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La Rioja Alta: Inimitable Wines from a Modern Classic Estate - 01/21/2018 - Spain

Few wineries have withstood the test of time quite like La Rioja Alta. Since its founding in 1890, it has consistently produced some of the most noteworthy bottlings in all of Spain and beyond. This success is hardly the result of happenstance, but is due to an unwavering commitment to a style that honors the time-tested traditions of Rioja. At the same time, La Rioja Alta has embraced modern innovations where appropriate, this in turn, has resulted in wines of unparalleled purity and definition. In essence, they have put their very soul of Rioja in a bottle.

At K&L, we have long sung the praises of La Rioja Alta, as they have never failed to deliver resplendent efforts that delight from the first sip to the last. Across their entire portfolio, from their everyday reds under the "Viña Alberdi" label to their blue-chip bottlings like the coveted 890 Gran Reserva, the wines beautifully capture all the best of Rioja. Unlike many wineries, La Rioja Alta won’t release a wine until they feel it is ready for consumption. This is at tremendous added cost to the winery, but such is the price for unparalleled quality. Remarkably, their wines remain shockingly well priced. While prices for Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, and the best of Napa have soared over the last several decades, La Rioja remains strikingly grounded. Featured here are in-stock selections from this illustrious estate. All have earned big points and are highly venerated by the wine press. But don’t just take the critics (or our) word for it, buy a bottle and pour yourself a glass and you’ll know why La Rioja Alta is so adored by so many.

Vintage Item Name Score Retail Link
2010 La Rioja Alta "Viña Alberdi" Reserva Rioja 95 $19.99 View
2009 La Rioja Alta "Viña Arana" Reserva Rioja 96 $24.99 View
2008 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja 95 $29.99 View
2000 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja 90 $49.99 View
2004 La Rioja Alta 890 Gran Reserva Rioja (1.5L) 96 $299.99 View

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2010 La Rioja Alta "Viña Alberdi" Reserva Rioja ($19.99)

95 points James Suckling: "Ripe and intense aromas of strawberries and blackberries with hints of black ink. Savory notes, too. Full-bodied, chewy and focused with linear fruit and character. Very finely crafted. Drink or hold." (12/2016)

91 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2010 Viña Alberdi is a Tempranillo blend from different vineyards from what they consider an extraordinary vintage. This wine is matured in American oak barrels built by their own coopers, the first year in new barrels and the second one in third-year barrels with four manual rackings. This is the younger of their wines, with even some red berry aromas and spicy oak, quite harmonious. The palate is lively, balanced and polished, with tasty flavors and bright acidity. Delicious. (LG)" (08/2016)

Wine & Spirits: "A rich vintage of Viña Alberdi, this packs a lot of blackberry and black cherry flavor into its long, juicy finish. The wine is warm and gamey, and a little hard edged with bitter oak, but it should stand well with food, especially lamb sausages." (12/2017)

K&L Notes: Founded in 1890, La Rioja Alta is one of the most experienced and universally respected wineries in Rioja. Viña Alberdi is La Rioja Alta's juiciest, most approachable Rioja to drink on the younger side. That said, it still is one of the standard bearers of great quality, affordable, traditional Rioja, aged for two full years in barrels produced on site by the company's own coopers. Based on 100% Tempranillo, this is always quite tasty, but in a vintage as strong as 2010, it elevates itself to top value category.

Staff ImageJoe Manekin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 28, 2017

Upon first whiff, the 2010 Viña Alberdi is spicy, with the cedary oak notes nearly stealing the show. There are of course baking spices and pretty fruits as well, which both become more evident on the palate, where they combine with the oak for a nicely balanced, "bien clasico" expression of Rioja. This level of quality and traditional craftsmanship at under $20 makes this a must in your regular rotation!

