Hello friends. We’ve offered a number of different wines from La Rioja Alta over the years (five, I believe) but have played mostly in the higher end of the lineup, with wines ranging from $30-$55 in price. Today let’s explore the value end of LRA’s spectrum via the twin hearts of Spanish Tempranillo: La Rioja Alta’s traditional outpost of Rioja, and their more modern foray into Ribera del Duero:
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]
Alberdi is notable for a few reasons. First, it’s the lowest-priced wine in the LRA lineup. Second, it’s the only 100% Tempranillo in the lineup, coming from 30-plus-year-old vineyards at 1500-2000’ above sea level. And finally, it’s the youngest of LRA’s wines. Which is of course a testament to Spain in general, and La Rioja Alta specifically, and their stubborn insistence on holding their wines until maturity. The fact that the youngest wine in their lineup is a 2008 vintage is just staggering.
It kicks off with a wonderful savory Rioja nose: smoked mushrooms, tobacco leaf, and browning meat over a core of deep black cherry and coconut fruit. The wine was aged first for a year in new oak and then a second eighteen months in neutral barrel before bottling in June 2011, more than four years ago. That extra bottle age has sanded down any rough edges, and we’re left with a soft, rich (13.5% listed alc), approachable take on Tempranillo. Still, there is a sturdy acid (citrus-pith) spine here, and it serves this wine well, all the way into the leafy, mouthwatering finish.
Wine Advocate (Luis Gutierrez): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 91pts.”
I love the history of La Rioja Alta’s expansion into Ribera del Duero, because it speaks to their obsessive pursuit of quality. So, they first entered the market by purchasing land in 1990. It was planted in 1991, yielded its first usable fruit in 1993, and for the next six vintages (1993-1998), they sold every single grape they grew. Finally, in 1999, they kept some of their grapes to make wine, but the eventual wine did not pass the muster of the owners, and it was sold off in bulk. In 2000, they finally made a wine, and they also built a winery onsite at the vineyards. And then in 2001, according to the winery: [TEXT WITHHELD]
That, my friends, is commitment to a quality product! And it shows. This is 100% Tempranillo (called Tinta del Pais in this part of Spain) grown on high altitude vineyards above 2000’. While the Rioja project uses all American oak, this Ribera project uses all French oak, here 70% new and 30% two-year-old. The wine was aged for 22 months in barrel and then bottled in July 2012, where it has been resting for three-plus years. It offers a wonderful nose of blackberry and black cherry fruit, beef stock, and appealing smoky slatey minerals. A real live-wire in the mouth, this has terrific intensity and density with no excess weight. It’s generous, perfumed, and openly delicious, a wonderful yang to Rioja’s yin.
Wine Spectator (Thomas Matthews): “[REVIEW TEXT WITHHELD]. 92pts.”
The Alberdi is first come first served up to 24 bottles. For the Aster, we bought out the last remaining parcel in Seattle (and, I think, the United States), and it’s not a huge parcel. So, for that one please limit order request to 12 bottles, and we’ll do our best to fulfill all requests. The Aster is already in the warehouse, and the Alberdi should arrive in a week or two, at which point both wines will be ready for pickup or shipping during the next temperature-appropriate shipping window.