Saturday, December 22, 2012

Holiday Rescue Mission

Still looking for wines to celebrate the Holidays? Wine Armada to the rescue! Take a look below at some of the great offerings from Spain that we tasted, and approved, at our most recent December get-together.

Gran Sarao Brut Cava - Simple, yet elegant, fresh sparkler that won't break the bank (under $10!) and will launch your party with universal food friendliness. Traditional grapes of Xarel-lo, Parellada, Macabeo, with a little Chardonnay, makes for a solid frame of apples and toast, while finishing clean and demanding another sip.

Freixenet "Elyssia" Cava Gran Cuvee Brut - More complex than the Sarao, with sophisticated flavors of citrus, almonds and a sweet, spiciness that let's you know this is not your ordinary Freixenet in the black bottle. Fine choice for shifting your gathering into second gear.

2009 Vina Almirante Albariño Pionero Maccerato - Old-school Albariño, with a depth, and creaminess, not found in many of today's wines from Spain's cool climate region of Rías Baixas. Age has mellowed this white beauty, with its peachy notes leading to poached pear, followed by a long, honey-drizzled biscuit finish. Send a search party out for this one since availability may be limited.

Montecastrillo Rosado - One of the finest Rosados we've tasted in a long time, and maybe the only one we've tried from the prestigious Ribera del Duero region. High altitude, 100% Tempranillo gives this pink stunner a freshness and balance that wowed the crowd. Would make an unbelievable pairing partner with so many of your Christmas goodies.

Senda 66 Tempranillo - Unexpected flavors from this red from La Mancha threw us off course with jammy crimson fruit, intense spice leading to licorice-filled, oaky finish. This bold effort, from a small grower/winemaker cooperative, may not be for everyone, but will definitely please the "big wine" lover in the family. 

2004 Primitivo Quiles “Raspay” Tinto Alicante - This 100% Monastrell was a revelation for all “wine geeks” in attendance. A unique journey back in time that involved 80 year-old vines, combined with 12 months of American oak aging, to create an energetic expression of red berries, cherry vanilla with subtle spices. The incredible freshness of this 2004 rarity was amazing, making every sip totally enjoyable.

Lustau Pedro Ximenez “San Emilio” - We capped off the evening with this dessert in a glass. Molasses, raisins and candied nuts all danced on our palates from this superbly created sweet sherry. Despite this wine’s ample body, balance was properly maintained, with lively acidity that kept everyone coming back for more.

Have your own Spanish favorites for the Holidays? Please let us know at


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

New Label - Same Great Wine Value

While searching for easy-drinking Spanish reds, I spied an interesting new label that quickly grabbed my attention. Upon further inspection, I discovered it was my "old, reliable friend"  a new-look 2010 Castano. While I do like the improved packaging, I was relieved to find the wine inside was better than ever. Pure 100% old vine Monastrell sourced from the Yecla region of Spain, this rustic, juicy production is so consistent in quality year after year. Lively acidity on the back end adds to the impeccable balance making this red a perfect match for simple grilled items, like burgers or kabobs. Thanks again to Eric Solomon for importing yet another winner from the Iberian peninsula.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Red Alert!

All hands have been on deck to explore just a few of the many red wines Spain has to offer this season. With Springtime temperatures on the rise, so is our need for getting out of the galley and firing up the outdoor grill. While white wines offer a break from the heat, a red is usually called upon to successfully execute the perfect pairing with many of our summer favorites like burgers, brats and big-ass steaks.

So the next time you fell that primal urge to get outside and cook something, give these wines a shot:

2009 Picos del Montgo' - 90% Tempranillo 10% Syrah. A modern take on Tempranillo from La Mancha that bursts with dark cherry flavor, then sails to a long, smooth finish. Over-delivers for the price, but peaking now, so drink it by Labor Day.

Altavins Domus Pensi - Terra Alta's unusual blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Cariñena and 20% Syrah balances ripe plum and black raspberry notes complemented with a burst of acidity.

