Tag Archives: rioja wine

Muga For The Ages: ’05 Prado Enea (95WA) – Opulent Now and Later

Took this photo of their 1969 Prado Enea resting in the cellar while visit with the Mugas in Toro.

Took this photo of their 1969 Prado Enea resting in the cellar while visit with the Mugas in Toro.

I admire how the Spanish truly respect age, in people and in wine. It’s one reason the Muga family cellars their wines so long and puts so much effort into making their own barrels. That’s why I’m so close to them. The Mugas have been in Haro for at least three centuries and they care lovingly for their oldest Gran Reserva Rioja. They release a Prado Enea only when it’s ripe, rich and ready to drink although you can cellar another 15 years or more. Perfect for me, and Parker, too. This 2005 is a charmer; all those years in oak, new and old, harmonize the forest of berries, dark chocolate and wild herbs into a lusciously sleek wine. The Mugas are old friends of B-21, so you may have met Juan and Isaac on their visits here. I’m lucky enough to see them in Haro. Everyone sees their amazing cooperage and endless cellars, but my favorite spot was much older. Juan Muga took us to a convent from the 1300s that is now the Los Augustinos Hotel with a very contemporary restaurant from the 2000s. Imagine sitting in the huge stone arches of a medieval cloister sampling Iberico ham and tempura asparagus with the best Mugas and the other favorite drink of modern Spain: table-side gin and tonics. What a family! We’ll bring them back soon. So get to know the newest member of the family, the 2005 Prado Enea Gran Reserva and you’ll be a Muga friend for life, like myself.

Buy 2005 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva, Rioja2005 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva
…opulent bouquet of primal, ripe, boysenberry, mulberry, dark chocolate and crushed violets that blossom with aeration. The palate is full-bodied with crisp acidity… pure blackberry and cassis fruit….
95 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate
GPS: 96

Rekondo & Rioja Raves: ’05 Lopez de Haro 92WA

Spent a week traipsing through northern Spain last September, mostly in Rioja. Have to mention an afternoon with Txomin Rekondo, he is our kind of guy. Txomin has collected Spanish wine for five decades. His Restaurante Rekondo just outside of San Sebastian cellars the greatest collection of Spanish wine in the world. Better yet, the prices are very 1982. Wine bucket list. Heading south, you may as well add to your list the wild San Mateo Festival in Rioja’s capital city of Logrono and a visit to Bodagas Classica.

Bodegas Classica is located on the point of the hilltop village of San Vicente with Bodegas Benjamin Romeo below and the view of the village of Briones and Dinastia Vivanco across the river Ebro to the west. As the name suggests, Bodegas Classica produces traditionally styled wines and the Lopez de Haro is an excellent rendition of a Reserva, more importantly it is Rekondo priced! A full 100-120 bucks a case off the going rate of other Reservas with rave reviews. Take advantage of this introduction price to the US market. You’re gonna want that.

 

2005 Bodega Classica
Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva

…has a beautiful, rounded, sensual bouquet with hints of over-ripe Satsuma and gravel. The palate is medium-bodied with a touch of piquancy on the entry. It has crisp acidity and taut tannins on the dry, dusky finish…

The Case For a Case of Ardanza

#1 – New York Times Rioja Reserva
Last year the New York Times wine panel tasted twenty Rioja Reserva wines. Ardanza was voted #1 and named “Best Value” saying “…it was a brilliant example of a classic Rioja, with complexity and finesse.”

#2 – Reserva Especial
Only three vintages of Viña Ardanza have been elevated to Reserva Especial: 1964, 1973 and 2001.

#3 – No Cellar Required
Eric Asimov’s article in the New York Times titled “For Reservas, No Cellar Required” created a stir. Wines like this are cellared by the winery so you don’t have to, and remain a remarkable value more than a decade after the harvest.

 

2001 La Rioja Alta
Reserva Especial Viña Ardanza

…only the third vintage to be declared after 1964 and 1973. …a bucolic, natural bouquet of bright red cherries, balsamic, mint and a touch of dried honey …with wonderful delineation and supple, lithe tannins….

