I have some good news.
Atalaya Laya, 2014
D.O.P Almansa, Spain
$10.99 at Locale Market — or $7.99 here
As I’ve mentioned before, I haven’t been drinking very much.
Whereas a half (…okay sometimes a whole) bottle of wine used to be pretty typical after-dinner fare for me, even on weekdays, I’ve moved down to maybe two or three glasses a week.
In other Invasion of the Body Snatchers news, I’ve also gotten into the habit of waking up at 5 a.m. Without an alarm.
Late twenties? More like late sixties, I guess.
I’m not complaining, though: Drinking less means I’ve saved money, shed some pounds and become a little bit more of a figurative lightweight, as well. Well, maybe I’m complaining a little about this last bit. Last night, after hitting a tasting and then having two glasses at a bar with a couple of friends, I was tipsy enough to get turned around walking home.
St. Pete is on a grid system. I ended up walking the wrong/long way around Mirror Lake. In heels.
But aside from the obvious benefits of sobriety, getting up early gives me time to wake up, caffeinate, read the news and workout before I even step foot in the office. I just can’t believe I’m usually awake for eight hours by noon — and that I’m the same person who said she’d change her major before taking an 8 a.m. class in college.
(Dear readers who don’t know me personally: I promise I’m not boring. I’ve ridden strangers’ motorcycles in foreign countries! I have a lot of tattoos! I’m an athe– well, an agnostic! Shit, I am getting old.)
There’s something to creating a ritual, though. Something to setting out the coffee things the evening before, something about crossing another day off the calendar in sharpie and knowing just a few things for sure about the way the next little box’s time will elapse.
Something about the order of things. I’ve always been told we’re creatures of habit, that it makes us calm, gives us a safe, predictable space from which to negotiate the scarier parts of our lives. I’ve always thought it was bullshit. I’m surprised at how happy I am, that my new lifestyle doesn’t make me feel claustrophobic or old or irrelevant. Maybe if I think about it too hard, it does.
That’s why, every once in a while, I still have to pop open a bottle on a Tuesday night. And this week, that bottle was Laya.
Laya: A Big, Fat Spanish Blend (And I Mean That in a Good Way)
I’d actually purchased this Spanish blend in celebration of the Spain trip I recently canceled — before I made the decision to do so. Once the miles were back in my account and the AirBnB was unbooked, the bottle was still there to be experienced, a little piece of the destination I’d lost.
Well, so to speak. Almansa’s not really anywhere near Barcelona. It’s a small wine region in the southeast of Spain, and not particularly well-known. Twelve bodegas, or wineries, operate there, producing primarily garnacha (grenache) and another Rhône grape, Mourvèdre — there called monastrell. This latter is actually one of the main grape varietals found in Port wine, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised at how full-bodied and flavorful this blend was.
The very first note — on both nose and palate — is blackberry jam, and a lot of it. I found very little of the bright red fruit the “70% garnacha” on the label had me looking for. Instead, this is a dense blend, whose blue and black primaries travel into surprisingly complex territory for a sub-$10 bottle (yes, I paid a bit more for it — but Locale is super overpriced).
Finish flavors included espresso, cocoa nib, some vanilla and baking spice. Maybe even some black pepper for good measure.
All that flavor is strung on a scaffold of significant acid, tannin and alcohol — but it’s still a damn easy drinker since it’s so big and round. I am not at all surprised that previous vintages of this blend have scored a 90 point rating from the Wine Advocate — I just wish they were available so I could give them a shot.
Disclaimer: No one pays me to write these reviews, but if you’re a vintner or retailer and you want to, shoot me an email and we’ll chat.