A short distance away from Madrid, the rugged, weathered peaks of the Sierra de Gredos serve as a refreshingly cool retreat from the heat and the bustle of the capital. Ancient hilltop towns and cottages dot the tortured landscape of alpine meadows, tumbled boulders and thick scrub brush. Clustered around this rocky spine are several DOs most notably Mentrida and Viños de Madrid which are best known for producing reliably inexpensive and simple country wines to slake the thirst of the capital. But viticulture in Spain is ancient and tenacious so the adventurous can also find vineyards planted in the most impossible places including rockfalls and natural amphitheaters high up in the most remote places.
Daniel Landi and Fermando Garcia, friends since college, found themselves working in the area bounded by the Sierra de Gredos: Daniel at his family’s estate, Bodegas Jimenez-Landi and Fermando at Bodegas Maronones. Drawn to the mountains and rumors of small, nearly inaccessible vineyard plots located high in the Sierra de Gredos, over time they began purchasing and leasing the best sites they could find, creating their own project, Comando G in 2008. Along with the pioneers of the Priorat, Daniel and Fernando are redefining what was previously viewed as a workhorse variety, Garnacha, into something that can rival the elegance and finesse of Pinot in Burgundy or Syrah in Hermitage.
The vineyards that Daniel and Fernando have assembled are all farmed biodynamically. The vine age ranges between 50 and 80 years old planted on sandy soils weathered from granite, slate and quartz. A combination of high altitude, freely draining soils, and a mild and fairly humid micro-climate, for central Spain, guarantees a long growing season and a modest alcohol level in the finished wines. The resultant wines are startlingly pale, extraordinarily aromatic and intensely flavorful. Each site is harvested by hand, usually in October, fermented by indigenous yeasts in open top French oak casks then aged in a combination of 500 liter French oak barrels and clay amphorae.
Each vineyard site, labeled as Vino de Parcela, are expressive of place. Tumba del Rey Moro, one of the newest sites, answers the question, what if Marcel Lapierre made Rayas? While Rumbo al Norte shows a more generous profile where the minerality is hidden by juicier fruit and greater tannin. Finally Las Umbrias shows incredible poise and balance weaving together florality, pure mineral, delicate fruit and mouth tingling tannin. Together these wines could aptly be called Grand Cru Garnacha.
The same care that goes into producing the single parcel wines goes into the crafting La Bruja de Rozas – all pretty Garnacha red-fruit and incense. Lest you think that it’s all Garnacha Negre all the time, there is a white wine made by Comando G, El Tamboril, a blend of Garnacha Blanca and Gris when tasted blind is more evocative of Chassagne than the Mediterranean.
Comando G is offered through Verity exclusively in Pennsylvania.