Wine of The Week: 2001 La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva #TempranilloDay

Every Thursday I feature a wine I particularly enjoy, whether it’s something new and different, is a great value, or from a producer worth checking out.  My Wine Of The Week is the 2001 La Rioja Alta “904” Gran Reserva

The Winery

La Rioja Alta, S.A. was founded in 1890 when five Riojan and Basque families who shared a passion for wine, founded the ‘Sociedad Vinícola de La Rioja Alta’. According to importer Michael Skurnik, “Few dispute that La Rioja Alta S.A. is the leading quality orientated producer in the Rioja. With more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time, the equivalent of about 8 years sales, La Rioja Alta S.A. is unique in its ability to supply large quantities of fully mature wines of world-class quality“.

La Rioja Alta rose to prominence at a time when vineyards in France were ravaged by phylloxera, and wine lovers were looking elsewhere for fine wine.  La Rioja Alta was one of the wineries in Rioja  that capitalized on the opportunity.

The Bodega’s first winemaker was a Frenchman, Monsieur Vigier, and the first wine he produced was what is today known as “Gran Reserva 890”, their flagship wine.

They will celebrate their 125th anniversary next year!

I was discovered La Rioja Alta a couple of years ago when I read some of the reviews about the 2001 Viña Ardanza.  I picked up a couple of bottles.

So often in a situation where a wine is hyped up, it’s not unusual for one to be let down because expectations have been built up.

Not so for the 2001 Viña Ardanza.   It lived up to the hype and delivered for me.

My other experience with La Rioja Alta was when I traveled to Spain last year.  When we arrived at our hotel –  Los Augustinos Hotel, we were starving.  The first thing we did was grab a bite to eat.  They was a special on a combination cheese plate and a bottle of Viña Alberdi Crianza.  What a great introduction to the wine and cheese of Rioja!  It was such a memorable meal! The wine and the cheese were perfectly matched.

Fast forward to this year.  When I saw my favorite wine store, K&L Wine Merchants had a nice selection of wines from the 2001 vintage – one of the strongest vintages in Rioja in recent memory, it was a “no-brainer” for me to pick up a couple of bottles of this wine because I’ve had great experiences with other wines from La Rioja Alta.

The Wine

In 1904, La Rioja Alta absorbed Bodegas Ardanza, which was owned by Don Alfredo Ardanza.  This wine commemorates this important milestone in the company’s development.  Originally referred to the “Reserva 1904”, it is now known as the “904”.

These wines offer a wonderfully complex bouquet, rich flavours, a seductively smooth texture, and are all ready to drink on release.

The “904” is a blend of Tempranillo and Graciano. The base grape is Tempranillo (90%) from vines over 40 years old grown in the municipalities of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba, perfectly complemented with 10% Graciano from our Melchorón I and II vineyards in Briones and Rodezno.

After fermentation, the wine was aged 4 years in custom-made American oak barrels, that were racked twice a year, and then further aging in bottle.

12.5% alcohol $50 Retail


My tasting notes follow:

Slightly bricking tawny color with alluring baked cherry, balsamic, tobacco, vanilla, spice and sweet floral aromas. On the palate, light-medium-bodied with a freshness that belies its 13 years.  It’s  shows great finesse, concentration and is impeccably balanced with tart raspberry, cherry, vanilla, spice and mineral flavors. Long finish. [Note: I aerated the wine for 90 minutes]  >>Find this wine<<

Rating: A; Highly recommended!

Pair with: Grilled lamb chops with Patatas a la Riojana, or Chorizo and lentil stew with Morcilla (Spanish blood sausage)

Sample purchased for review

Ratings Key:

(A+) – 95-100/Extraordinary
(A) – 92-95/Outstanding
(A-) – 89-91/Very Good to Outstanding
(B+) – 86-88/Very good
(B) – 80-85/Good
(C) – 70-79/Bleh
(D) – 50-69/#Fail
Other posts you might enjoy:

Martin Redmond is a Financial Executive by day, and a certified wine geek with latent foodie tendencies the rest of the time. In addition to the wine lifestyle and food he enjoys family, fitness and traveling. He likes to get thoughts of wine off his mind by sharing experiences on his ENOFYLZ Wine blog, which features wine reviews, wine country travel, and wine and food pairings.