Rioja Perfection: 95 Point Contadors

The finest wine yet from Benjamin Romeo’s young winery and very old Rioja vines. For me, Romeo’s making the most sensuous wines in Spain, the equal of the Cote d’Or. Apparently Parker thinks so, too… a 95 for a Rioja this young?! Then again, Contador is the top cuvee in a great line. The luxury begins with a seductive drop-dead fragrance of the Orient, sandalwoods, lavender, perfume and fine coffee, followed by richness in the mouth, opulent texture and the composure to last decades. Romeo got his start at the revered Artadi and he’s been just as painstaking with every wine he makes. La Cueva del Contador is the most exotic tempranillo you’ll taste without spending $100. Romeo makes them all to his own meticulous standards rather than traditional Rioja rules. He has tiny vineyards of old vines intertwined with wild herbs. He farms them biodynamically, picks his own cork trees individually and ages in ancient grottos. Both of Benjamin’s Contadors are at very special sale prices for you, up to 20% off the most exquisite ’09s from Rioja so far.

 

2009 Benjamin Romeo
La Cueva del Contador

…beautifully defined, precise, graphite-tinged black and blueberry fruit that unfolds with passing moments. …immense purity and sense of symmetry and gently grips the mouth on the long, elegant finish….

 

2009 Benjamin Romeo
Contador

…The nose is very lifted with floral notes: crushed violets and rose petals sprinkled over cassis and dark plum fruit. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins and a gentle, insistent grip. …satin-like texture…

 

Raves for Rekondo & Rioja: ’05 Lopez de Haro 92WA

Spent a week traipsing through northern Spain last September, mostly in Rioja. Have to mention an afternoon with Txomin Rekondo, he is our kind of guy. Txomin has collected Spanish wine for five decades. His Restaurante Rekondo just outside of San Sebastian cellars the greatest collection of Spanish wine in the world. Better yet, the prices are very 1982. Wine bucket list. Heading south, you may as well add to your list the wild San Mateo Festival in Rioja’s capital city of Logrono and a visit to Bodagas Classica.

Bodegas Classica is located on the point of the hilltop village of San Vicente with Bodegas Benjamin Romeo below and the view of the village of Briones and Dinastia Vivanco across the river Ebro to the west. As the name suggests, Bodegas Classica produces traditionally styled wines and the Lopez de Haro is an excellent rendition of a Reserva, more importantly it is Rekondo priced! A full 100-120 bucks a case off the going rate of other Reservas with rave reviews. Take advantage of this introduction price to the US market. You’re gonna want that.

 

2005 Bodega Classica
Hacienda Lopez de Haro Reserva

…has a beautiful, rounded, sensual bouquet with hints of over-ripe Satsuma and gravel. The palate is medium-bodied with a touch of piquancy on the entry. It has crisp acidity and taut tannins on the dry, dusky finish…

2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 – 96WA

You love the 2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza, and absolutely nothing over delivers like it does. And you know it. 2001 was exceptional for LRA. It was exceptional for all of Rioja, but the folks at La Rioja Alta really nailed it. And this 2001 Grand Reserva 904 is another testament to the strength of the vintage for them. This may be one of the top values of the world at this price. Remarkable!

 

2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

…displays a lovely nose of Asian spices, incense, tobacco, balsamic, and blackberry. On the palate it has exceptional depth, layers of spicy black fruit, excellent ripeness, and an elegant personality….

Rioja That Goes The Distance

Since 1877, the Lopez de Heredia family has done one thing with fanatical zeal: produce authentic Rioja that lasts, mythically long-lived and released relatively late. The current release of Cubillo, the crianza, is 2005 and the blanco Gravonia we’re offering is from 2003! These are seductive and succulent, and nearly indescribably delicious. Dried fruits and the savory quality of wild mushrooms and a finish that leaves you stupefied, that’s Cubillo. Gravonia dispels all ideas of white wine, unless you’ve sampled some before. Aromas not so much of fruit, but of roasted hazelnut, smoke and even a bit of roasted kaboucha on the finish. Only 20,000 bottles are produced, this wine is rare and collectible. If you’ve not had the pleasure and privilege to taste these, you really do owe yourself the experience. Winemaking treasures that, thanks to the patience and determination of the sisters Mercedes, also winemaker, and Maria-Jose Heredia, management, to uphold their family’s adherence to producing wines meant to go the distance, and then some!

