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Classic Rioja reserva

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, and Kelley O'Neill

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently conducted a blind tasting of 17 Rioja reservas. In Rioja, Spain's most famous wine region, a wine can be called reserva only if it is aged at least one year in barrel and two years in bottle prior to release. (For example, a reserva made from grapes harvested in 1999 will not be made available until January 2003.)

The top scoring wine of the tasting was the 1999 Bodegas Bilbainas "La Vicalanda" Rioja Reserva, priced at about $20 per bottle. This classic red Rioja, made from 100% Tempranillo grapes, exhibits an attractive deep red color, with brick notes at the edge.

Its lovely nose hints at cedar, vanilla, and dried fruits, and the wine's full-bodied, smooth flavor should appeal to a wide range of wine drinkers. A lovely wine to pair with a holiday roast, it should also pair well with a plate of Spanish cheeses.

Bodegas Bilbainas is currently owned by Codorniu, a well known producer of Spanish sparkling wine. It was created in 1859 by Sauvignon Frères et Cie, a French company that had decided to relocate to Spain due to the devastation of French vineyards by the phylloxera louse. It was subsequently sold to a group of Spanish businessmen in 1901, and purchased by Codorniu in 1997.

Despite changes in ownership, the style has remained fairly traditional. Those looking for a soft, lightly oaky, classic Rioja need look no further than this 1999 reserva from Bilbainas.

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 12/05/05

Northside Wine & Spirits is located at the Ithaca Shopping Plaza on Elmira Road.

Phone 607-273-7500

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