Some of us in Orange County were giddy a few days ago thanks to glimpses of autumn. We savored the cooler temperatures, the gray, cloud-covered days, and a bit of misting rain. I even donned a light jacket. As the seasons change, so do my wine preferences. Summer leads me to light and crisp white wines. In fall, I crave heartier, chewier reds. When I start to grill four nights a week to mirror the football schedule, then I reach for Rioja as our complement.
Rioja is a region of Spain famous for red wine made primarily from tempranillo grapes. Though the wines are as profound and age worthy as those from Bordeaux or Burgundy in France, they are priced much less. Rioja wines taste to me like the marriage of a tannin-driven cabernet sauvignon blended with a fruity, cherry-like pinot noir. I love their spicier nature and ability to complement a wide range of foods—from hearty meats and strong cheeses to a plate of dry-rubbed ribs and roast potatoes.
Since I’m a grilling fool lately, I picked up these three Rioja wines—all for less than $15—to pair with our steaks, ribs, and sausages.
Cune Rioja Crianza 2012: Cune is a famous producer in Rioja and the 2004 Cune Imperial Gran Reserve 2004 was chosen as Wine Spectator’s top wine of the year in 2013. This 91-point 2012 Crianza (crianza means it spent at least a year in oak barreling) was medium bodied with nice spice balanced with cherry notes.
Torre de Ona Rioja Crianza Finca San Martin 2012: This great Rioja was chosen #58 on Wine Spectator’s list of top 100 wines of 2015. It also garnered a 91-point rating. I snagged this outstanding wine for all of $13. The wine presents a heartier and deeper cherry experience with a bit of smoke and nice acidity.
Palacios Remondo Rioja La Vendimia 2013: I have purchased this wine dozens of times. The Finca San Martin is a wine with great personality of ripe, red berries and a spicy undertone. This bottle is a great addition to the neighborhood fall gathering or for your Sunday night football feast.