Category Archives: Spain

La Rioja Alta, Rioja Reserva (Spain) “Viña Ardanza” 2008

($32): Where else but Spain, and specifically Rioja, do you find a nine year old wine as the current release?  And look at the price.  Not to mention that La Rioja Alta is one of the best producers in Rioja. Here’s a chance for consumers to taste the magical transformation of youthful fruitiness in a wine to intriguing and hard to define non-fruit flavors of leather and earth. Not overdone, successive waves of flavor crash over the palate. Brilliant juicy acidity and moderate power makes it a divine choice for grilled meat once the weather turns chilly in the evening.
93 Michael Apstein Aug 15, 2017

Arínzano, Pago del Arínzano (Spain) “Hacienda di Arínzano” 2011

($19, Stoli Group USA): The Vinos de Pago category sits at the pinnacle of Spain’s official wine hierarchy.  A Pago is basically a single estate that has its on Denominacion Oregin.  Arínzano was northern Spain’s first estate to be awarded Vinos de Pago status.  Surprisingly, the Hacienda di Arínzano, with all its power and grace, isn’t even the estate’s top wine.  But it’s likely the estate’s top bargain.  A blend of Tempranillo (80%) with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot comprising the remainder, it’s explosive, yet defined.  Though powerful, there’s restraint so it’s not over the top or in your face.  A seductive silky texture makes it easy to enjoy now.
93 Michael Apstein Jul 18, 2017

Finca San Blas, Utiel-Requena DO (Valencia, Spain) “Lomalta” 2014

($14): The Denominación de Origen (DO) of Utiel-Requena in eastern Spain has traditionally been known for bulk wine from the prolific Bobal grape.  Slowly, producers are changing the image.  This robust red, a blend of Merlot, Bobal, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Syrah, has remarkably mild tannins, which makes it a good choice for hearty fare, even barbeque.  It provides a lot of bang for the buck as long as you like the “big red” style of wine.
87 Michael Apstein Jul 11, 2017

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Codorníu, Cava (Penedes, Spain) Gran Reserva Brut “Jaume” 2012

($60): It should come as no surprise that Codorníu, still a leader in Cava production and the company essentially responsible for creating the category, should produce a show-stopping wine.  In this Gran Reserva, one of their top bottlings, they use an unusual blend — at least for Cava — of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Xarel-lo.  The result is a creamy and mineral-y combination with a suave refined texture.  Graceful enough to enjoy by itself, it has enough power and persistence to accompany full-flavored main courses, such as a pork roast.
95 Michael Apstein May 2, 2017

Arínzano, Pago del Arínzano (Northeastern Spain) “La Casona” 2008

($30): In the hierarchy of the Spanish classification of wine growing areas, a Pago is at the top.  Pago is a single estate that produces exceptional wines according to the Spanish authorities.  La Casona is their mid-level wine, which seriously over delivers for the price.  A marvelous well-balanced blend of Tempranillo (75%) and Merlot, it is rich without being heavy.  The Merlot adds an attractive earthy funkiness without dominating the wine.  Suave and succulent, it would be a good choice with hefty beef this winter.
92 Michael Apstein Feb 28, 2017

Terras Gauda, O Rosal, Rias Baixas (Galicia, Spain) 2015

($18, Baron Francois): The so-called “flagship” of the winery, this Rias Baixas is a blend of primarily Albariño (70%) and other indigenous varieties, Loureira and Caiño, which add subtle complexity.  O Rosal refers to the valley in Rias Baixas where the vineyards are located.  There’s no mistaken the cutting verve imparted by the Albariño.  The other grapes fill out the wine with a welcome generosity.   This energetic wine would be a good foil for even tomato-based seafood dishes.  And it’s a bargain.
93 Michael Apstein Jan 10, 2017

