Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Vibrant Rioja

It was a Spanish wine tasting event that really got me started exploring wine years ago, and I am repeatedly drawn back to events which feature Spanish wines.  The Vibrant Rioja tasting event of April 11, 2011 jumped onto my calendar instantly.  It was held at Hatfield's Restaurant in Los Angeles.

The room was perhaps a little small for the gathering of 20 or so importers, all pouring a number of wines at their tables.  Space was extremely limited and enthusiastic wine dealers, sommeliers and writers jammed the dining area for the afternoon event.

Great wines abounded, and I'll cover some of them in another post.  Today I want to concentrate on my favorite table of the event, the one that was so crowded the whole afternoon I could hardly edge myself in for a few tastes.  That would be the table where the wines of Lopez de Heredia were poured.

Lopez de Heredia was founded in 1877 and is a Rioja institution, still owned and operated by the same family.  They are particularly proud of their Tondonia Vineyard on the right bank of Ebro River, around which the Rioja region is drawn.  Heredia also has three other vineyards, also in Rioja Alta - Cubillo, Bosconia and Zaconia.

The winery is known as much for white wines as for red, maybe more so.  They age their whites and rosés in much the same manner the reds are aged, and they stand as a testament to age-worthy whites.  White, pink or red, this is what old-world wine is all about.

Heredia's Viña Gravonia 2000 Crianza is a white wine made from 100% Viura grapes.  This golden treat is tasting great, with a smokey and nutty taste.  It's nice and dry with great acidity.

Viña Tondonia Rosado Gran Reserva 2000 - This brownish peach-colored rosé is a blend of 60% Garnacha, 30% Tempranillo and 10% Viura.  The unusual, smokey nose leads to a palate decorated with a nutty strawberry flavor.

Viña Cubillo Crianza 2005 - A red blend of 65% Tempranillo, 25% Garnacha and some Graciano and Mazuelo filling out the rest, this wine offers a hint of anise on the nose and rustic, earthy cherry flavors.

Viña Bosconia Reserva 2002 - Smooth, dusty cherry aromas and flavors dominate this blend of 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha and Graciano and Mazuelo.  It's aged in French oak for five years.

Viña Tondonia Tinto Gran Reserva 1991 - Heredia says 1991 was one of the best vintages in the history of the Tondonia Vineyard, and this wine bears out that claim.  Toasted vanilla notes and a full mouthfeel are featured in this very dry Tempranillo/Garnacha blend filled out with Graciano and Mazuelo grapes.  Aged in barrels for nine years, this wine is old-world elegance defined.

Viña Ijalba Graciano 2007 - Amanda Linn of WineWise was also pouring this new-world style, almost as an afterthought.  Its extreme fruitiness was delicious and served as an excellent counterpoint to the Heredia old-world style.

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