© by Sheral Schowe
After the success of Spain's Rioja appellation, Spanish grape growers were anxious to discover new areas where the Tempranillo grape could flourish just as successfully. Ribera del Duero was soon to follow in the early 70's with the developing of vineyard sites, which proved to be ideal for the Tempranillo variety. This happened at a time when the region was in the process of ripping out its grape vines and planting more agriculturally economical sugar beets.
The man who recognized the potential of the Ribera del Duero was Alejandro Fernandez, who initiated the replanting of the region with the area's first wire-trained vineyard. His efforts revitalized Ribera Del Duero's wine district and sparked a new international interest in Spanish wines.
Alejandro Fernandez is famous for his Tinto Pesquera, a Tempranillo wine which has been internationally acclaimed since the mid 80's. In 1994, Alejandro's Condado de Haza was released to the international market. The grapes for these wines are grown on a very special slope, atypical to the majority of terroir in Ribera del Duero. The soils are diverse, including both gravel and clay, with a chalky base, creating a multitude of styles for one grape variety.
The Condado de Haza vineyard estate is situated in a county once controlled by the fortified medieval hilltop village of Haza along the Duero River. The name reflects nobility of the past as well as the future. Condado de Haza Tinto is another example of the bold and brilliant winemaking style of Alejandro, who is considered by some to be the master of Spain's Tempranillo grape variety. This wine is fermented in American Oak for fifteen months prior to bottling. It is immensely enjoyable now, but also capable of a few years of cellar aging.
Condado de Haza Tinto 1997 ($20.55) is an opaque, deep red/black color, with ruby-red edges. The aromas are ripe cherry, berry, cassis, new leather and sweet tobacco. The flavors reflect all that a Tempranillo is known for, with intense and concentrated fruit, vanilla, coffee, and baking spices, and oak. The oaky influence will mellow out over time, but falls well within the range of "drink now" status. This excellent Tempranillo finishes with some exciting acid, creating substantial length on the palate. It has enjoyed ratings in the 90's in the Wine Spectator, year after year, and the high 80's from the International Wine Cellar.
Sept. 19, 2000