Rioja That Left Me Speechless for the Price

Today’s Story: La Rioja Alta

I previously wrote about La Rioja Alta back in May when I reviewed the 2010 Rioja Gran Reserva 904, but their 2010 Viña Ardanza Selección Especial was too tempting to pass up today.

La Rioja Alta is a historic winery established in 1890 by five Riojan and Basque families in Haro’s Station Quarter. The endeavor was named Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta, and in 1904 La Rioja Alta merged with Ardanza Winery. The two years, 1890 and 1904, are important for La Rioja Alta and today’s Gran Reservas 890 and 904 allude directly to those milestones. Today, La Rioja Alta practices sustainable viticulture with 16 hectares dedicated to organic viticulture, limiting treatments in the vineyards and utilizing renewable energy to support many of their operations. La Rioja Alta produces their wines from estate vineyards, with yields kept to under 5,000 kilos per hectare in order to yield higher quality fruit. All of the barrels are produced onsite by the Rioja Alta cooperage, and they use oak imported from the United States which they dry in open air for 2 years before use. All barrels are racked individually by candlelight and the wines go through long aging to preserve harmony and balance before release.

Today’s Wine: 2010 Viña Ardanza Rioja Reserva Selección Especial

80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha; 13.5% ABV

The 2010 Selección Especial is translucent medium ruby or even dark garnet in color. I decanted this bottle for 6 hours and drank it over the following 2 hours, and the wine needed every second it. Once this opens up, the captivating and classic nose offers aromas of dried black cherry, plum, dried strawberry, tobacco, leather, loamy earth, smoked game, graphite, cola, chocolate, and oak. The palate is equally tantalizing, showcasing notes of cherry, black raspberry, redcurrant, stewed strawberry, blood orange peel, pipe tobacco, sun-dried earth, wet crushed rock, dill, clove, mild vanilla, and slight baking spice. This is medium-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. While beautifully expressive and a textbook Rioja now, this will only get better in 5-10 years and keep well beyond that. The Selección Especial designation was made in only 4 vintages over the bottling’s 77 year history: 1964, 1973, 2001, and 2010.

Price: $40 (I paid closer to $50). The value here is incredible. If you can find this for $40 (or even less in some locations) I would honestly purchase it by the case. I would even buy it by the case at $50. For how this drinks now with a lot of air, I can only imagine what the coming decades will bring.

Delightful Old Vine Garnacha

Today’s Story: Domaines Lupier

Domaines Lupier is a relatively new wine estate, founded in the 2000s by Enrique Basarte and Elisa Úcar. Enrique comes from a background in wine, having worked in vineyards throughout Spain following degrees in agronomical engineering and oenologist studies. Elisa studied economics and holds an MBA, though she also has more than a dozen years of experience in the wine business. Both equally passionate for winemaking in its entirety (the vines, terroir, and production of wine), Enrique and Elisa started rescuing small plots of Garnacha from very old vines to jumpstart their own project.

The efforts of tracking down and studying existing vines ultimately yielded the couple 27 parcels of Garnacha planted in different soils and microclimates ranging in elevation of 400-750 meters above sea level. Some of the vines they own even date back to 1903. This broad range of terroir and old age of the vines allows Domaines Lupier to showcase a true and brutally honest representation of the Garnacha variety and the land from which it comes.

Still a relatively small winery, Domaines Lupier produces two wines. Their El Terroir annual production sits around 30,000 bottles, while La Dama annual production sits around 4,000 bottles. In order to make and age their wine, Enrique and Elisa purchased and renovated an old manor house near their vineyards. They constructed a cellar to hold 50,000 bottles of wine, outfitted the winery with 3,500 and 5,500 liter vats, and updated the technology to modern standards. All of their wine is aged in French oak barrels under careful watch of both Enrique and Elisa.

Today’s Wine: 2011 La Dama

100% Garnacha; 14.5% ABV

This wine is moderately opaque and medium purple in color. This needed some time in the decanter to blossom, and once it did the nose emits aromas of plum, dried forest floor, mushroom, licorice, smoke, leather, and bitter chocolate. I also get a bit of heat out of the nose thanks to the alcohol content. Once in the mouth, the wine showcases notes of black and blue fruit, dried cranberry, black licorice, slight milk chocolate, loamy soil, crushed rock, and oak. Medium-bodied with medium acidity, medium tannins, and a medium (+) length finish. 353 cases produced.

Price: $60 (United States). I like the price-point on this bottle, it has a certain Old World charm to it that needs to be experienced. This is also one of the most unique Garnacha wines I’ve tried. Pair this with chicken or pork, though you could probably get away with smoked salmon as well.