Staff ImageJoe Bruno | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: July 18, 2017

The 2010 vintage in Rioja was an exceptional one, and this Viña Alberdi Reserva is a great expression of the respective year. Comprised of 100% Tempranillo, this wine is aged for 2 years in American Oak barrel. The first year of aging is in new oak and the second year is in older aged barrels. The wine was manually racked four times by the light of a candle. Ripe red fruit aromas intermingle with notes of vanilla, dill and seasoned leather. Medium body, with silky tannins on the palate. Juicy ripe cherry, spiced plum, and tomato jam qualities reveal themselves on the finish. This wine is a quintessentially approachable Rioja. A fantastic choice to accompany various pasta dishes and meat-based paellas

Staff ImageAndrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: July 18, 2017

I tasted this bottle after it had been opened for our staff for 2 days (the good stuff always seems to get opened on my weekends...). It is still tasting great. The lovely nose is full of cedar box and deep dark blackberries. There is a strong mineral component to the lithe body. Somewhat unusual for being 100% Tempranillo, this is a perfect wine to explore the classic markers of the famous Spanish grape for those who wish to study. At under $20 bucks, its the perfect wine to enjoy any day you need a great bottle of red without fail.

Staff ImageGary Westby | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: January 17, 2017

If you like medium bodied, earthy reds that go with food, this is a wine to buy a case of. Last night, Cinnamon and I had the Vina Alberdi from La Rioja Alta with a winter beef stew that I made. It was a stunning wine and a great combination. The savory dark Tempranillo fruit had just the right amount of rose like aroma to contrast its frame of cake like American oak and plenty of good acid to cut the rich stew. We found the 750ml size a bit small for something so easy to drink!

Staff ImageAlex Schroeder | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 15, 2016

Pours a beautiful deep brick red color, and offers dense aromas of raspberries, ripe strawberries, and aged leather with a hint of salinity. On the palate, robust but fully integrated and silky tannins combine with a vibrant acidity for overall outstanding structure, underlined by the slight influence of vanilla and spice notes from the oak. A powerful and well-balanced Rioja from an outstanding vintage.

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2009 La Rioja Alta "Viña Arana" Reserva Rioja ($24.99)

96 points James Suckling: "This is a powerful and rich red with black truffle and blueberry character. Sweet tobacco, too. Full body, tannic and flavorful. Yet open and polished. Fantastic finish. Great ageing potential. Drink or hold." (07/2016)

K&L Notes: Founded in 1890, La Rioja Alta is arguably the traditional Rioja bodega whose wines are most consistent, readily available, the most time and time again delicious.This is a tough to find bottling from La Rioja Alta. It consists of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Mazuelo. Wonderfully classic, with lovely fruit, some subtle earthy notes, and a more restrained, traditional style. This wine will surely age well for another decade or more. Arana, it is worth noting, is also a favorite amongst many of the crew over at La Rioja Alta.

Blake Conklin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 07, 2017

What a marvelous Rioja at a great price. I'll admit, I don't drink a lot of Rioja's usually, and this one specifically is a great introduction. With 8 years of age currently, this Rioja is smooth, slightly fruit forward, and overall a nice drinking experience.

Staff ImageJoe Bruno | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: July 18, 2017

This bottling of Viña Arana is mostly Tempranillo with just a touch of Mazuelo (~5%). I was struck by the rustic nature of this wine. Aromas of hard cheeses, incense, clove, and cinnamon. There is a noted umami characteristic to the wine as well. Strawberries and red cherries are followed by orange peel, hard cheese, and a hint of Portobello mushroom. Ample tannins and a fresh, bright acidity throughout. Drinking fantastic now, it also can further improve with prolonged cellaring (aging potential is high with this bottling). Perfect with grilled meat or assortment of aged cheeses

Staff ImageJoe Manekin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: July 18, 2017

