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.

Rioja to Be Cherished for Decades to Come

Today’s Story: La Rioja Alta

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 Rioja Gran Reserva 904

90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano; 13.5% ABV

The 2010 Gran Reserva 904 is translucent deep garnet in color with ruby hues. I decanted this for 7 hours and drank it over 2 hours, though in honesty this could’ve opened up longer. The nose showcases aromas of blackberry jam, blueberry, raspberry, blue/purple/red floral bouquet, dried tobacco leaf, savory herbs, coconut, cinnamon, and vanilla bean. On the palate, I get notes of spiced plum, juicy blueberry, raspberry, violet and lavender, licorice, tobacco, pebbles, thyme, baking spice, and cedar. This is medium-bodied with medium acidity, velvety medium tannins, and an incredibly silky mouthfeel into a long finish. Give this 5-7 years in the cellar and drink over the following 2-3 decades.

Price: $58 (typically averages $66). This is absolutely worth the price, being undoubtably the best young Rioja I’ve enjoyed to date. The wine drinks with pure elegance and finesse after a long decant, but has the structure to age effortlessly for decades to come. Pair with roasted lamb, roasted game bird, or chorizo and Manchego cheese.