TN: 2005 La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 (Rioja)

This was a points-chaser purchase. Well, sort of. I got the emailer touting this multi-96 point wine graced by the wine gurus, so my curiosity was peaked. I check on it with the maestros on wine such as this, Senior Counsel Mollen and King of Capital Johnny Morris, and they say something like “look you country bumpkin, just buy this damn thing”. So I grab three.

Glad I did.

Now mind you, Rioja is not normally my cup of tea. Outside of Ridge, and even Ridge gets my criticism at times, I’m not a fan of American Oak. I also tend to find Rioja showing a bit too much prickle juice, dill, vinegar, whatever you wish to call it. Well, this wine has a touch of that, but it is also impeccably balanced. Maturing nose of warm, dried red fruits, cigar box, balsamic, vanilla and cured meats. Medium body on the palate, silky, showing dried cherries and plums, tangy reds, saline and dry leather. Very sheer, transparent materials. Tannins largely resolved, crisp acids keep this wine refreshing, lip-smacking. Not something I seek out all the time, but I like it very much.
(92 pts.)

Nice to hear, Robert. I suspect you’ll like it even more as it ages, if you let it.

Oops, just noticed a typo, Corey will have a field day with it. Ugh.

What’s the normal range for a quality Rioja from a strong vintage, 15-20 years for optimal? For example, I think of 20+ years for most of my 2005 Bordeaux, but most of them are more powerful and dense than this Rioja. This Rioja shows more maturity than any 2005 Bordeaux that I have recently tried.

I’m drinking 94s right now and they are glorious. They are not heavyweight wines with age. Graceful.

Robert, curious if you have tried other vintages? I’ve always liked this wine, and when I lived in Europe in the 90’s drank it regularly (probably weekly) when in Spain on business. Had an 04 not too long ago and it reminded me of why I liked it.

Resolved tannins? Man, I still find some '81 Rioja too young.

Yeah, that comment threw me too. 2005’s, especially at the Gran Reserva level are just way too young to drink now for my taste.

As I clearly noted, I’m no expert in Rioja, just calling it as I see it. I just checked some of the critics’ reviews, couple suggesting start drinking now, none commenting on big tannins. CT notes are generally in accord. Would not seem that my note is off-kilter, but of course our palates could be totally different. I am sensitive to new oak and alcohol, but not tannins. Zero regrets popping this wine now, paired nicely with a grilled sirloin.

Piqued. Or was that the typo?

Anyway, I like the wines when there is not too much pickle juice in them. Seems to vary with the year, and sometimes with the bottle batch.

Nothing in the world with drinking them now. Knowing your palate as I do, though, I suspect you will like them a great deal more once they shed some oak and, well, clarify a bit. In 10 year’s time you’ll love the wine.

And pickle juice? I’ve never tasted pickle juice in a rioja

No comment.

The good to great Rioja can last decades and decades. Not my mainstay for sure, but friends regularly open stuff from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s that are vibrant and alive.

I regularly get some pickle juice/vinegar in Rioja, most markedly on L. de Heredia’s wines.

I love old Rioja. Another wine that used to be cheap and plentiful just a few years before Ali started purchasing.

Drinking the 04 and 05 side by side, I enjoy the 05 more right now, but I am more excited about the 04s.

I find young La Rioja Alta to show a lot of dill tones to the oak. Way too much for my liking, but it lessens and morphs with time.

As for Lopez de Heredia, I’ve never found a dill character to their oak.

I drank the 1995 vintage of the sibling (big brother?) of this wine (the 890) a few weeks ago off a list while in Madrid.

The fruit was bright and fresh still with a bit of balsamic and orange peel but the tannins were quite integrated. While not “mature” in the “aged” sense I found it “mature” in the ready sense.

I can’t say that I understand yet the difference between the 890 and the 904.

I’m moderately tolerant of american oak, but many LRA’s just have too much. I like the fruit and the structure of the wines, though. I had to give away some 94 Ardanza GR recently as I just couldn’t drink it.

I don’t find much in LdH wines. I’m most attracted to the more traditional wines–CVNE, riojanas, etc, from the 90’s backwards.

Young LRA 904s/850s, and not LdH wines, are definitely the poster child for heavy young American oak and pickle juice notes.

You are a lucky man!

Usually an indicator for me that it’s Rioja.