2005 La Rioja Alta Rioja Gran Reserva #904 1.5 L

Year: 2005
Appellation: Rioja
Country: Spain
Wine Spectator: 92
Wine Advocate: 96
Vinous Media: 94
James Suckling: 95
Wine Enthusiast: 96
Red Wine
Alcohol by Volume: 13.5%
Price :
$99.95

"This old-school red delivers dried cherry, floral, licorice and leather flavors in a smooth texture, supported by light, firm tannins and orange peel acidity. The flavors are harmonious, the finish long and juicy. Drink now through 2020. 12,500 cases made. –TM" (WS)

"The 2005 Gran Reserva 904 is a superb blend of Tempranillo from the villages of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba with 10% Graciano from Briones and Rodezno. The grapes were destemmed and crushed and fermented in stainless steel for 18 days at 25 C. Malolactic fermentation was spontaneous and lasted 38 days. These wines are marked by a long aging in used American oak barrels following the most strict Riojan tradition; four years during which time the wine was manually racked eight times. This is usually my favorite wine from La Rioja Alta and 2005 is one of its best showings, going back to the quality of the vintages of the 1950s and 60s. The nose is very balsamic with notes of camphor, hints of mint, leather and hung game wrapped around a core of cherries in liqueur. Together it is balanced, subtle, truly elegant and classical. The palate is only medium-bodied but with great concentration of flavors that are very tasty, mineral, almost salty and framed by ultra-fine tannins and smashing balance. A great classic. This wine will be released in October 2015, a full ten years after the vintage. At this quality level this is a bargain. 150,000 bottles produced.

La Rioja Alta celebrates its 125th anniversary in 2015. Last year, I only tasted three wines from La Rioja Alta and I tasted six this time. The quality is as good as ever, with superb wines from the almost-perfect 2005 vintage coming into the market. Great Rioja, as traditional as it gets, in good quantity and moderate (and often plain great) prices." (WA)

"Bright ruby-red. Complex, intensely perfumed bouquet of candied cherry, vanilla, mocha, cured tobacco and spicecake, with a suave potpourri note becoming stronger in the glass. Offers sweet, penetrating cherry-cola and lavender pastille flavors complicated by hints of smoky minerals and candied licorice. The long, subtly tannic finish delivers noteworthy energy and focus, leaving suave spicecake and cherry liqueur notes behind." (VM)

"Aromas of pine needles, ginger, red fruits and cedar. Mushroom too, plus bark and mint. Complex. Full body, ultra fine tannins and a tangy and bright finish. Makes you want to drink it. Made from 90% tempranillo with 10% graciano from 40+ year-old vineyards in the Briñas, Labastida and Villalba. Drink or hold." (JS)

"One look, one whiff, one taste and you're swooning. This mature, tawny, ready-to-drink gran reserva with aromas of lemon peel, cedar and dried cherry is the epitome of elegance. A juicy, supple palate is highly approachable, while flavors of vanilla, orange peel, saffron and dried plum don't waver on the finish. Drink through 2027." (WE)

ONE OF THE FINEST RIOJA'S I’VE HAD A LONG TIME-AND WELL WORTH ITS $41.95! 2005 LA RIOJA ALTA, GRAN RESERVA 904

So often I find Rioja wines a bit overly one dimensional and thin to the point of being too delicate. Then along comes that rare exception -- of a well-aged superbly made Rioja Reserva with real complexity and a noticeable winning depth of elegant aromas and flavors. I adored the wine at dinner a few nights ago and though perfect drinking now it will also continue to be a winner for another decade and more. Louis Guiteriez, who is the Robert Parkers Wines of Spain reviewer noted some 18 or so different 2005 wines from La Rioja Alta Winery; with this Reserva 904 being his favorite and one of the two 2005 wines he rated a prestigious 96

I can do no better then quote Louis Gguieriez when he declares that, “The 2005 Gran Reserva 904 is a superb blend of Tempranillo from the villages of Briñas, Labastida and Villalba with 10% Graciano from Briones and Rodezno. The grapes were destemmed and crushed and fermented in stainless steel for 18 days at 25 C. Malolactic fermentation was spontaneous and lasted 38 days. These wines are marked by a long aging in used American oak barrels following the most strict Riojan tradition; four years during which time the wine was manually racked eight times. This is usually my favorite wine from La Rioja Alta and 2005 is one of its best showings, going back to the quality of the vintages of the 1950s and 60s. The nose is very balsamic with notes of camphor, hints of mint, leather and hung game wrapped around a core of cherries in liqueur. Together it is balanced, subtle, truly elegant and classical. The palate is only medium-bodied but with great concentration of flavors that are very tasty, mineral, almost salty and framed by ultra-fine tannins and smashing balance. A great classic. This wine will be released in October 2015, a full ten years after the vintage. At this quality level this is a bargain. 150,000 bottles produced.”

I would also add that though usually I greatly dislike the “Bourbon” like taste imparted by the use of American Oak, I found not a drop of this personally dislikeable character in this excellent wine. (Possibly because the barrels were all used and that “sap” like quality disappeared with time. This is one Rioja wine you don’t want to miss and one belonging in your wine cellar. Regular price for this 2005 wine is around $50 plus a bottle.

RATING: 95/96+

PRICE: $41.95, **** bargain

WHERE: Los Angeles Wine Co.

(Martin's Guide to Wine Bargains)

Winery Notes:
Vintage:
This vintage was officially rated as Excellent, which coincides with our assessment. After budbreak at the normal time of the year, moderate, well-distributed spring rains led to proper canopy development, which lasted until fruit set, helping to balance production. September temperatures were moderate during the day and cool at night, allowing the grapes to acquire the typical traits of this part of Rioja.

Vineyards:
Tempranillo (90%) and Graciano (10%) from vines over 40 years old in vineyards in Briñas, Labastida and Villalba.

Winemaking and ageing:
Alcoholic fermentation took place in stainless steel tanks. Batches were selected and allowed to complete malolactic fermentation naturally. In March 2006, the wine was transferred to 4-year-old American oak barrels (made in-house), where it stayed until March 2010. During ageing, the wine was racked every six months using traditional barrel-to-barrel methods. After a settling period, the final blend was bottled in November 2010.

Tasting:
Medium-depth, cherry-red; clean and bright. Very intense to the nose, with a pleasant balsamic bouquet. Almonds, mint chocolate, vanilla and roasted coffee lead to notes of jammy fruit. Good, balanced structure in the mouth, with a pleasant acidity and very sweet, round tannins which provide a long, complex finish. Excellent to enjoy now, although it will continue rounding off its fine bouquet in the bottle over time.