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The Case for Ribera

Convento San Francisco Crianza 2001 ($36, Winebow): Soft, sweet and succulent, this features pure cherry fruit with just the right touch of oak.

Pago de Carraovejas Crianza 2001 ($24, Kysela): A delicious 2001 at a more-than-fair price, this shows dark, deeply flavored fruit with nice mineral edging and fine wood balance.

Viña Sastre Crianza 2001 ($27, De Maison): This has it all: Dark color, impressive concentration, deep flavors, balanced oak and fine-grained tannins for a long, soft finish.

Condado de Haza Crianza 2001 (22, Classical Wines): This is the surprise leader among current releases from the Alejandro Fernandez bodegas, with wonderfully open fruit and intriguing mineral complexities.

Condado de Haza Reserva 2000 ($34) is oakier and will take longer to develop fully, and Pesquera 2001 ($25) is very tight but amply endowed.

Valtravieso Crianza 1996 ($14, Frontier): This is a steal at a point of perfect maturity, with marvelously complex aromas on top of durably fresh fruit.

Ricardanna Tinto 2001 ($25, Grapes of Spain): This is a textbook rendition of pure, sweet, tender Tempranillo, with just a little oak and some ripe tannin helping to frame the flavors. It will ultimately be surpassed by this producer's Crianza 2001 ($36), which is woody and tight right now but sure to unwind into something special.

Arzuaga Tinto 2000 ($24, Jorge Ordoñez): Delicious black fruit with nice supporting notes of cocoa and spicy oak.

Emilio Moro Tinto 2000 ($30, Jorge Ordoñez): Exotic and a little funky, as usual from this producer, with wood-smoke and damp-earth and roasted-meat notes, but also fresh fruit underneath.

Fuentespina Tempranillo 2001 ($13, T.G.I.C.): Delightfully soft and open, with soft, rich, deeply flavored fruit (dark berries and black cherries) accented with interesting earthy notes.

Michael Franz will offer additional recommendations and answer questions live today at noon on www.washingtonpost.com.


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