Rioja is a solid region of north central Spain that delivers a lot of bang for your buck. Or pow! for your peseta. Wait, Spain's on the Euro now... That means my joke about counting Spanish currency is also out of date: "One peseta, two peseta, three peseta, four!" Credit for that one goes to a Reader's Digest mail-in joke circa 1988.
These three wines bear the Crianza designation of Rioja, which means that they're aged for a year in oak and at least one more year before release. All three are quite food friendly, and I enjoyed them with olives and cheeses and assorted meats. Not quite tapas, but pointing in the right direction.
2008 Ontañón Crianza
90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha
$16, 13% abv.
Thick and jammy with blackberry and leather and a touch of smoke (unrelated to the photo, I just thought the chimney starter for charcoal made for a neat background). Those flavors continue on the palate, although the tannins are restrained and there's a slightly earthy, toasty finish.
2007 Conde Valdemar Rioja Crianza
90% Tempranillo, 10% Mazuelo
$11, 13.5% abv.
Black cherry and pepper aromas, with a medium tannic structure and a short finish. A little closed, but better on the second day.
2005 Muriel Rioja Crianza
$16, 13% abv.
Rich chocolate and touches of cola, hints of cherry and leather. Lots of complexity with this wine, and one that rewards slow sipping over the course of an evening. Amazing that a Crianza is so good after seven years. Outstanding bargain.
Note: These wines were received as samples.