Alejandro Fernandez is known as “El Rey de Tempranillo”, Spanish for the King of Tempranillo. His winery, Pesquera, put the Spanish region of Ribera del Duero on the world wine map. Alejandro was a tireless champion of the Tempranillo grape and understood as well as anyone how to grow it and how to vinify it. He passed on May 22, 2021 at the age of 88. He was a true icon in the wine world, a man of tireless energy and a great lover of people. To say he was charismatic would be a gross understatement. If he was in the room, you knew it, and you would very likely try to make your way over to where he was.
Over the years we have had numerous encounters with his wines. Tinto Pesquera is his main winery, named after the 500-person town where it is located. In addition to founding Pesquera, Alejandro also founded and ran El Vinculo, Condado de Haza, and Dehesa La Granja. Pesquera Reserva has been a staple in our cellar for decades. It is classic Ribera del Duero Tempranillo: dark red cherry and raspberry fruit, medium/full body, bold tannins, juicy acidity and gloriously textured. Famed American wine critic Robert Parker was so impressed with Pesquera he dubbed it “the Petrus of Spain”.
His Pesquera Crianza is a step back from the Reserva, and like the Condado de Haza and Dehesa La Granja, they are screaming bargains and will provide plenty of early drinking enjoyment while you wait for your Reservas to really show their best, usually after a decade or more. One special night while dining at our favourite restaurant The Herbfarm, we were treated to the 1994 Pesquera Janus. Janus is only made in very special years, and then only in extremely limited quantities. A very expensive wine, but this is one of those change-your-life experiences that is worth every penny. Such is the greatness of Alejandro’s talent with his beloved Tempranillo.
We had the pleasure of meeting with Alejandro, just once, but what a memory maker that meeting was. It was on the Fine Vintage tour of Northern Spain and Pesquera was one of the stops. After our tour of Pesquera we walked across the street to another old building where we sat down to one of the most amazing lunches we have ever had the privilege to attend. We were treated to a 4-hour feast that included singing, dancing, some remarkable food and a great selection of wines from Alejandro’s four wineries.
It was one of those magical meals that reminds us of why wine is such an important part of our lives. Wine brings people together. They come together to drink the wine, to taste the food, to share the conversation and to connect.
I had the great privilege to be seated next to Alejandro. He does not speak English and I do not speak Spanish. Yet we had the most wonderful time together and enjoyed great conversation. Jeremy Shaw, founder of Iberian Wine Tours (Jeremy ran the tour on behalf of Fine Vintage) who sat on the other side of Alejandro, does speak Spanish and helped out as interpreter. But the twinkles in Alejandro’s eyes and the warmth of his laugh said much more than words ever could. The charm of that man is immense. He danced with the ladies and sang the “Pesquera Song” and had all of us joining in at the chorus.
The time flew by as we enjoyed course after course including a spectacular “La Chappo”, a 25-30 day old milk fed lamb from his estate. The only reason we left was because we had to get to our dinner! And of course the wines just shone at this tasting. Alejandro is such an enthusiastic man and is so passionate about his wines and about the region of Ribera de Duero. He asked me where we would go tomorrow and I told him Rioja. He just looked at me and said: “Why would you do that?”
We were extremely privileged to have spent that intimate time with one of the greats of the wine world. His extraordinary wine making talents and his amazing people skills will be greatly missed. We are raising our glasses to you, Alejandro.