Tag Archives: rioja

Cult Rioja: Adore Old-School 2001 Tondonia Reserva, 95WA

Lopez de Heredia
Tradition rules at Lopez de Heredia; it should and it must to make wine this classic, pure and elegant. Don Rafael was one of the founders of modern Rioja, by which I mean 1877-modern when the first phyllloxera-weary French were just crossing the border. No reason to change now in tech or taste. No malo, no AC, no fruit bombs, no choking oak. What you get here is not bowls of cherries and plums, but leaner berry fruit, hints of rose, leather and cinnamon, graceful and long lived. Not for every taste, but my kind of winemaking, pure, from soil to yeast to salt air. The Tondonia reds are true rarities that their fans seek out and treasure for years. Not that you need to wait. The Lopez de Heredia is aged past the minimum, beautiful to drink now and for another 15 years. I also have 1994 Gran Reserva if you want to taste real patience. This 2001 is perfect to kick off another century of delicious tradition. The winery’s current generation is quite ready for the future. Next time you gotta see this place, a gingrebready old 19th century winery… and a sweeping new Zaha Hadid structure as cool as Gehry’s “Bilbao.” Inside those contemporary swirls is an intricate replica of the gorgeous Art Nouveau boutique that Don Rafael commissioned to show off his Riojas at the Brussels expo in 1910. Tondonia is always in style. The 2001 Reserva will make you a believer for a long time.

Buy 2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva, Rioja2001 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Reserva
…nose of decayed red fruit, fireside hearth, a touch of mulberry… The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannins, crisp red fruits (wild strawberry and cranberry) with a sharp, vibrant, tense, tannic finish… 95 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate

No More Waiting: 1994 Lopez de Heredia From Rioja Now 96WA!

Lopez de HerediaI love how the Spanish savor time. Great wineries like Lopez de Heredia have already cellared it for you. This Tondonia Gran Reserva was just released and it’s already 18 years old. A fabulous wine that’s ready to drink or to cellar. The color’s now a touch amber, the wine is smooth, plush and still fresh with cherry and berry, smelling of smoke and leather. Everything about Lopez de Heredia has a rich patina, one reason W&S ranked it a Top 100 winery. Patriarch Rafael founded it in 1877 and bought the Tondonia vineyard in Rioja Alta 100 years ago. Gotta see the place when you’re in Haro: century old buildings plus a swooping modern Zaha Hadid pavillion as cool and modern as the Guggenheim in Bilbao (photo below). Perfect setting to treasure historic wines like this. When a vintage like ’94 is deemed great enough for a gran reserva, the best of it spends eight years in barrel, and if approved even more time. It’s an old style blend, three quarters tempranillo plus graciano and mazuela. Seems like you oughta pay more for so much history in a bottle, but it’s well under $100. Rioja lovers have to have this wine. There will be others… but you’ll have to wait.

Buy 1994 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva, Rioja


1994 Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva
The 1994 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva has an elegant bouquet with light red cherries, orange blossom, mahogany bureau and burnt buttered toast. The palate has a meaty, savory entry with crisp tannins and racy acidity. It displays superb structure towards the finish where one finds notes of bitter lemon, orange peel and sage. Delicious! Drink now-2030+.

96 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate

2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 – Back In Stock!

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!

Shop 2001 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904

96 points, R. Parker’s Wine Advocate

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…

A Dynasty of Rioja 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….

Top Buys from Spain

Leave it to us old-timers to come up with the serious wine values. Two fellas are pulling the value wagon around Spain, Eric Solomon and Jorge Ordoñez. We have been working closely with both for about twenty years now, since back in the days when Spain wasn’t as popular. Featured here are five picks from both Eric and Jorge topping out at $12 with reviews of 91 or 92 points from three different grape varieties. We visited both Rio Madre and Tarima with Jorge two years ago when both projects were just kicking off. The richness of graciano from Rioja is Rio Madre, where we were the very first to taste and the first to buy. Knowing you would love it and you did. This 2011 might just be better, you tell me. Tarima is another project of Jorge’s, located in Alicante. Old vine Monastrell at $8? How does he do it? Eric Solomon works his magic all over Spain as well. He and his wife Daphne own one of the most famous properties in Priorat, Clos Erasmus. I have also spent weeks traveling with Eric over the years. His passion and talent for finding gems, remarkable values, is unmatched. Garnacha from Herencia, monastrell from Casa Castillo, wines delivering value found nowhere else in the world. You’re gonna want that.

