Revisiting an old friend: Alejandro Fernandez wines.


Alejandro Fernandez created Pesquera in Ribera del Duero and forever changed the face of Ribera del Duero. By the early 80’s, Pesquera persuaded the top wine government organizations and Ribera del Duero was granted status in 1982. And you know the rest of the history…the ascension to stardom of Pesquera and the appellation.

Alejandro Fernandez Condado de Haza may be less famous than its sister winery, Pesquera, but it also produces terrific wines that are classically built Ribera del Dueros. Less powerful than his big brother, but with more restraint and elegeance, this monovarietal Tempranillo wine comes from vines originally planted in 1989 on an ideal, south-facing slope of calcareous clay soil, with some gravelly sections as well as a vineyard slope downward towards the Duero river.


 The Condado de Haza 2012 (  SAQ #00978866, $26.85) , exhibits an amplifying nose of crushed blackberry, plum,currant, cedar, and more. It, also, possesses a rich, savory feel in the mouth to counteract  its considerable structure and ripe tannins. It is firm, full-bodied, and full of flavor.Aged 15 months in oak barriques, this sophisticated but intense wine offers plenty to enjoy now, yet it will continue to improve in bottle for a decade or more. Clearly, the 2012 Condado de Haza is one of the finest Tempranillo wines from Ribera del Duero

Alejandro Fernández and his wife Esperanza Rivera, after setting up Tinto Pesquera and Condado de Haza in their native Ribera del Duero, continued expanding their horizons afield in the Spring of 1998, purchasing  Dehesa La Granja bordering the Guareña River in the province of Zamora, in the heart of one of Spain’s earliest-recognized wine regions.

Known in the  20th century as “La Granja Valdeguareña de los Moleros”, the 1800-acre ranch had been developed  by the Moleros brothers to the breeding of fighting bulls, still in operation at the time of purchase. However, from the 17th through 19th centuries the estate had a strong tradition of winemaing During that time the local wine producing area was known throughout Spain and Europe as Tierra del Vino.

Alejandro quickly  set to work reconverting the estate to wine production, with 525 acres of old-clone Tempranillo planted by late 2000. House and ranch compound were renovated and a modern winemaking facility installed, directly over the 17th- century cellars. Meanwhile, Alejandro discovered plots ungrafted old Tempranillo vines in the Guareña River Valley which have formed the basis for concentrated red wines beginning with the 1998 harvest.

Meanwile, Alejandro found ungrafted old Tempranillo vines in the Guareña River Valley which have formed the basis for concentrated red wines beginning with the 1998 harvest.

 The Dehesa La Granja 2012 ( SAQ # 11896691, $22.20)   has smoky dark fruit, toasty oak and dark chocolate aromas on the nose, with an impressive structure and muscular tannins of this terrific Spanish red wine made from Tempranillo grape.  Like a Pesquera but cheaper in your pocket.

El Vinculo was Alejandro Fernandez quest to demonstrate that La Mancha could produce greatest wines. Like its predecessors, the 2012 El Vinculo ( SAQ #11896691, $22.20)  brings out a contagious charm with beautiful aromatics and plush juicy flavors. Blackberry and currant nuances and flavors mix with hints of sandalwood, Asian spices and touches of new oak to delight the nose and the palate. One discovers deep down flavors and power as well as subtle complexity in this El Vinculo.


Time for Vinos y Paella


Finally the temperatures have started to rise and the rain is wearing off in this part of Quebec where I live. As we enter deep in the summer, all i want to do is cook and drink outside. One of the dishes that I love do in the summer is a big Paella.

For me paella is the ultimate Spanish dish for the summer weekends. When I used to live in Spain, I had it good restaurants in Madrid and also being a guest in some of my friends  homes back there in those golden yet far remote times.  It is a very intimate and friendly dish.