Follow me on Twitter @martindredmond for all things wine, and since I’m a wino, with latent foodie tendencies, you’ll also find food and wine pairings, and food related stuff! Become a fan and join ENOFYLZ Wine Blog on Facebook. Cheers!

This article is original to ENOFYLZ Wine Copyright 2014 ENOFYLZ Wine BlogAll rights reserved.

#LanguedocDay Virtual Tasting 2011 – A Wonderful Mourvédre, Old Vine Carignan Blend…

I like participating in virtual tastings such as Languedoc Day for a few reasons.  It gives me a chance to see what wines other wine lovers are drinking and enjoying.  I look forward to learning something about either the varietal, or the region being showcased.  And it’s also a chance to virtually meet others on Twitter, G+, or FB, who share my passion for wine.

The Languedoc (pronounced “long-dock”) is a wine region in southern France.  It is the world’s largest wine-producing region, producing a diverse selection of red, white, rosé, sweet or sparkling wines.  According to Wikipedia…”As recently as 2001, the region produced more wine than the entire United States“.  The 5 best known appellations in the Languedoc include Coteaux du LanguedocCorbières AOCFaugèresMinervois AOC, and Saint-Chinian AOCs.

It’s only relatively recently the Languedoc has been widely recognized by critics and experts as worthy of attention, awards and accolades.  Prior to the last couple of decades, it was mostly known for producing low-quality jug wines.

I’ve enjoyed a few wines from the Languedoc.  Two sparklers – the NV Domaine Jean-Louis Denois Tradition Brut from the Coteaux de Languedoc AOC, and the 2008 Antech Cuvee Eugenie from the Crémant de Limoux AOC that were both very good sparklers, at a very attractive price, that I’d buy again – and a wonderful sweet vins doux naturels fortified wine made from Grenache.  But, I’ve not had a red wine from the region, so I was looking forward to #LanguedocDay to try a red.

My wine of choice for the day?  The 2006 Les Clos Perdus “Mire la Mer” (In View of The Sea).  The wine is produced by a small winery located the village of Peyriac de Mer. The biodynamically farmed fruit is from the Corbières AOC.  According to Los Clos Perdus

 This wine comes from old bush vines naturally grown and hand-picked.  The wild yeast ferment is followed by gentle basket pressing, allowing the wine to develop with minimal intervention, giving an honest expression  of the soil and the year in which it was grown

It’s a blend of 55% Mourvédre, 35% Carignan, planted in 1905, and 10% Grenache. The name Los Clos Perdus means Lost Vineyards.

2006 Les Clos Perdus Corbières Mire La Mer - Photo courtesy of Les Clos Perdus

My tasting notes are below:

Deep nearly opaque violet color with dark fruit, and herbal aromas. On the palate, balanced, medium-bodied with fine grained well integrated tannins, good acidity, and bright, persistent black currant, dark raspberry, mineral and spice flavors. Medium finish. – 89pts

This is definitely a food wine.  Try it with your hearty fall dishes.  It’s a steal for $20.  Will buy more!

Fall 2011 Ridge Wine Blogger Tasting – Lytton Estate Rhones And A Surprise!

Last Sunday Christopher Watkins, Tasting Room Manager for Ridge Vineyards hosted the Fall 2011 Wine Bloggers Tasting at Ridge, Lytton Springs in Healdsburg.  An intimate group of wine bloggers, many of whom I followed and am a fan of, met in the barrel room.  It was great to put faces with names.  That made the experience that much more enjoyable!

