In writing about wine and tasting samples, certain “old favorites” sometimes go by the wayside. Such was the case with a 2000 Marques De Riscal Rioja Reserva that I bought some years ago. I “discovered” it recently in my cellar, and a waterfall of memories emerged as I re-tasted this fragrant, old squire of Spain. Established in 1858, and a source of Bordeaux-style reds–especially when Bordeaux itself was devastated by the Phylloxera louse–Riscal has been a mainstay of elegance and balance over the decades. The bouquet of the 2000 Riserva at 13 years of age was fabulous, with perfumed, deep oak-engulfed fruit and overtones of violets and fine herbs. Balanced, Medoc-like and medium-bodied, it is the epitome of enhancing, rather than dominating, your meal. And the sausage, peppers and polenta we ate alongside it was divine in its company. Gentle, succulent flavors, mellow with the tannins resolved, it was springtime in a bottle. Get to know this marvelous wine (the current vintage is 2007) at about $20 the bottle–and sometimes less.
Cline Cellars makes terrific wines at totally attractive price points. This philosophy has been with Fred Cline since the winery opened in 1982. Today’s offering is their everyday red, Oakley 82, and a better red for your picnics, cookouts and slacker afternoons would be hard to find. Give this a slight chill, or plunge it into your ice tub for a no-holds-barred mouthful.
Beautiful deep ruby color. A blend of Syrah, Petite Sirah, Barbera and Cabernet Franc, it’s a briary, sassy nose of earth-encrusted berry, with rustic elements of sage, minerals, coffee and charcoal. Flavors are sappy, with spice and pepper on the aftertaste. The wine is very accessible, but it’s structured nicely with a clean bite on the finish. Drink now-2015.