Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Elena Adell San Pedro of Campo Viejo

Marcus Leaver (The CEO of Sterling), Jason Prince (Publisher, Adult Trade), Ana Fabiano (author), and myself (Sterling Epicure Editorial Director) went to Rioja to visit many important dignitaries there, as we had just signed an agreement to do the most important, complete, and comprehensive book on the Riojian wine region and Riojian wines ever published. From regional government participation as well as the participation of the Ministry of Agriculture, local wine extension professors, Riojian Wine officials, and a number of other people of local import, we were also going to be working closely with many of the region’s most important wineries and winemakers.

One of the first stops was to visit Campo Viejo. Campo Viejo is one of the most impressive winemaking operations one will ever see. It is one of the largest single plants in Spain, let alone Europe. More than 1 million gallons flows through their tanks at any one time. The new winery, just five years old, is austere, imposing, impressive, and just plain elegant as well as massive. The tank room, the bottle aging room, the barrel room are noting short of spectacular. The scale of the building (hidden mostly underground like an old World War II submarine pen) is one of the most well designed, impressive structures I have seen. It’s meant to impress, and it succeeds like nothing else. The sheer scale is dizzying.

But it somehow lacks a certain personality until you meet the winemaker, Elena Adell San Pedro. She is one of the few women winemakers who really made a difference here in Rioja over the last three decades, and it is no mistake that she has been the winemaker here for years, and is at the top of her game right now, overseeing the largest production in all of Rioja. Elena is responsible for a little over 10% of Rioja’s total production.

She bubbly, with bright twinkling eyes and her hair pulled back with beautiful, bejeweled combs, and large, swirling, curls of beautiful hair that seem to bounce and flow behind her.

She makes wines in the most classic sense of the Riojian tradition, with Crianza, Riserva, and Gran Riserva. Her wines are fruity, elegant, and lean in a very old world and best practises in the European sense. Her wines are like the great Bordeaux wines. She served us our first few wines with local dried chritos, and a wonderful, hard, pungent white Spanish cheese. She served her best wines with a dinner that was served to us overlooking her vineyards.
We started with a hearty and tremendous mixed vegetable stew, studded with small bits of local bacon, garlic, and douses in salt, pepper and olive oil. This was followed by a wonderful meat dish, and other deliectables. With each course, as the food got heartier, the wines also increased in their profile and depth.
We had several fabulous wines. We had a lovely dry white. Exceptional. We then had the Crianza and the Reserva and the Gran Reserva. All were exceptional.