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2001 Bodegas J.C. Conde "Neo", Ribera Del Duero, Spain

For the past few months I've been on the prowl to sample a spectrum of what Spain has to offer the world these days in terms of wine. Call it a bit of self education. I've been trolling supermarkets, attending tasting events, and checking out what some of the critics are heaping praises on.

This particular wine has gotten a lot of attention as an (albeit on the high end) example of what the region Ribera Del Duero is capable of producing these days. It has also garnered some attention as it is a boutique label that is not attached to any estate. We are used to small winemakers in California simply buying grapes on the market and then making wines at custom crush facilities. Indeed some of California's most sought after wines are created in this manner. This is less common abroad, especially in Europe, with the exception of the French negociants which are on a different level entirely.

J.C. Conde is the self described "dream project" of Javier Ajenjo, Julio Cesar Conde y Jose Luis Simón, three young men that despite their youth are "undertaking the exciting challenge to create wine that respects tradition while elevating quality in the search for the essence of Ribera del Duero."

Like many small winemakers in California they have searched out grapes from the best producers in the region and utilized rented facilities to produce their wine. It is made from 100% old vine Tempranillo, the youngest of which is 50 years old, and aged 14 months in French and American oak. It undergoes no fining or filtration of any kind. The winemaker, Isaac Fernandez Montaña, shares the youth of the three young producers, but clearly demonstrates with this wine that he knows what he is doing. 1200 cases of this wine have been produced.

The success of their label (no doubt in part to praises from Robert Parker, who rated this wine a 95) has led to the purchase of an estate in the region which has already been planted with grapes, and where construction is imminent on a winery facility.

Tasting Notes:
This wine is deep purple in the glass and has a remarkably Bordeaux-like nose with powerful aromas of wet stones, cassis, and black cherry. In the mouth it has a nice acidity and flavors of graphite, raspberry, and slate, all enveloped by soft well integrated tannins and a lasting, impressive finish. The winemakers suggest decanting this wine for an hour before drinking and I would agree -- this wine becomes more expressive with air and was drinking incredibly well even a day after opening.

Food Pairing:
I've decided that you need to treat good Tempranillo like a good Bordeaux when it comes to food pairing, with one exception -- you can also pair it with spicier foods than a Cabernet based wine because of its higher acidity. I'd love to serve this one with Spanish style oxtails braised with Chorizo.

Overall Score: 9

How Much?: $38

I got mine from the Internet (and local Bay Area) retailer Premier Cru. A quick check on the internet shows they have by far the best price on this wine, but it is available elsewhere, including K&L and others.

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Required Reading for Wine Lovers

The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson The Taste of Wine by Emile Peynaud Adventures on the Wine Route by Kermit Lynch Love By the Glass by Dorothy Gaiter & John Brecher Noble Rot by William Echikson The Science of Wine by Jamie Goode The Judgement of Paris by George Taber The Wine Bible by Karen MacNeil The Botanist and the Vintner by Christy Campbell The Emperor of Wine by Elin McCoy The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson The World's Greatest Wine Estates by Robert M. Parker, Jr.