We had the good fortune to sit down for the tasting at the same time as Zinfandel grapes were arriving, so Christopher lead on an impromptu tour of the crush pad, and winemaking facility.  The highlight of the tour for me was watching fruit being emptied from their bins, and being de-stemmed.  It was my first time seeing a de-stemmer in action – amazing!

Truck bed full of grape stems after going through the de-stemming machine...

We didn’t know what we were going to be tasting before we arrived.  The wines Christopher selected were small production library wines produced from Lytton Estate fruit.  And courtesy of my Wine Tasting Hero – Richard Jennings, there was also Ridge mystery wine!

To wet our whistles, and prepare our palates for a slice of Ridge library goodness to come, we were served a Chard.

  • 2008 Ridge Chardonnay Monte Bello – USA, California, San Francisco Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains
    Light golden-yellow color with tropical fruit, pear, and hint of mineral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, creamy with well-integrated oak, and pear, pineapple, baking spice flavors. Medium finish. (89 pts.)
Our first flight of wines were a Grenache and a 50/50 Syrah-Grenache blend.
  • 2002 Ridge Grenache Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Ruby color. Tight nose with dark cherry, and earthy aromas. On the palate medium bodied, concentrated, with firm tannins, and good acidity with dark cherry, and spice flavors. Medium long finish 78% Grenache/13% Petite Sirah/9% Zinfandel (89 pts.)
  • 2003 Ridge Syrah/Grenache Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Light-medium ruby color with dark fruit, smoke, and spice aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, with ripe fruit, grippy tannins with blackberry, vanilla and spice flavors. Medium finish. 50% Syrah/50% Grenache (88 pts.)
Thereafter we were served (blind) the mystery wine brought by Richard Jennings of RJonWine.  The only hint we received was that it was a varietal Ridge no longer produces.  We were all asked to guess the varietal, and the vintage before the wine was unveiled. I actually guessed the varietal correctly initially, but over-thought it and changed my answer.  Doh!  I was way off on the vintage.  Double Doh!
  • 1990 Ridge Barbera Rancho Pequeno – USA, California, Sonoma County
    Light-medium ruby color some bricking with cherry, roasted meat, and earthy aromas. On the palate light bodied, balanced, and complex with cherry, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Amazing fruit for 20+ year old Barbera. Medium finish (88 pts.)
After the lighter Grenache based wines and the Barbera,it was on to three flights of Syrah(wine blogging ain’t easy…but somebody’s gotta do it!;-)  The first flight was Syrah co-fermented with Viognier from the western parcel of the Lytton Vineyard.
  • 2003 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep garnet color with dark cherry, pepper, smoke and floral aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, with good balance, and vivid fruit with blackberry, pepper and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. Co-fermented with 9% Viognier. (91 pts.)
  • 2005 Ridge Syrah Lytton West Vineyard – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Deep garnet color, and somewhat tight nose of dark fruit, dust, and toasty spices. On the palate medium + bodied, and well-integrated fine tannins with blackberry/plum, cocoa, and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. 6% Viognier (90 pts.)
The next flight included Syrahs from 2000, 2001, and 2002 vintages.  The 2002 labeled “Syrah II” has an interesting story behind it.  There were two lots of Syrah that included Grenache in the assemblage.  Neither of the lots was deemed satisfactory, so it was decided to add Carignane to one lot, and Viognier to the other.  The lot with the Viognier was labeled Syrah II.  It would have been interesting to taste the two side by side, but I’ve noticed I prefer Syrah with Viognier blended in, so I didn’t miss it. Beside that enable us to stay with the Syrah/Viognier theme.