Bodegas Franco Españolas, Rioja Reserva (Spain) “Rioja Bordón” 2011

($18, Vision Wine & Spirits): A more serious wine than their Crianza, Bodegas Franco Españolas’ Rioja Reserva is yet another example of how Spanish wines over-deliver.  It’s more refined and polished, delivering more complexity compared to the Crianza.  The Crianza’s vivacity is apparent here as well, which means you will not tire of it throughout a meal.  It’s a fine choice this winter for grilled meat. You cannot beat it at the price!
90 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

Bodegas Franco Españolas, Rioja Gran Reserva (Spain) “Rioja Bordón” 2005

($25, Vision Wine & Spirits): Astounding to find beautifully matured wine at retail at this price.  This Gran Reserva demonstrates the virtue of cellaring wine…only in this case, Bodegas Franco Españolas did the work and absorbed the expense involved in aging.  Refined and suave like velvet, it conveys a hint of mature, non-fruit flavors without losing any freshness or vivacity.  Those looking for bold flavors of the New World will be disappointed.  But its glossy texture and layers of flavors that caress the palate during a meal are likely to make you a convert to properly aged wines.  It’s appropriate for a special meal with the advantage of having an ordinary price.  I’ve had many older vintages of this wine that are sensational.  Buy this one by the case and savor its pleasure over the coming decade.
93 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

Bodegas Franco Españolas, Rioja Crianza (Spain) “Rioja Bordón” 2013

($13, Vision Wine & Spirits): The wines from Franco Españolas are just another example of the excellent bargains available from Spain.  Take this Crianza for example.  A blend of Tempranillo (80%) and Garnacha, it is a lively mixture of red fruit flavors, spice and herbs.  It’s rare to find this kind of interplay of flavors at the price.  Tannins are smooth, which means it’s perfect for current consumption.  It’s bright enough to cut through the spectrum of flavors — even shrimp and garlic — served on “small plates” (a.k.a. tapas).
88 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

Bodegas Ochoa, Navarra (Spain) Reserva 2009

($22, Frontier Imports): Big and powerful, this blend of Tempranillo (55%), Cabernet Sauvignon (35%) and Merlot has a glossy texture.  Even at seven years of age, a hint of seductive, almost sweet, oakiness remains.  Its ripeness is felt in the finish as a touch of heat.  Brilliant acidity keeps it fresh and prevents it from being heavy or tiring.  It has the flamboyance of a New World wine with an Old World structure. It’s a lot of wine for the price.
88 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

Príncipe de Viana, Navarra (Spain) Tempranillo Reserva 2011

($17, Classical Wines of Spain): Navarra, a wine region in northern Spain, is best known for its Garnacha-based rosado.  With its proximity to Rioja (indeed, a part of Rioja DOCa lies within the geographic area of Navarra) it is not surprising that Tempranillo, the major grape of its neighbor, does well too.  Despite its five years of age, this rich wine remains tight and needs additional bottle age.  It’s closed, but balanced, at this stage, and just needs time to open as opposed to being hard or astringent and needing time to soften.  Lively acidity balances its plum-like fruitiness and muscular stature, keeping it fresh.  If you opt to drink it this winter, open a few hours before the meal and decant it to let it breathe.  Alternatively, find a place for this bargain-priced beauty in your cellar.
92 Michael Apstein Jan 3, 2017

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Cellars Uinó, Montsant (Catalonia, Spain) Garnacha “Perlat” 2014

($12, Monsieur Touton): Montsant is sometimes referred to as a “little brother” appellation to its more famous and expensive neighbor, Priorat.  There’s nothing little brother about this wine.  Waves of aromas pour from the glass predicting pleasure on the palate.  It’s wonderfully dense, dark and ripe, yet does not go overboard and finishes with a subtle and paradoxical succulent bitterness.  There’s no flamboyance, yet it’s a robust wine, with an almost tarry element.  For all its power, it’s actually an elegant wine.  What a bargain!
93 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2016

Bodegas Virgen del Agulia-Paniza, Cariñena (Spain) Garnacha Vina Vejas de Paniza 2012