2006 Predicador - From cult winemaker Benjamin Rome, a modern Rioja featuring dark, brooding fruit that finishes with a complex savory quality (think au jus and green olives). A big wine, with an iconic label, that can be appreciated by both novices and Robert Parker whom gave it 90 pts.

2010 Honoro Vera Garnacha - Another blockbuster out of Calatayud loaded with lush, juicy fruit and a backbone of solid acidity. A joyful expression from one of the most under-rated regions of Spain.

2010 Obalo Rioja - 100% Tempranillo that balances old world elegance with modern delivery of delicious fruit aromas and flavors. Balsamic notes provide a unique undercurrent to a wine worthy of its 90 pt. Wine Advocate score.

2006 Acustic "Brao" Montsant - This 50/50 blend of Garnacha and Samso, with 12-months of oak aging, confirms Acustic's position as a top-notch producer. A huge wine that needs at least 1-2 hours of decanting, will reward you with unforgettable layers of fruit, spice and minerals. Simply superb!

2009 Finca El Tesso Tempranillo - This chameleon, from the rarely seen (at least in our local wine stores) Ribera del Guadiana region, delivers an initial hit of bright red fruit, but eventually transforms to darker, earthier flavors. Resist the temptation to categorize this as a simple quaff and you'll be rewarded over time with something special.

All these, and other great values from Spain, are now available at Lukas Wine and Spirits. If there's a noteworthy Spanish red you've uncorked grill-side lately, please let us know!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Mad About Cava

The "Mad Men" TV series has both my wife and me hooked since the first episode. So it goes without saying, we were ready to celebrate the end of their nearly 18-month hiatus, with the season five premiere on Sunday night. Something with bubbles was in order to pair with a few charcoal grilled shrimp skewers. For the Wine Armada, Cava, the sparkling wine of Spain, was the obvious answer.

In keeping with the "Mad Men" theme, I hauled a bottle out of the cargo hold with an incredibly appropriate label. Once the cork was popped, Masach Lunatic Brut Cava exploded with aromas of fresh-cut limes and wet stones. More citrus, with some honey and ginger notes, came through on the palate, finishing with lively acidity that carried through to a clean, refreshing finish. For under $10, Cava once again establishes its place as one of the wine world's top bargains.

While we chose Spain's sparkler for a special occasion, Cava is right anytime, anywhere. Food friendliness, low alcohol levels and universal availability are all reasons to keep at least one bottle on hand.

For more information on Lunatic, and other wines by Masach, please follow this link:

Friday, February 17, 2012

MOnastrell - Where Spain Meets Missouri

A new personal discovery was made recently by the Wine Armada’s excursion to the Midwest Grape and Wine Conference. A Kansas City-based winery is now pushing the viticultural boundaries past the usual Missouri plantings of Norton, Chardonel, Vignoles, etc., and is successfully experimenting with more traditional varietals such as Cabernet Savignon, Malbec & Viognier. And, much to our delight, the results of those pioneering explorations can be quite tasty.

Spying a bottle of 2010 Mourvedre on one of conference tasting tables immediately captured our attention. We already knew this particular grape has been produced with great fanfare in the Jumilla, Yecla and Alicante regions of Spain, where it is known as Monastrell. Some high-end gems, like Bodegas El Nido Clio and Bodegas Olivares Jumilla Dulce have even risen the so-called bar of this common grape, which usually makes for delicious every-day wine, at an every-day price. Up until this moment, we had never seen Mourvedre/Monastrell from a Midwestern vineyard.

We were “blown out if the water” after the first sip, reveling in the depth of flavor, intense dark fruit and the long, smoky, pleasing finish. We were ecstatic after turning the bottle around to reveal the producer, Amigoni Estate, haled from western Missouri. We wanted to learn more and checked out the website for the interesting background story behind this “urban winery,” the other varietals they made available, and who was steering this noble ship into this uncharted territory.

Unfortunately, availability is currently non-existent near our home base of St. Louis. But what we do know is the next time we are sailing into the Kansas City area, Amigoni Urban Winery will definitely be one of our ports of call. A huge Wine Armada salute goes to Amigoni Estate for the unprecedented success of bringing one of our favorite Spanish grapes home to Missouri!

