Sunday, November 3, 2013

Falling for Spanish Reds

With cooler weather already upon us, we join the rest of the wine world in transitioning from our refreshing summer whites to more hearty autumn reds. Here are some quick takes on three Spanish gems, we recently tasted, that will get you through this change of seasons:

Anciano Reserva Tempranillo 2005
From the rarely seen Valdepenas region in south central Spain, this mellow red was aged 5 years in barrel, and bottle, before release. Earthy aromas, with a touch of spice, leads to mouthful of black fruit on a long, complex finish typifying classic Tempranillo. 87 pts. from Wine Enthusiast and under $12.

Barahonda Nabucco 2010
An estate-bottled beauty from the oldest continuous wine family, in one of the country's oldest wine regions (Yecla), in the warmth of southeastern Spain. A delicious red blend of Monastrell, and Syrah, tasted of fig, blackberries and black cherry with some licorice on the finish. This Wine Advocate 88 pointer can be had for less than $15.

Alto Cinco Garnacha 2011
Alto Cinco means “high five” in Spanish, with “high” referring to the vineyard elevation (Alto) and “five” to their five vineyards in Cariñena of northern Spain. A lighter style Garnacha, aged 6 months in French and American oak has red cherry on the nose and palate, with some blueberry and a sweet spiciness on a lengthy, clean finish.

Enjoying this time of year and all the new wines being offered? Let us know what you've discovered, or some of your old favorites releasing their latest vintages, with a reply to this blog, the Wine Armada Facebook page, Twitter feed or email



Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Visit From Gil Family Estates

No one epitomizes Spanish wine quality and value better than Gil Family Estates. Their ever-growing portfolio covers a wide range from simple quaffers to the mind-blowing El Nido red blend. So it was without hesitation the Wine Armada sailed into Sasha's on Shaw, in South St. Louis, to meet winery reps Loren Gil and Jordi Flos, then sample their latest offerings paired with some culinary treats. Under the twilight sky on the outdoor patio, we tasted these fine examples of some of Spain's best:

Arindo Rueda Verdejo 2012
From the remote Rueda region, this light, crisp Verdejo was a perfect start to the evening. A little drier than the 2011 vintage, this 2012 seemed more balanced with it's pear and pineapple notes and mouthwatering acidity on the clean finish. It was crazy-good when paired with a banana nut muffin drizzled in a Verdejo reduction - a brilliant inspiration from the chef.

Bodegas Tridente Mencia 2010
The influx of high-quality Mencia has been staggering over the past 1-2 years. The 2010 Tridente Mencia is no exception. From a vineyard just outside Bierzo, Mencia's homeland, the 6 months in French oak added aromas of spice and dark fruit. Black raspberry, cassis and cola flavors glided across the palate on a lengthy finish that keeps you coming back for more. 90 points from Wine Advocate and under $15 makes this one a keeper.

Bodegas Atteca Old Vine Garnacha 2011
This 100% garnacha has been a long-time "go to" big red in the Wine Armada cellars. Aged for ten months in French oak and full of crowd-pleasing dark berry, licorice and fig flavors. Incredibly long finish for the money (under $15!) ending with a spicy note.

La Atalaya 2010
We finished with this easy-drinking Garnacha/Monastrell blend. 12 months in French oak adds just the right amount of blackberry and cigar box aromas, with the addition of blueberry and plum on the palate.  Perfect balance, combined with good acidity, that ends with slightly savory finish, makes this an all-around universal food wine. Wine Advocate agrees with a 91 pt. rating for this terrific value costing less than $15.

Many thanks to the Gil Family, Sasha's on Shaw, Pinnacle Imports, Amy Simpson and her Wine Cru for hosting this special event. Hope to see you all again, very soon!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Three Days in Spain

While hopping on a jet for a trip would be ideal (but considerably more expensive!), the Wine Armada chooses to visit Spain by way of our wine glasses. We recently opened three very different bottles, from three very different regions. The unique, diversity produced from these areas, never ceases to amaze us.

