Category Archive: Spanish wines

Running with the wines: Arinzano

Posted on August 14, 2017

I was invited by the folks at the Stoli Group to go to Navarra Spain for a visit of the Arinzano Estate.  Senorio de Arinzano was purchased by Yuri Shefler, owner of Stoli vodka from the Chivite family in 2015.  Yuri happened to vacation at Arinzano just outside the city of Pamplona and fell in love. He decided to do what any sane billionaire would do, he bought it.  What! Vodka and wine? How could that ever work?  What does a Russian vodka producer know about wine? Absolutely nothing! Guess what? It works.

Arinzano Rose

Can’t have enough rose, especially in a place like this.

The smartest business people in the world know how to invest, the most successful surround themselves with experts and let them do the hands on work.  This is exactly what Yuri did. Yuri hired Manuel Louzada, the man behind Numanthia as chief winemaker and CEO. Most importantly, he gave him carte blanch to “make Arinzano great again”.  Manuel is probably the most well known and respected winemakers in Spain. While Yuri was shopping around for side projects, he came across an equally as prestigious winery on the other side of the world, Achaval Ferer in Argentina. Manuel took control of this project as well. The vodka tycoon left Manuel in charge of two of the most important wine estates in the world.  What do you suppose Manuel did?

Manuela Louzada

The enthusiastic Manuel Louzada with Cabernet wine maker, Miguel  tasting us through old vintages of Arinzano.

Manuel has been around. He spent many years with Moet Chandon and brought greatness to the Toro region with Numanthia Termanthia.  He did not do it alone, he always had a solid team around him. I am not sure if it was his outgoing spirit, his pursuit for perfection or his generosity; but he was able to drag his sales and winemaking team to Arinzano with him.  Bring a strong team together to a property where it is impossible to grow bad grapes, throw in a fat check book and you are bound to get some of the best wines in the world.

Team Arinzano

Team Arinzano!

Arinzano is the first Vino de Pago in Northern Spain. A Vino de Pago is a classification given to unique estates which produce high quality wines outside the DO because of its soil, climate or terroir is so unique and cannot be matched elsewhere. Arinzano’s vineyards are devoted to mostly Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.  It is nestled within hillsides facing North where a cooling wind blows continuously across the vineyards.  The soils are of decomposed granite with limestone. A small mountain range to the North protect the Pago from moisture and humidity.

Arinzano vineyards

Northern mountains blocking sea moisture


rocky soils

rocky soils

Manuel inherited an estate known for making incredible wines. He took the estate and perfected it. He changed canopy management on the Cabernet which removed the green pyrazine and increased the fruit flavors.  He changed the barrel program and now uses a mixture of coopers. Each barrel brings a unique attribute to the final blend. He invested in moving winery walls and machinery so that wine making is clean and efficient. I am talking about millions of dollars invested with the sole purpose of producing world class wines.

arinzano barrel room

Arinzano barrel

What I learned from this trip is that wind, soil, vines and sun are not the only things important in making quality wine. What is equally as important is culture. The folks at Arinzano embrace this and made sure that we understood.  Instead of staying at the winery and discussing viticulture and oenology, they also showed us how important the Navarra culture is to the wines at Arinzano. We spent the day in Pamplona. We watched the running of the bulls, sat through a bullfight and enjoyed an amazing local meal in a Michelin star restaurant. We danced with the people of Pamplona at 10 in the morning, we danced with them in the afternoon and continued dancing in the midnight hour.  The culture is festive with a love for live.  We also visited San Sebastian where we got to see where the locals vacation.  More importantly we got to stand and look out at the vast ocean, feel the wind blow on our faces. The same wind which 150 km away is blowing on the vines at Arinzano.  Great wines are made by great people, great cultures and great places. Arinzano is one of those wines.

running with the bulls

running with the bulls

dancing in pamplona

Dancing at 10 am in Pamplona

San Sebastian

San Sebastian where the Arinzano winds originate.

Pago Arinzano

The Arinzano Estate

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Altes de Herencia Cheap does not mean Cheap!

Posted on February 11, 2013

Altes de Herencia Granatxa Negra Terra de Altaaltes Herencia

I am a huge fan of Altes de Herencia wines, so much that I included their Grenache Blanc in my top 10 wines of 2012. The Altes de Herencia wines are a product of wine maker Nuria Altes, whose family has a deep ancestry as wine makers.  Tucked away in the south-eastern corner of Catalonia in Spain, the vineyard is full of Grenache bush vines. The old bush vines give the wine intensity and structure, while the younger vines supply the lift.

It’s all about roots. Like Nuria’s deep ancestral roots, the grapes too have deep roots in this land’s clay and sandy soil.  After years of being exposed to the sun and this terrain, the Grenache has reached perfection.

Altes Herencia has flavors of red cherries, boysenberries and minerals.  The wine is bright on the palate and has an herbal edge with flavors of raisins and figs. The price may be inexpensive, but this wine delivers and is a perfect example of why the wines of Spain are growing in the US wine market.

prime cruPrime Cru prices are unpublished and reserved for Prime Cru Members. To buy wines you must live in the San Diego area and JOIN PRIME CRU.  When you join an email will be sent featuring the Prime Cru Newsletter showing the price of the wines.  To place an order you can either fill out the form below or contact the email on your Prime Cru Newsletter.  Once your order has been confirmed, the wines will be available for pick up at Island Prime Restaurant 880 Harbor Island Drive 92101 San Diego.

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Don Quixote Invades San Diego with the Wines from La Mancha!

Posted on July 12, 2012

On July 9th, Don Quixote invaded Balboa Park San Diego with his Castilla-La Mancha US Tour 2012.  Twenty-six of the best wineries from La Mancha poured their wines for the San Diego trade.  Along with the traditional tasting, Karen MacNeil (author of the Wine Bible) hosted an informative seminar about the wines and terroir of La Mancha, Spain.

I have decided to make this post more like the way that I learn.  For those that know me, I will doodle throughout our operations meetings.  It might seem that I am not paying attention; however, I tend to soak up the information a whole lot better.  So today I present to you the wines of La Mancha through (my doodles), as I listened to Karen MacNeil’s seminar. Enjoy! (more…)


2010 Holiday Selections

Posted on November 1, 2011

Below is a Prime Cru Newsletter from last years holiday season. If you’d like to join PRIME CRU go to: and click on PRIME CRU

Montebuena Rioja Spain ‘09

A joven wine made for jovial  time of year. Tempranillo is one of my favorite grapes in that it can be earthy and rustic as in some old style Riojas. But in the case of Montebuena, it is a young fruity expressive wine that plays on that fine line of new world and old world.  This wine will not last and is very hard to find. It is a great choice to drink with turkey or ham.

Retail NA
Prime Cru $10 (more…)

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