A True Visionary

by Stan Biden

Every once in a while I get to meet a true visionary in this wine business...

Afew weeks ago Almudena de Llaguno, of Classical Wines of Spain, came by my store to visit, chat and taste some wine. You've never heard of Almudena, or of Classical Wine? How about her husband Steve Metzler?

Unless you're in the business you may have no reason to remember their names, but we owe them much gratitude...

Back in 1984 (When the only Spanish wines we were selling here were Sangria, Sherry and Rioja!) Steve and Almudena were placing their initial order for 100 cases of Tinto Pesquera from Alejandro Fernandez, a pioneer in the Ribera del Duero region of Spain. Fernandez fulfilled a lifetime dream when he founded his winery in 1972, a daring move at a time when many in the region were pulling up vines in favor of beets!

If you've been reading my column, you know that I have a thing about the expression of the region, or what the French call Terroir. The Classical Wines philosophy is to seek out wines grown in the cool river valleys and the mountainside exposures that were cultivated centuries ago by monks and legionaries. Producers are sought who use traditional noble grape varieties, like Tempranillo, resulting in wines of great elegance and individuality. Here are but a few recommendations from their vast selection of authentic Spanish beauties:

Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera 2004 --- $31.99
A superb wine from a great vintage. A nose of minerals and black currents is followed by a full bodied, yet elegant red wine with ripe tannins and good acidity. The taste goes on and on. You can enjoy this wine now or age it for 10 years. A Bordeaux of this quality would be $75!

Bodegas y Vinedos Fernandez Rivera Dehesa La Granja 2001 --- $25.99 Another Alejandro beauty from the same grape -Tempranillo, but a different region. The wine comes from Zamora, which is technically in the Toro region. This wine is more about fruit, like blackberries and black cherries, combined with vanilla oak. The nose is a knockout. The palate is quite rich, yet supple, with that black fruit coming through. A wonderful wine to take home and drink with grilled baby lamb.

Bodegas Campante Vina Reboreda 2006 --- $9.99
Galicia is the home of this wine. A blend of three native grapes, it's a beautiful aromatic wine of pears and flowers. The 2006 vintage was quite good, so the palate is lush, dry, but not too acidic.

Bodegas Agapito Rico Carchelo Monastrell 2006 --- $11.99
This is the best wine I have ever tasted from this benchmark winery in Jumilla. Jumilla is Spain's most arid wine district, located inland from the Mediterranean at extreme elevation. This is a dark, dense red that is fairly soft on the palate with a long spicy finish. Merlot and Shiraz drinkers take heed. WOW!

Bodegas Toro Albala Don PX Pedro Ximenez 2004 --- $19.99 375ml
A gorgeous and unctuous dessert wine from the Montilla-Moriles region in Southern Spain. The same grape is used to make Cream Sherry, but here it's quite different, with more freshness of fruit -mandarin oranges and caramel. Yummy!

Stan Bliden, the second-generation owner of Midway Liquors on Pulaski Highway in Joppa, grew up in the wine business. His passion from early on has been wine and he is "continually amazed" by how much there is to learn about the subject. You can reach him at: winostan@aol.com

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