#1 - Torres Ibericos Tempranillo Rioja 2009
We begin in north central Spain and one of our long-time favorite producers, the Torres family. They do it all well from quality entry-level offerings to high-end collectibles. This one is no exception at only $12, but full of silky black cherry flavors, followed by tinges of vanilla and spice on a long, savory finish. A classic example of Rioja wine that’s worth seeking.

#2 - Avancia Cuvée de O 2012
The more Godello I try, the more I love this grape! The Avancia is new to the area and was worth the wait. From vines over 35 years old, the layers and complexity of this white wine from the northwestern part of the country (Valdeorras) is remarkable. For under $15 you’ll get a roller coaster flavor ride of pear, grapefruit and minerality with enough acidity, on the clean finish, to make this one of the world’s most under-rated food wines.

#3 - Pastora Fino Sherry
We head to southern Spain to visit poor Fino Sherry. The misunderstood child of the wine family, is possibly an acquired taste, but for the adventurous, can be immensely rewarding. Geeks like myself will enjoy the food pairing possibilities/challenges inspired by the almond notes, salinity and relatively high alcohol level (17%). Like Godello, the more I try a chilled glass, the more I enjoy this one-of-a kind treasure (especially when it's under $5 a bottle!).

Our mission will continue to carry us forward to other uncharted waters. Please let us know if there are any discoveries you’ve made in your Spanish wine quest. Contact us through Facebook, Twitter or


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Riding a New Wave of Spanish Wine

The line-up - lengthy and impressive. The presenters - informed and enthusiastic. The venue - comfortable and casual. All this combined for an incredible afternoon of tasting at Sasha's on De Mun earlier this week. A new portfolio of Spanish wine was revealed in St. Louis by Chris Hoskins and Leland Reid of Appellations Fine Wines, along with native Catalonian Nuria Garrote i Esteve from Vinovi & Co. They all guided us through a treasure trove currently seen only in Missouri and Michigan. New producers, new regions, new was all that was needed to gain Wine Armada's attention.

18 wines from small vineyards and artisan winemakers covering all corners of the Spanish countryside were featured. They included the following:

2009 Valldolina Reserva Brut Nature Cava - "Brut Nature" is hard to find, but worth seeking. This shines as an astoundingly pure example of high-quality sparkling wine.
2011 Ca N'estruc Blanc & 2010 Equilibrista Negre - The Blanc is a refreshing blend of five white grapes from Penedes. The Negre combines Syrah, Cariyena & Garnaxta with delicious results. Wine Advocate scored previous vintages 90 & 91 pts.                       
Belondrade 2011 Quinta Apolonia & 2010 Belondrade y Lurton Verdejo - Both masterfully crafted, but the extra barrel aging on the 2010 takes Verdejo to the realm of a superior white Burgundy.
Castell D'Encus 2010 Ekam, 2010 Taleja & 2010 Thalarn - The Costers del Segre region's take on Riesling and white Bordeaux (Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon), but the real star is Thalarn - 100% Syrah that Wine Advocate scored 95 pts. for the 2010 vintage.
2010 Billo Priorat - Lighter style Priorat that would be easy drinking for summer.
Garcia Burgos 2005 Vendimia Seleccionada & 2007 Sh - A Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blend, along with an impressive Syrah from Navarra.
2008 Alberto Ledo Ledo.8 - My favorite wine of the day! A Mencia from Bierzo steals the show with lots of ripe fruit and a finish that wouldn't quit.
2009 Almaroja Pirita - A crazy combo of 10 grapes that I found hard to define. May need to spend more time with this one.
2011 Cesar Principe 13 Cantaros Nicolas & 2009 Cesar Principe - The rarely seen region of Cigales makes a memorable appearance with two extraordinary Tempranillos. Past vintages have scored between 89-92 pts. with Wine Advocate.
Alemany i Corrio 2010 Pas Curtei & 2006 Sot Lefreic - Penedes red blends with the nod toward the perfect balance achieved by the Sot Lefreic (garners consistent 90+ ratings)
2007 Grau Vell Alcor - An interesting urban vineyard project outside Barcelona produced this powerful red blend.

