What's New in March

André Travels With Los Tres Mosqueteros

Traveling with a winemaker for a period of time reveals many different facets of that person and his wines. Gerardo Mendez (Do Ferreiro), Jesus Sastre (Viña Sastre) and Florentino M. Monje (Luberri) were in the US traveling through three distinct areas of the country: Washington DC/Baltimore, Austin/Dallas and Miami. They discovered and loved the diversity of this country. I was able to expose them to these incredible places and to simultaneously explore their persons and the wines that they so proudly produce.

Gerardo has been focused on his new project Amizade in Monterrei. As we travelled together he offered up more nuggets of information on this fascinating “new” area. Godello is such an “unknown” to many of us just discovering the full potential of Galicia. Monterrei, Gerardo explained, is an interior valley on the border of Portugal and faces the Duero River. The vines here are a selection of clonal cuttings from a centennial vineyard site. The vineyards were planted twenty years ago on two sites: one on the Tamega River and one up on a slate-covered hillside. Gerardo chose the river site for freshness and the hillside site for minerality. He was also able to include a parcel of the old vines from the fabled parental vineyard. Understanding the blending of these distinct sites made me truly appreciate the skill that is present in all of Gerardo’s wines.

Florentino’s two new wines explore the virtuosity of the farmer. Orlegi’s second release just floored everyone. It’s a primordial expression of Rioja Alavesa. Florentino spoke at length about pruning and how the method he developed allows him to manage yields without ever having to drop fruit. This was a fascinating discussion that involved all three winemakers. They were almost incredulous but knew Florentino as a magician in the vineyard and accepted his claim. In fact, Jesus Sastre has learned much from Florentino and has adopted many of the viticultural techniques Florentino developed. What amazed me was that Florentino, who is sometimes overshadowed by others, proved that he is a star in his own right. His wines may have been the overall favorites of all who had the pleasure to taste them during these travels.

Jesus is a single-minded individual. Creative and as focused as anyone I know, he taught me quite a bit during this trip. His 2010 Tinto is powerful, yet elegant. His 2009s are amply proportioned for longevity. As Jesus says, his wines are “well armed.” This makes sense since Jesus has always proportioned his wines with structure, a structure which allows his wines to age extremely well. The argument we always have is between tradition and modernity. Jesus straddles both and loves both styles. Tasting his wine Pago de Santa Cruz paired with a delicious Delmonico steak in Miami made this idea abundantly clear. The wine came out at 68º and, although powerful, it sought its place along the wonderful char and fat of the beef. Watching Jesus’ bright smile I realized that these wines, with their own modern style, can also transport us if we allow them.

These three farmers reinforced the notion of the specific nature of our business of focusing only on family farms.

- André Tamers

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