• The Crescendo of La Rioja Alta:  Gran Reserva 890 & 904

    The Crescendo of La Rioja Alta: Gran Reserva 890 & 904

     

    It's one of Rioja's great gifts to hold back wine in bottle under the aging requirements of the Reserva and Gran Reserva designations. For me, La Rioja Alta sits in elite company with a very select band whose wines typify the heights that can be achieved with Rioja's extended winery aging protocol. 

    Today, I'm happy to offer a range of La Rioja Alta's Gran Reserva 890 & 904, including their flagship 2009 Viña Ardanza at $40 per bottle.


    Gran Reserva 904 comes from vines with an average age of 60-yrs-old comprised of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano. Gran Reserva 890 comes from La Rioja Alta's very oldest vines, with 95% Tempranillo, supplemented by just 3% Graciano and 2% Mazuelo. Like all aged Rioja, both 904 and 890 take on notes tobacco, leather, cinnamon, bright red cherry, and a finish with very subtle vanilla bean and coconut.

    But as you imagine, these aged reservas flaunt deeply layered and complex notes, all interwoven seamlessly with an unrelenting and haunting finish that exemplifies what Grand Cru level Rioja is all about. Examples going back to 1973 have been some of the most memorable wine experiences I've ever had. But, make no mistake, the extended aging at the winery means each is ready for prime time tonight. 


    Five families in 1890 from Rioja and the Basque country founded Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta with a common goal of making age-worthy, grand wines. Located just across the street from Lopez de Heredia, La Rioja Alta also has come to be respected as a prime address for terroir-driven Rioja, emphasizing elegance and transparency of Tempranillo at a time when a more extractive and heavy-handed style has come to garner the 100-point-scores.

    Traditional winemaking in Rioja is centered around using American oak for aging. All barrels are air dried and manufactured on site, a rarity in the world of wine that allows for ideal quality control. At La Rioja Alta barrels utilized for aging are more aged and neutral, limiting the overt American oak flavors of coconut and dill that tend to dominate modern producers here, masking the more earth-inflected, tobacco, and red cherry notes that make Rioja one of a kind.

    Rigorous selection of grapes is the foundation of producing world-class wines for so many decades here. Small refrigerated boxes are used to transfer clusters from the vineyards to the winery. The success at the estate over the years have given way to a brand new winery in 1996 where no expense was spared. La Rioja Alta marries the great tradition of winemaking in this region with the modern advancements now giving clean, precise, and soulful wines of place.

     

    Posted by Alexander Rosen
  • Straight Outta Haro:  Lopez de Heredia Back-Vintage Treasures

    Straight Outta Haro: Lopez de Heredia Back-Vintage Treasures

    Founded in 1877, the winery has maintained a level of excellence and held onto a deeply traditional winemaking philosophy that's simply the model for Rioja today. When Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta began his venture he quickly realized that by purchasing grapes there was simply no way to ensure high quality. And with that, the Tondoñia vineyard was planted in 1913.

    Today's offer also coincides withe one of the most long-awaited events of the year, when Lopez de Heredia's California importer announces small allocations of back-vintage Rioja wines sourced directly from the region.

    Today, I'm happy to offer a small collection that has just arrived. In addition, today's list features other Rioja estates, all bottles coming directly from Spain through the same California importer.

    Founded in 1877, the winery has maintained a level of excellence and held onto a deeply traditional winemaking philosophy that's simply the model for Rioja today. When 
    Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta began his venture he quickly realized that by purchasing grapes there was simply no way to ensure high quality. And with that, the Tondoñia vineyard was planted in 1913.

    * While the aged wines listed below are, no doubt, expensive, I implore you to consider the 2010 Rioja Crianza at $28 per bottle to see the magic of this historic Rioja estate from one of the most heralded vintages over the last many decades.

    Viña Bosconia comes from the clay and limestone "El Bosque" vineyard located under a mile from the winery. The name "Bosconia" ia a bit of an ode to a style of wine made generations ago here called, “Rioja Cepa Borgoña” which contained a high portion of Pinot Noir (hence the rare Burgundy shaped bottle). Today, this cuvée is comprised of about 75% Tempranillo, 7% Garnacha, with the rest divided by Mazuelo and Graciano.

    Viña Tondonia is also on clay and limestone, but planted with slightly more Garnacha. It is the most famed vineyard of Haro with its iconic position on the banks of the Ebro river. Tondonia is the more structured of the two wines, although both cuvées have proved they can age gracefully for many, many decades.

    Traditional winemaking here relies on American oak, of course. But, the influence of new wood is minimal, if at all. Both the 2005 Bosconia Reserva and Tondonia Reserva are current releases from Lopez de Heredia's California importer. The Bosconia sees 5 years in wood prior to additional aging in bottle, and the Tondonia is aged 6 years in wood.

    Where does Lopez de Heredia diverge from the other great traditional Rioja estates? I have always found an elegance and subtlely to both wines that stands out from the pack. Although not light in color, they both see less extraction than many of their neighbors. In short, they are the best case made in the world today for Tempranillo's ability to transmit terroir in the most delicate framework possible. 

    The inherent value in this estate-aging is really without peer in the world of wine. Not only are both vineyards regarded as Grand Crus of Spain, but they also offer a massive window of continued aging and development should you choose to cellar. And, at the same time, both wines are released to be enjoyed tonight without the need for significant decanting. Do not miss the two wines that personify Spain's traditional foundation like no other.
    Posted by Alexander Rosen