All my wine blogs, Rioja

II. Strict Fernando Remirez de Ganuza and his superstar wine

…. I am not sure if Fernando Remirez de Ganuza understood my point of view. What I was trying to say was that there isn’t disrespect to his wines by the American wine consumers. It was the overwhelmingly large offer of high quality wines on the market lately that makes the sales tougher. And that sometimes prevail the name recognition over the quality of wines? Unfortunately, that happens too.

How do you explain this to the man, who owns 160 acres of incredible vines (72 acres out of it are old vines) and puts so much labor intensive care to his vineyards? Somebody who recovered an ancient winery and moved it stone by stone to its present location? Winemaker who only produces the highest-quality handmade wines through selection, selection and more selection, with attention to the smallest details? Somebody, whose fanatical selection process results in a fraction of the winery’s total production, that gets the label with Remirez de Ganuza name? I don’t blame the man that it could be hard to understand.

Fernando experiments with “cepillado de las cepas” (brushing of the vines), an old tradition of removing the dried strips of bark from the vines. It drastically reduces infestation of plagues and dramatically decreases the need for pesticides. Even more of hard work, but very rewarding.

He just build a cooling room to make sure the grapes get proper care when harvesting during hot days under Spanish sun. This winemaker knows that only the very best grapes make the very best wine. He never compromises. How does one answer his concerns knowing, that his wines are truly spectacular?

During our wine tasting, the atmosphere in the room eventually warmed up. We spoke about the history, the wine, and he was explaining what exactly makes his wines a top quality in Rioja. But he didn’t have to. We already knew his wines and knew how special they were.

We have tasted 2001 and 2002 of his Fincas de Ganuza Reserva, Rioja D.O.C., wine made from 90% Tempranillo and 5% Graciano, mixed with skins of white (!) varietals Viura and Malvasia, just to smooth it out. This estate only uses old vines grapes. It’s manually harvested, then manually sorted at tables and Fernando only uses the upper part of clusters. Wine is fermented in small stainless steel vats and then ages in French oak. The high quality of his wine and exclusive terroir was definitely in both vintages.
We then continued with 2002 and 2003 Remirez de Ganuza Reserva, very elegant Tempranillo with dark fruit, blueberries notes and minerals from the soil. He told us how they were cooling the grapes from 2003 hot harvest to assure the quality of the wine stays untouched. The last treat of the tasting was his Trasnoccho – wine selection not available in United States so far. We finished long wine tasting with a barrel samples of his 2005 vintage.

When we later followed him in the car for diner, we couldn’t stop talking about him. Fernando invited us to a superior restaurant called Restaurante Asador Alameda. The famous chef Tomas Fernandez and his wife Esther Alvarez welcomed us personally. They run the restaurant for more than 20 years.

Tomas Fernandez from Restaurante Asador Alameda
Tomas Fernandez from Restaurante Asador Alameda

They created a spectacular menu of Spanish flavors for our group. As the only woman of the group, they seated me next to Fernando. I wished I could speak Spanish to assure him how much we appreciated what he did for us – and how much we appreciated his wines and never ending efforts.

Enjoying Ganuza’s wines with each great meal closed this very interesting night in real gourmet style. It was fun watching this chef (by the way he never took his cigarette off his lips – except this picture – the entire night) preparing each course and bringing it personally to our table. It felt very special.

At the end, I hoped that Fernando felt how much we respected and appreciated him. He honestly expressed his dissatisfaction with the sale of his wines, but then he treated us like royals. Truly a very special man. I believe, when he offered really good cigars around the table at the end of the diner, he already knew.

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