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The knockout nose of fresh citrus, spring flowers, mineral and stone, which wafts from the 2001 Martinsancho Verdejo, is nothing short of stupendous, but then again everything about this wine is outstanding. From the Martinsancho's brilliant golden, green-tinged robe to the purest, longest, most natural tasting finish we have encountered in years, the 2001 Martinsancho Verdejo is indeed unique and nothing short of remarkable. Aromatic, delicious, succulent, creamy, delicate, rare, and rich are just some of the many adjectives that have been used to describe the Martinsancho Verdejo, but, perhaps, the following comment by wine critic Robert Parker Jr. says it all: This is the best dry white table wine I have tasted from Spain. Indeed, we agree. Enjoy this one of kind gem cool, moderately chilled or frosty. We love it any way we can get it. Let's just hope there is enough of the 2001 Martinsancho Verdejo to go around.
Who wants to eat when you can drink a bottle of this stuff, uttered one member of the tasting panel. Normally, such comments are met with a tinge of derision, at least by a few of the more stalwart members of the tasting panel, but this time no one dared disagree: instead, they all nodded their approval as their mouths remained too full of the 2001 Martinsancho Verdejo to actually echo the sentiment. Certainly, food does enhance wine and vice versa, so if you want to make a dish look good, serve it with a bottle or two of the 2001 Martinsancho. Tapas, hors d'oeuvres, smoked salmon with capers, fish, shellfish, even poultry all provide wonderful accompaniments to the Martinsancho, but why not just have a party and invite twenty or thirty of your new best friends, or if you have just moved and want to make a nice impression on the new neighbors, serve the 2001 Martinsancho. Then enjoy the compliments as well as the wine and its accompaniments.
The story of Angel Rodriguez and the emergence of Rueda as the most prestigious still white wine-producing region of Spain are synonymous. Angel's story is also the story of a unique grape called Verdejo. Although Verdejo is among only a small handful of truly noble Spanish white varietals, it was in serious danger of extinction by the early 1970's due to the pervasive planting of more prolific native varietals such as Viura and Palomino and the introduction of Chardonnay. Angel Rodriguez saved the shy bearing, thick skinned Verdejo through his loving refusal to uproot his unique 17th century vineyard, Martinsancho. The original majuelo or 17th century vineyard of Martinsancho is less than one acre of gnarled, ungrafted vines, preserved in isolation as a museum of pre-phylloxera viticulture and a continuing source of undisputed varietal authenticity. Today, this vineyard is treasured by nurseries throughout Europe for the vine cuttings it provides and the legacy it has preserved. Yet, thirty years ago no one seemed to care about this old vineyard with extremely low yielding vines; in fact, few even knew of Martinsancho's existence. Besides, Verdejo was not deemed profitable enough by most experts to preserve, let alone grow, despite the vine's noble pedigree and the undisputed quality of the wine it produced. In spite of the prevailing pressure to uproot the old vineyard, Angel Rodriguez preserved it, and then undertook the near impossible or what many called sheer lunacy: he re-grafted 25 acres of his best vineyard, using Martinsancho cuttings. In 1974 Angel Rodriguez planted the noble, nearly extinct Rueda Verdejo into his very best vineyard: thereby, assuring the continuation of the Martinsancho vineyard as well as the venerable production of Verdejo. In this special 25 acre vineyard, the alluvial soil is nearly all gravel to a depth of over thirty feet. The harsh continental climate and the extreme altitude of Old Castile, together with the soil's austere inhospitality to all types of insects and bacteria, allow for the practice of completely organic viticulture a rarity, especially for white wine. With the help of Angel Rodriguez, other Rueda growers have planted Verdejo to the point that this shy bearing vine is once again the leading white varietal in Rueda. For his great sacrifice and untiring efforts in favor of re-establishing Verdejo's prominence in its region of origin, Angel Rodriguez has been officially honored by King Juan Carlos of Spain. In spite of his great accomplishment and the recognition he well deserves, Angel Rodriquez remains a humble man who believes in tradition. He maintains a very low- tech approach to the natural production of his wine. He still uses the centuries old, subterranean family bodega, replete with ancient 5,000 liter oak barrels for aging. The only quasi-modern pieces of equipment are two 20,00 liter glass tanks that are used for the fermentation of the unpressed Martinsancho Verdejo, but subsequently even the Martinsancho is transferred underground for clarification and aging in ancient casks. Production of the great Martinsancho remains under 2000 cases, but this wine's refined, tactile quality and great depth of flavor reveal the indomitable spirit of a great winemaker and the preservation of a legacy. Enjoy!
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