Eric Soloman is a wine importer who just never seems to miss the mark. A couple of my wine retailer friends just shout the praises of this New York man with a nose and palate for great wine.

Soloman is a big, big name in retail wine. He was named “Best Importer” by Food & Wine Magazine in 2006 and Robert Parker’s “Wine Personality of the Year” in 2002.

Ashley at Cork & Cracker pointed me toward a Soloman import just last weekend – a 2005 Les Alcusses Spanish blend that I just “had to try.” I’m such a sucker for a recommendation from those I trust.

This wine is a blend of Monastrell (check!), Tempranillo (the great Spanish grape, check!), Syrah (Okay, sounds good!), … and Mando (huh?). All I could think of when she said Mando was Mongo from Blazing saddles! But I digress!

Mando is a varietal found primarily in the Valencia region of Spain. It is a dark grape usually high in alcohol. Valencia is in the eastern region of Spain bordering the Mediterranean. Most of my research on “mando” included words like “rare,” “experimental,” and well … you get the idea.

But the wine, isn’t bad. I admit though the initial nose on this wine was scary as Mongo when angry in that great Mel Brooks’ classic. Often wine drinkers use the “barnyard” term in association with earthy wines and particularly with fine Pinot Noir. The nose on this wine was barnyard with the animals still hanging around!

But after a short period of time the wine calmed down and was actually pretty darn good. Robert Parker gave this juice an 89. It’s a very dark wine with some vanilla and berry hints. It’s soft on the finish … but definitely has a different taste and nose!

It does have a pretty cool label! (at right)

I’d recommend giving it a try! Mando – who can resist something you’ve just NEVER heard of before!

In photos: Top right, wine importer Eric Soloman. Center left, Mongo – aka, Alex Karras.

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