Comando G: Magic in Sierra de Gredos
Fernando Garcia and Daniel Gómez Jiménez-Landi have one weird trick for winemaking success in the Gredos:
they hang out in the local taverns and drink beer with the village old-timers.
Why?Because that’s how you find the great old vines, hidden in the nooks and crannies of this crazy-craggy, high-altitude mountain region. Those old-timers are the passionate keepers of the flame for some of Spain’s most fascinating vines, growing in some of the world’s most challenging terroirs to find.
What is the Sierra de Gredos?
The Sierra de Gredos is a Spanish mountain range, just west of Madrid. The low lands in that part of central Spain are hot. But high up in the mountains things are much cooler. Perfect for making delicate, refined wines. Gredos is a complex region, full of twisty valleys and rugged mountains making for lots of fascinating microclimates. The soils are perfect for wine too, with varying, mostly granitic mother rock. What’s more, many top spots were planted with bush-trained Garnacha vines generations ago. So, it seems like a dream of a wine region: old vines, amazing terroir, devoted growers.
So why isn’t the Gredos a famous wine region?
It’s funny, but there’s actually no Gredos wine region… legally speaking. The mountains straddle a few different provinces and, depending in which province your vines grow, you have to use one of many different (and fairly generic) denominations on your label. There’s just never before been a push to create an overarching wine region. Which means there’s been no real opportunity for growers to work together to build an international identity for their wines. So, while the best wines had a distinct and worthwhile personality, hardly anybody knew it.
Why are people talking about Gredos now?
A new generation of growers have devoted themselves to exploring and preserving the region’s great sites. Most famously, Comando G.
Which brings us back to drinking beer in the local taverns.
You see, the best sites were well-kept secrets. But Dani and Fernando spent time with the folks in the know. And eventually those folks got comfortable sharing some of their secrets with the youngsters. Dani and Fernando proved to be more than just good drinking buddies. They have taken incredible care of the vines they’ve “rediscovered” and made supremely elegant wines from them. Exactly the kind of wines that appeal to today’s consumers, especially those that are particularly food- and wine-obsessed . So now these are vineyards and wines that are whispered about, not in Spanish mountain taverns, but in wine bars and restaurants from Brooklyn to Paris to Tokyo. Not to mention on twitter and Instagram.
What are the wines like?
There’s variety, of course, with all those microclimates, varied soils and different producers. But Comando G really exemplifies the very best of what the Gredos have to offer.
- First, the vines are old—some of them planted over a century ago. And they do what old vines do, transmitting their terroir with a high fidelity and giving the depth and concentration that can’t even be approximated through winemaking tricks.
- Second, the altitude—the nice, cool weather—keeps the wines fresh and gives grapes an even, long growing season during which they can develop complex, subtle flavors. (In contrast, Grenache grown in the Spanish plains ripen quickly and furiously and can get very alcoholic. The acids in these wines tend to drop quickly and the grapes never get a chance to evolve.)
Fernando and Daniel have been partners for a decade, crafting wines of ethereal beauty from this amazing raw material. They specialize in Garnacha (aka Grenache). But their Garnacha is a totally different beast: instead of ramped up fruit and high alcohol, their wines are airy and silkily textured. They are high-altitude wines: remarkably floral, with notes of crushed rose petals and violets. There’s a magical aspect to mountain wines like theirs.
How do they make wines that good?
We wish we knew! Even today, most of the grapes grown in the Gredos end up in local co-op wines that are anything but refined. But Dani and Fernando didn’t just dig deep into the hyper-local intricacies of their ancient vineyards and traditions. They also looked for inspiration outside of their native Spain. And like any Grenache fanatic, they looked first and foremost to Château Rayas. This isn’t to say that their wines are the Spanish Rayas or anything like that. Just that they have a similar ability to express their unique terroir in pure, almost ephemeral—but always elegant—ways. Just as Rayas is often described as the most Burgundian Chateauneuf, so Comando G is the most Burgundian of Spanish Garnachas. These wines come and go very quickly. We always offer them first to our Newsletter subscribers (and often with special discounts). Click here to start receiving those special offers.
Comando G, “La Bruja de Rozas“, 2017
Old vine Garnacha, grown at 3,000 feet asl, which preserves great freshness and acidity. Bright raspberry and rose petals.
Comando G, Rozas 1er Cru, 2017
Even older Garnacha, grown at even higher elevation, on 5 different plots. This has a fine tannin structure, and is inspired by the great wines of Burgundy (hence the name). So much minerality!
Daniel Landi, Las Uvas de La Ira Garnacha, 2016
This is Daniel's family's label—they were among the first in the region to bottle their own wine, rather than sell it off to the aforementioned coops. Literally translated to the Grapes of Wrath, this wine is anything but wrathful. Rather, it's airy and complex, with crunchy red fruit and stony minerality.