As delicious as the "904" bottling is from La Rioja Alta, the Vina Arana gives you plenty of traditional Rioja character, as well as a very good representation of house style, at one of the most consistent, and certainly one of my favorite, Spanish wineries in La Rioja Alta. Quite frankly, I could drink a bottle of this myself, particularly with a mixed plate of cured chorizo, cheeses and bread. It is the archetypal, traditional Rioja, showing off fresh and dried fruits, dried orange peel and pipe tobacco on the nose. Bien clasico! This leads to a palate that is bang on Rioja: supple, slightly savory, fruity, yet dry with balanced acidity. I should also add that it is mellow and more-ish, two key descriptors of the kind of Rioja I love to drink. While the nose shows some lovely development, on the palate the fruit shows admirable poise and freshness, as well as surprising volume and depth for an under $25 wine. It is no surprise that this is the wine of choice amongst the team of coopers, cellar and vineyard workers at La Rioja Alta! One of my absolute favorite reds in the shop right now, this wine is for drinking in quantity (quick pro tip: like the other wines in this stable, the Arana will also age a while!)

Staff ImageAndrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: July 18, 2017

Earthier and denser than the Vina Alberdi, the Vina Arana cries out from the forest floor. It has the wet earth tones of healthy soil blended beautifully with boysenberry and olallieberry sweetness. Fresh cut cedar adds a spicy intrigue on the long and vibrant finish. This is a textbook example of Rioja value.

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2008 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja ($29.99)

95 points Decanter: "The best classic style of Grenache and Tempranillo pulling together joyful fruit expression and serious depth. In the mouth it is amazingly complex and so unique. A benchmark Rioja blend. SJE: A rich, sweet and savoury Reserva style with all the red cherries and a strong Grenache influence. It is somewhat old-fashioned, in a good way, with plentiful integrated oak and a fine rasp of tannin. PM: This has a wonderful oxidative style, giving it a superb savoury nose of leather. It is a perfect combination of mellowness versus vigour, and at the same time exudes great finesse." (12/2016)

94 points James Suckling: "Aromatic nose of dried strawberries and flowers follows through to a full body, soft and velvety tannins and a long and flavorful finish. Opulent and delicious yet refined." (12/2016)

93 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "Vintages for Viña Ardanza seem to be going fast. It seems like yesterday that the 2001 was released and now the 2008 Viña Ardanza is already here. This is the first vintage when they have been able to use the fruit from their new Garnacha vineyards in the village of Tudelilla (Rioja Baja), La Pedriza, which represents 20% of the blend complementing the majority of Tempranillo. The wine was put in barrel in March 2009, separately; the Tempranillo was in four-year-old barrels for 36 months with six rackings, and the Garnacha in second and third use barrels for 30 months with five rackings. Vintages might go fast, but the wine does not feel too young, which was my fear. There are notes of stewed meat, cured leather, cloves, other spices and an overall balsamic character. The palate feels solid, consistent, nicely built, with abundant tannins and good balancing acidity. This should stand up to food and be able to develop in bottle. No less than 600,000 bottles are produced. I tasted from a bottle from March 2013. (LG)" (08/2016)

93 points John Gilman: "The 2008 vintage of Viña Ardanza is the seventy-fifth anniversary for this iconic RiojaReserva bottling from La Rioja Alta. The wine is its traditional blend of eighty percenttempranillo and twenty percent garnacha, but with this vintage, the garnacha is being sourcedfrom a high altitude, stony vineyard in the Rioja Baja region, that the bodegas feels produces exemplary garnacha. The bouquet of the 08 is outstanding, wafting from the glass in a complex blend of red plums, raspberries, a touch of meatiness, lovely spice tones redolent of cloves and cinnamon stick, a lovely base of almost salty soil and a nice touch of toasted coconut, old American oak. On the palate the wine is pure, deep, full-bodied and velvety on the attack, with an excellent core of fruit, impressive complexity and grip, moderate, well-integrated tannins and fine length and grip on the perfectly balanced finish. This is a beautiful vintage of Viña Ardanza and very much worthy of a seventh-fifth anniversary cuvée! 2018-2045+." (05/2018)