It was a whirlwind tour to say the least, but the results of our findings were well worth it. The Wine Armada wishes Appellations Fine Wines much success in diversifying the area's Spanish wine offerings with this outstanding collection. We look forward to future findings by this adventurous group of importing pioneers.


Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weekend Wines

Three world-class wines were enjoyed this weekend along the Wine Armada's route from the home base to various points throughout the neighborhood. All are high-scoring, great values, that would be great additions to your summer collection.

While still in port, barbecued ribs were on the menu, and a Spanish red was called into action. The 2010 Bodegas Volver “Tarima Hill,” from old vines in the high regions of Alicante, was a “Monastrell Masterpiece.” Robert Parker was right on with his 93 pt. rating for this stunning red that delivered layer after layer of flavors like blackberry, dark cherries, fig and spices. The smooth finish was long-lasting and the pairing with barbecue sauce, and perfectly-cooked ribs, was heavenly. This gem, from superstar importer Jorge Ordonez, can be had for less than $15!

Later in the weekend, the Wine Armada sailed into a neighbor's harbor for a casual cookout of grilled shrimp and salmon burgers. We unleashed a 2011 Nisia, thinking made this 100% old vine (70-100 years in age!) Verdejo would be crowd-pleaser. We were not disappointed as this white wine proved to be a worthy seafood partner, and contender for one Spain's finest Verdejos we have ever tasted. Intense, yet refined, we experienced amazing levels of citrus and peach flavors with a touch of vanilla creaminess. 91 Points from Robert Parker and a price, once again below $15.

We finished our journey with a 2009 Pazos del Rey "Sila" Mencia from Monterrei, Spain. Tasted a little "oakier" than most Mencias tried previously, but the texture was silky smooth and SO easy drinking. Much like a Pinot Noir, but some darker fruits, like blueberry and plum, work their way toward a clean finish with enough acidity for food friendliness. 89 points from Wine Advocate and yours for less than $20.

Summer has just begun and so has the exploration of many more great wines Spain has to offer. For more information, contact the Wine Armada at


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Teaching Spanish Wines for Summer

We recently hosted a teacher appreciation event for our school
district with a tasting of Spanish wine, olives and cheese. In the
process (since educators were involved!) a basic lesson on the wines
of Spain was conducted with great success. We demonstrated all the
virtues we’ve come to know and love about the Iberian Peninsula, such
as unique grape varietals, expert winemakers, rave reviews from the
critics and tremendous values to be had. Below is the line-up that
took all attendees on a memorable cruise aboard the Wine Armada:

Segura Viudas Aria Brut Cava - Penedes (Sparkling Wine) $9.99
"A blend of 50% Macabeo, 40% Parellada &10% Xarel-lo from an
11th-century estate outside Barcelona. Aged sur lie, in underground
caves, for a minimum of 15 months, the pear-like fruit integrates with
the bubbles, providing a clean flavor, dominated by fresh pineapple,
almonds and honey, finishing with hints of pears and fresh bread."
(90 Points - Wine & Spirits)

Martin Codax Albarino 2011 - Rias Baixas (White) $14.99
"Named after a Galacian poet, from the Middle Ages, who wrote about his
love of the sea. 100% Albarino aged sur lie for 4 months, creating a
delicate and medium-bodied wine, with a crisp, dry finish. Flavors of
ripe apple, peach, pear and lemon zest are framed by bright
minerality, and hints of spice, making it a versatile, food-friendly
(2010 vintage rated 90 pts. by Wine Enthusiast)

