A smoking deal; 90 Arnie point big Spanish red $8.99
Seek and ye shall find. We keep looking out for superior value wines and we keep finding them, even though it means wading through a sea of lesser wines.
Previous week’s wine, the just released 2013 Laya from Bodegas Atalaya, is another in a string of sensational Spanish values. The Laya reminds me of the superb Codice, Paso a Paso and Mas Donis wines in that they all represent amazing value and they are terrific daily drinkers to buy by the case.
Bodegas Atalaya is one of 9 wine estates run by the Juan Gil family from neighboring Jumilla. 99 years ago, Juan Gil Giménez founded the winery bearing his name in Jumilla, in southeast Spain. Now in its fourth generation, the family, under Juan Gil Gonzáles, still runs their estates with uncompromising passion. I know this firsthand because I visited these estates in May, 2013 and met Ángel and Miguel Gil Vera, the newest generation of the Gil family.
One thing all their estates have in common is a no-nonsense approach to producing the best wine they possibly can from their respective terroirs. Their wineries are strictly functional, not grandiose. They spend money not on fancy décor but rather on the best, appropriate equipment, better barrels and painstaking (mostly manual) vineyard work.
Bodegas Atalaya produces the Laya. It is their entry level wine. The winery is run by Frank Gonzales, a big bear of a Spaniard who speaks English with an improbable Australian accent and who does not suffer fools gladly. He talked about Atalaya’s wines in such a straightforward, matter-of-fact way that made more impressive their unstinting approach to quality simply because there were no unnecessary adjectives or sales-like wine speak. The facts – low yields for better concentration, non-interventionist winemaking and careful ageing – spoke for themselves. Frank let the wine do the talking, with a bit of Aussie cheer.
Atalaya is located in Almansa, where we spent the night. In May, the weather was quite windy and cool with a few sprinkles. The soils there are poor limestone and clay. The old vines are planted close to the ground with no wire training (bush vine or gobelet method) and the vineyards are vast and nearly flat. You don’t feel that you are at a lofty 3200 foot altitude and that this area is where the vast plateau, or Mesa, of central Spain comes down to greet the approaching Mediterranean Sea.
Laya is produced from 70% Garnacha Tintorera and 30% Monastrell. Garnacha Tintorera, also known as Alicante Bouschet, is a red-fleshed cousin of Grenache, so it produces deeply colored wines like the Laya. Monastrell, also known as Mourvèdre, is native to this area and produces deeply colored, spicy reds.
The Laya spends four months in French oak and you can smell and taste its subtle and savory spice notes that are well integrated into the wine. It is stunning how they can make a wine this good yet manage to sell it for only $8.99/bottle!
Slightly glass-staining opaque ruby to black color. Smoky aromas of dark, ripe black cherry and blackberry fruit with hints of clove and licorice. On the palate, the Laya boasts fruity, rich, velvety black cherry and blueberry lifted by bright acidity and finishing with a hint of espresso roast. I like the slight bitter note of the espresso roast at the finish because it balances out the wine and prevents it from finishing too fruit forward.
90 Arnie points
Contact us by responding to this email or order online here to order this wine through our Special Orders department. Have it shipped to your door or come pick it up in the store. When contacting the store to purchase, a credit card will be needed to complete your order.