Posted by: Dallas Lawrence | April 5, 2010

A Wonderful Spanish Tempranillo for Around Twelve Bucks

I always love stumbling across honest to goodness waiter/wine connoisseurs. These days however they are becoming a dying breed in the fine dining world.

Far too often the once eclectic and well informed wine experts who roamed the tables of the best dining houses in the country have been replaced by robotic “sommeliers” programmed from birth it seems to instinctively recommend wines that mysteriously match exactly to your top target price range.

Next time you are out enjoying a fine dining experience try this little experiment for yourself: Inform your oh so uber-sheek dressed hipster “sommelier” that you would like his or her recommendation for a nice bottle of red wine to go with your meal in the “under $70 range.” Now, sit back and watch the magic begin. Shockingly, his or her favorite wine – a wondrous delight sure to perfect your meal, cure gout and male pattern baldness and no doubt grant eternal life – will be not one dollar less than $69.00. Once your wine wunderkind has finished espousing his love for the $70 bottle, ask about the $45 bottle of Malbec on the menu and watch as he stammers on that “he has never tried that wine before,” somehow imparting that the swill didn’t warrant risking his sensitive palate.

This was exactly the experience we had this past week at one of DC’s newest and most popular restaurants, Wolfgang Puck’s The Source restaurant in downtown DC. But rather than bag on the poorly programmed sommelier who first greeted or table, this post is meant to praise the wonderfully astute works of that rare breed of waiter who stepped in after watching the “$70 magic act” and recommended an enjoyable, bargain basement, value wine for our table.

The waitress, who had recently moved to DC from San Francisco, noticed we had finished our first bottle of wine and were struggling to make our second purchase. She asked a few questions about what we liked (nothing to do with the price), confirmed what we had ordered for dinner and then suggested a great little Spanish Tempranillo number for only $38.

The 2008 Vendimia Rioja was a superbly well blended Spanish (50% Granacha and 50% Tempranillo) wine that we all found to be ready to drink right from the bottle. The wine is a young one in just about every way. What begins with a strawberry fruitiness almost instantly gives way to a lightly acidic blackberry infused wine reflective of the region’s medium bodied varietals.  

Produced by the well known Spanish winemaker Alvaro Palacios, the Vendimia Rioja is by far one of their least expensive wines offered and still delivers on the quality the Palacios family has come to be known for. Ranging in price online from between $11 to $14, the 2008 Vendimia Rioja is worthy of your time. My thanks to Rikka our skilled Swedish oenophile – thanks for knowing your wines and your customers!


  1. I have a question about temperature and red wine. I heard somewhere that room temperature in the states is actually too warm for red wine? And that it should not be served at room temp? How warm is too warm? How chilled is too cool?

    • Mary – Great question! I happen to think red wine is best when served somewhere in the 60-65 degree range. Any colder and I think you lose something. Any warmer and the wine just falls heavy and, I think, too fruity. A nice trick is to toss the bottle into the frig for about 15 minutes before you crack it open if it has been sitting out in a typical 70-75 degree room. Enjoy!

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