($14, Vinaio Imports): It’s curious — and perhaps confusing — that the primary grape of the Cariñena region is Garnacha and not Cariñena (a.k.a., Carignan in French and Carignano in Italian, and generally spelled “Carignane” in the U.S.A.).  That said, there’s nothing confusing about this wine — it’s terrific.  The old vines (vina vejas) must account for the wine’s complexity — a seamless combination of ripe fruitiness and spice.  The paradoxically subtle but persistent wild strawberry-like character of Garnacha is apparent without being sweet.  Suave tannins provide appropriate structure without intruding on the wine’s finesse.  This is a wonderful wine for hearty fare this winter.
91 Michael Apstein Dec 6, 2016

Don Olegario, Rias Baixas (Spain) Albarino 2015

($20, Kobrand Wine & Spirits): Lovely wine, dreadful label.  I rarely comment about a wine’s label.  After all, it’s what’s in the bottle that counts.  And in that category, this wine is easy to recommend.  The problem is that the script on the label makes it almost impossible to figure out the name of the producer, so buying it is likely to be difficult.  Still, it’s worth the struggle because its clean, saline-tinged character gives a good introduction to what the Albariño grape can do in Rias Baixas.  Cutting and precise, with the barest hint of an attractive prickly sensation on the palate, it’s a good choice for flavorful seafood preparations.
89 Michael Apstein Oct 4, 2016

Rolland & Galarreta, Rueda (Spain) Verdejo 2014

($22): Michel Rolland, owner of Château Bon Pasteur in Pomerol and consulting wine maker to scores of properties around the world, has had an enormous impact changing the style of wine.  His stylistic imprint is most apparent in the reds, making them riper and bolder.  Judging from this wine, he — the master of Merlot — is truly multitalented.  Not tasting riper or bolder, this white from Rueda is instead flowery and fresh with a seductive texture.  A bright finish keeps you coming back for more.
91 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Rolland & Galarreta, Ribera del Duero (Castilla y León, Spain) Crianza 2011

($24): This masterful blend of Merlot and Tempranillo should walk off the shelves. It’s a big muscular and meaty combination but with glossy tannins usually associated with far more expensive wines. Powerful and simultaneously elegant, it marries dark fruit and savory elements. Nicely balanced, it’s a “big” wine without the tannic trappings that often accompany that style. It would be a great choice for current drinking with hearty wintery fare.
93 Michael Apstein Feb 2, 2016

Beronia, Rioja Reserva (Spain) 2010

($19, San Francisco Wine Exchange): I continue to be amazed — year after year — by the value Rioja delivers.  It’s hard to imagine a more delightful wine selling for less than $20.  It’s a balance of sweet, yet not heavy, fruit coupled with savory elements.  Aging in American oak adds a touch of spice to this traditional Tempranillo (95%) Graciano and Mazuelo blend.  Suave tannins provide appropriate structure without being intrusive.  This graceful wine is an outstanding bargain.  You’ll wind up drinking many bottles this winter.
91 Michael Apstein Jan 5, 2016

Beronia, Rioja Gran Reserva (Spain) 2006

($29, San Francisco Wine Exchange): Full disclosure, this wine gets additional points for value. I would run to buy it because wines of this quality at this price will disappear rapidly.  Another fabulous bargain from Beronia, a Rioja producer whose well-priced wines rarely fail to thrill, it’s a traditional blend of Tempranillo (95%), Graciano and Mazuelo. The 2006 is Beronia’s current release of Gran Reserva because they, like Rioja wineries in general, have a tradition of cellaring wines for extended periods of time before release.  At 10 years of age, it is showing graceful maturity, with a magical combination fresh and dried fruits intertwined with earthy leafy flavors.  This traditionally framed Rioja shows enormous finesse and complexity.   Where else can you find a beautifully mature wine for less than $30?
95 Michael Apstein Jan 5, 2016

