What always astounds me about Banda Azul (an Ernest Hemingway favorite) is the precision with which the flavors of the Tempranillo grape are perfectly set off by the abundant notes of new oak. It's a neat trick, rarely mastered outside of Burgundy or Bordeaux, and it makes Banda Azul something special. You save a ton, but give up almost nothing in terms of polish and sophistication.
From the portfolio of the peripatetic Eric Solomon, who has a gift for finding super-values from all over the globe, the 2011 Hazaña Rioja Tradicion offers a subtly updated and freshened take on the classic Rioja formula. Pair this well-balanced Rioja with tapas, salmon, grilled meats, and poultry.
"The 2004 Vina Ardanza is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from 30-year-old vines in Fuenmayor and Cenicero. It is aged for 36 months in four-year-old American oak. It has a very enticing bouquet with dark cherry, Christmas cake, dried fig and espresso with fine delineation and bags of exuberance. The palate is medium-bodied with taut tannins, underpinned by a keen citric thread that cuts through the licorice-tinged, dark berry and allspice-tinged fruit with style. It is simply delicious on the bittersweet finish. Drink now-2020 " -- 93 pts, Neal Martin, The Wine Advocate