Eric Solomon lives in Charlotte, N.C., not Sarasota, but wine lovers here and around the country owe him a debt nonetheless. Solomon is the presiding genius behind European Cellars, a wine importer devoted to discovering wines with that strong sense of place known as terroir, many of them unfined and unfiltered. He has launched some hitherto unknown wines into the stratosphere, but those with more modest budgets can savor many of his discoveries, too.
I was reminded of all this when I picked up a recent vintage Hecula Monastrell by Bodegas Castano at a local wine-savvy market. For a $14 bottle, it was amazingly good. I was curious and so I checked the website listed on the label for info on European Cellars. That’s when the dim bulb of my memory brightened. This is Eric Solomon’s outfit! Of course!
This 100 percent monastrell is typical of Solomon’s commitment to place over technique in winemaking. The producer is a small, fairly new family winery that happens to own some really fine old-growth vineyards in Spain’s Yecla region (Hecula is the old Roman name). This wine is made from grapes grown on vines 35 to 60 years old in a single unirrigated vineyard. The result is a distinctive wine with its own unique profile.
The European Cellars website is not an online wine seller and certainly not one of the growing number of outfits that seek out overproduction and snap it up at bargain prices. It is, instead, a source for local wine merchants in search of the good stuff from small, often obscure producers.