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Executive editor Thomas Matthews joined Wine Spectator in 1988. His tasting beat is Spain.
Thomas Matthews

A Spanish Red for Fish

R. de Ayala Lete & Hijos Rioja Viña Santurnia Reserva 2004

Thomas Matthews
Posted: November 5, 2009

Late in October, Rioja came to New York with a promotion that featured this Spanish region’s wines in restaurants around the city. I went to Lure Fishbar in Soho for a $50 prix fixe dinner that included a free glass of Viña Santurnia Reserva 2004, from R. de Ayala Lete & Hijos.

You know a restaurant has lost control when your server asks how you enjoyed the first course and you’re actually still waiting for it. But hey, it was a lively scene, and I’m sure they were doing their best. In any case, the food was pretty good, and I was pleasantly surprised by the way the Rioja paired with sea scallops served with chorizo and polenta.

The wine—Tempranillo blended with Mazuelo and Garnacha and aged for 24 months in American oak—leaned toward the region’s traditional style. It was supple, with tobacco and herbal accents to the light plum fruit. It was not too heavy for the scallops, and the smoky flavors were right in tune with the chorizo. This wine retails for $20; the restaurant was offering it for $15 a glass. I rated it 86 points, non-blind.

WineSpectator.com members: R. de Ayala Lete & Hijos Rioja Viña Santurnia Reserva 2004 (85, $20).

• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values in Spanish reds.

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