For more information, please check their website:

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Tasting a Legend

The culinary pairing gauntlet was thrown with some Dyreks Ranch bison tenderloins on the Wine Armada Saturday night dinner menu. Being leaner, a little more dense and flavorful than beef, the perfect Spanish wine compliment led us somewhere we had yet to explore, but had been anxiously awaiting the uncorking, after a year in our cellar. It was now time to unleash...the "Black Label"!

Miguel Torres is one of the most famous, and influential, winemakers in Spain and the much-sought-after Torres Mas La Plana "Black Label", illustrates the depth of his talents. This classic was produced from a single vineyard in Penedes (a northeastern Spanish wine region) from 100% old-vine cabernet sauvignon and aged 18 months in new French oak. Mas La Plana received notoriety in the 1979 Paris Wine Olympiad when it was awarded top prize over many other well-respected European wines.

Since we selected the 2003 vintage, there was plenty of time for tannins to settle and flavors to develop with some aging. This paid off handsomely, with this elegant wine providing a delicious accent to the bison steak, without overpowering the meat's subtle, unique flavor. A complex combination of dark fruit, leading to a long finish hinting of herbs and licorice, made it worth the wait to finally experience the magic created by Miguel Torres.

Here is a link for more information on Torres, Mas La Plana and his other more affordable wines that are readily available. In fact, another "can't miss" pairing, is his under-$10 Sangre de Toro and Spanish shrimp.


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Victorious Spanish Wine Tasting Event

A huge Wine Armada salute to Andy Bartee, from Eric Solomon Selections European Cellars, for hosting an off-the-chart Spanish Wine Tasting recently held in Clayton, Missouri. We appreciated him journeying north, from his home in Dallas, to share some old favorites, and new releases, that are now available at the Wine and Cheese Place on Forsyth.

After a brief intro, he had us jump right into the always reliable 2010 Burgans Albarino. Vintage after vintage, this Spanish white can do no wrong with it’s fresh, but restrained citrus flavors. Try it with fish tacos for a full-tilt pairing.

Underrated Godello followed, with the usual “I love Godello” emanating from the crowd, after the first few sips. The 2009 Pena das Donas Almalarga hails from Ribera Sacra and proved to be an exquisite example of the grapes unique blend of delicious fruit and minerality.

Next was the 2004 Izadi El Regalo Reserva Rioja which may have which had the best nose of the night. Bright fruit, combined with a bouquet of roses, just exploded from the glass, repeating that same freshness on the palate.

2006 Bodegas “Orben” Rioja
paved the way for an onslaught of red wines, each more powerful than the last. This was in the more traditional Rioja style, showing more tannin and deeper flavor than the Izadi.

We sailed on to the Ribera del Duero region next and the 2009 Finca Villacreces “Pruno” lived up to the billing as the best value of the evening. This neighbor to the famed Vega Sicilia estate costs only $19.99, but delivered flavor and finesse of wines two to three times the price.

2006 Finca Villacreces Ribera del Duero was a heady blend of bright expressive fruit followed by an incredibly long finish that was a roller coaster of dark flavors and spice. Quite worthy of the 94 pt. rating bestowed by Wine Advocate.

2009 Jimenez Landi Sotorrondero always impresses and makes one wonder why more wine is not exported from the obscure region of Mentrida. An outstanding blend of Syrah and Garnacha, and under $20, this one is always a crowd pleaser

The beast was unleashed at the end of the tasting to accolades worthy of the world’s finest wines. Big and bold, but still tightly wound due to its youth, the 2007 Nit de Nin Priorat had a perfect balance of fruit and terroir to lend to its supple framework. Rated 95 pt. by Wine Advocate, this should be at the top of your special occasion wine shopping list.

Up and down the line-up, it was an unbelievable night of some of the best Spain has to offer, that will not soon be forgotten by those lucky enough to attend. For more information on any of these wines, stop by the Wine and Cheese Place or log on to