A Rioja Roundup: Old Favorites and New Arrivals!

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Beautiful Riojas are coming from both traditional producers and the young guard. Fresh, original cuvèes from organic growers like David Sampietro Gil, Gonzalo Gonzalo, Martin Alonso and his wife, Gloria Plaza, make us excited for the future of  Rioja, while López de Heredia, Remelluri, Peciña, and the Rioja Alta continue to provide elegance and inspiration in both red and white cuvèes.

No one allows their wines more time before release than López de Heredia, with some 13,000 barrels of wine aging underground. Proprietor Maria Jose upholds the practices of her grandfather, founder Rafael López de Heredia, with the same fervor she applies to educating consumers about the importance of healthy terroir and vines. She emphasizes that the excellence of her family's wines is determined by the caliber of their namesake vineyards every bit as much as (and perhaps more than) their meticulous elevage. Many of the producers we are featuring today share this view: that Rioja is a special place for growing vines, rather than the epicenter of a winemaking style.

Telmo Rodriguez assumed the reins at the historic estate of Remelluri in 2010, following his father's retirement. Telmo studied enology in Bordeaux, then embarked on a quest for old vines and novel grapes across unknown regions in Spain. He founded the Compañia de Vinos Telmo Rodriguez and made truly original wines from lesser-known regions like Navarra, Rueda, and Malaga. He brings this respect for old vines and unique terroirs back to Remelluri. Under Telmo's oversight, the estate is converting to biodynamics and focusing on terroir expression, using only estate-grown fruit in the flagship cuvèes.

David Sampedro Gil is an ambitious winemaker working biodynamically in his home town of El Villar in Rioja Alavesa. Much like Rodriguez, he returned home after enology school and winemaking stints abroad to make wine from the old bush-trained vines and high altitudes that set El Villar apart. A field blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Garnacha, and Viura yields lustrous and expressive Riojas. Great concentration, vibrant acidity, and moderate alcohol combine for admirable freshness and depth.

A fierce young white from Gonzalo Gonzalo in Rioja Alta and our new favorite certified organic Joven from Viña Illusion in Rioja Baja round out the offer. Cheers! -AR

No Longer Available

López de Heredia 1994 Rioja Gran Reserva Tondonia

75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo and Graciano, aged 9 years in barrel and 9 years in bottle. Sweet, pretty aromas of balsamic, raspberries, coriander and crunchy leaves. Complex and well-structured on the palate with bright red cherry, chewy cranberry skins, woodsy thyme, thorny rose, clove spice, and crunchy leaves that remind us this fresh Rioja has some age. At the same time, its bright acidity and taut tannins alert us to many great years ahead! -Ariana Rolich

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  • $84.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

López de Heredia 2001 Rioja Tondonia Reserva

75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 10% Graciano and Mazuelo, aged 6 years in barrel and 4 years in bottle. Rich aromas of wild cherry, rose oil, black raspberries, and toasty baking spice, with a full, silky, structured palate of cherry skins, tart cranberry, plump ripe strawberries, wild nettles, sweet tobacco, black tea, orange rind, and warm, woodsy earth. Generous and satisfying in its present youthful stage and an exciting candidate for long-term cellaring. AR

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  • $44.99

López de Heredia 2005 Rioja Viña Cubillo Crianza

65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha, 10% Mazuelo and Graciano, aged 3 years in barrel and 4-5 years in bottle. The Cubillas vineyard is composed of clay and limestone at 410 meters altitude; vines average 40 years of age. The wine has a gorgeous cherry/violet nose, loads of juicy, textured cherry fruit and a full, bombastic structure that does not show a lot of oak. -cb/AR

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  • $25.99

López de Heredia 2003 Rioja Bosconia Reserva

The 2003 vintage of Bosconia Reserva is my favorite since the fantastically silky 2000 vintage. It is broad-shouldered as you would expect, but, at the same time, it is precise, juicy elegant, and surprisingly graceful. I don't get a whiff of roasted-ness from this cuvée. A miracle has been born; an amazing '03. cb

  • Out of Stock
  • red
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  • $34.99

  • Organic
  • Low Sulfur

López de Heredia 1991 Rioja Gran Reserva Blanco Tondonia

According to the winery, 1991 was one of the best years in the Tondonia vineyard's history. The Gran Reserva Blanco is 90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, aged 10 years in barrel and 10 years in bottle. Exceptional clarity and finesse define this complex and filligreed white. Delicate but marked acidity intertwines with racy citrus zests, hazelnut, subtle beeswax and layers of minerality for a demure and silky expression that will tantalize any lover of Lopez. Ariana Rolich

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  • white
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  • $109.99

