Being in Rioja feels like touring Napa in about 1961.
This little restaurant in the main town was fabulous. It opened at 830, and we stood around with a dozen other customers at the tapas bar waiting for that hour, and managed to get the guy behind the bar to understand we wanted to start a bottle of wine. I signed to him we wanted to see the list, but he pulled out a bottle and started opening a 2003 Rioja. I was getting a little nervous, having in mind being able to choose one of the producers that I knew, but I could also see Robin setting her jaw in anticipation of a repeat performance of walking out of an expensive Barcelona restaurant when thy wouldn’t split the 2-person special the previous evening. I shut up and drank the wine: boy was I not disappointed.
What a beautiful balanced little red, and when the bill came: €12! Lovely evolving empyromatics and old fruits, and an unassuming balance that said to me, accustomed to bitter awkward B.C. reds for over $40, “What’s the problem? Can’t any halfass capable producer make a near-perfect wine for under 20 bucks?” Food jammed with flavor: black pudding with preserved soft red pepper, and a falling-off-the-bone roast baby lamb. And the wine! We must organize a return trip and smuggle-importation of a couple of cases.