Viña Altamar, Ribera del Duero (Spain) Tempranillo 2013

($14, Hammeken Cellars): It is rare to find a wine from Ribera de Duero, one of Spain’s top wine areas, at this price.  Especially one of this quality.  Stony elements buttress the lovely rich, but not jammy, dark fruit flavors.  Far more sophisticated than the price suggests, it has polished tannins and wonderful structure.  It would be a great choice for hearty winter fare this year.
90 Michael Apstein Jan 5, 2016

Emilio Moro, Ribera del Duero (Spain) “Malleous” 2011

($45, Moro Brothers): Moro’s 2011 Ribera del Duero is impressive because of its suaveness despite its size.  Focusing more on mineraly or savory flavors than fruity ones, it has an attractive firmness without being hard.  Some might complain about the amount of oak flavors showing at this stage, but they convey an alluring creaminess.  It would be a good choice either for the cellar, or if you don’t mind a touch of oak, with a standing rib roast this winter.
93 Michael Apstein Nov 17, 2015

Bodegas Sepa 21, Castilla y León (Spain) “Hito” 2014

($16): Full disclosure:  I gave this wine extra points for value, because it would be hard to do better at the price.  It delivers a marvelous combination of black cherry-like fruitiness — not too much — and a slate-like minerality.  The winemaking team has resisted the temptation to over extract the flavors and tannins or mask them with oak.  The result is a classy wine at a fabulous price.  It would be perfect for drinking this fall and winter.
92 Michael Apstein Nov 17, 2015

Alvaro Palacios, Priorat (Spain) “Les Terrasses” 2012

($38, Rare Wine Company): Palacios is one of the winemakers who were responsible for the renaissance of winemaking in this unique region.  It’s easy to see why the vines were abandoned over the years:  steep slopes of solid rock.  A reasonable person could ask, why bother to replant vines here?  Fortunately for us consumers, Palacios and his compatriots bothered.  You can smell and feel the stone in this wine.  A blend of Garnacha and Cariñena, locally referred to as Samsó, it’s firm and mineral-infused, yet not hard or astringent. The combination of power and elegance is simply stunning.  Indeed, you can enjoy it now, albeit, with hearty winter fare.  This is not a wine to sip as an aperitif.  But, boy is it good with lamb chops.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 6, 2015

Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo (Spain) “Pétalos” 2013

($19, Rare Wine Company): Palacios is one of the most famous and revered names in Spanish winemaking.  Alvaro Palacios, along with others, is credited with the revival of the entire Priorat region.  Now at his family’s estate in Rioja, he is energizing and reconfiguring how people think about wines from that region.  His nephew, Ricardo, is responsible for the outpost in Bierzo, still a relatively unknown area in northwestern Spain.  Bierzo will not remain unknown for long as the public discovers the dazzling wines Palacios produces there from the Mencia grape.  This one, Pétalos, is made from a combination of their own grapes plus some purchased from neighbors.  Minerally and firm, it has a seemingly paradoxical austerity and richness with a slight appealing tarriness in the finish.  This is an extraordinary bargain for the excitement it delivers.  Few under $20 wines show this kind of complexity that unfolds in the glass.  This easy-to-recommend wine is perfect for the heartier dishes of fall and winter.
92 Michael Apstein Oct 6, 2015

Descendientes de J. Palacios, Bierzo (Spain) “Villa de Corullon” 2012

($40, Rare Wine Company): Almost a decade ago, Oscar Alegre, export manager at Descendientes de J. Palacios, told me, referring to Bierzo, that “Nobody in Spain thinks quality wine comes from here.”   I do not know whether the thinking in Spain has changed, but I can assure you that very high quality, exciting wines come from Bierzo, especially those made by Descendientes de J. Palacios.  The wines impressed me then and still do.  Villa de Corullon is the label Palacios uses for wines blended from several vineyards they own — all planted with Mencia — in the village of Corullon.  Less accessible than Pétolas at this stage, it’s more minerally and tarry, but more sleek and elegant.  A subtle leafiness and spice just adds intrigue.  Although it shows plenty of black fruit character, this wine is not just about fruitiness, by a long shot.  Indeed, it’s the non-fruit elements that are captivating.  Despite its size, it has tremendous elegance.  But it’s best left in the cellar for a few years.  Enjoy the Pétolas while you wait.  You won’t suffer.
94 Michael Apstein Oct 6, 2015

