Team Rioja for the win! The April tasting was a battle between the three top Spanish appellations for Tempranillo, with bottles representing Ribera del Duero, Rioja, and Toro. While our favorite wine turned out to be a relative value from Ribera del Duero, it was Rioja that came out on top with the most votes overall. Toro ended the night with the fewest points.

Mostly, our tasters were impressed with these wines, showing very good intensity and complexity, especially with our top three bottles, and we all agreed they would benefit from rich food. One received no points, having funky scents and lacking focus, while another earned only two points, seeming over-ripe and a bit hot. But this was still an interesting way to compare appellations, and offered slightly more competition than usual.

Thanks to Andy for the photography.

First Place: Abadía de San Quirce Crianza 2016 (Ribera del Duero). Showed a bit brick color compared to the others. Tasters found scents of dried herbs (thyme, herbs de Provence, rosemary), black cherries, cinnamon, red roses, and a little bit of arugula. Pretty, and fresh. Really floral on the palate, with beautiful texture, and having flavors of espresso, dark berries, nutmeg, and rare red meat. Integrated. Grippy tannins on the long finish. The elegance reminded tasters of Penelope Cruz. Andy, David, Josephine, and Kristin's favorite of the night, for a total of 28 points. Jamie's bottle. About $23.

Second Place:  Muga Reserva 2018 (Rioja). Complex nose of cured meat, singed rosemary on the grill, cloves, baking spice, honey, brown sugar, toasted coconut, charred wood, uncut grass, asparagus, and fancy bathroom soap. Toasty in the mouth, with very nice balance and harmony, having a fine dustiness, like baby powder on the attack, then flavors of nuts, raspberries, and canned tomato or tomato leaf. Ali and Jamie's favorite. Received 24 points. Ali's bottle. About $33.

Third Place:  LAN Reserve 2016 (Rioja). Smelled dark, musky, and muscular, with notions of dust, wild dark berries, wet soil, and fall leaves. Brooding. Tasters compared it to Javiar Bardem. Josephine noted that it was "the most secretive so far", and compared it to a "sweaty undershirt." Jamie declared that "It's Heathcliff." Slightly higher in acidity, but also had some richness, like a briny intensity, tasting of meat and kalamata olives. Refined texture, though perhaps a slightly shorter finish. Received 22 points. Andy's bottle. About $21.

Pintia 2017 (Toro). Deep in color, leaning toward purple. Tasters found complex scents of chocolate, raspberries, coffee, leather, earth, dark mushrooms, soy sauce, blood, canned black olives, eucalyptus, heavy cream, and chocolate chip cookie dough. A little hot, both on the nose and palate. Dark and intense in the mouth, offering flavors of cola, charcoal, campfire, black licorice, and celery. Burns at the back of the throat. Not overly tannic. Improved with air, feeling more integrated. 8 points. David's bottle. About $65.

Bodegas Vatan Triton Old Vines 2021 (Toro). Candied nose, suggesting cherry Kool-Aid, dust, dirty sponge, fake licorice, vanilla, cream, corn starch, sawdust, and cough syrup. Ali was reminded of "summer dumpster funk." Overtly fruity and a little hot, with a blast of fruit on the attack, turning darker as it moves across the palate, then coconuts/hazelnuts on finish. Jamie was reminded of "boysenberry syrup served at an IHOP at midnight while a little bit drunk." 2 points. Kristin's bottle. About $25.

Pingus Psi 2020 (Ribera del Duero). Funky notions of skunk, cottage cheese, and feet on the nose. Wet concrete on the palate, with some dark fruit notes. Perhaps a bad bottle? No points. Josephine's bottle. About $38.

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