I was a big buyer of Rioja in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Along with Douro wines from Portugal, they were the least expensive wines on the market (cheaper even than Gallo Heart Burgundy) and there were some real gems available. Olarra was a big name in Rioja, but Village Corner in Ann Arbor stocked the whole line of wines from Ramon Bilbao--from the Crianza to the Monte Rojo Riserva to the Vina Turzabella Gran Riserva. A 1975 Vina Turzabella I opened last summer was showing beautifully.
Winemaking in Rioja changed in the early 1980s, with many wineries incorporating new technology and even some practices such as pasteurization. I quit buying. Looking at this Ramon Bilbao Crianza, I see both the new and the old face of Rioja. American oak has always been a big factor in Rioja wines, and this wine has plenty of vanilla and dill weed showing. Dark, purplish color. Cherries and blue plums. Somewhat rough and tannic on the mid-palate, but not enough to scare away the casual drinker. Too oaky for my taste, but I think a couple of years in the bottle would be beneficial.