Jancis Robinson: "80% Tempranillo, 20% GarnachaMushroom, farmyard, milk chocolate and soft red berries. Ever-reliable, with its expert balance of rounded tannin and fresh acid. Lovely liquorice notes to finish. 17+/20 points (RH)" (10/2017)

K&L Notes: La Rioja Alta's Viña Ardanza has been our most popular Rioja for several years. It is no wonder, as this is the gold standard for traditional bodegas: a winery that ages their wines the old fashioned way, meaning three years in barrel with two rackings a year, followed by three years in bottle. According to the winery, the blend is "80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha. The Tempranillo grapes come from 30-year-old vines planted in our Viña Ardanza vineyards in Fuenmayor and Cenicero. The Garnacha grapes come from old, goblet-pruned vines planted at an altitude of 600 m above sea level in Tudelilla (Rioja Baja), in plots adjacent to our Finca La Pedriza estate."

Staff ImageDiana Turk | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: December 05, 2017

Its hard not to gush about any release from favorite producer La Rioja Alta, but the 2008 "Viña Ardanza" Reserva is especially gorgeous. Cherry fruit, reminiscent of the most classic Tempranillo, shines from the glass immediately, with hints of smoke and heady spice followed by leather notes. Theres lifted acid indicative of the colder vintage and brighter-than-expected red fruit, but this still drinks with all the deeper, old world elegance of serious Rioja. Its both focused and luxurious in texture, and will age beautifully. Perfect for the holidays and well beyond.

Staff ImageAndrew Whiteley | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: November 28, 2017

There is a wonderful freshness to the 2008. The nose is full of ripe cherries, pungent herbs, a little tobacco and spice, but most of all, a clean bright fresh scent. It's almost floral, but I can't place what flowers it would be. There is a great balance of acidity on the palate. It meshes perfectly with the toasty American Oak and notes of baker's chocolate. The body is full, but silky smooth. The tannins are very refined. I'm pleased to drink this bottle now and put a few in the cellar for future aging. A splendid way to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Vina Ardanza!

Staff ImageJoe Bruno | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: October 23, 2017

This bottling of Viña Ardanza marks the first vintage where the Garnacha (20%) was sourced from the La Pedriza vineyard in Rioja Baja. The remaining majority of the blend is composed of Tempranillo (80%) sourced from their 30-year-old La Cuesta and Montecillo vineyards. An expressive nose of dark and red cherries, plum, and boysenberry; supplemented with notes of vanilla, clove, leather, and tangerine. The palate possesses well-integrated oak, elevated acidity, and silky tannins. Also has a marked freshness for being almost 10 years old. Dried cherries and mixed berries move into tertiary notes of earth, leather, and a noted vanilla and spice characteristic. An age-worthy Rioja that is showing quite nicely at the moment, but will only get better as time goes on. Can easily go for another 10-20 years in the cellar. All this for under $30? Done!

Staff ImageJoe Manekin | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: August 08, 2017

One of the new Spanish releases I look most forward to tasting every year is La Rioja Alta's Vina Ardanza. The 2008, celebrating the 75th anniversary of this iconic bottling, is absolutely delicious. In this colder vintage, the red fruit not only seems to have more cut than usual, but more intensity as well. Focused and refined, this bottling is the first featuring Garnacha from La Rioja Alta's Pedriza vineyard, where vines are planted in a bed of pure stones - there is no visible topsoil here. As usual, when this wine is on, we are truly hard pressed to think of a more delicious - or more ageworthy - red in the store for under $50.