As a child growing up in Venezuela, I also had fond memories of eating Paella with my family and friends. Back in those times,  my grandparents were friends with a lovely couple from Spain that also resided in Venezuela. They nicknamed, the coquis, don’t ask why, I had no idea. Their names were Paco and Mara

When i was 8 or 9, in an easter holiday, we spent some time with them in Higuerote, a coastal city, not far away from Caracas.  The coquis were a pair of bon vivants. They knew their food and drink inside out. They had a beach chalet where they used to go on the weekends

On good friday while I took off with my aunts to the beach, Paco and Mara prepared the Paella, outside the backyard of their house. It was a seafood paella, stunning. Up to this day, I remember the fragrant aromas of the spiced rice with sofrito and saffron with the flavors of the seafood. It was a very familiar affair.



Since Paella is a very relaxed meal, you want to drink easy-going wines, to stimulate conversation. A paella party is not the proper time to open a big expensive Ribera del Duero or a luxurious Priorato.  Stick with modest whites, rosados and light reds. The regions that you should be looking for include Rueda, Rioja and Navarra.

The drinks that you will have before the Paella are as important as the wines that you will have during the main meal. While preparing the Paella, you want wines to go with Tapas. Basically, you are looking for an aperitivo that will stimulate your appetite.  Some of the tapas that you will customary will see include Jamon, patatas bravas or cheese.


Cava works best. However, it is always handy to have a nice vermouth in case some of your guests don’t appreciate sparkling wine. Paco used to like to drink Johnnie Walker black label, a custom that he adopted from the Venezuelan natives. However, avoid having any spirits before, otherwise you will be drunk by the time you eat the Paella.

Here is my personal suggestions, on the wines you should have with paella:

Wines to have while making the Paella

Parés Baltà Blanca Cusiné Penedès 2010. SAQ Code # 12591021. $35.25

Delicate notes of honey, nougat with toasty notes of hazelnuts, almonds and macadamia nuts. On the mouth, very fine with a silky texture and smooth bubble bringing to mind white fruits and ripe fruits. Long and tasty finale.

Gonzalez Byass La Copa Vermouth Rouge.  SAQ Code # 13137647. $24.35

Lovely aperitivo starting on blood oranges with hints of clove and cinnamon. On the palate, it is sweet but not overdone. Flavors bringing to mind Italian Chinotto. Light, minty and very balanced.

Wines to have while eating the Paella


Compania de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez. Basa Rueda 2016. SAQ # 10264018. $16.20

Broding yellow fruits, mountain herbs such as  chamomille, Fresh and zesty. elegant and quite balanced. Drinking very easy and dangerously.

Hermanos Lurton Rueda 2015. SAQ #  00727198. $15.60

Zesty with a nectarine-peach character on the nose. On the mouth, crisp and  subtle with a round almost creamy texture. Flavors bring to mind fennel and white orchard fruit. Very elegant with a long finale bringing to mind tropical fruits. 


Rioja Cune Crianza 2012. SAQ # 13087248. $15.25

Delicious tones of black fruits such as cherry, c assis and prunes. Well spiced bouquet bringing to mind paprika, cofee bean. Fresh and ample in the mouth with generous tannins.

El Albar Barricas Toro 2000. ( Private Import, $26.95, vins fins)

 If your Paella has spicy chorizo or rabbit, this aged Toro could be a wonderful partner. On the nose, sultana raisins, cacao, black truffle with lots of floral undertones. Quite elegant, and round with mature tannins.

After the paella, with a bowl of vanilla ice cream and balsamic vinegar condiment:

Pedro Ximenez de añada 2013. SAQ # 12653869. $21.80

Nose on the typical  Pedro Ximenez variety bringing to mind raisins and plums. Lovely orange peel (evolving towards marmelade) and a hint of apple blossom. Some candied tangerine and hints of fresh corinth grapes develop with time in the glass. The mouth is very sweet, bringing to mindcaramel and brown sugar flavours. Also dominant  notes of membrillo, the quince jelly they make in Andalucia. Very long with an aftertaste that brings to mind sweet almond paste.





Souvenirs from an old tasting salon


These days I have been  feeling nostalgic about my past days living in Spain. I miss the colours, flavors and sounds of Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian. But more important, of course, I miss Spanish wine.

