2007 Izadi Reserva $20

Fresh cherry fruit on the nose is well balanced by vanilla and oak spice notes as well as a hint of pink peppercorn and lingonberry fruit. There are nice suggestions of tar, mint and a little rust. Perhaps a touch soft in the mouth and decidedly fruity, this has a lovely core of wiry tannins and a nice, almost medicinal edge to the transparent mid-palate. There is a huge rush of raspberry liqueur fruit on the long finish with nice, gentle suggestions of spices on the finale and a return of raspberry fruit. This is modern but shows its fruit very well. 90pts

2006 Ramon Bilbao Reserva $20

This is a little ashy on the nose with hints of arugula, blood and carob adding gentle complexity to the nose. The aromas are more savory than fruity but there is a base of raspberry/blackberry fruit here along with well-balanced briary oak. This is easy to drink texturally but it has the same savory, arugula-like flavors on the palate adding compelling complexity to the round yet nervous wine. There are subtle layers of flavor here. It is a little nutty, a little meaty, but then mineral and taut with a hint of rust coming out on the back end with raspberry fruit, licorice and spiky little tannins. The finish is long and zingy with lovely layering of subtle savory and fruity flavors and just a hint of heat on the finale. This is really attractive. It is not rustic but not modernly smooth either, with a mouthfeel that is zesty, sapid and refreshing. Serve this with red meat like lamb. 90pts

2006 Bodegas Bilbainas Vina Pomal Reserva $20

Leather, game and rust greet the nose with a classic Rioja profile. This is not particularly fruit-driven, instead recalling the winery and the land. Air brings out more smoky, herby notes along with a base of cranberry fruit. Smooth and polished on entry, another quintessential attribute of Rioja Reserva, this has wispy tannins and juicy acidity that make the texture a near perfect blend of brightness and a firm base. There’s more fruit on the palate. Raspberry and strawberry tones with earth, rust and herb flavors are topped with a light lashing of vanilla. The lovely finish is slightly astringent, slightly austere, long and savory. This is how I prefer my Rioja, a bit rustic! 90pts

2005 Valdelana Reserva $20

Pencil lead pops on the leafy nose with hints of toast, violet and blackberry fruit. On entry, this shows a subtle and elegant character that is followed by a fairly strong vanilla note. This turns rather decisively fruit-driven with small wild berry fruit, very small black berry fruit, a hint of boysenberry, a little sausage, and a hint of juniper and fine spice notes. This is beautifully proportioned with faceted, transparent fruit on the palate. The finish shows nice persistence to the blackberry fruit but falls a little short. 90pts

2008 Sierra Cantabria Reserva Unica $28

This is smoky and nutty on the nose with aromas of medicinal herbs, dried meat and jerky. There are strong notes of coffee bean and some floral top notes from oak. On entry, this is rich and smooth with fine acids though it turns a bit matte in the mouth. There’s nice fruit here along with nice cut. Sweetness of wood appears on the mid-palate, accenting the nice, wild plum fruitiness of the wine. The finish is a bit dry, woody and spicy, with a hint of Mexican chocolate. Ultimately, this is very good but it is in a dense and chunky style. 90pts

2004 La Rioja Alta Vina Arana Reserva $30

Deep leather, white flower, subtle orange peel and sour red cherries greet the nose with hints of tobacco, ash, vanilla, dill and spicy wood making for a beautiful perfume. There’s a hint of early wood sweetness here, yet this is soft and elegant in the mouth. The red fruits are accented by bright acidity and lovely polished tannins. A deep wild cherry fruit element on the back end turns into red cherry candy with vanilla and spice on the finish, where hints of austere tannins remain fully covered by the rich fruit. This should improve with a bit of age and should also have very broad appeal. 90pts

2005 Dinastia Vivanco Reserva $25

Plenty of toasty French oak on the nose is met with notes of dried herbs, fresh leather, tobacco, sweet dark berry fruit, cinnamon, licorice and seared beef. In the mouth, bright acids and nice firm tannins are buried in a core of sweet and sour Jolly Rancher grapy fruit with hints of pomegranate. A little black currant and some black plum notes pop on the finish, which shows a bit of sticky sweetness. A polished, modern and fruity style. 89pts

2005 Martinez Lacuesta Reserva $30

Sweet, nutty and licorice-scented American oak frames the raspberry jam aromas with hints of carob and limestone adding depth. This is both powerful and polished on entry with very fine, slightly angular tannins and firm acidity supporting the blackberry, raspberry and leather flavors. The tannins become more assertive on the back end and enhance the mineral notes that lead to the wild raspberry and gently wood spiced flavors of the moderately long finish. This has a lot going for it but it lacks a bit of focus and definition on the palate. 89pts