The year is 1987, it is winter in Boston, and the stocky Spanish guy shoveling snow for the first time in his life is Jorge Ordoñez, born and raised in balmy Málaga, the heart of Spain’s Costa del Sol.
No doubt the frequently foul-mouthed Ordoñez, who can be one tough, opinionated hombre, still harbors a grudge against Mother Nature for welcoming him to the Northeast in such wicked fashion.
A quarter-century later, Ordoñez, 55, isn’t shoveling his own snow anymore. Having spent the better part of two decades shuttling between Spain and Massachusetts in search of wineries to represent, Ordoñez is at long last deservedly enjoying the fruits of his labor, often on the fishing boat he docks on Cape Cod.
Why should you care about Jorge Ordoñez?
He’s given American wine lovers a chance to discover all of Spain—from Rioja to Rías Baixas—as opposed to only the couple of regions and half-dozen or so Spanish wineries that were available when Ordoñez arrived.
“When I came here after getting married to an American woman, the Spanish wine market was more or less Sherry, Torres and a few big guys from Rioja—Marqués de Riscal, Marqués de Cáceres and Montecillo,” Ordoñez, the son of a wine distributor, says.
Rather than accept what he viewed as a sorry situation, Ordoñez started what is now Fine Estates from Spain/Jorge Ordoñez Selections.
His only property at the time was an obscure Navarran winery called Gurpegui Muga. Ordoñez, who’s technically an agent/broker and has never been a licensed importer, subsequently built the most diverse Spanish wine collection in America.
Over time, many of those properties moved on to other importers, claiming Ordoñez’s portfolio was too big, that Ordoñez wanted them to make wines to “fit” the American palate, or that Ordoñez was simply too difficult and hard-headed to work with any longer.
In response, Ordoñez has changed his approach. He now owns or has an ownership stake in about two-thirds of the wines he brings in, and all of these wines are cleanly made, something for which Ordoñez is a stickler.
Meanwhile, as Ordoñez was building up his expansive portfolio, other importers also were crisscrossing Spain, seeking out properties on par with what Ordoñez was finding.
For example, Steve Metzler, of Classical Wines, the intellectual ying to Ordoñez’s bullish yang, brought Tinto Pesquera from Ribera del Duero and Martínsancho from Rueda to the U.S., among others.
Eric Solomon, of European Cellars, introduced us to wines like Clos Erasmus from Priorat and Capçanes from Montsant, while André Tamers, of De Maison Selections, was unveiling high-quality names like Ameztoi from the Basque Country and the Cava producer Avinyó.
Thanks to the legwork of Jorge Ordoñez and these other leaders, Americans can now buy Spanish wines from a select band of dedicated specialty importers and be reasonably assured of getting top-notch products.
In Spain, It’s All in the Name
All wines imported into the U.S. must be labeled with the importer’s name and location—a valuable resource for in-the-know consumers. Look for these top importers to maximize your chances of scoring when it comes to buying Spanish wines.
Classical Wines/Steve Metzler, Seattle, WA
Key Producers: A. Fernández Tinto Pesquera (Ribera del Duero), Martínsancho (Rueda), Morgadío (Rías Baixas)
De Maison Selections/André Tamers, Chapel Hill, NC
Key Producers: Viña Mein (Ribeiro), Viña Sastre (Ribera del Duero), Avinyó (Cava)
European Cellars/Eric Solomon Selections, Charlotte, NC
Key Producers: Clos Erasmus (Priorat), Pazo de Señoráns (Rías Baixas), Capçanes (Montsant)
Europvin USA/Christopher Cannan, Bordeaux, France (wines imported by Michael Skurnik Wines)
Key Producers: Vega Sicilia (Ribera del Duero), CVNE (Rioja), Clos Mogador (Priorat)
Fine Estates from Spain/Jorge Ordoñez Selections, Dedham, MA
Key Producers: Borsao (Campo de Borja), Sierra Cantabria (Rioja), Avanthia (Valdeorras)
Grapes of Spain/Aurelio Cabestrero, Lorton, VA
Key Producers: Astrales (Ribera del Duero), Luna Beberide (Bierzo), Elías Mora (Toro)