Marques de Caceres, Rioja (Spain) Blanco 2009

($9, Vineyard Brands):  To most consumers, Rioja means red.  And to be fair, the vast amount of it is.  Until the last decade or so, the white wine produced in Rioja was not popularity here because it was often oxidized and tired.  But that’s no longer the case.   This one, made entirely from Viura is crisply clean and bright.   Gentle hints grapefruit reinforce its freshness.  It’s an easy choice for simple seafood at a fabulous price. 87 Michael Apstein Oct 19, 2010

Bodegas Bilbainas, Rioja Reserva (Spain) “Viña Pomal” 2010

($21): Befitting a Rioja Reserva, there’s healthy dose of savory non fruit flavors that adds complexity and balances the red and black fruitiness of this Tempranillo-based wine.  Indeed, it’s the earthy quality in this mid-weight traditionally framed wine that is captivating.  Its moderate tannic structure and uplifting acidity means it is better on the table with spiced Spanish cuisine or even a simply grilled hanger steak than as a stand-alone glass of red
90 Michael Apstein Jan 13, 2015

Bodega la Bastida, Rioja (Spain) “R & G” 2010

($26, Kysela Père et Fils): Though the producer is Bodega la Bastida, make no mistake, the names to remember are Michel Rolland, the internationally renowned oenologist who advising leading Bordeaux estates, and Javier Galarreta, a Spanish wine entrepreneur — hence the “R & G” emblazoned across the label.  The grapes come from La Bastida’s 1200 acres in the Alavesa, a region of Rioja revered for high-quality fruit.  Rolland oversees the winemaking and uses state of the art equipment, including an optical sorting machine, that ensues only the best grapes make it into the fermenting vats.  The result, not surprisingly, is a polished wine with excellent concentration without being overdone.  A smoky element, dark cherry-like flavors and a subtle bitterness in the finish add intrigue, while glossy tannins allow enjoyment now. All in all it screams for roasted red meat.  It is another example of the bargains to be found in Spanish wines.
92 Michael Apstein Jan 13, 2015

Bodegas Valtravieso, Ribera del Duero (Spain) “R & G” 2010

($26, Kysela Père et Fils): A blend of mostly (90%) Tempranillo and Merlot, this, like their Rioja, is a joint venture between the world-famous enologist, Michel Rolland, a Spanish wine entrepreneur, Javier Galarreta, and Bodegas Valtravieso, from whose 200 acres Rolland selected the grapes.  Similar to the “R & G” Rioja, this Ribera del Duero is plush, polished and concentrated, without being overdone.  It conveys an alluring minerality that is more apparent here than in the Rioja.  By no means just fruity, the earthy mineral quality shines and distinguishes it from their Rioja, showing the different expression of Tempranillo in these two regions.  If you’re one for analogies, their Rioja is like a fine Chianti Classico, while the Ribera del Duero speaks like a Brunello di Montalcino.  Here’s another well-price Spanish gem.  More steak, please.
93 Michael Apstein Jan 13, 2015

El Coto, Rioja Blanco (Spain) 2012

($12, Frederick Wildman): Rioja Blanco — yes, you read that correctly.  Though 95% of wine in Spain’s famed Rioja region is red, a small — and shrinking — amount of Viura is planted as growers replace that white grape with Tempranillo.  This bargain-priced wine is one to grab and hope El Coto continues to find suppliers.   Clean and bright, it delivers a hint of spiciness that balances its body.  It would be a good choice for roast chicken or sautéed fish.
88 Michael Apstein Dec 9, 2014

