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.

Elegant Rioja That Won’t Break the Bank

Today’s Story: Bodegas Muga

Bodegas Muga is a family-owned winery established in 1932 in Haro, La Rioja, Spain by Isaac Muga and his wife Aurora Caño. Their children, Manuel and Isacín, picked up the baton to carry the winery into its second generation, however it is truly the current third generation responsible for modernizing the estate. Manuel’s sons Manuel, Juan, and Eduardo look after management of the estate, sales, and marketing, whereas Isacín’s sons Jorge and Isaac work in viticulture and winemaking. In recent past, Jorge shifted toward more complex blending in his wines by utilizing typically 20-30% of native varieties besides Tempranillo, particularly Garnacha, Graciano, and Mazuelo. For all of their wines, Muga utilizes classical winemaking methods and fermentation, aging, and storage is accomplished in oak barrels produced by their very own cooperage. The wines are racked using gravity every four months and before bottling they are fined using egg whites. Some of the wines (such as the one I’m reviewing today) are bottled unfiltered.

A relatively large winery, Muga owns 250 hectares of vineyards and produces roughly 1.5 million bottles of wine annually. With their vineyards planted to Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo, Graciano, Viura, and Malvasía, Muga’s portfolio includes a broad range of wines from White and Rosado to Red Rioja Reservas and Cava (sparkling). You can visit their website here.

Today’s Wine: 2013 Rioja Reserva

70% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha, 10% Graciano & Mazuelo; 14% ABV

The 2013 Rioja Reserva is nearly fully opaque medium ruby in color. I decanted this for about an hour and the nose opens to express aromas of black cherry, plum, blackberry, purple and blue florals, leather, charred earth, tar, chocolate, vanilla, and oak. On the palate, I get notes of blackcurrant, blackberry, cherry, black raspberry, cola, tobacco, slate, dried rocky earth, green herbs, and smoky mineral. This wine is medium- to full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, dusty medium tannins, and a long finish.

Price: $25 ($16-$18 in Europe). This is an incredible value that drinks with refined elegance now but still has gas in the tank to go another 5+ years. Pair this with roasted pork loin, veal, lasagna, or Manchego cheese.