  • 2002 Ridge Syrah II Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with dark fruit, black cherry, and floral aromas. On the palate medium bodied, moderately complex, and supple with black cherry, pepper and a bit of spice flavors. Medium long finish. 76% Syrah/22% Grenache/2% Viognier (90 pts.)
  • 2001 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color with smoked bacon, dark fruit aromas. On the palate medium bodied, with vibrant fruit and blackberry, cocoa, vanilla, and spice flavors. Medium finish. 1% Viognier (91 pts.)
  • 2000 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Carmine color with dark fruit, pepper, and leather aromas. On the palate approaching full-bodied, smooth, ample, and round with black cherry, cocoa, and touch of spice flavors. Long finish. 1% Viognier (92 pts.)
Christopher saved the best for last.  My wine of the day was the 1997 Lytton Estate Syrah.  Wow. As I write this, days later, I’m still reminiscing about the great aromatics of the ’97 (courtesy of the Viognier).  It’s a wine that revealed more nuances of aromas, and flavors as it had time to unfold in the glass.  I wish I could have spent more time with it . And for that matter, all the wines we tasted.

  • 1999 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color. Tight nose with dark fruit, earth, and spice aromas. On the palate, bold with good structure and black cherry, anise, earth, and touch of mineral flavors. Medium + finish. 92% Syrah/7% Grenache/1% Viognier
    (90 pts.)
  • 1997 Ridge Syrah Lytton Estate – USA, California, Sonoma County, Dry Creek Valley
    Dark garnet color. Aromatic with dark fruit, asian spice, cigar box, and floral aromas. On the palate, ample, refined, and smooth with black cherry, black plum, spice and vanilla flavors. Medium long finish. My favorite of the day! 88% Syrah/12% Viognier (93 pts.)
It amazes me how long-lived Ridge wines are.  Then again, their wines are seemingly built to last.  The 1990 Barbera is Exhibit A was the 21-year-old Barbera, which is beyond my realm of experience.  For one, I can’t seem to hold on to wines I enjoy for that long and secondly, I don’t associate Barbera and long-term aging, as I would the other varietals we tasted, particularly Syrah.  I think it reflects great fruit in the hands of great winemakers committed to excellence.  And that, in a nutshell, is Ridge!  After my recent #Cabernet Day Monte Bello Tasting at Ridge, I must confess I’m getting a bit spoiled on fine wine!
A ginormous thanks  to Christopher, and Brandy Alexander for hosting and doing the stuff that made for a great tasting!

“May your glass always be filled with warm memories, and the taste of a life well lived linger on your tongue” – Unknown

Calling All Cabernet Lovers – #Cabernet Day Is Almost Here!

A week from today, September 1st,  is Cabernet Day (click here for the 411 including a list of meetup locations, participating wineries, etc).  Cabernet Day is a worldwide virtual wine tasting that’s focused on Cabernet.  Of course that includes Cabernet Sauvignon, but also includes Cabernet Franc (a parent, along with Sauvignon Blanc of Cabernet Sauvignon), and Cab Blends.

Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite provides this explanation of what a virtual tasting is all about:

For those new to social media, an online Social Media Community Tasting is simply when people who love wine gather socially both at physical locations, such as wineries, wine shops and their own homes, and virtually via Twitter, Facebook or any social channel turning the event into one big wine party! Throughout the event, wine-lovers from across the country and the globe will share their thoughts on the wines they’ve chosen to drink on this night and “conversing” with like-minded connoisseurs…

Remnant of a bottle of Silver Oak Cabernet Sauvignon

Here’s how you can participate.  It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

1. Pick a wine for the #CabernetDay tasting, or go to a participating winery, restaurant, or meetup location.

2. Whether you’re at home, at a restaurant, winery, or at meetup location post your comments on your favorite social media site such as FB, Twitter, YouTube, etc. for others to see using the “#CabernetDay” hashtag.  Adding the hash tag make your comments searchable.  I recommend Twitter – that’s where most of the action takes place.

3. Join the on-line conversation by searching on the #CabernetDay hash tag.  It’s a great way to get recommendations from other Cabernet lovers, and ask questions of winemakers, and wine enthusiasts.

I’m planning to celebrate twice!  First, I’m planning to attend a vertical tasting of the iconic Monte Bello Cabernet at Ridge Vineyards , then later than evening I’m going to pop and pour (well maybe, pop, decant, and pour) what I expect be a great bottle of Cab, the 2005 Kendall-Jackson Meritage Stature!

