I had just stopped for a coffee at some run-of-the-mill rest stop in France when my phone rang. It was a call from the lovely and affable Ana Fernández Bengoa. I'd been hoping to hear from Ana since Saturday, when I had tasted a whole mess of Rioja. Ana and her husband Juan's wines stood out far and above the rest. I wanted to begin working with Bodegas Paco Garcia immediately, but felt I should bide my time before asking, or begging.
Finding good Rioja is hard. Too much Rioja on the market today is mass-produced crap. It comes from expansive vineyards and wineries that look like oil refineries. I'd had four strikeout visits, and they weren't "swing and a miss" types. They were really bad wines - the kind you would hesitate to use for sangria. But with Ana and Juan I tasted lively, vibrant, juicy Rioja that made my eyes pop from my head. It had me thinking "what do we have here!?"
I've chosen Juan and Ana's superbly delicious Crianza to introduce you to their fine work. It was aged for one year in oak (as all Crianza must be) and then another two years in bottle before release. It technically classifies as a Reserva but they've chosen not to confuse the issue. There are Rioja of two and three times the price for sale in Spain, Europe and elsewhere that would get smoked by this bottle.