This was a phenomenal wine. I didn't buy it, but I was assured it was less than $30 from the person who did buy it. That is the good news. The bad news is that it is probably very difficult to come by at this point. The place from which my friend bought this bottle had apparently lost a case of it in a back room and stumbled upon it then sold it all. So it's gone. But we did get this bottle.
This wine was the only one I've had that by smell alone was able to transport me back to my first wine-country experience. There was some heavy oak, which may turn some people off, but it was comforting to me to be reminded of when I was standing in a room full of brand new French oak. I may get crucified for this, but this wine reminded me immediately of the smells of Opus One -- the wine and the vineyard.
This was only my second Gran Reserva and I was surprised at how much more complex it was than the other one that I've had and the Reservas and Crianzas I have had in the past. Did I mention that it was phenomenal? This really was a treat.
From the wine merchants I frequent, I believe it to be a rarity to find any Rioja left from 2000. Since I am new to Rioja, and new to wine in general, it was with great curiosity that I approached this bottle. If you happen to come across a bottle of the 2000 Campo Viejo Rioja Gran Reserva, which should be for less than $20, curiosity should be your biggest motivating factor. The wine was good, but not great. It was bigger than some other Riojas I have tried in the past. This actually encouraged me, but not enough to rush out and buy the remaining inventory (maybe if it goes on sale). Most Riojas I have had come in between $20-30 and I think there is better value than this. It was nice to see the Gran Reserva has the complexity to withstand time. It makes me feel better about some 2001 Rioja I have on the rack.
To my undeveloped appreciation for wine, I consider Rioja to be a less-peppery version of Shiraz. It has some of the big flavor without the spice, which works well for me. And it is smooth like a Pinot Noir, which makes for easy drinking, but it has a little more body. I have really taken a shine to Rioja, and I've had some great bottles from 2001 specifically.
For lack of a better description, a Crianza is the least complex of Riojas, so be wary. This bottle, however, was quite good. I have had a few Crianzas, 2001 even, and this was the best. And even 7 years later it is very drinkable. I think you'll have a hard time finding the 2001 in stores, but if you do I hope you enjoy it like I did.