There’s someone in my family who gets plastered whenever she drinks Spanish wines. She holds her own with wines from any other country, but something about Garnacha, one of two of the most highly produced red grapes in the Spanish wine region, knocks the lights out for her. A common characteristic of hot Mediterranean spice notes in Garnacha wines might be the reason for this. The natural intensity of the grape might be another— Garnacha vines are planted farther apart than most, causing them to struggle to find resources (such as water) in the hot & dry Spanish climate, and when vines struggle (something winemakers love) the grape clusters are smaller and, thus, produce a wine that is more concentrated and robust in flavor. Another possibility, the soils of the Rioja have a lot of ancient sediment, creating a dusty character to the tannins of the wine.
All of these things are true of the 2011 LA MONTESA Rioja Crianza, primarily made up of Garnacha with a decent amount of Tempranillo and a tiny bit of Mazuelo (a.k.a. Carignan). Upon entry, you might be fooled into thinking this is a light, fruity wine with a similar profile to Pinot Noir. Lots of young cherries, raspberries, strawberries on the palate. However, when the taste of blood orange and white pepper kicks in, you know things are about to get serious. After a glass of this 14.5% alcohol time bomb, the body heat ramps up, the mind starts to warp—a sign of your unconscious letting loose. There are other means to get here, but this is an awfully tasty and classy way to get wrecked like my sister-in-law. –J.M.