Let’s get the full disclosure out of the way first. Maria Martinez-Sierra, the winemaker at Bodegas Montecillo in Spain’s Rioja, is one of my favorite people in the wine business. She is talented, outspoken, and funny, and makes wine to make great wine — not to get on the cover of the Wine Magazines.
So am I exaggerating a little when I say that her crianza ($10, purchased, available at Kroger) is classic Spanish winemaking? Not in the least. It’s everything that Rioja is supposed to be — and for just $10. There is a wonderfully funky Spanish nose followed by a touch of fresh sour cherry fruit, lots and lots of Spanish-style acid, and a long, though subdued, finish. It’s a food wine, as all well-made Spanish wine should be, and will pair with everything from red meat to egg and seafood tapas.
No, it’s not nuanced and subtle, but it’s crianza, made to drink now, and not gran reserva, made to age. (There are three styles of Rioja wines, based, broadly, on how long they age before release — crianza, reserva, and gran reserva, and all Rioja is made with tempranillo). Highly recommended, and almost certainly in the 2012 $10 Hall of Fame.