I pull out an old tasting notebook that I used to have when I was living in Madrid. As i sweep through the pages, a fleeting glimpse occurs in my mind of the memories in those crucial formative years of Spanish wine. I put Miles Davis Sketches of Spain. The mood is set and I start travelling in my mind.

Back in those years ( 2002-2004), I was just starting to learn about the fine wines of Spain. During those years, I was a student with limited means and it was not often that I could enjoy a bottle of Alion, or Artadi Vina el Pison. Most of the wines that I used to drink in those days were in the range of 5-7 Euros. In the weekends, I use to splurge a bit more but never spending more than 20 euros.

One day by pure accident, I went to my first Spanish fine wine salon. It was the IV Salon de los Mejores Vinos de Espana. Now, it is called Salon Guia Penin de los Mejores vinos de Espana.  This salon is one of the best of the Spanish wine industry. You can taste the best “unicorn” wines, from Vega Sicilia to Roda and Pingus for a tiny amount of money.

Why by accident?. One day, i was doing my wine shopping at Bodegas Santa Cecilia, where the saleslady told me that this event was taking place. I quickly rushed into my apartment for a quick change of clothes and i took off. By the way, if you ever go to Spain, this wine store is one of the best in Madrid. Compared to La Vinia, the store has better prices with a wide array of Spanish wines.

La creme de la creme was at this salon. Peter Sisseck, Alvaro Palacios, Marques de Murrieta. In those days, there was a real buzz in the Spanish industry. Priorat was the hottest wine region, Riojas de Alta expresion were in fashion and Parker was giving 100 scores to Spanish wines like candy.

I pretty much tasted everything at the salon. These are the tasting notes of my favorite wines. If you have some of this wines at your cellar, they should be drinking well at this moment.

Numanthia D.O Toro 2000

Chocolate, spices, black fruit and leather nose with a hint of truffle. Powerful and dense, yet with a very good equilibrium in the palate. Tough and unresolved tannins. Expected maturity:2010

Calvario DOC Rioja 2000

Heady and powerful nose of red and black fruits with high quality notes of french wood and exotic spices. On the mouth, showing lots of power and concentration. Flavors of earth, mushrooms with tight and grainy tannins. Expected maturity: 2015-2020.

Bodegas Roda Cirsion 2001. D.O Rioja.

One of my favorites in this Salon. Perfect Rioja de Alta Expresion. A very complex nose. Minerals, chocolate with toasty oak. Incredible depth and concentration with ultra fine tannins. Expected maturity: 2020-2005.

Corullon D.O Bierzo 2001

Very austere nose. Ashes, smoke with a mosaic of red fruits. Full body and quite potent. Retronasal indicating fine fresh herbs. Outstanding balance on the mouth. Round tannins and a persistent finale. Expected maturity: 2008

Finca Dofi D.O Priorat 2001

Unresolved and austere nose. Stoney and flowery with a stream of black fruits. Peppery with nuances of new wood. Rich and hedonistic with very polished tannins. Long aftertaste. Expected maturity: 2018-2020

Vega Sicilia Unico D.O Ribera del Duero 1989.

First time approaching this wine. Austere, yet displaying very fine notes of wood. Breathtaking concentration of red and black fruits, despite being 10+. Fine notes of Cuban black tobacco. Elegance more than power with streamlined tannins. Akin like Bordeaux than Ribera del Duero. Long aftertaste. Gamey finale. Expected maturity: 2030-2040

Alion D.O Ribera del Duero 2001

Opulent nose. Jam packed cassis with cherry and spices dominated by french wood. Full body and round with silky tannins. Modern and very sexy. Expected maturity: 2015-2020

Aalto D.O Ribera del Duero 2000

Toasty oak with chocolate and a herbaceous poise. Peppery with overripe black fruits. Lots of concentration with a good balance. Woody finale. Long and persistent. Expected maturity: 2015-2020. 

Clos Martinet D.O Priorat 2000

Cigar box aromas with polished stone. Flowers ( Violets) such as strawberry. Full body. Excellent balance between concentration and acidity. Tight tannins with a smoky licorice finale. Expected maturity: 2018-2020.

