Sandeep and I and some friends have regular wine tastings focusing on different regions/varietals.  Tonight we tasted five wines from the Rioja region in Spain.  This was a high mean/medium variance sampling which pleasantly surprised me.  A wine that received 92 points from Wine Advocate (Jay Miller does Spain for WA?) and 91+ from Stephen Tanzer was 4th out of 5 (this was the Artadi Vinas de Gain.)  Even the lowest ranked wine was very interesting and worth another try (Marques de Caceres Reserva 2001.)

A confounding factor here is that we had some nice food with the wine (thanks John and Jacqueline) and we started eating midway through wine B, and the wines seemed especially agreeable with food, so this may bias our ratings upwards towards the end.

And of course, we swallowed and did not spit.

My impression was that this area has a nice merging of new and old-world styles.  The best wine in my opinion, and also the majority favorite was exemplary in this regard.  Big fruit, but old-world complexity and earthiness.  Among the rest, there were fruit bombs (Vinas de Gain) and vegetal-centric wines (Marques de Caceres) and most had something to offer.  Here are my notes (only lightly edited from the iPhone self-emails.)

A. New world fruit bomb. Gentle tannins long finish of coffee. Bitter linger.

B. Earthy/stinky nose. Joanne says plum. Very bright red fruit up front. Hollow midpalate pleasant tannins with a floral finish.

C. Color and nose like A. Inky black/purple. blackberries on the nose oak not pronounced. Very smooth and complex with a beautiful transition from blueberries to acidity on the finish which lasts. Sandeep says Bordeaux-like. Seems to be the choice so far.

D. Resembles B in color but has a distinctive nose. Entry has rich red fruit. Midpalate is somehat quiet like B but the transition is much smoother to a nice acidity and floral finish. Very nice.

E. Has a different color. Mauve. A vegetal nose with peppermint (Aviv). Bright red fruit at the start which rapidly runs away through the midpallate leaving a harsh bitterness in the finish. Interesting but not pleasant.

Reveal (tasting was blind):

A. Artadi. Vinas de gain 2006 (ok so maybe this wine is too young.) (My score 12.5/20)

B. Pujanza 2003 (14.5/20)

C. Muga riserva 2004 (favored by 3 of the 7.) (16/20)

D. Remelluri 2002 (favored by 4 of the 7 of us. I scored it 16.5/20)

E. Marques de caceres. Reserva 2001 (the big loser, I scored it 9.5/20.)