*Best Value Crianzas​ under $15

In my opinion, Crianzas do not get as much love or recognition as they deserve, and yet they are some of the most incredibly well-made wines available in the market today.

They are a highly satisfying wine-drinking experience, and their value makes it even more appealing to the consumer.

Most winemakers take way too many liberties with their marketing and false advertising; however, Spanish winemakers fall under rigorous regulations when it comes to marketing on their labels. When you see a D.O. label (Denomination of Origin) on either a Crianza or Reserva bottle of wine, you can rest assure that it meets the requirements to be labeled as such.

Rioja winemakers take so much pride in their wines that they do not release their wines into the market until they are adequately aged and are ready to drink. This means that when you buy a bottle of Crianza with a D. O. on its label, you know for a fact that it has been aged at a minimum of one year in barrels and a few months in a bottle. So when you purchase a bottle of Crianza, you can be guaranteed that it is ready to drink from the moment you uncork it.

If you are not very familiar with Spanish wines, or perhaps you are a bit intimidated by them, you should take a chance and explore some of these affordable and approachable Crianzas mentioned here.

Here are some of my current favorite Crianzas. Every single one of these bottles is under $15 bucks, which are all readily available at most wine shops or liquor stores in the U.S.

Lopez De Haro-Crianza, 2013

LOPEZ DE HARO, Crianza-90% Tempranillo, 7% Garnacha, 3% Graciano (Rioja): I am a single varietal kind of guy, and I usually try to stay away from blends as much as I can, mainly Spanish red blends. However, this particular Crianza is one of the few exceptions to my no-blends rule. I have been a fan of this winemaker for a few years now; they make a charming 100% Tempranillo, as well as a few other exciting limited edition wines. This Crianza consistently appears on many wine lists throughout New York City restaurants, mostly at Spanish tapas restaurants.

Ripe red fruit on the nose, stable balance of tannins and acidity. Mid-long finish. Very pleasant to drink by itself, but you can always pair it with some prosciutto and Idiazabal cheese. I have never found it for less than $14.99, and it should not be more than $15.99.

Valde Lacierva-Crianza, 2015

VALDE LACIERVA, Crianza-100% Tempranillo (Rioja): This wine comes from Hispano Bodegas, which owns wineries in Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Rueda. They are fast becoming one of my favorite wine producers, and there is only a handful of places where I have been able to find bottles for sale, and when I do, I usually end up grabbing a few bottles at a time. You get a nice mix of dark and red fruit on the nose. A stable balance of acidity and tannins. Long smooth finish.

I love pairing this wine with some spicy soppressata; the spiciness accentuates the flavors and aromas of this Crianza. I also pair it with some Cabrales cheese. It is currently selling for $14.99, and it is well worth it, so do not hesitate to buy it.

El Coto-Crianza, 2015

EL COTO, Crianza-100 % Tempranillo (Rioja): This winemaker has been around since 1970. Their property Los Lamendros is now the largest vineyard within all denominations of origin in the Rioja wine region. They also produce a delicious, vibrant Rose and an amazing Garnacha aged in oak barrels. This particular bottle is a solid choice when it comes to affordable and approachable Spanish wines. You get red fruit on the nose, peppery and acidic (which is what I like in my reds), light tannins — a delicate balance of spice at the finish. Easy to drink on its own, right from the moment you uncork it, and it gets better after the second pour.

Pair it with some firm or medium-firm cheese made from sheep’s milk. Currently selling at $10.99 and under, but I have also found it at some wine shops for $14.99. Avoid paying more than $14.99 for it.