Borsao Rosado 2012 - Campo de Borja (Rose’) $6.99
"100 % Garnacha from a producer founded in 1958. The vineyards are
divided between the Ebro River at 1,200 ft. in elevation and the
hillside vineyards on the Moncayo Mountains, at 1,950 ft.. Clean and
crisp, with bright red fruit like wild strawberries. An easy drinking,
dry rosé: Snappy, bright and engaging to the last drop."
(2011 vintage rated 89 Points by The Wine Advocate)

Bodegas Volver Tarima 2011 - Alicante’ (Red) $8.99
"Made from 100% Monastrell (Mouvedre) grapes grown from 40-75 year old
gnarled vines in the rugged, arid climate of Alicante on the eastern
edge of La Mancha. This exceptional value from Spain  brings some
serious black fruit, svelte tannin, stellar spice, and a medium to
fuller body profile. Tarima blossoms in your glass with notes of
licorice, chocolate and a hint of dark violets."(91 Points - The Wine Advocate)

Marquis de Riscal Rioja Reserva 2006 - (Red) $22.99
"Made from Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo grapes, with two years
aging in American-oak casks, from one of Rioja’s oldest wineries
(founded in 1858).  Aromas of red currant, cherry, tobacco and
vanilla, with an herbal overtone. Round and silky in texture, offering
red fruit flavors that pick up a smoky nuance, finishing with a gentle
sweetness, soft tannins, and a smoky, meaty note.”
(87 Points - International Wine Cellar)

Savory & James Cream Sherry (Dessert Wine) $11.99
This blend of Pedro Ximénez and Palamino grapes comes exclusively from
select vineyards in the Zona de Jerez Superior, the world’s finest
area for production of sherry. It is aged through the time honored
Savory & James solera system which was established in 1780. When it
reaches full maturity; delicate and at the same time unusually rich
and delicious.

Thanks to all who attended, assisted and provided support on this
latest mission. For more information on how the Wine Armada can take
your group on a unique voyage at your next event, please contact us at


Sunday, January 6, 2013

One for the Ages

We decided the time was right to pit two aged-red, heavyweights against each other. Italy vs. Spain in a contest for palate supremacy. In one corner was the 2000 Marziano Abbona Barolo. A 93-point "Wine for Kings" hailing from the hillsides of Piedmont. The opponent was a 1999 Faustino Rioja Grand Reserva, a classic Spanish beauty from a well-respected, 140-year old estate in the North-Central part of the country. The battlefield was in Wellington (Beef Wellington that is!).

The Barolo opened nicely, as the familiar wafts of roses, cherries and truffles filled the air. The first few sips gave us loads of darker berry fruits, followed by a long finish of licorice and earth flavors. 36 months in French and Slovenian oak, along with another year in the bottle before release, gives this Italian gem an extra-long lifespan. It's just simply superb, and another reminder why Barolos are quickly becoming some of the best "big" red wine bargains on the current market.

The Rioja felt like a journey back in time. From the old-school label design and bottle wrapped in netting, to the signature aromas of ripe red fruit and leather, this was a unique treasure to be enjoyed with special friends. The savory tastes of cranberry compote, along with a cushiony mouthfeel, virtually sashayed across the tongue. It was so enlightening to be treated to the uncanny freshness that comes with the characteristic aging of a Grand Reserva (28 months in French and American oak, plus another 44 in the bottle, before release from Faustino).

While there is the "apples and oranges" aspect of comparing these two great wines, the compatibility with Beef Wellington proved to be the deciding factor in this competition. While the Barolo was a worthy contender on its own, the still-intense tannins, along with bold fruit flavors, proved a bit too overpowering for the beef. The edge went to the Rioja, thanks to the lively acidity it was still able to deliver after 13 years. Along with its lighter red berry notes, the Spaniard takes the victory, thanks to being a perfect partner with the "Welly."

While Spain may have won this battle for red wine dominance, we selfishly look forward to the many pleasures to be gained in future skirmishes between these old-world super powers.