Founded in 1999 by Patrick Mata and Alberto Orte, students at the time; Ole Imports is one of a handful of small companies retailers can confidently draw from without undue quality/value concerns. It's actually written into their four-principle mission statement: "terroir, quality fruit, exceptional wine making, and exceptional value". Since we're talking about Spain, so much of that mission statement seems unnecessary and redundant since we really don't get anything, to my way of thinking, that isn't exceptional from there. Maybe the statement expresses an effort to elevate the Spanish standards to an even higher plane.
Starting with just three wines in 1999, the partners went to work scouring the peninsula for unique terroir-driven gems that would meet or exceed the existing standards of the worldwide wine marketplace. Since economy was part of the equation from the beginning and coming from that old world country, the partners focused on less highly extracted wines aged in concrete tanks, which allow wines to breathe without the expense of oak barrels. Wines made this way, I would add, would allow the intrinsic fruit flavors to take center stage without the oak crowding them out.
We mentioned above that the Ole partners were students when they formed their company. Alberto studied law and Patrick, business. Their first venture together was Ole Marketing, an advertising company. Then independently of each other, Patrick studied the wine industry in Miami while Alberto studied Oenology and Viticulture in Madrid. Both partners' families had a background in wine so one thing led to another and Ole Marketing became Ole (Wine) Imports.
Of the 150 wines in their book, Alberto makes thirty of them, many of which are part of the "Peninsula" portfolio subcategory of wines made from little known grape varieties in Spain. Some of those grape varieties are actually "endangered" and by propagating them, their possible extinction is avoided.
Our wines for Friday's tasting include two whites: Papa, which is made from the Godello grape in Valdeorros in northwestern Spain and Ipsum, a Verdejo from Rueda, south and east of Valdeorros. We have a rose of Garnacha from Cortijo of Rioja along with the tinto, which is Tempranillo from the same producer. Rioja is the best known wine appellation of Spain and its locale is north and just a little east of central. Our remaining two reds on the docket are Ludovicus and La Cartuja. Ludovicus is made from Garnacha grapes in Terra Alta; La Cartuja is in Priorat and constructed of Garnacha and Carinena. Both locales are in northeast Spain with Priorat being arguably the finest wine production region in the country.
So how good are the wines of Ole Imports? Kermit Lynch is arguably the finest importer of French wines in America. Robert Parker says Ole Imports is to Spanish wines what Kermit Lynch is to the French. Please join us for the tasting.