 

 
2011 Herencia Altes Garnatxa Negra

…from very old vines and aged completely in concrete, is a naked, unadulterated, unmanipulated effort with great minerality (from the chalky, limestone soils) and an intensity and richness (from the old vines)…

 
2011 Rio Madre Rioja

The same characteristics are also present in the 2011 Rio Madre. It exhibits slightly riper blackberry fruit intermixed with notions of licorice, wood smoke, camphor and a vivid floral display….

 

 
2010 Espelt Garnacha Old Vines

…magnificent… copious aromas of raspberry jam, black currants, kirsch, flowers and forest floor, full body, terrific fruit, lots of complexity already, and a multidimensional mouthfeel. …stunning red…

 

 
2010 Casa Castillo Monastrell

…more complex, textured… dense, monolithic, packing a huge punch. A whole lotta bang for the buck. …more complex on the nose, more refined and polished. More at serious pinot noir than monastrell….

 

 
2011 Bodegas Tarima Monastrell

The 2011 Tarima made from non-organic Monastrell is sensational. …this full-bodied blockbuster boasts plenty of blue and black fruit notes, impressive purity and an enticing texture as well as length….

 

91 Point Rioja from Dinastia!

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….

Rioja That Goes the Distance, and Then Some

Lopez de Heredia!

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 more!

 

2005 Lopez de Heredia
Viña Cubillo Tinto Crianza

…purple/black in color with an already complex nose of spicy black fruits, earth notes, and floral aromas. …splendid balance, volume, and length. Give it 5-6 years of cellaring and drink it from 2016 to 2028.

2003 Lopez de Heredia
Gravonia Blanco

…Succulent, layered, and opulent, this bombshell of a wine will also evolve for another 5-6 years and drink well through 2028. Readers will have a hard time keeping their hands off this beauty.

 

Real Rioja is Viña Real! 93WA

This iconoclastic producer has been providing thirsty Spaniards with super fine Rioja since 1879. From its inception, CUNE has stood for quality, style, and modern innovation linked to tradition. To illustrate the commitment to innovative style, the 1890 cellar was designed by a guy named Gustave Eiffel who’d slapped together some tower in Paris. Pretty cool, but what about the vino? Well, Viña Real kicked off with the 1922 vintage, being hailed as a wine “with modern structure and a potential for very long aging in bottle.” 90 years later, I was captivated by the 2005, spending an hour tasting it. I want you to do the same. The contortions of the aromatics; kaleidoscopic. Reminds me of a great Burgundy, a remarkable adventure in the glass. All about nuance, silk and poise. The old vines speak softly from a great Rioja vintage. Listen….

 

2005 CUNE Viña Real Reserva

…Lots of tobacco leaf, licorice, herb, new saddle leather, black currant and cherry notes emerge from this graceful, full-bodied, rich Rioja. It is already complex aromatically, deep, layered and impressively endowed.

Rioja? …Or Burgundy? 2008 Predicador 92pt Finesse

2008 Benjamin Romeo Predicador

2008 Benjamin Romeo Predicador

You could be confused by the similarities but count me thrilled. Predicador is tempranillo treated with the exacting care of Cote d’Or pinot noir. Makes sense knowing it comes from Benjamin Romeo, the genius behind the luxurious Contador, which now commands $300. Yet his basic wine shows the same perfectionist standards and sensuous palate at an affordable price. Romeo got his start at the revered Artadi, and when he created his own winery in 2000, he took such pains with his own Contador that it sold for cult prices immediately. He has tiny vineyards of old vines intertwined with wild herbs and farms them biodynamically, picks cork trees individually and ages the wines in ancient grottoes. Thank goodness he also makes Predicador with his same distinctive flavors and style. A fraction of the price of Contador, and very hard to find in the U.S.

My Spanish Highs: ’09 Alto Moncayos keep climbing! 93! 95! 97!

2009 Alto Moncayo Aquilon Garnacha

2009 Alto Moncayo Aquilon Garnacha

On our last trip to Spain, the newest vintage of Alto Moncayo and its vineyards in Campo de Borja were as rich as the great Riojas. The most exciting discovery of the trip that visit, and the more I taste these wines the better they get. A project of Jorge Ordonez and the folks at Bodegas Borsao, with the advice of Australian grenache-loving guru, Chris Ringland, Alto Moncayo has already drawn raves. 2009 beats all before it. Voluptuous, with dark fruits and heady aromas of spice in both the Veraton and especially in the top Alto Moncayo cuvee. I give the Veraton 93, the Moncayo a 95, and the gorgeous Aquilon a soaring 97.

