy Earth Month in April with biodynamic wines like these!
  • Cheers!




4 thoughts on “Matsu’s Tinta de Toro Honors Viticulturists #CesarChavezDay

Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s