Hello friends. About six months ago, we surprised a lot of people with the amount of interest our list members expressed in one of Rioja’s crown jewels, the Gran Reserva 904 from La Rioja Alta. We basically decimated the entire remaining stock of the 2001 vintage, and the 904 has since been out of the Seattle market. Until now.
The first wave of the new vintage (2004; LRA only bottles this in exceptional vintages, so they skipped ’02 and ’03) has just landed, and thanks to our list’s previous support, we’ve got dibs:
Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 96pts.”
That is a great note, and I definitely agree that we should be drinking the 2001 for the next few years while we wait for this 2004 to unfurl. That said, I think Gutierrez is conservative in the end-point of his drinking window. The 904 is one of those immortal wines in a great vintage like 2004, and I’m confident that if you opened a bottle in in 2054, it would still have something profound to say.
For reminders on what LRA is all about, I’ll excerpt our September offer: La Rioja Alta is a classic Rioja producer, in the vein of Lopez de Heredia. They have stubbornly resisted modernity, going against the grain as much of Rioja has gotten bigger, riper, richer. For that, they are rewarded with love and admiration from those of us who care about terroir expression and who want our Rioja to taste like Rioja, not like new-world Tempranillo. Producers like LRA don’t follow the short-term winds of fashion. They play the long game. They think about how their winery will be viewed in decades, in centuries.
Here is the wonderful writer Neal Martin, writing for Wine Advocate back in 2012: [TEXT WITHHELD].
A passage like that underscores a) how beautiful this winery is; and b) what a pity it is that Neal Martin’s time covering Spain for Advocate was so short. When Martin visited LRA, he also got to taste the 1964 vintage of Gran Reserva 904. Since I’m making claims about being able to hold these wines for fifty years past vintage, I think it would be instructive to include Martin’s 97pt review of the 1964. Written a half century post-vintage, it gives some indication of the immortal aging curves of the best wines from La Rioja Alta: [REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD].
LRA releases two Gran Reservas, the 890 (commemorating the founding of the winery in 1890) and the 904 (commemorating their gaining of most of their most important vineyard properties in 1904). This 904 is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano, aged entirely in four-year-old American oak barrels made in-house (yes, they make their own barrels) for four years. The wine was bottled in January 2009, where it has now rested for another six-plus years, putting us at a remarkable eleven years past vintage. Only in Rioja.
It clocks in at 13% listed alc and begins with a nose of smoky cherries, tobacco leaves, and loads of earthy leafy underbrush. You immediately notice how tightly wound the palate is, how all the depth and muscle is just waiting to unfurl over the years. Then you notice the earthy lustiness, how savory and fungal and brothy and deeply appetizing this glass of wine is. It’s certainly less ready to drink than the 2001 at this stage, but I’d suggest that the long-term aging potential is greater. The structure here is perfect: bright acid plus fine-grained, integrating, leafy tannin. I said about the 2001 that this is a bottle I find moving, and it’s certainly true of this 2004. Even for someone immersed regularly in sensory experiences and aesthetic evaluations, there are certain bottles that evoke strong emotions for their transparency and evocative beauty, and this is one of them for me.
Please limit order requests to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The wine should arrive in a week or two, at which point it will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.