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  • $44.99

Lopez de Heredia 1998 Rioja Tondonia Blanco Reserva

90% Viura and 10% Malvasia, aged 6 years in barrel and 6 years in bottle. This vintage of Tondonia blanco is full and flush, with evolving aromas of marmalade, mustard seed, lemon curd, orange blossom, peonies, and dill. Flavors of lemon custard, strawberry-rhubarb, buckwheat honey and basil with tear-jerking acidity and appealingly oxidative finish. -AR

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  • $46.99

López de Heredia 2003 Rioja Gravonia Blanco

Classic Gravonia with no primary fruits left in sight. Apple skin, pear skin, tangerine peel, exciting brightness and energy, marcona almonds, green olive brininess, and mega precision. Super high-toned and wonderful. cb

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  • $25.99

Peciña, Hermanos de 2001 Rioja Reserva

This Reserva is a fine example of what a great vintage Peciña had in 2001, showing aromas and flavors of strawberry, cedar, flowers, and baking spices. There is an almost luxurious quality to the palate with plush fruit, mushroom, soft silky tannins, as well as beautiful acidity and a floral lift to the finish. This Reserva bottling speaks of the singularity of Rioja Alta and in particular of Peciña's village, San Vicente, where most of their best holdings are located. After two days open, nothing had changed about this wine; if anything, it was more crystalline and concise. How's about a traditional age-worthy Rioja at a very reasonable price? cb

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  • $24.99

Peciña, Hermanos de 2005 Rioja Crianza

These are the last few bottles of 2005, which is a supple, middle weight Rioja featuring pretty red fruits and the patented green herb and savory leather character that brings us back to this traditional estate's wines vintage after vintage. cb/AR

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  • $21.99

Remelluri 2005 Rioja Gran Reserva La Granja

A beautiful Gran Reserva from the historic, organically farmed estate of Remelluri. Gentle aromas of black raspberry, rhubarb, celery salt, warm coffee, and earth, with a spry, spicy palate full of tart plum and black fruits with bitter herbs, assertive tannins and a long, clear finish. Fermented in stainless steel and large wooden vats, raised in French and American oak for 27 months. -AR

 

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  • $104.99

Remelluri 2009 Rioja Lindes de Remelluri

Under Telmo Rodriquez's oversight, Remelluri's flagship wines contain only estate fruit. The fruit from neighboring growers (with whom the estate has long collaborated) now goes into the Lindes de Remelluri. Long and elegant, Lindes rises from the glass with aromas of violet, bay leaf, licorice, and cool black raspberry fruit. Mulberries muddled with lavender, rose absolute and crunchy peppercorns on the palate with chewy black licorice, soft damp earth and a touch of leather on the finish. A must-try Rioja for lovers of understatement and elegance. -AR 

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  • $27.99

Remelluri 2009 Rioja Blanco

A lustrous, aromatic white Rioja from some of Remelluri's highest vines — an organically farmed field blend of nine white varieties (including Viognier, Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Roussanne and Marsanne) on calcareous clay soils. Fermented with native yeasts and raised for 17 months in a mixture of cement, oak, and glass. A hedonistic change of pace for lovers of Lopez de Heredia's stately whites. -AR

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  • $99.99

Rioja Alta 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva 904

904 is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano spent four years in four year old American oak, six and a half years in bottle, and is released ready to drink. Lively acidity and tart red raspberry express youthful vigor and ageworthiness, while warm pretty spice and and just enough earth make it pleasurable to drink now. -AR

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  • $49.99

Rioja Alta 2004 Rioja Viña Ardanza Reserva

The 2004 vintage is a lovely follow-up to the immensely popular 2001 Ardanza. Tried, true, and traditional (while being light on its feet and a lot of fun), Ardanza offers warm black cherry, stewed strawberry, and red plum on the nose, with cut green herbs and dry earth. Mouth-coating tannins on the palate, with tangy cherry, strawberry seeds, hibiscus tea, warm woodsy spice, dark soil, and a clean bright finish. The inclusion of 20% Garnacha from the Rioja Baja makes this cuvée both crowd-pleasing and food friendly, pairing well with any poultry, meat, or roasted root vegetable, but especially with smoky bacon and Basque cheeses like Osau-Iraty. -AR

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  • red
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  • $32.99

Rioja Alta 2004 Rioja Viña Ardanza Res Especial 1.5

The 2004 vintage is a lovely follow-up to the immensely popular 2001 Ardanza. Tried, true, light on its feet, and a lot of fun, Ardanza offers warm black cherry, stewed strawberry, and red plum on the nose, with cut green herbs and dry earth. Mouth-coating tannins on the palate, with tangy cherry, strawberry seeds, hibiscus tea, warm woodsy spice, dark soil, and a clean bright finish. The inclusion of 20% Garnacha from the Rioja Baja makes this cuvee both crowd pleasing and food friendly, pairing well with any poultry, meat, or roasted root vegetable, but especially with smoky bacon and Basque cheeses like Osau-Iraty. -AR

