Through his love of Spanish wine, Brad Nelson discovered Carrera Wine Cellar, a small but vibrant wine shop that partners with the Spanish Wine Festival each September in St. Augustine. Soon he was using his knowledge of Spanish history, wine and cuisine to lead Carrera’s Spanish Wine Tasting events.
How did you end up living in St. Augustine? What do you love about St. Augustine?
I moved to Northeast Florida in 2000 to open a new office with my company. My wife and I had previously visited St. Augustine many times and loved it. With two three-year-olds it was an easy decision to choose St. Johns County because of the incredible school system. Since then, we have really grown to appreciate the culture and recreational opportunities St. Augustine offers.
How did you become an expert on Spain and Spanish wine?
I wish I was an expert, but I doubt that I will ever get to that level. I am just someone who loves Spanish wines and had the great experience of visiting Spain. I bought my first Rioja from a little wine shop in Ohio in 1994. It was on the close-out table. It was pretty old, so I knew it would be really good or really bad, but it was cheap so I took the chance. So glad I did, as I have been a fan ever since.
Why did you get involved with the Carrera Wine Cellar and leading these wine tasting classes?
My wife went to a tasting there and told the owner that I would be perfect for teaching classes. Jessica took a chance on me. I guess I did okay, because she invited me back. This is something that I am really passionate about and I really appreciate that they let me help out.
Tell us about the Spanish Wine Festival’s wines we’ll taste at your class on August 10th?
We are going to cover many regions of Spain. Cava from the northeast, Albarino from the northwest, Tempranillo from the Ribero del Duero, two different Riojas, and a sweet Sherry from the southernmost part of Spain, Andalucia.
What do you love about Spanish wine? What’s your favorite Spanish wine and the cuisine you’d pair with it?
Although I love many Spanish wines, it is almost more important to me to learn about the history of the wine and its geography. I am partisan to mostly red wines and there is nothing better in Spain than Rioja. It goes with all kinds of foods, especially spicy ones. However, I just love Albarino, which I believe is the most food-friendly white wine. I know it probably defies all rules, but I think it is really good with stuffed grape leaves from Greece.
Have you attended the Spanish Wine Festival? Why should someone attend it?
Several times and several different events. I think it is just one of the creative and engaging events we have in St. Augustine. They have so many different options that fit all budgets and all lead to great fun.
Have you ever participated in the St. Augustine Wine Festival’s Batalla (Battle of Wine)? A national tradition in Spain, do you know the origin of the event?
Interestingly, I am in the real estate business and know that La Battala del Vino originated from a land dispute some 300 years ago. It would be fun to watch, but I prefer to drink wine rather than wear it. I could be convinced to participate, but it would take a bit of arm twisting from my friends.
Lastly, what do you believe St. Augustine’s role is in Spanish Culture, Spanish wine? How do you and Carrera Wine Cellar help shape that?
St. Augustine is such a special part of Spanish culture in the US. We had their queen here last year. How cool is that? I think Carrera is one of those special and unique small businesses that we are blessed with here in St Augustine. When I was planning my wine class I was really amazed by how much Spanish wine they stocked. It was hard to choose and the owners were so supportive of my interest in promoting our wine festival. Carrera may be a small shop, but it does not play a small role. All of us participating in the Festival are building on long-standing Spanish traditions. It isn’t just about our past, it is about nurturing this for future St. Augustinians.
Located in St. Augustine, Carrera Wine Cellar is a unique wine experience from wine education classes to a retail shop offering both international and domestic wines.