After walking in the vineyards, I see that quality and distinct character come naturally. The terroir here is red, red slate mixed with red clay, the climate hot, dry and windy, prime for garnacha. The vines are quite old, for Veraton more than 40 years old, while Alto Moncayo comes from vines that are over 60. The owners have built a handsome new winery just for these wines, and they deserve the special attention. This is one of Spain’s finest garnacha producers (and great values), so I reserved a good quantity for B-21′s Spanish fans. Now our ship has come in! These will all age beautifully. I look forward to taste them down the line. You should too!

2009 Bodegas Alto Moncayo

2009 Bodegas Alto Moncayo

2009 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton

2009 Bodegas Alto Moncayo Veraton

Muy Especial Rioja: The ’04 Ygay I Love

Castillo Ygay Wooden Box
2004 Marques de Murrieta Ygay Gran Reserva Especial

2004 Marques de Murrieta Ygay Gran Reserva Especial

…Just how especial? The ’04 Marques de Murrieta Ygay is the Rioja of my dreams. Darn hard to get, but at long last we have the goods at B-21. It’s as elegant as the best sashimi in the world. The Castillo Ygay Gran Reserva may be the most sought after red in Spain, and the 2004 is here now. Fitting that I had my first few glasses at Zuma in the EPIC hotel on Brickell Ave. Wow! I love the stuff already, and it has 20 to 30 years to go. I know you might not think red with a gourmet Japanese menu, but with scallops on the charcoal robata, wild mushroom hot pot and sinful sushi, you need world-class wine whatever the grape or origin. Castillo Ygay from Marques de Murrieta is exactly that. There’s the same tradition and treasured craftsmanship in this Rioja estate as in the revered izakaya in Japan. It’s made in the traditional style, aged two and a half years in barrels, with extra smoothness even in its youth. No mistaking the perfume of cherries, raisins and vanilla. I lined some up for those of you who appreciate Spain‘s finest. With or without prime fatty tuna, this wine is a luxury.

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

2001 La Rioja Alta Reserva Especial Vina Ardanza

2001 La Rioja Alta Reserva Especial Vina 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.

Rioja dropped by today.

We had a special visitor join us this morning on his way to the SoBe (South Beach) Wine Festival where Victor Urrutia Ybarra, current CEO of CVNE (Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España) and fifth generation of Real de Asúa family, founders of one of the most renowned and historic bodegas in all of Spain, will be heading a seminar that will explore the great wines that have propelled CVNE to the forefront of Rioja. Stating he had cold since November, Victor, in his surprising English accent, revealed how the winery has taken the traditional approach with Rioja and blended in new international styles that incorporates a whole new balance of wines. My previous experinces with CVNE (I’m talking 20 years ago) was very traditional, with rubbery scents, pale color with harsch tannins. The revelation was that I was totally wrong. We tasted some current vintages of some of his properties, including 2010 Cvne Monopole , 2008 Cvne Crianza, 2004 Imperial Reserva, 2006 Contino Reserva, 2004 Viña Real Gran Reserva and a library selection 1973 Viña Real Gran Reserva. All very classic and modern at the same time. The head turner was the 2004 Imperial Reserva, mostly tempranillo, full and rich, and just ignited with energy on every level. Initially scored it a 90 but raised it to 92 as I grew fonder with each sip. And then to my surprise, realized we already had some here at the store (39.99). All in all, a very special visit and I am heading out tomorrow to catch his seminar in South Beach. Viva Rioja!

Top Rioja Steal: ’05 Muga Seleccion Especial (93WA)!

Isaac MugaThe fact that my price is $15 to $25 lower than what many people pay should not be your main motivation for buying the 2005 Muga Seleccion Especial. Just tasted this again and if you haven’t, you need to. This is a stunning Muga from the fabulous 2005 vintage. Supple, elegant and endless stuff. Finish goes on forever and so do the flavors: black fruits and sweet cola, smoke, tar, leather, spice and even hard candy.

Not just saying this because we always like Muga wines; this bottle is exceptional. We are old friends of course, had a great time in Haro last summer and young Isaac was just in town two months ago for a B-21 dinner. For some people Seleccion Especial is as much fun as Issac’s Prado Enea! Well, to each his own Muga, I love this one. Tempranillo with garnacha, mazuelo and graciano, five years in barrel and bottle. Parker says 93, that’s low in my book. Gorgeous wine from Muga, super price from B-21.

2005 Muga Seleccion Especial2005 Muga Seleccion Especial

…opaque purple color, it offers up an alluring perfume of sandalwood, pencil lead, incense, espresso, black cherry, and blackberry. Dense, rich, structured, and savory, on the palate spice notes and terroir aromas make an appearance leading to a pure, 45-second finish….93 Points, Robert Parker’s WA

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