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  • $74.99

DSG David Sampedro Gil 2008 Rioja Phinca Abejera

Every time I taste the full lineup of David Sampedro Gil's superb biodynamic Riojas, Phinca Abejera makes me swoon! Incredibly bold and lively, yet nuanced in every dimension, Abejera features equal parts Graciano and Tempranillo (with 10% each Garnacha and Viura). Graciano's role in Rioja is to provide fragrance and a punch of vivid color to Tempranillo. DSG's Graciano holds court in this cuvee, with wild aromas of rose oil, oregano, bright raspberry, tobacco, licorice, and clove. The palate is acid-driven and herbal, with energetic, assertive tannins framing flavors that are just beginning to relax into age, with dark cherries, black raspberry, blue fruits, coffee, and thyme. A stunning outlier and a real treat. Ariana Rolich

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  • $34.99

Phincas DSG 2008 Rioja

Phincas DSG is a full bodied, rich and spicy Rioja with deep aromas of soft plum, ripe black cherry, earthy beets, and cloves. The palate features mouth-watering acidity and bright red cherry, tart red plum, rich black berries, lovely hints of rosemary, forest floor, pie spice, damp dark earth, and thyme. 70% Tempranillo, 15% Graciano, 10% Garnacha, 5% Viura from David Sampedro Gil's biodynamically farmed sand, clay, and limestone vineyards at 550m in Rioja Alavesa. 14-16 months in 2nd and 3rd year French oak. A true Rioja for meat stews and Autumnal gatherings, perfect for lovers of Lopez de Heredia's 2005 Cubillo or 2001 Tondonia Reserva. -AR

 

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  • $44.99

Viña Ilusión 2011 Rioja Joven

Martin Alonso and Gloria Plaza are disciples of Masanobu Fukuoka, the Japanese farmer/philosopher and proponent of "do-nothing" farming. They work 5 bucolic hectares of Tempranillo on iron-rich limestone and clay soils at 700m altitude in the Rioja Baja subzone. They make only one wine: the delicious Viña Ilusión, which is certified organic, wild yeast fermented, and raised in tank (no oak), Viña Ilusión is fresh, bright, and giving, with a layered palate of ripe red plum flecked with delicate florals, spicy oregano, sweet tobacco, and subtle earth. Ariana Rolich

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  • red
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  • $14.99

El Brozal (Bodegas Indiano) 2009 Rioja Tinto

This cuvée, comprised of 80% Tempranillo with equal parts Graciano and Garnacha, is from a single vineyard called El Brozal located in the Rioja Alavesa subzone.  It was planted in the 1930's, sits at 600 meter altitude and is currently being farmed bio-dynamically by up and coming vigneron David Sampredro. The 2009 is Rioja by way of Northern Rhône showing a lot of whole cluster character with wild savory flavors of olives, spice, and balsamic herbs, that is complemented by a toasty richness from newish barrels.  The palate is meaty, full-ish, and dry with excellent length.  A powerful and intense wine of terroir. David Sampedro is the man to watch in Rioja.  Bravo! cb

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  • $29.99

The Wine Love/Gonzalo Gonzalo 2012 Rioja White Yeti

Gonzalo Gonzalo grew up among his family's vines in Fuenmayor — the heart of Rioja Alta. He is devoted to careful, chemical-free work in the vineyard, minimal intervention in the cellar, and conjures up some of the freshest, most innovative expressions of Tempranillo and Viura in Rioja (while casually eschewing the Rioja designation). The White Yeti is 100% Viura, raised in stainless steel. It is fresh, salty, and musky, with the minerality of melted snow and subtle flavors of crunchy green apple, crisp pear, apple blossoms, green peppercorn, and fresh lemon water. AR

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  • white
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  • $16.99

El Brozal (Bodegas Indiano) 2009 Rioja Blanco

From a single bio-dynamically farmed 80 year old vineyard in Rioja Alavesa, this is a field blend of Viura, Garnacha Blanca, Moscatel, Jaen and Malvasia.  Fermented with skin contact in 400 liter barrels and then aged in a combination of new 2nd year barrels, this is a rich oxidative wine with flavors of chalky minerals, lemon meringue, orange peel, hazelnuts and white flowers.  The oak here does not bother me at all; the wine shows richness but also maintains delicacy and finesse.  A beautiful wine to pair with richer seafood.

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  • $34.99