So catch a Cab, and laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll;-)  I hope to see you online!

Time for a Pinot Noir Wine Date!

Pinot noir grapes hanging on the vine in the C...

Image via Wikipedia

A week from today is the 2nd Annual #PinotSmackdown(click here for details).  The Pinot Smackdown is a worldwide virtual wine tasting that’s focused on Pinot Noir.  A virtual wine tasting is an event that unites a community of wine drinkers around a particular type of wine using various social media.  According to Ed Thralls of Wine Tonite here’s how you can participate:

For those new to social media, an online Social Media Community Tasting is simply when people who love wine gather socially both at physical locations, such as wineries, wine shops and their own homes, and virtually via Twitter, Facebook or any social channel turning the event into one big wine party! Throughout the event, wine-lovers from across the country and the globe will share their thoughts on the wines they’ve chosen to drink on this night and “conversing” with like-minded connoisseurs. It’s a captive audience totally focused on Pinot Noir.

Participants use the #PinotSmackdown hashtag so that comments may be tracked on a social media site.

What makes this virtual tasting a bit different from others in which I’ve participated is the “smackdown” component, whereby you may vote by region via Twitter or Facebook for your favorite Pinot Noir.  To do that, simply add another 2-character hashtag after the #PinotSmackdown.  For example, if your favorite is from California, you’d vote for it with #PinotSmackdown #CA hashtag.  Since it’s a “smackdown”, smack will be talked such as this tweet from Windsor Wines…”Countdown to #CA domination is on! T- 2 weeks… #pinotsmackdown

So, what’s in it for you besides great Pinot Noir?  I’ve found these virtual tastings are a great way to discover great wines, wine regions, and value wines that you might not otherwise get exposed to.  So get a bottle or three of Pinot Noir, and join in this fun worldwide event!

Want to know more about Pinot Noir?  Check out the great link below!!

Chardonnay Lovers Rejoice!

Close up image of Chardonnay grapes

Image via Wikipedia

World-wide Chardonnay day is a week from today on Thursday May 26th

If you’d like to participate, following are 5 Tips for participating in #Chardonnay Day from Rick Bakas:

  1. Organize a get together at your home, winery, restaurant or wine shop.  Add it to the list so others know where to go.
  2. On May 26th, share any photos, videos, blog posts or any other stuff making sure to include #Chardonnay in your posting.  You can post on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, WordPress, Plancast, Foursquare, Gowalla or any other social media site.
  3. See what other people are saying by searching “#Chardonnay” on Google,, Tweetdeck, kurrently or Twitterfall.
  4. Get wines like Chardonnay, White Burgundy, Blanc de Blancs (or other sparkling made with Chardonnay) and get friends together to geek out.
  5. Have fun.  It’s like a giant dining room table where everyone can pull up a chair and join the conversation.

As for me, while I’m not a huge Chardonnay fan, I’ve been holding on to very nice bottle of Ridge Santa Cruz Mountains Chardonnay, and I’ll be popping and pouring that!

Looking for a little something something to pair with your glass of Chard?  Check out these recipes:

Quick and Easy Shrimp Dip (Whole Foods)

Pizza with Le Gruyere and Ham (Whole Foods)

Other stuff that may be of interest:

California Chardonnay: Making A Comeback? (Video from the Daily Grape)

Sensational #Syrah Day Tasting

I went to my first “Meetup” for #Syrah Day yesterday. I’d done another cyber-event prior to this one (#Zinfandel Day – We had friends come by the house for a glass or three of Zinfandel), but I’ve been looking forward experiencing a meet up at a winery. As it so happens,  JC Cellars, an urban winery in Oakland, CA, fresh off a boatload of 90+ scores from the Wine Advocate, hosted a meetup for #Syrah Day.  According to Joe Czerwinski of Wine Enthusiast:

The idea behind these sorts of events is to get a large number of people cyberbuzzing about a topic and hopefully increase knowledge and engagement levels on a larger scale than if there were no particular focus.

