2001 Hermanos Pecina Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva $45

Dense and rich on the nose, this shows intense aromas of cut fruit, a big tobacco note, cut fresh plums, flowers, fresh herbal undertones, parchment, lots of fennel and a top note of rose petal. Very smooth yet powerfully built in the mouth with velvety rich, dark plummy fruit accented by a little bit of spice. This feels very luxurious and is packed with black cherry fruit that extends deep into a finish flecked with tobacco and dry mineral spice tones. The tannins here are supple yet packed in. The fruit makes this an excellent bet for the cellar. 93pts

2005 Miguel Merino Reserva $40

American oak, leather, barnyard and a little cured meat with a hint of pepper greet the nose. Vanilla, incipient tobacco notes, a little cinnamon and some balsamic accents frame this complex bouquet. Upon entry, a gentle huckleberry tone is wrapped in soft tannins and a sweet, gentle disposition until the tannins build on the palate. In fact, this is packed with tannins, yet it retains a supple, soft feel on the mid-palate, which is rich with dark berry fruit and some huckleberry accents. The tannins extend through the finish, which shows an interesting combination of supple fruit and firm structure. Some coffee cream on the finish leads to a bright finale of sweet/tart cranberry fruit. 92pts

2004 Ontanon Reserva $24

This is playing coy right now with the nose alternating between being a bit dumb and effusively pouring forth herb-, earth- and ash-accented black fruits wrapped in well measured oak. Super polished on entry, this has a lovely earthy and lightly leathery tinge to the early cherry fruit of the palate. The wine gains light herb and spice notes on the mid-palate. Invisible tannins offer sufficient support to allow this to fill the mouth yet the zesty acidity keeps it lively and fresh. The fruit turns redder in the mouth with hints of red apple peels and strawberries on the back end that come with sandy soil tones and a hint of minerality. The finish is classic Rioja: cherry and vanilla, bright with a light astringency, and long but not heavy. This is rather refined Rioja. 91pts

2004 Fernandez de Pierola Reserva $25

This is very complex on the nose with layers of tobacco, crème caramel, white pepper, cardamom, dried raspberries, old tea, dried spices and a nice low note of cinnamon-dusted dried fruit. There’s plenty of fruit on the palate with good depth. This is lively in the mouth with peppery spice accents. High toned and elegant, this is traditionally styled with a well integrated structure that turns really bright and nicely vibrant on the palate and extends through a long zesty, salted plum fruit and peppery finish. 91pts

2007 Sierra Cantabria Reserva $27

Sweet leather and vanilla notes greet the nose followed by soil tones, hints of smoldering herbs and fine dried raspberry fruit with a hint of wild mushroom. This is broad and just a touch soft on entry but the acidity kicks in to add a lovely brightness here and serve as the tent pole that supports the fairly transparent, earthy and lightly herbal red berry fruit. The tannins are very nicely polished in the mouth yet offer fairly firm support right through the long, clear and lightly spicy cherry and cranberry finish. This is really refreshing and bright in the mouth. A pretty classic example of its type and a lovely food wine. 91pts

2004 Vina Ardanza Reserva $30

A bit tight on the nose with subtle notions of spicy wild berry fruits and dusty, dry leather. A little lactic, this shows some raw wood qualities on the nose, as well. The wine is almost velvety on entry and is totally integrated if a bit tight, with some early blueberry fruit and layered wood spice accents. There is lovely purity to the fruit that leads to the finish, showing off nuttiness, juicy plum fruit and delicate shavings of cinnamon. This remains a little tight but it is already delicious and oh so drinkable. 91pts

2001 Hermanos Pecina Reserva $32

A bit of pronounced oak greets the nose with supporting aromas of mineral, game, dried berry fruit, dried spices, tar and a little tobacco and ash. In the mouth, this has lovely, bright acidity. The fruit shows a touch of dried fruit character with flavors of orchard fruits, cherry and a hint of juniper spice. This is a little leafy on the back end with the acid popping again on the finish. Dusty, dry tannins support a hint of truffle on the finish along with a little blueberry compote. Complex and youthful, should improve. 91pts

1995 Ontanon Reserva Privada $50

Fairly intense on the nose with an emerging complexity of green coffee, tobacco ash and roasted herb that frames the slightly medicinal-scented black cherry fruit with a light licorice top note. Smooth, supple and fairly rich in the mouth, the wine has early medicinal and vitamin edges to the black berry fruit that drifts across the palate. This is showing early signs of maturity yet remains fresh and bright in the mouth. Poppy and watermelon seed notes accent the wonderfully pure and clean core of blackish fruit. This behaves much like classic Rioja, yet it is perfectly clean and perhaps a touch denser. This really does a fine job of blurring the lines between new and old with its elegance, though it does fall a bit short on the finish. 91pts