Rioja wines: Which to buy and where to find them
Bodegas Exeo "Letras" 2006
Rioja, Spain, $45
Bodegas Exeo is a project of three brothers from a generations-old winemaking family who are making Rioja in a modern style driven more by fruit than oak. The Letras, available primarily at restaurants, succeeds because it beautifully expresses tempranillo's character of cherry with earthy notes of tobacco.
Elite: Available in the District at Wide World of Wines; on the list at BLT Steak, CityZen, Jaleo, Posto, Proof, Taberna del Alabardero. On the list in Maryland at Jaleo in Bethesda. Available in Virginia at La Tienda in Williamsburg; on the list at Inox and Panache in Tysons Corner, Jaleo in Crystal City, Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, Mas in Charlottesville.
Miguel Merino Reserva 2001
Rioja, Spain, $30
Spice-box aromas of clove and nutmeg are interwoven with flavors of dried orange peel and dried cherries in this lovely, expressive, traditional-styled Rioja.
Siema Wines: On the list in the District at 1789, Proof. Available in Maryland at Montgomery County Liquor Stores; Urban Cellars and Wine Underground in Baltimore. Available in Virginia at Balducci's in McLean and Alexandria; Rick's Wine & Gourmet in Alexandria; Whole Foods Market in Arlington, Vienna and Springfield; Wine Cabinet in Reston; Kybecca in Fredericksburg; Wine Seller in Williamsburg; Grapes of Taste in Ladysmith.
Compania de Vinos Telmo Rodríguez "Lanzaga" 2005
Rioja, Spain, $26
Telmo Rodríguez is a superstar winemaker who makes biodynamic wines from various regions throughout Spain. The Lanzaga is a traditional styled Rioja, with vibrant fruit encased in cedary wood flavors. The delicious LZ 2008 ($16, ** GREAT VALUE) is new to the Washington area. It is all fruit, fermented and aged in cement casks without a whiff of oak.
Monument Fine Wines: Available in the District at Connecticut Avenue Wine & Liquor; on the list at Dickson Wine Bar, Zola. Available in Maryland at Cork 57 Beer and Wine in Bethesda, the Potomac Dispensary in Montgomery County.
Bodegas LAN Crianza 2005
Rioja, Spain, $13
Bodegas LAN is a traditional Rioja house that makes good-quality wines all along the Rioja spectrum. The Crianza is a widely available, reliable wine in the traditional style, slightly crimson in color with spicy wood flavors. LAN also makes single-vineyard wines and the 2005 Edicion Limitada ($45, ** 1/2 ), a huge wine that could masquerade as a Bordeaux rather than a Rioja.
M Touton Selections: widely available in the District and Maryland. Available in Virginia at Balducci's in Alexandria and McLean, Cecile's Wine Cellar in McLean, Curious Grape in Shirlington, Rick's Wine and Gourmet in Alexandria, various Whole Foods Market locations.