Hop on in, buckle up and sit back, it's time to take a quick 24 hour trip [for west-coasters] over to the Iberian peninsula and grab some vino from the upper reaches of Rioja.
A place guarded by mountains on all three sides, the region itself takes its ancestral name from a tributary of the Ebro, called the Rio Oja. There has been vineyard activity here since the times of Roman occupation [talk about your ancient vines], but it was during the French Phylloxera crisis that many grape growers and winemakers from France settled into northern Spain and brought with them many of the similar wine making practices we see in France today [like knowing a wine by its region and not its varietal].
The Rioja region is a lot different than what you may be use to here in U.S. wine-country, because much of the regions small growers sell their grapes to merchants or co-operative cellars. The vast majority [75%] of the vino produced in this region is red wine and is produced primarily from the Tempranillo grape. While some of the better wines will be composed of a blend of small amounts of Garnacha and Mazuelo. Speaking of blending, many wines labeled Rioja which you encounter on wine store shelves will be a blend of one of the Rioja's sub-regions, the Alavesa, Alta and Baja and the capital is La Rioja.
The styles of wine can really run the gamut in Rioja, between how long they are aged, traditional vs. modern, type of oak and a majority of the prices points will yield many wonderful bargains as well. If that little intro has wet your appetite to know more about this sparkling gem on the Spanish wine scene and you are looking for a little more information on the area, I found a helpful website, which will give you a little more depth on the subject, just click here.
Today, there are two wines in the "review" spotlight and both are from Bodegas Montecillo one is their 2007 Crianza [which I really liked] and the other was the 2003 Reserva [more on the austere side].
Montecillo 2007 Crianza: A 100% Tempranillo that spent 12 months in newer French-Oak [a departure from American Oak] and another 12 months in bottle before release. A ruby red core, showing its modern flair right away, with far less of the traditional meaty aromas and flavors, you instead are immediately enveloped by soft tannins, aromas of vanilla and strawberries smeared over fresh toast, the finish is mostly in the mid-palate, but it's chock-full of easy drinking flavors which will meld effortlessly with a variety of menu options. So, you have a great food wine that really delivers for a price that's right. I gave this wine of a score of 88 points. Again another wine with great QPR [selling for $12] and it has wide availability.
Other Voices: I would give it an 88 or so. There’s lots of value in this bottle. ~ Canadian Wineguy
Montecillo 2003 Reserva: A wine that spent 18 months in untoasted French-Oak barriques and 12 months in the bottle before release. In the glass a warm brick-ish/ruby colored core and slight browning at the rim, showing its age. Even after and hour of decanting this wine, I was hit on the nose with some meaty, earthy, floral and just a hint of strawberry aromas. After the first sip, ooh austerity hit me like a ton bricks.
Mostly plummy, woody, smoky, odd meaty flavors, like picking up a nearly ripe plum, that still had sod attached and giving it a go. This wine was not approachable on any level and I frankly cannot recommend it to you. The finish was short and the tannins were tight as a drum. I scored this wine 75 points. It sells for about $18 most places.
Other Voices: I think that maybe some how I must have got a different bottle of this same vintage as a few other reviewers had quite a different experience with this wine than I did. The Good Wineguru had this to say regarding this wine, "I definitely recommend this wine both because of it being a good pairing, and for it being a good price. If you can’t find the wine near you, follow this link and have it shipped directly to you". Sorry bud, but I don't agree with any of that, I simply cannot recommend giving this wine a swirl.
Okay that is all for today, please stay tuned as next time we are going to South America, for a taste of the winetastic values coming out of Chile. This wines are going to rock your world, light up your palate and keep your wallet fat. So until next time sip long and prosper, cheers!