While my fellow New Yorkers might raise an eyebrow that the Minx's first restaurant wine list review comes from a Connecticut establishment, the list at Barcelona Wine Bar in Stamford, CT is one of the most comprehensive explorations of a particular region I have ever encountered.
While numerous French or Italian restaurants can offer detailed wine lists, discovering an establishment so thoroughly devoted to Spanish wines is a rarity. At Barcelona, for example, there are no fewer than one hundred and twenty different bottles of Spanish red wines on the list, from twenty-eight different regions. There are also well thought-out offerings from many other parts of the world, including a wonderful range of South American wines. But the array from Spain is simply incredible. Even the Rioja section is thorough enough to be divided into two stylistic groups, "tradicional" and "moderna."
With over forty wines available by the glass, you can't go wrong being a little adventurous... for example, try the 2009 white wine Xarel-lo Albet i Noya, from Penedès ($8). Xarel-lo is usually used as one of the grapes blended for Cava - Spanish sparkling wine - and I have never seen a straight Xarel-lo offered by the glass. (Unfortunately I noticed it too late to try it myself, but I will not make that mistake on a future visit!)
There are wines on the list to please every budget, as well. There are dozens of bottle options at the $30-40-50 range, still more under $100, and if you want to splurge on a 1996 Vega Sicilia Unico (arguably Spain's most famous and esteemed wine, this vintage rated 97 points by Robert Parker) it's there as well, for a very reasonable $639.
Wineaux, I know you're intrigued, and here's the kicker: on Sundays, almost every bottle is HALF OFF. (The 50% discount doesn't apply to some high-end wines like the Unico, but they too are offered at a somewhat lower price.) So during a recent Sunday visit, I was able to share two bottles with my table for the price of one.
Given the enticing discount, we started with a 2004 Bodegas Muga Selección Especial Reserva (on the list for $79). Muga has a great reputation for quality, and this bottle was no exception. With black cherry, leather, graphite and a hint of tar on the nose, this voluptuous wine was strong but still youthful with plummy dark fruits and a great balance. [WM: 94]
I wanted to go in a slightly different direction with our second bottle, and chose a 2000 La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva (list price: $70). With 25% Garnacha blended along the Tempranillo, the Ardanza exhibited a more feminine style than the Muga; not as powerful, but incredibly elegant. The nose showed spices and red fruits, and there was lavender, lilac, and buckets of cassis on the palate of this fun and flirty wine. [WM: 92]
A wine list like this one makes me ache for deep pockets and the ability to consume numerous bottles without negative effect. There are too many gems on this Barcelona wine list, making a choice is almost impossible! However, the incredibly knowledgeable staff is on hand to make suggestions and thoughtful recommendations. I can't wait for my next visit - I already have some ideas brewing.
Barcelona also has CT locations in Fairfield, Greenwich, New Haven, South Norwalk, and West Hartford, with a branch in Atlanta, GA coming soon. Learn more and make a reservation at www.barcelonawinebar.com.
Oh, and the food is wonderful too!! My visit was wine-focused for sure, but the tapas offerings we nibbled on were creative and delicious. They also have a full menu, and a serious selection of spirits as well. So go visit Barcelona without having to get on a plane, and let the Minx know what you think. Cheers!