It seems as if Syrah has got a bit of an image issue. It could use some love. Some predicted years ago that it would be the next “big thing” in wine, but reality has fallen short of expectations. Personally, I’m not sure why. Sure, a great glass of Cab is a treat, but I happen to find Syrah to be a much more versatile food wine, that generally cost less at comparable quality levels.

Besides bringing particular wine into focus, following such a cyber-event can be a great way to get recommendations about that type of wine!

Here is last night’s tasting menu:

#Syrah Day Tasting Menue @ JC Cellars

Overall impression: This one exceeded my expectations!  It was a wonderful showcase of Syrahs with fruit from diverse appellations, including a couple that had a combination of both French and California fruit.  It was a treat to taste through Syrahs (2001, 2003, and 2005)with some age on them to experience first-hand how well these Syrahs have aged.  If the 2001-2005 wines are any indication, all 2006-2008 vintages will age quite well.  I wish I could tell you the best part was that it was all at  no-cost, but the best part were the sensational wines!

My tasting notes follow:

2005 Ventana Syrah; Appellation-Arroyo Seco; Deep garnet color.  Nose offers dark fruits, spice and oak. A tad warm on the nose. On the palate blackberries, significant minerality, refined tannins.  Medium bodied with nice balance of fruit, acids, and tannins.  Short finish

2006 Stagecoach Syrah; Appellation-California/Napa Valley; Deep garnet color.  Nose offers dark fruit, spice and minerals.  On the palate, ripe blackberry, coffee, and a bit of earth.  Full bodied with very good balance, and medium finish.

2007 Caldwell Syrah; Appellation-California/Napa Valley; Deep garnet color. Nose offers dark fruit, spice, anise, mocha. On the palate, medium full bodied. Complex, balanced blend of blackberry, spice and dark chocolate.  Leathery tannins at this point.  Long finish.

Pour Quoi Pas; Appellation-California/Sonoma/Rockpile and France Cote-Rotie; Dark ruby color.  Intriguing nose offers dark fruit, spice box, and a distinct floral note (lavender?). On the palate approaching medium bodied, round with berries, spice, dusty tannins, and a long finish. My #3 wine of the evening.

2008 So Rerine Rockpile Syrah; Appellation-California/Sonoma/Rockpile; Inky purple color; Reluctant nose offers dark fruit, spice, a touch of smoked bacon, and floral notes.  On the palate blackberry/dark cherry cobbler, and spice. Some youthful tannins I expect with resolve with time.  Medium finish.  I’d love to get me taste this on 3-5 year down the line.  This one was interesting because the budwood is from Cote Rotie.

2008 Buffalo Hill Syrah; Appellation-California/Sonoma/Rockpile; Inky purple color; Nose offers blackberry, dark cherries, spice and a faint floral note.  On the palate blackberry, cassis, minerals, and bacon fat. Bold, yet showing wonderful balance. Long finish.  My #1 wine of the evening.

“Jeff Surprise”  was wine from Jeff Cohn, the winemaker’s cellar – 2001 Cuvee Gaillard; Appellation-California/Monterey & France/Rhone/St. Joseph; Dark ruby color.  Nose offers floral, and spice notes along with dark cherry fruit. On the palate black cherries, white pepper, minerals, and vanilla. Balanced, elegant wine with a long finish. Great example of how well Syrah can age! This wine had offered the best aromas for me. Many inquired if the wine was available for purchase.  Unfortunately, it’s not.  Jeff said he only has 6 bottles left in his cellar.  My #2 wine of the evening.

Have you participated in a wine-related cyber-event?  What did you think?

Other reading your might find interesting :

Happy #Syrah Day! And other Hashtags

What’s the problem with Syrah? (Steve Heimoff)

Syrah is Awesome! Now how Do We Sell It? (Drink the Good Stuff)

Que Syrah Syrah (ENOFYLZ wine blog)