The tempranillo grape is native to Spain where it is the most popular red variety. It is used in the full-bodied reds that put Rioja on the map, and it is often viewed as that region's answer to cabernet sauvignon. In recent years it has gained popularity in other wine producing countries and is even found here in Idaho. But as this tasting proves, great values still come from the grape's country of origin. Here are the panel's top tempranillo picks:

2006 Cosme Palacio Rioja, $14.50

This one takes a little time to open up, but when it does, it reveals an elegantly styled wine with nice complexity. The aromas are a mix of floral violet, blueberry and strawberry rhubarb, all backed by basil, mocha and mushroom. This Rioja is silky smooth and beautifully balanced in the mouth, offering ripe cherry and berry flavors with touches of leather and earth. Soft tannins come through on the finish.

2007 Finca Sobrena Red, $18.50

While the other two wines hail from Rioja, this standout is from the Toro region of Spain. This is a beautifully aromatic wine that opens with enticing apple blossom and clover aromas, followed by cherry and violet. On the palate, it's filled with ripe blackberry and cherry fruit, nicely balanced by food friendly, crisp acidity that turns supple on the finish.

2007 Torres Iberices Tempranillo, $15.50

This wine offers deep, dark, dusty aromas of vanilla-laced cherry and raspberry, layered with cedar, spice, mushroom, thyme and a meaty touch of earth. A pleasant hint of that cedar colors the palate along with light tannins that serve as a backbone for the creamy, red fruit flavors. The finish--where chocolate, anise and leather come through--lingers nicely.

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