On Monday of this week Janelle and I had the good fortune to attend the 1st Annual Vibrant Rioja Wine Tasting held on the 32nd floor of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. What a beautiful day and what breathtaking views from atop the St. Francis. In the morning we attended a very informative seminar on the Rioja wine region and tasted two flights of five wines each. The panel was made up of two Spanish winemakers and three wine industry experts. In the afternoon, we attended the grand tasting where 41 wineries poured their Rioja wines.
What we found was a plethora of great wines and most of them were all at a suggested retail price of under $20. This is great timing for me because next week I am the host for our bimonthly meeting of our Vintage Wine Tasting Club and we are tasting six different Spanish Tempranillo wines priced under $20. What a great opportunity to taste several wines, and this week I will be on the hunt for the wines I thought were the best values. Unfortunately, many of the wines I enjoyed the most are not as yet imported into the United States. More than likely they will be soon and that was one of the main reasons for the event, to find importers for their labels.
Before I get to my favorites of the tasting, just a few words about the labeling of Rioja wines. In what is usually the less expensive range are the wines called Joven or Cosecha. These wines have spent either no time or less than one year in the barrel. The Crianza wines are the next level and by law must be aged for at least two years, one year in the barrel and one year in the bottle. The Reserva wines must have a minimum of one year in the barrel, and two years of bottle aging. Then finally, the Gran Reserva wines with five years of aging, two in oak barrels and three years in the bottle.
The bottom line for you as a consumer of value wines: You should take it upon yourself to try a few of the Rioja wines of Spain. Stick to the better wine shops and you are sure to find many wines you like under the $20 mark. Rioja wines are mostly medium bodied and have very balanced acidity and are usually on the low side of alcohol content. The Riojo red wines are usually 90 to 100 percent Tempranillo grape. If blended, small amounts of Graciano and Mazuelo grapes are used.
Of the wines we tasted in both the seminar and grand tasting, these were our favorite wines. I have listed only those that can be purchased locally or online.
Lan Reserva 2005
Lan Crianza 2006
Beronia Crianza 2007
Beronia Reserva 2006
Castilla Labastida Reserva 2005
Cvne Rosado 2010
Cvne Crianza 2007
Conde de Valdemar Reserva 2004
Herederos Del Marques De Riscal 2010 Proximo
Bodega Marques De Murrieta Reserva 2005
Bogedas Vina Herminia 2010
The best way to find these wines in your area is to use the Website Wine-Searcher.com. If you live near one of the Spanish Table stores, they have a great selection of Spanish wines. At the Berkeley store where I frequently visit, the wine buyer Kevin Hogan has excellent knowledge of their wines and is very helpful.