Must-Try Wine of the Week: Bodega Sierra Cantabria Crianza 2008, Rioja DOCa, Spain

Founded in 1957 by Guillermo Eguren, Bodega Sierra Cantabria is nestled in the Sierra Cantabria mountain range in the Rioja region of north-central Spain. The combination of altitude (3,500-plus feet) and the Mediterranean and Continental climates provide mild winters and very warm summers. In addition, the wide temperature swings of the region allow the grapes to develop fully, yet retain their natural acidity due to cooler nights.

The Rioja region of Spain is know for its tempranillo, an early-ripening thick-skinned black grape that does well at higher altitudes. Oozing with blackberry and dark cherry flavors, it has the structure of a cabernet, with the fruitiness of a merlot or grenache. Crianza bottlings get one year in oak, and one year in bottle.

While other grape varieties are often blended into the wine, this wine is 100 percent tempranillo, from vineyards that have an average age of 35 years. The Sierra Cantabria is medium dark-red in color. The aroma is drop-dead gorgeous, with a light smoky scent and beautiful red and black fruit. This wine seems perfectly balanced, with slightly sweet and delicious fruit, and an especially nice textured finish and tangy mouth-watering acids. Spain continues to remain one of the best wine regions for bargain hunters seeking high-quality wines. Available for about $15 at Wine Exchange or Total Wine, Tustin.

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