Bodegas Muriel, Rioja (Spain) Gran Reserva 2001

($30, Quintessential Wines): One of the great things about Rioja is their tradition of aging wine at the winery and then releasing it when it’s mature.  Regulations require a Gran Reserva, which are made only in the best vintages, to be aged for a minimum of five years before release.  Muriel has opted to age theirs longer.  Their 2001, from a great vintage in Rioja, is the current release.  This is a rare opportunity for those without a big bank account or a deep cellar to experience the near magical transformation of bright ripe fruity flavors of young wines to the savory non-fruit nuances that emerge with aging.   In addition to the transformation of flavors, aging has softened the tannins that can impart astringency when the wine is young imparting suaveness to the wine. Uncork a bottle of this beauty with something simple, such as a simply grilled steak, to savor the plethora of flavors that emerge from the glass.
92 Michael Apstein Dec 9, 2014

Bodega Alejandro Fernández, Ribera del Duero (Castilla y León, Spain) Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2010

($49, Classical Wines from Spain): Commonly just known as Pesquera, this 2010 Reserva from Ribera del Duero expands on that wine’s dazzling reputation.  It has marvelous minerality, penetration and spice, all wrapped in finely polished tannins that convey a sumptuous texture.  There’s an almost magical combination of herbal nuances, earth and dark fruit seamlessly intertwined.  Like all great wine, its stature is apparent immediately, but it grows as it sits in the glass.  Resist the temptation to drink it know with a simply grilled steak, but rather find a place in your cellar where you won’t be tempted by it for a decade.
95 Michael Apstein Nov 25, 2014

Martinsancho, Rueda (Spain) Verdejo 2013

($22, Classical Wines from Spain): Angel Rodriguez, the owner of Martínsancho, resurrected the Verdejo grape, the traditional cultivar of Rueda in the 1970s. King Juan Carlos of Spain recognized the importance of his work by awarding him the Cross of the Civil Order of Agriculture.  So it’s not surprising that this “Father of Rueda” should produce such a gorgeous wine.  Martínsancho’s 2013 captures Verdejo’s floral character and balances its almost white peach-like flavor and texture with riveting acidity.  This magical combination makes this sophisticated and versatile wine equally appealing with simple seafood or a more elaborate chicken breast in a rich and creamy mushroom sauce.
91 Michael Apstein Oct 28, 2014

Morgadio, Rias Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albariño 2013

($22, Classical Wines from Spain): Morgadio’s 2013 is to Rias Baixas what Martínsancho’s 2013 is to Rueda–a classic example of the denominacíon.  If you want to know what all the fuss is about Rias Baixas and its indigenous grape, Albariño, just taste this wine.  It has spice and palate-tingling energy, but more depth and length than many other wines from that DO.  Its savory, slight bitterness makes you salivate and return for another sip.  It’s a good choice when searching for a white that packs a bit of punch.
91 Michael Apstein Oct 28, 2014

Mas d’En Gil, Priorat (Spain) Coma Vella 2008

($45, Classical Wines from Spain): The 2008 vintage in Priorat was cooler than usual, producing slightly less concentration, more vibrant wines.  Mas d’En Gil’s style leans toward less massive Priorat than many of the other producers.  The combination of their style and the vintage means that this wine, while still packing plenty of punch, is less muscular than the typical Priorat.  Spice and freshness balance its concentration and a pleasant bitter note in the finish makes this easy-to-recommend wine a good choice for this winter’s robust fare.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 28, 2014