 

2005 Lopez de Heredia
Viña Cubillo Tinto Crianza
…bouquet with leathery red fruit augmented by subtle hints of undergrowth, tobacco and a touch of spice. The palate is medium-bodied with a bit of piquancy on the entry. The acidity is quite sharp… tensile finish….

 

2003 Lopez de Heredia
Viña Gravonia Blanco
…bouquet evokes dried pit fruits, honey and toasted nuts, with floral and beeswax accents adding complexity. …chewy peach, pear skin and candied almond flavors lifted by gentle acidity. Closes with firm grip…

 

Mature Audiences Only: 2000 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

Stunning nose, glorious and complex. Four years in oak did it no harm. Wine is maturing. Delicate. Old Rioja sometimes fools me, they move towards a pinot noir style. It is so refreshing to drink wines that have bottle age. The winemaker says this is the best wine at the winery now. Agreed. Not huge, all whispers and caresses. If you’re looking for nuance, this is it. You’re gonna want that. Tasted at La Rioja Alta in August 2012.

 

2000 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

Stunning nose, glorious and complex. Four years in oak did it no harm. Wine is maturing. Delicate. …The winemaker says this is the best wine at the winery now. Agreed….

In Your Dreams: Jamon Iberico & 2001 La Rioja Alta Ardanza

Wish I could deliver that beautiful ham to you. I can’t forget those silky and succulent slices of Jamon I had throughout Spain, especially at the famous tapas bar in Salamanca, where the Iberico de bellota of Joselito comes from. But I can get you the wine in that dream pairing, the 2001 Ardanza, which has as much tradition and the all the magic flavors of Rioja terroir. It’s more than plums and prunes; the more mysterious notes of leather, lavender and spices of earth, smoke and incense come out as it evolves. One of the things I like most about La Rioja Alta. Solid traditionalists. They are as patient, old-fashioned and careful as the master ham producers although the winery takes longer. This is Rioja that after ten years is just now ready to drink and will live a good 20 years more. One other plus, La Rioja delivers a taste of place and history.
2001 La Rioja Alta Reserva
Especial Viña Ardanza

…bouquet of bright red cherries, balsamic, mint and a touch of dried honey all with superb delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with wonderful delineation and supple, lithe tannins. …outstanding wine….

Mature Audiences Only: Stunning Rioja 2000

Stunning nose, glorious and complex. Four years in oak did it no harm. Wine is maturing. Delicate. Old Rioja sometimes fools me, they move towards a pinot noir style. It is so refreshing to drink wines that have bottle age. The winemaker says this is the best wine at the winery now. Agreed. Not huge, all whispers and caresses. If you’re looking for nuance, this is it. You’re gonna want that. Tasted at La Rioja Alta in August 2012. 95RAS

 

2000 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

Stunning nose, glorious, and complex. Four years in oak did it no harm. Wine is maturing. Delicate. …so refreshing to drink wines that have bottle age… If you’re looking for nuance, this is it….

Beautiful Rioja For a Steal of a Deal!

Got three Benjamins burning a hole in your pocket? Then buying a bottle of Rioja’s enigmatic Benjamin’s über-exclusive Contador won’t be an issue. But if you’re like most of us out there, then Romeo’s lush, hedonistic and stylish Predicador is here to go easy on the wallet while delivering palate-pleasing warmth of the Spanish sun. Super substantial with gobs of seriously layered fruits, yet balanced by a bright acidity, creating synergy for glass after glass enjoyment. Nearly unbelievable tempranillo: generous, that’s the dollop of garnacha, with tantalizing notes of smoke, spice, tobacco and assorted berry fruits. Prancingly well-proportioned, savory, and all together, this Benjamin Romeo beauty drinks wonderfully and preserves your precious portraits of Franklin.

