From the eastern part of Rioja to the heart of Ribera del Duero, it is only 125 miles or an easy 2 1/2 hour drive, which makes it a compelling visit to compare the different styles of tempranillo wines. While relatively close, Ribera del Duero is on the “meseta” or plateau of central Spain and at higher elevations of 2,500 feet above sea level, providing a strong continental climate. Everytime I think of visits to Ribera del Duero, I am reminded of the blinding luminosity and unpredictable thunderstorms characteristic of continental climates. The high solar radiation, dry and warm temperatures during the day and cool conditions at night results in smaller, thicker skinned and well-ripened tempranillo aka Tinto Fino grapes with balanced acidity. The wines have great power and concentration. Because the tinto fino ripens so well here, the vast majority of grapes planted here and the finest wines, are predominantly tinto fino, even though local regulations allow addition of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, malbec and grenache.