Bodegas Príncipe de Viana, Navarra (Spain) Garnacha Roble 2012

($16, Classical Wines from Spain): My mantra is producer, producer, producer.  But when I am unfamiliar with a producer, I look at the importer, especially those who specialize in a country or region, because some importers’ portfolio are more consistent than others.  Classical Wines from Spain is one of those importers.  They rarely miss.  This simple Garnacha from Príncipe de Viana is an excellent example.  It’s a well-balanced cheery combination of fruity and spicy elements with hardly noticeable tannins — just enough so it’s not soft and flabby.  It’s what I refer to as a “pizza wine,” but with unusual depth for a wine in that category.  It would also go well with rotisserie chicken.
88 Michael Apstein Oct 28, 2014

Losada, Bierzo (Spain) 2011

($23, Classical Wines from Spain): Bierzo may lack the name recognition of Rioja, but its wines can be equally memorable.  The Mencía grape, historically known for making dilute wines from over cropped vines, can make stunning wines, such as this one, when the vines are planted on the rocky hillsides in this northwestern region of Spain.  Losada’s Bierzo combines black fruit flavors with deep minerality to produce a wine with power, persistence and harmonizing gracefulness.  An alluring subtle bitterness in the finish means that if you pair this wine with a steak tonight, you’ll be very happy.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 28, 2014

Vall Llach, Priorat (Catalonia, Spain) “Porrera de Vi de Vila de Vall Llach” 2010

($65, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Priorat is one of just two appellations awarded Denominación de Origen Calificada (DOCa) status, Spain’s highest official wine category (Rioja is the other).  Producers there are just starting to subdivide the region to show the distinctiveness of the wines from the various villages that comprise the DOCa.  I can’t determine whether this wine from the village of Porrera is, indeed, different from wines from another of the villages because Vall Llach doesn’t produce other village designated wines.  What I can report is that this wine is terrific and explains, in part, why area’s popularity has taken off.  Vall Llach uses the traditional blend for the region of mostly (75%) Cariñena — in this instance, old vine — and Garnacha for this wine.  Tradition works.  These varieties transmit a beguiling combination of wild strawberry-like fruit and minerality and carry the 15.5% stated alcohol effortlessly.  Despite its power, the wine has considerable grace and harmony.  It’s paradoxically bold, but floral and light a foot.  This is a perfect wintertime wine for those hearty lamb shanks.
93 Michael Apstein Oct 14, 2014

Vall Llach, Priorat (Catalonia, Spain) “Embruix de Vall Llach” 2011

($25, Folio Fine Wine Partners): Vall Llach, one of Priorat’s top producers, designates fruit from younger vines for their Embruix (bewitched in Catalan dialect).  A 50/50 blend of the traditional varieties (Cariñena and Garnacha) with international ones (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah), it delivers a more modern expression of the appellation. A healthy dose of minerality peeks through the big ripe fruit elements. Its robust burly nature — really a charming rusticity — makes it an excellent choice for roasted leg of lamb. It’s a perfect introduction to the wines of this famed — and thankfully now revived — appellation.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 7, 2014

Las Rocas de San Alejandro, Calatayud (Aragon, Spain) Garnacha Rosé 2013

($14): Las Rocas — as it’s known — is one of those reliable producers who consistently produce a fabulous array of well-priced wines.  Even their rosé — readers know that’s not my favorite category — is stunning.  It draws you in with a seductive pink color and follows with bracingly vibrant, almost spicy, notes. Strawberry nuances in dry finish just add to the enjoyment.  This is a fabulous summertime drink, either as a stand-alone or to accompany a hearty Niçoise salad or grilled tuna.
92 Michael Apstein Aug 5, 2014

José Antonio Mokoroa, Getariako Txakolina (Pays Basque, Spain) 2013

($14, Polaner Selections): The Txakoli (“Chok-o-lee”) from Spain are the perfect antidote for summer’s heat and humidity.  With a refreshing and lively fizz, this low (11.5% stated alcohol) wine from Mokoroa is just what you want when the temperature climbs.  The hint of effervescence, initially surprising if one is unfamiliar with these wines, adds an unexpected charm.  Perfect for salads or other light fare, you’ll find yourself drinking this wine regularly during the summer.  You can afford to buy it by the case.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 8, 2014

