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Rioja

john-abel-in-rioja.jpg

Rioja is northern Spain's most famous wine region, divided into the subregions of Rioja Alta, where most of the top wineries are located; Rioja Alavesa; and Rioja Oriental. The vast majority of Rioja's production is red wine made primarily from the native Tempranillo grape, often blended with Garnacha, Mazuelo (aka Carignan), and Graciano. Traditionally, Rioja reds are categorized as either Crianza, Reserva, or Grand Reserva, representing (in that order) increasing time spent aging in barrel and bottle before release. The whites, usually made from Viura (aka Macabeo) grapes, are also sometimes aged in oak.

La Rioja Alta 2011 Gran Reserva 904 750ml

$130.34

I usually prefer the 904 to the 890, but there will be no Gran Reserva 890 until the 2010 vintage (from the last vintage I tasted, 2005). So, the only one of the extended-aging Haro-style reds I tasted this time was the 2011 Gran Reserva 904, which had a...

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Abel Mendoza 2017 Rioja Jarrarte 750ml

$45.13

The regular 2017 Jarrarte—produced with Tempranillo and matured in used oak barrels for 12 months—should not be confused with the younger and unoaked Maceración Carbónica. 2017 was super challenging and early, and the wine shows...

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Burgo Viejo 2012 Crianza Rioja 750ml

$23.39

Vivid ruby. Deeply pitched scents of candied dark berries, cherry-vanilla and woodsmoke, with a suave floral note building in the glass. Supple, sweet and expansive, offering broad blackberry and violet pastille flavors and a late touch of coconut...

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Abel Mendoza 2017 Rioja Seleccion Personal 750ml

$73.82

The 2017 Selección Personal is the selection of the best plot of Tempranillo that year, but in the last few years it tends to be from a 50-year-old vineyard called Marrarte-El Bardallo in the village of Labastida, with clay and limestone soils...

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La Rioja Alta 2014 Vina Arana Gran Reserva 750ml

$86.86

Limpid ruby-red. Oak-spiced cherry, black raspberry, candied rose, spicecake and coconut aromas show very good definition and pick up tobacco and licorice notes as the wine opens up. Smooth and appealingly sweet, offering sappy cherry cola, fruitcake,...

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Miguel Merino 2015 Reserva 750ml

$60.78

Juicy, rich, deep, expressive, showing elegant American oak hints and a suave tannic architecture. Benchmark reserva, which could be taken as a gran reserva. Old-style Rioja, with a touch of extra fruit, and class. Score: 92 points -- Decanter,...

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Riojanas 2018 Rioja Vina Albina Crianza 750ml

$34.69

A smoky red, with flavors of dark cherry and currant mixed with loamy earth, tea and forest floor, all bound by balsamic acidity. A hint of tobacco leaf lingers on the sinewy finish. Drink now through 2026. -- GS, Wine Spectator, 2021

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Artuke 2021 Artuke Tinto 750ml

$23.39

2021 was a healthy vintage, and the carbonic maceration red 2021 Artuke feels better than ever, with explosive floral and red berry aromas. Produced with grapes from the village of Baños de Ebro, it is mostly Tempranillo with some 5% white Viura;...

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La Rioja Alta 2016 Reserva Vina Alberdi 750ml

$47.74

The classic Haro-styled red 2015 Viña Alberdi, sold abroad with the mention of Reserva and in Spain as Crianza, is a good introduction to the house style: balsamic reds with abundant notes of sweet spices and cigar ash, developed aromas of forest...

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Artuke 2020 Finca de los Locos 750ml

$50.34

The 2020 Finca de Los Locos mentions Paraje Peñascalera, the place in Baños de Ebro, where they have a terrace that was planted in 1981 at 120 meters above the river with sandy and gravel soils with a high content of limestone that is...

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Bodegas Lopez de Heredia 2013 Vina Cubillo 750ml

$46.87

2013 was a very tough vintage when they had to discard up to 100,000 kilograms of grapes and production of most of the wines was lower; it's also the year when their father died, and they were very encouraged to make very good wines. The 2013 Viña...

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Artuke 2020 Pies Negros Tinto 750ml

$39.04

As I've explained in previous vintages, this wine is produced with grapes from the Sierra Cantabria in the village of Ábalos, so the 2020 Pies Negros is another village wine, even if it won't get the official qualification, as they don't have a...

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Contino 2017 Rioja Reserva 750ml

$60.78

Aromas of chocolate, smoked meat and berries. Really perfumed and subtle. The palate is full-bodied with ripe, creamy tannins that show tension and poise. Mellow and fine. So silky and brilliant. Complex. Polished. Drink now or hold. Score: 95...

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Contino 2018 Contino Blanco 750ml

$60.78

The white 2018 Blanco wants to go to the traditional style of Rioja, with aging potential and balance. It's 90% Viura and 10% Garnacha Blanca with 12.62% alcohol and a pH of 3.2, so quite fresh and with moderate alcohol reflecting the cooler vintage. It...

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