Benjamin Carter
I've been drinking Spanish wines for the past twenty years of my personal grape journey, yet I continue to be surprised. Spain is like a massive old library: just when you think you've seen everything, you walk through a door and there is an entire wing of books you've never heard of before.  Such was the case with the wines of Cariñena from the northeast corner of Spain. The region is named after the Carignane grape (or Mazuelo, or what they call in Lodi "Kerrigan"), though I found that the best wines came from more well-known Spanish varieties.
My favorite of the tasting was the 2009 Castillo de Monséran Garnacha ($12, 14.5% abv.), which shows a lot of classic Old World elements. Initial elements of prune and stewed fruit with great earthiness.  Yet in the glass it is austere, and it has great potential to develop for the next few years to blossom far beyond its bargain price point. Serve with a dish of garlic-studded pork loin braised with dried apricots and paired with couscous.  The temperature is right for a Mediterranean meal and you will not be disappointed.

Ben Carter