Bodegas Hornillos Ballesteros, Ribera del Duero (Spain) “Mibal” 2011

($17, Ole Imports): This Tempranillo-based wine is robust without being heavy because perky acidity keeps it fresh and lively.  Savory notes mingle with the dark fruity flavors.  There’s a food-friendly subtle and attractive bitterness in finish. Fine tannins allow you to enjoy it now with hearty fare.  Its lovely balance suggests it will develop nicely with bottle age, so there’s no rush.
90 Michael Apstein May 13, 2014

Cuatro Rayas, Rueda (Castilla y Leon, Spain) Verdejo “Viñedo Centenarios” 2012

($13): The sensory paradox of an impression of sweetness from the nose and the mouth-cleansing acidity is one of the charms of this Rueda.  The floral nature — honeysuckle and other white flowers — makes you think it’s a sweet wine.  But it’s not.  Its depth — old vines speaking — and vibrancy makes it a terrific choice for spicy Asian cuisine or sushi.
89 Michael Apstein Feb 4, 2014

Oro de Castilla, Rueda (Spain) Verdejo 2012

($16, Olé Imports): It may be winter outside, but the essence of summer emerges once you pull the cork — or rather unscrew the top — of this bottle.  Floral, bright and vibrant, it’s a joy to sip and drink.  A slight nuttiness adds complexity without imparting heaviness.  A delightfully slightly bitter finish completes the picture.  This is a versatile wine — a good stand-alone aperitif, a fine choice for spiced Asian food, sushi, or as a way to enliven a take-out rotisserie chicken.
91 Michael Apstein Dec 31, 2013

Martin Codax, Rias Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albarino 2012

($15):  The Albariño grape grown in Rias Baixas makes distinctive wine, which has become, justifiably, very hot recently because its edginess makes it a good choice with a wide variety of food.  The 2012 from Martín Códax has a hint of that edginess, but also delivers some subtle tropical flavors that makes it a good introduction for those who are just starting to embrace this grape and wine.  It actually has a softness that allows for enjoyment as a stand-alone aperitif type wine, but enough crispness to pop the cork (or more accurately unscrew the screw top) with freshly grilled fish. 88 Michael Apstein Dec 10, 2013

O Casal, Valdeorras (Spain) Godello “Casal Novo” 2012

($21, Classic Wines): Godello, a grape indigenous to Valdeorras, a tiny DO in northwestern Spain, has great potential because it has the capacity to make a wine that combines a creamy richness with bold acidity.  The trick is to balance the two, as O Casal has done with their 2012 Casal Novo.  Its edginess keeps you coming back to savor its mouth filling texture.  It will cut through the heartiest of seafood dishes.
90 Michael Apstein Oct 1, 2013

Pazo Barrantes, Rias Baixas (Galicia, Spain) Albarino 2011

($20, Maisons Marques & Domaines): It should come as no surprise that Pazo Barrantes is a reliable label for an Albariño because that estate was founded and is still owned by the Creixell family, which also owns the exalted Rioja estate, Marqués de Murrieta.  The Creixells purchased vineyards and established a winery in Rías Baixas in 1991.  The vibrant, almost prickly, grapefruit-tinged fruit flavors sing in part, no doubt, because the fermentation and aging is done in stainless steel vats instead of oak.  For all its edginess, it has lovely weight and depth.  It refreshes while cutting through grilled swordfish on a muggy summer’s night.
90 Michael Apstein Jul 2, 2013

CVNE, Rioja (Spain) Rosado 2011

($13, Europvin): Although 95% of Rioja’s production is red, the region makes some attractive whites and rosés.  And this rosé is one of them.  CVNE, one of the region’s top producers, used Tempranillo entirely for this crisp, lively wine.  Bright cherry-like fruit notes are framed by refreshing acidity.  Considerable depth means it a real wine, not a hollow imposter.
87 Michael Apstein Apr 9, 2013