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2000 La Rioja Alta "Viña Ardanza" Reserva Rioja ($49.99)

90 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2000 Reserva Vina Ardanza has 25% Garnacha blended with the Tempranillo. Light to medium ruby, it delivers an enticing bouquet of cedar, spice box, leather, forest floor, black cherry, and blackberry. This leads to a ripe, moderately dense wine with complex flavors and excellent balance. (JM)" (02/2008)

90 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar: "Fading medium-red color. Cherry-vanilla, tobacco and dried raspberry on the nose, with subtle baking spices, cedar and herbs adding complexity. Suave red fruit flavors are sweetened by vanillin oak spices and gently propped up by silky tannins. An understated wine that's sure to be dismissed by those who find ostentation in wine a virtue, but this will work wonderfully with grilled or braised meats, or not-so-strong cheeses. And the length of this Rioja is pretty sneaky. (JR)" (07/2008)

Jancis Robinson: "Mid to light ruby with development at the rim. Real class, density and nuance here. Well worth the premium for this much development and subtlety. Bravo!" (09/2011)

Staff ImageJohn Majeski | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: April 30, 2010

Founded in 1890 by five families of deeply passionate wine growers, La Rioja Alta is one of the most iconic bodegas of Rioja, and its delicate, exquisite wines rarely fail to captivate and enthrall. Situated in the historic town of Haro with neighbors that include Bodegas Muga and López Heredia, this winery has maintained strong traditional roots while implementing new technology when necessary to enhance quality. The 2000 Viña Ardanza Reserva is a classic rendition, having spent up to three years in older oak barrels before release. The result? A prismatically elegant, perfectly-aged wine redolent of cured tobacco, crushed raspberries and sweet spice, achieving an ideal balance between fruit and acidity. Complex, layered and superbly nuanced, the Ardanza will dictate what to serve with it, not the other way around, although I might suggest a pork tenderloin.

Staff ImageJason Marwedel | K&L Staff Member | Review Date: March 12, 2010

A wonderful offering from La Rioja Alta, this reserva is NOT to be missed! Driven by complex notes of dried red fruit, baking spices, tobacco and cedar, this rioja possesses excellent balance and acidity. This is the perfect match for your favorite rustic cuisine!

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2004 La Rioja Alta 890 Gran Reserva Rioja (1.5L) - 8 available ($299.99)

96 points Wine Enthusiast: "*Editors' Choice* Lightly rusty in color, this outstanding gran reserva is just now entering its golden years, which should endure for another two decades or so. Aromas of raisin, malt, tobacco and cedar are beautiful. This is tight and sinewy in feel, with rooty, creamy, classic Rioja flavors of vanilla, tobacco and dried red fruits. A lasting, stout finish isn't breaking down at all. (MS)" (04/2016)

94 points Wine Spectator: "*Collectibles* Tea, tobacco, cedar and spice notes mingle with deeper licorice, plum and iron flavors in this savory red. The texture is supple and polished, but there's a firm tannic backbone. Focused and harmonious, in the traditional style. (TM)" (12/2016)

94 points James Suckling: "Slightly dusty nose here showing ripe strawberries with savory and herbal undertones. Medium body, very silky tannins and a long and fruity finish. Beautiful length and finesse. The real deal." (12/2016)

94 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocate: "The 2004 Gran Reserva 890 is the top of the range here, a wine that is only released three/four times per decade in exceptional years. They start by sourcing grapes from their oldest vineyards and going through a slow process of aging the wine in American oak barrels for six years, with ten manual rackings, and each time there is a selection of only the best barrels. The bottled wine is 13.5% alcohol with a remarkably low pH (3.0) that to me means 'quality' of the acidity, which is a healthy six grams per liter (in tartaric). The nose is all about forest floor aromas, game, cigar ash, incense, old furniture and some smoked meat. The palate shows what the technical data was hinting--very fresh with slightly dusty tannins and nice acidity. It's polished, but feels livelier than some older vintages. (LG)" (08/2016)

K&L Notes: The Gran Reserva 890 is the longest-aged wine in the excellent La Rioja Alta stable, with an impressive 6 years of aging in barrel followed by extensive aging in bottle. The result is a wine that is dark fruited, savory, and beginning to show tertiary notes, with an irresistible elegance and sense of balance. As far as grapes are concerned, there is 95% Tempranillo from the Rioja Alta village of Briñas (neighboring Haro), and a tiny portion of older-vine Graciano and Mazuelo from Rodezno. This is classic Rioja for drinking now or aging another decade or longer.