 

2008 Benjamin Romeo Predicador

Bright ruby. Seductively perfumed bouquet evokes black raspberry, cherry-cola, incense and Asian spices. …dark berry flavors possess serious power… Finishes spicy and very long, echoing the dark berry notes….

Gracious Graciano from Rioja’s Rio Madre – 91WA

Found my way to this bodega in the Baja district of Rioja for the debut of their 2009 vintage of Rio Madre back in 2011. Loved it so much we got 100+ cases for you, and you promptly responded. The property has enormous holdings of old vine Graciano that the 4th generation Escudero family tend with love and devotion, while the wild man of Spanish wine, Señor Jorge Ordoñez, does a remarkable selection of Graciano, which fully flaunt its floral goodness. This stuff is superb, and at this price, it becomes more than exceptional. I’d say it’s a necessity. Smooth, warm, and full of stuffing, Rio Madre is now my weeknight sit-at-home glass. So much happening in the glass that you won’t believe how little cash it demands. So here’s a glass to my buddy Jorge for crafting the best darn wine from Rioja for under twelve bucks. You’re gonna want that.

 

2011 Rio Madre

…exhibits slightly riper blackberry fruit intermixed with notions of licorice, wood smoke, camphor and a vivid floral display. …aged in French oak prior to bottling…. …should drink well for 2-5 years….

 

¡Viva La Rioja Alta!

Just recently we visited our friends at La Rioja Alta, one of a handful of centenary wineries in Rioja, established in the 19th century. These wineries have extensive stocks, releasing wines that are ready for drinking. LRA cellars 9 million bottles representing a decade of sales. Where else can you buy wines with similar bottle age at these prices? Tasting though their current releases with winemaker Julio Saenz, it is even more clear what value these wines represent. The 2004 Arana (93RAS), an insiders wine, has not received the attention the Ardanza or Alberdi have and is a sleeper. Two remarkable wines need mentioning in the spirit of San Mateo and most worthy of celebration, the 904 and 890. These are testament to the philosophy and flavors of Rioja. These aromatics are rare these days, and they are what make the Rioja model of cellar and hold so rewarding for you, me and a proud Julio.

 

2004 La Rioja Alta Reserva
Viña Arana

…well-defined vibrant chocolate-tinged bouquet with touches of saddle-leather, cinnamon and ox-blood that unfurl beautifully in the glass. The palate is very well-balanced with a caressing, sensual texture and subtle leather and peppermint notes on the finish. This is a wonderful Rioja…

 

2001 La Rioja Alta Reserva Especial
Viña Ardanza

…medium-bodied with wonderful delineation and supple, lithe tannins. The acidity is very well judged and it leads to a pert, tense finish of bitter cherry, loganberry and licorice. This is an outstanding wine…

2005 La Rioja Alta Reserva
Viña Alberdi Seleccion Especial

…The palate has a touch of gingerbread on the entry. It possesses a fine lattice of tannins with an attractive core of peppery red fruit that leads to a leather-tinged finish with hints of orange rind and soy….

 

1995 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890

…vivacious flavors of strawberry, orange sorbet and citrus lemon while the finish is incredibly youthful and displays a level of tension that Alfred Hitchcock would be proud of….

 

A Riojan Dynasty In The Making

Stopped by this Bodega in September and what a fortunate stop it was. Met winemaker Rafael Vivanco of the visionary family who’ve been making top notch, traditional Rioja since 1915. Raphael also showed me the family’s act of love for wine, The Museum of Wine and Culture, which is filled with the kind of stuff wine folks like to look at. Nice, but what’s nicer to folks who love to drink wickedly good wine is how straight up delicious this 2005 Reserva is. No gimmicks with this beauty. Just a bold and inspired wine reflecting not only its terroir but the perfectionist leanings of its maker whose goal is simple: make superb wines. A traditional Rioja blend, 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, aromatics of Asian spices, lavender, tastes of blackberry with shades of pencil shavings and tobacco. From a true Rioja dynasty in the making!

 

2005 Dinastia Vivanco Reserva

…Pain grille, pencil lead, Asian spices, incense, lavender, and blackberry aromas are followed by a savory, incipiently complex, structured Reserva made in a traditional Rioja style….