2009 was a banner year in Rioja, just as it was in most of Spain (and Europe for that matter). In 2009, one of our favorite family bodegas, Bodegas Las Orcas, produced a spectacular unoaked, young (‘joven’ ) wine. While it is easy to make good crianza and reserve level wine in merely pretty good Rioja vintages, the best joven wines only tend to come from the best fruit, picked in the best vintages. It is a transparent style: no other grapes are blended, there is no extended, meticulous elevage in oak, just pure flavors from (ideally) the best tempranillo grapes available. The 2009 vintage provided the right conditions for tempranillo to thrive, and in the ideally situated clay/calcareous Rioja Alavesa vineyards of Bodegas Las Orcas, tempranillo did spectacularly well. The wine shows a delicious freshness, with stunningly pure, dark cherry and blue fruits, a texture that suggests excellent raw material, and a finish that lasts. While this wine will certainly keep for several years, it will be at its most vibrant in the next couple of years. For a wonderful introduction to the 2009 vintage in Rioja, it does not get much better than this.