Wednesday, September 26, 2007

¡¡¡un monton de rioja!!! (pt.1 of 2)

I've been drinking/tasting a lot of Rioja lately. Lots of getting up to speed on some current releases from classic producers, as well as enjoying discovering a few new ones. Also some yawners, some highly oaked 'vinos de alta expresion,' some mass produced cheapies, and one really old wine. Something for everybody. Given the length of this post and the tedium of typing (me) and reading (you) tasting notes I'll probably divide this into a couple parts.

Before I go any further I'd like to fess up to drinking a Burgundy while typing about these vinos finos de España. It's a 2000 Pierre Morey Pommard Grands Epenots. Was going to wait to enjoy with a nice meal and friends but fuggit I'm trying to ward off a possible cold and I'm doing it with Burgundy.

Now back to Riojas.

Los nuevos, the new ones (for me at least):

2005 Vina Valoria Joven - 70% Tempranillo, 20% Graciano, 10% Mazuelo. This was apparently a favorite with some co-workers. It was fine. Cherry on the nose, leaning a bit towards Robitussin but in a good way. The palate had nice restraint and minerality given that this is an under $15 Rioja.

2003 Marques de Vargas Rioja Reserva - The nose is a bit vegetal and reminiscent of what I imagine some 70's and 80's Napa cabs might have been like a few years after release. On the palate, more green pepper, but with cherry and cocoa notes dominating a bit more. Very interesting. Given the smoothness of the tannins and developed nuances in this wine, it tastes a bit more mature than it is, but I still find it appealing. There's a real Bdx/old school Napa by way of Rioja style to this wine. Interestingly the winery uses a combo of French, Russian and American Oak. Bot eto da!

2001 Bodegas Primicia Rioja Reserva - I found this to be modern, anonymous Rioja with some modern, anonymous dark berry fruit.

2004 Vina Ijalba Rioja Graciano - Organic wine produced from 100% Graciano grapes. A real labor of love here as Graciano is difficult to grow. It is often times a 3-5% component of Rioja blends, but here it shines as a mono-varietal. The wine is very floral with some roast coffee notes from what I'm guessing is a bit of new French oak. Pure mulberry fruit on the palate.

2003 Vina Ijalba 'Dionisio Ruiz Ijalba' Maturana Tinta Rioja - 100% Maturana Tinta, which is further proof that this dude loves bottling obscure monovarietals. It is also organic like the Graciano. This wine comes in at a very reasonable 12.5% in the scorcher that was the summer of '03, yet the wine tastes ripe and balanced. Classy and rich, but with balanced acidity. A must try.

Heavy hitters: Lopez de Heredia (Lopez), La Rioja Alta (LRA), Muga

1996 Lopez Vina Gravonia - Single vineyard Viura, 100%. This is as tightly wound and structured as '96 champagnes. And really good. Yep, this wine is tight and racy. Stone fruit with some of that classic, slightly oxidative Lopez hazelnut thing on the finish. It's a wrap: my favorite Rioja from this post (white or red) is the '96 Gravonia (I encourage you to keep on reading, though).

1989 Lopez Vina Tondonia Reserva Blanco - This was not as memorable a bottle as the one I had last week (see post from 9/19). Just not as developed aromatically. On the palate the wine is similar, with some green fig fruit, hints of toffee and hazelnuts. The finish is long; in fact, the length has length.

1997 Lopez Vina Tondonia Rosado - Technically a crianza, this is the current release for their rosé! I must admit that on a previous post about rosés I think I mistakenly posted this vintage of Lopez when it might have been the '95? I'm researching it. Nonetheless, this bottle struck me as very different from the bottle I enjoyed so much a few months ago. This bottle did not distinctly suggest Rioja. The coconut nuances were not there on the palate. Just some very faint strawberry fruit and a bit of a tomato character. If anyone has had similar experiences with fairly recently released Lopez rosado I'd love to hear about them.

2001 Lopez Vino Cubillo Crianza - 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo, 5% Graciano. Alright, alright, the Lopez slight disappointments end here. In fact, this might be my second favorite Rioja of the post. A nose of tart cherry and some meat leads to a palate that has similarly fresh, and savory, flavors. Awesome texture as well. This is much, much better than an '00 Cubillo I had six months ago at a local restaurant. That wine was closed tight, with very tart berry fruit flavors that just were too simple, one-dimensional and unyielding. Not so this wine. '01 Lopez Cubillo, in '90's parlance (though you could still get away with it today) is dope.

1999 Lopez Vina Bosconia Reserva - 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 3% Garnacha, 2% Mazuelo. Deeper, darker fruit flavors here. More intense and richer, with black cherries dominating.

2000 LRA Viña Alberdi - 95% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha. There is a really pleasant subtlety and transparency to this wine. Though it does pack some high-toned, red berry fruit flavor though. As well as Chambolle type spice and mouthfeel. Great wine for a great price.

1999 LRA Vina Ardanza - 75% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha. Not as bright and nervy as the above, but still Burgundian in style. A bit richer and more intense than the above, with a longer life ahead of it. I have most recently enjoyed this out of a 375ml last week, and prior to that out of a 750 in Yountsville in January, with a bunch of well-meaning, (mostly) friendly, albeit Napa-centric folks. It was in my opinion the wine of the night, easily better than the Napa stuff (no surprises there) but also showing more of its stuff than '99 Chave Hermitage (CLOSED) and some '99 CDP 'Cuvee Barbarini' from Dm de la Solitude.

1995 LRA Gran Reserva 904 - Pure velvet on the palate. Dark cherry fruit, with some very subtle tobacco and wet earth notes sneaking in there. This wine is very approachable, even without decanting, but still wanting at least another 3 years to gain some more nuances in flavor. It should age well for much longer though.

1998 Muga Prado Enea Gran Reserva - '96, as many of you may know, was really a magical year for this wine. Here's to it not being the last for the good folks at Muga. When I tried the '98 last December it was way tight, and slightly woody as well. I must admit, however, that I was pleasantly surprised when I tasted the Prado a few weeks ago. There was very succulent, spicy, sour cherry fruit, with good intensity and length. Things seemed to be well-balanced. I didn't detect too much overt modernization in this most traditional of the increasingly less traditional Bodegas Muga. But maybe I need someone with a longer tasting history and better perspective to chime in?


Craig Camp said...

Lopez, LRA and Muga continue to be my favorites. These wines are just as exciting as ever without giving in one bit to modern taste fads. Unfortunately, you can't say the same thing about the rest of Spain, which is increasingly spoofulated.

Joe M. said...


Thanks for stopping by. Agreed on the Spain and spoofulated: they even both begin with an 'sp'! Still some gems out there though that aren't in the group (or region) above: Primitivo Quiles in Jumilla, Valduero in Ribera del Duero, Can Rafols in Penedes, for starters.