Those interested in excellent wines at excellent prices (who isn’t?) ought to know the name Eric Solomon. Like the great Kermit Lynch before him, Solomon is one of the great American wine importers. Like his great Spanish contemporary Jorge Ordoñez, Solomon has a knack for discovering obscure Spanish winemakers who happen to make awesomely good wines at very affordable prices and finds a way to bring them to American shores (as well as around the world). Case in point: Eric Solomon’s 2012 SOLANERA by Familia Castaño from the little-known region of Yecla. Made primarily of Mourvedre (which the Spanish call Monastrell), with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Garnacha thrown into the mix, the wine is all bright red berries with lip-smacking cherry candy sourness, with notes of red licorice, blueberry, dark burnt oak, Mediterranean spices, and sweet milk chocolate underneath. Tannins are gently powerful, like taking a nice sip of brandy.
The impact of importers like Solomon and Ordoñez is that they are literally redefining the American wine palate. There was a time in America, not so far back as the early 90s, when Spanish wines weren’t taken very seriously. A lot of the stuff we had was cheap tasting crap that was gathering dust in liquor stores that made more money selling Jägermeister or Colt 45. That has changed exponentially. Spanish wines have become favorites of sommeliers and chef-restaurateurs of today, and sales of Spanish wines are experiencing a super-fast growth rate among newer wine consumers (okay, Millennials; aren’t we tired of talking about damn Millennials already?). Wines like Solanera are part of the reason why. It’s a pleasant, cheery wine. Consider it an “afternoon” wine, like you would have afternoon tea. It’s delicious, fruity and medium-bodied—not to be taken too seriously but classy and having a very authentic sense of place and Spanish character. And it’s 12-15 bucks, and it’s organic. To use a Millennial phrase, it would be an epic fail to miss out on something this real. –J.M.