Val Llach D.O Priorat 2000

Very aromatic nose with confit black fruit and mineral notes. On the mouth, quite austere with meaty and muscular tannins. Elegant, but needs lots of time to develop. Expected maturity: 2020-2025.

Clos Mogador 2000

Pretty much closed in the nose. Stone aromas ( Quartz, Granite), dry black fruit and toasty oak. Optimal concentration. Chocolate and balsamic notes. Needs a lot of time to develop. Expected maturity: 2020 and beyond.

Terreus Pago de la Cueva Baja 1999. Vino de la Tierra Castilla y Leon.

On the nose, tobacco infusion with vanilla notes.  Masses of red and black fruits. Closed and austere at the moment. On the mouth, very muscular.  Retronasal indicating flavors of violets and black fruits flavors. Not an easy wine to drink. Needs time in the bottle. Expected maturity: 2020-2030.

Matallana D.O Ribera del Duero. 2000

Lots of black fruit character with toasty oak. Still needs time to integrate. Tannins are quite aggressive in the mouth. Lovely flavors in the mouth that bring to mind mint with animal nuances. Very young and austere  with lots of promise.  Expected maturity: 2015-2020.

Most of the wines were in the higher end with prices pushing 50 Euros and more. During those years, the ultra power style was very fashionable and you were considered “hot” by drinking those wines. With Parker no retired from the wine industry and the economic turmoil in the world, the clientele for these wines have diminished greatly.

The Spanish and International wine lover taste have changed as well. Many people know seek wines that resemble their origin rather than to follow an international model.  From time to time, I still drink these wines but have a problem with the level of extraction and alcohol.  I favor more restraint and the natural, organic style.

Spanish winter reds to survive January


The start of winter was clement in Quebec in the last week of December. I was warm enough just wearing a sweater and a shirt. However, when the thermometer drop to -25c as this week in some parts of qc, it is time to take out the heavy jacket.

Here are my reccomendations on what to drink for what could be the coldest month of winter. All this wines should be drank with copious amount of meat and bean stews to reconfort yourselves.

I tasted some of these wines at the latest Grande degustation in November 2015.The vintages that i tasted might not be in the SAQ shelves. Also some of the wines are available in the private market only.So if you are reading this blog in Quebec, grab what you can find. For my international audience, use wine searcher

Vina Herminia Excelsus 2012. Rioja. SAQ Code:  12278296. Price: $23.95

Lovely leafy blackcurrant fruit with violets undertones. On the mouth, the wine is full body and quite modern. Flavors bring to mind sultry vivid black fruit aromas. Luscious with ripe tannins.

Vina Herminia Reserva 2010. Rioja. SAQ Code:  12604119. Price: $24.95

Traditional Spanish nose. Dry spices, black jam fruit, seasoned american wood. Full body with a modern profile. Sweet ripe fruit with silky tannins. Beautiful balance with a nice concentration.

Mas Igneus FA112 2011. Priorat. SAQ Code: 11691986 . Price: $41.75

Black mass of ripe black fruits, pebbles with shades of game and animal nuances finishing in dry spice notes such as paprika, cardammon, black pepper and anis. In the mouth, the wine is full body, concentrated with a beautiful layered texture. Very balanced with a long stunning finale.

Gratavinum 2010 Priorat. ( Trialto, Private Import )

On the nose, massive notes of black fruits, cedar, licorice with lots of candied violets. Very concentrated but nicely balanced with the a i

Tinto Figurero 15 Reserva 2012. Ribera del Duero. ( Private Import, Vintrinsec )

Deep roasted black fruit nose with a strong mineral poise. Full body with an exquisite balance and elegance for all that power.

Milagros de Figuero 2012. Ribera del Duero. ( Private Import, Vintrinsec).

Complex nose bringing to mind smoke, animal with notes of dry black fruits. Full body, with retronasal flavors more on the flower side than in the black fruit spectrum. Sultry and ripe tannins with a long finale.