Great Value Rioja Gran Reserva

Today’s Story: El Coto de Rioja

El Coto de Rioja was established in 1970 when they completed their first harvest in Rioja, however the winery was not completed until 1976 in Oyón of the Álava province. Rather quickly, El Coto de Rioja ramped up their commercial goals and throughout the 1980s laid the foundation for drastic increases in global exportation that occurred during the 1990s. By the mid-1990s, demand for the wines was nearly outpacing production so El Coto de Rioja expanded their original winery and became the leading brand in the Spanish market for Crianza and Reserva by 2000. In 2004, the estate’s Los Almendros vineyard (450 hectares) became the largest in Rioja and today the winery is the largest winegrower in the Denominación de Origen Rioja. In 2010, El Coto de Rioja started producing white wines which preceded, in 2014, the creation of a separate winery (still within the overall facility in Oyón) built exclusively to produce white wines.

As briefly mentioned, El Coto de Rioja is the largest winegrower in the Denominación de Origen Rioja with 730 hectares planted to vine. These vineyards are spread throughout the region, broken down into 8 separate “farms.” Maintaining their own estate vineyards is a crucial aspect of the winemaking process for El Coto de Rioja, for it helps them ensure a consistent quality across all the fruit. This mentality continues to the winery itself, which is organized as twelve “separate” wineries each designated to complete one step of the winemaking process. For example, there are separate buildings for production, blending, aging, bottling, and the finished product, all with optimized conditions for their tasks.

To learn more about the estate or to look through their portfolio of wines, check out the website here.

Today’s Wine: 2012 Coto de Imaz Rioja Gran Reserva

90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano; 14.5% ABV

The 2012 Coto de Imaz Rioja Gran Reserva is opaque deep ruby/purple in color and nearly black at its core. I decanted this for 5 hours or so, tasting along the way, and it needed it. While initially the nose is dominated by oak, cinnamon, and vanilla, over time it develops to showcase black cherry, plum, cassis, tobacco, black tea, graphite, rocky mineral, and cedar. Moving to the palate, I get notes of tart cherry, blackberry, black raspberry, licorice, red florals, baking spice, iron, and oak. This is full-bodied with high acidity, grippy medium (+) tannins, and a medium (+) length finish.

Price: $30. I think this is a great value for Rioja, especially a Gran Reserva. This would be a great accessible wine for people trying to explore Rioja who may not be familiar with the region or the Tempranillo variety. Drinks beautifully now with some air, but plenty of gas left in the tank.

Easy to Find Everyday Rioja

Today’s Story: Bodegas Faustino

Bodegas Faustino is a large, family-owned winery established in 1861 by Eleuterio Martínez Arzok in Oyón, Spain. Eleuterio purchased the manor house and existing vineyards of the property with a plan of producing wine and ramping up bulk production and improving quality over time. Around 1920, Faustino Martínez Pérez de Albéniz helped reconstruct the vineyards (which were destroyed by phylloxera) and later took over. One of his major accomplishments was being the first to bottle the family’s wine. In 1957, the winery leadership transitioned to third-generation Julio Faustino Martínez who, during the 1960s, established the Faustino brand and was the first to create an international market for their wines. Today the brand’s wines can be found in over 70 countries and the Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva accounts for over 30% of all Gran Reserva DOCa Rioja sold around the world.

Bodegas Faustino currently owns about 650 hectares of vineyards in the DOCa Rioja, making them one of the largest vineyard owners in all of Rioja. The Faustino winery is also quite large to keep up with the vast production of wines shipped all over the world, with barrel rooms which hold about 50,000 oak barrels and cellars that hold about 9 million bottles at a given time. To learn more about Bodegas Faustino and explore their wide range of wines, check out the website here. To learn more about Faustino I in particular, visit here.

Today’s Wine: 2006 Faustino I Rioja Gran Reserva

86% Tempranillo, 9% Graciano, 5% Mazuelo; 13.5% ABV

The 2006 Faustino I is opaque medium to deep ruby in color. I gave this 2 hours to decant, which it needed to blow some of the oak and heat off the wine. Once opened, the nose emits aromas of fig, brambleberry, black cherry, cola, cigar box, truffle, forest floor, dill, mineral, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of plum, blackberry pie, tart cherry, dried earth, cedar, baking spice, chocolate, vanilla, and charred oak. This is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, medium tannins, and a medium length finish.

Price: $27. I think this is a decent value Rioja for anyone new to exploring the region and its wines. The nose is certainly better than the palate in my opinion (palate still a bit people-pleasing) and this must be accompanied by food. Please, please, please give it some air before enjoying as well, as this really did start showing nicely at the 2-3 hour mark.

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.