Montecillo-Crianza, 2015

MONTECILLO, Crianza-100% Tempranillo (Rioja): From Bodegas Montecillo. The third oldest winery in Rioja. They make all kinds of affordable and very approachable wines. They also have a vineyard in the Ribera del Duero region, but I have not seen any wines from that vineyard around in the states yet. The only ones that I have seen and tasted are their Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva, which are available at most Total Wine store locations that I have visited recently. This Crianza shown here in the picture is what I consider to be one of my “house wines” or one of my go-to wines — for those random nights at home when I want something consistent and not in the mood to overspend too much on a bottle. You get dark fruit on the nose, aromatic, oaky, medium-bodied, mid-long finish. Let it breathe for 20-30 minutes and enjoy it.

Pair it with some Mahon cheese or some campo de Montalban, along with some chorizo or jamón serrano. Excellent value at around $9-12 bucks. If you find it higher than $12.99, somebody is trying hard to rip you off. 

LAN-Crianza, 2015

LAN, Crianza-96% Tempranillo, 4% Mazuelo (Rioja): Produced by Bodegas LAN, which stands for La Rioja (L.), Alava (A.), Navarra (N.). LAN has consistently scored high in the top 100 list of W.S., with 7 of their wines making a list, which is great and all, but this particular Crianza is one of my all-time favorite easy-drinking, comfort wines. There was a time when I lived in the D.C. area where my local corner grocery store always had this Crianza in stock in their limited wine selection section (I think I was the only one buying it consistently). Hints of vanilla, some cherry on the nose, oaky and leathery. Long pleasant finish.

I pair it with any firm cheese, but manchego, it is probably my favorite pairing. It is currently selling for $14.99, which is a fair price for it, but I have also found it for $11.99 in some stores.

*FROM BOOK TO TV: ADAPTED WORKS OF FICTION

As I continue to work on my screenwriting journey, as well as learning the craft of creating spec scripts for TV, I can see clearly how hard it is to adapt books into movies or TV shows. It’s a tough and arduous endeavor, and often times somewhat polarizing, especially when it comes to beloved works of fiction. I recently finished watching Good Omens on Prime, and If you haven’t heard anything about it, it is a limited TV series adaptation of a book collaboration between Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett, also titled Good Omens, which was released way back in 1990. This book has been a bestseller ever since it was first released and it’s one of those sci/fi fantasy books that continues to enjoy a solid die-hard cult following base.

The book is still available in print, so you should be able to easily find it in-stock at your local bookstore without having to special order it. If you can’t find it and have to special order it, then your local bookstore probably sucks.

img_1780-1For some strange reason, this limited series is not generating as much buzz like other TV shows, and it seems to me that the most faithful and hardcore book fans of Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett were the ones who immediately binged on the show as soon as it was made available to stream. But regardless of the limited buzz, this show is considered to be one of the most successful shows on Amazon original series lineup and fans of the book have given this TV adaptation high praise as it compares to the original text. Which is a direct contradiction to the other adaptation of Neil Gaiman‘s book American Gods (Streaming on Starz). From the things I’ve seen and read online, it seems like this  American Gods TV version has generated some negative feedback when compared to the actual book. Good Omens is such a fun, well-executed show and casting Michael Sheen as Aziraphale and David Tennant as Crowley was pure genius. Their performances are excellent. There is even talk about expanding from the book and developing a second season. Which will be great, if only Neil Gaiman would continue to write future episodes and produce the show.

img_1781American Gods season 1 was pretty entertaining. I enjoyed it, but it is evident that there was plenty of material left out of the book, and season 2 is already available to stream, but I haven’t seen it yet, (will probably watch it in the next few weeks). I must confess that I have not read Good Omens or American Gods, but I know many people in my immediate surroundings who have read them both and they all share their discontent for American Gods TV adaptation and their praise for the Good Omens TV adaptation. The performance by Ian McShane as Mr. Wednesday on American Gods has been praised as the best thing from the show. I think he did a fantastic job with the part. But I also feel that there were other excellent performances to highlight like Pablo Schrieber as Mad Sweeney and Emily Browning as Laura Moon, and I think most of the cast did a solid job as well. So even though the first two seasons of American Gods have received mixed reviews (mostly from people who love the book), the show still ends up working well, and I found it to be visually very extravagant and beautiful. It is definitely worth watching.

6521ab92-1068-4821-881d-8fa5d0e1fc06Game of Thrones and Good Omens are an interesting example of how a previously released work of fiction can be successfully adapted from book form into a successful TV series as close to its original form as possible. Specifically Game of Thrones season one through five. Those seasons were very close to the books, with some omissions here and there, most notably the emergence of Lady Stoneheart assuming the leadership of the Brotherhood without Banners. I wished that particular storyline would’ve found its way into the show somewhere, somehow. Mainly since seasons three, four and five were based on the books A Feast for Crows  (Book Four) and A Dance with Dragons (Book Five) which is very interesting because both books share the same timeline. From season six through eight (Final season), everything is NOT based on the actual books. So once book number six (Winds of Winter) and book seven (A Promise of Spring) are both completed and released that is when we will finally be able to put everything together and compare the TV show next to the books accurately. 

Game of Thrones gave me a unique perspective into the polarizing world of adapted works of literature. Game of Thrones was a TV series that generated so much feedback and chatter, were faithful fans who worship and canonize all of the five books of A Song of Ice and Fire were always quick to point out any inaccuracies within the storylines in the TV version. Usually right after a new episode would air I would check the Twitter trends and read all the banter going back and forth between the hardcore fans and the casual fans who did not read all the books but loved the show fanatically nonetheless. There was always criticism of the show, although the criticism was often positive, but yet, there was still plenty of unsatisfied Game of Thrones fanatics who did not take too kindly to any little deviation from the written works of George R. R. Martin. The fact of the matter is that both the books and the TV show have generated a worldwide cult following phenomenon, making it the most popular show in the world, which is something extremely remarkable.

img_1784I also recently finished watching season one of  A Discovery of Witches (BBC America/AMC) which is an adaptation of the All Souls trilogy by Deborah Harkness. The show was pretty entertaining and fun to watch because when you blend vampires, witches, and demons into one storyline, it should make for one hell of an entertaining show, but the demons were somewhat cast aside and did not have a prominent role in the show (wanted to see more of them). I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Twilight series throughout most of the eight episodes of this show. This is another adaptation where the book is being consolidated into a cliff notes version of the story, and I feel that in this particular adaptation, the story did not have to be watered down or consolidated. There is plenty of time in eight episodes to bring a cohesive story together without compromising the source material or perhaps even make it a ten-episode season. In any case, I still enjoy the show and can’t wait for season 2.

img_1775When it comes to future adaptations of beloved works of literature, the possibilities are endless. There was the successful adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects on HBO, which is another example of an efficient and deliberate way on how to adapt a book into a TV series without taking too much away from the original source material. The Outlander series is also a fan favorite, which is an adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s book series also titled Outlander. We also have Alan Moore’s Watchmen coming soon to HBO. Hulu is developing Anne Rices Vampire Chronicles into a TV series, which is precisely the proper way to present this type of material to an audience. The complex world that Lestat and the other characters of the vampire chronicles occupy needs to be presented in an extended TV format. I know Anne, and Christopher Rice are 100% involved in the creative process, from casting to developing the storyline, and I know Anne is a huge fan of British TV shows like Downtown Abbey and others, so I feel like this show will be epic. I’m a big fan of the first three books of the vampire chronicles, so I’m beyond excited, to say the least. Also, let’s not forget those Game of Thrones prequels being developed, oh…and there are the future adaptations of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time sci/fi series coming soon to Prime (I think).

All of those current adaptations serve, and future adaptations will serve as an excellent source for aspiring screenwriters, it is a unique way for someone like me who is taking his first steps into the screenwriting process to use as a tool and reference. I would love one day to have a crack at adapting a book into a movie or TV show, but in the meantime, I have to continue watching, reading and most importantly…writing.

This is truly the golden age of television.