Saturday, September 9, 2023

La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 904 2015

La Rioja Alta "904 Selección Especial" Gran Reserva Rioja Tempranillo 2015

I attended grandson Reid's soccer game and went over to son Ryan's afterwards where he had open from his wine cellar this Gran Reserva from La Rioja Alta.

Bodega (wine producer) La Rioja Alta dates back to 1890 and is one of the oldest and most traditional Rioja bodega whose range of wines is the most consistent, the most readily available, and among the most highly acclaimed.  

It was founded by five Riojan and Basque families who joined together to form Sociedad Vinicola de la Rioja Alta collective in the Haro Station district.

The company was formed with the merger of the Wineries of producer Don Alfredo Ardanza and La Rioja Alta in 1904, hence the 904 flagship label. Additional properties and subsequent brands were developed in 1940's, 1970's, 1988 and their centennial year 1990. A new winery was built and dedicated in 2000.

Today, La Rioja Alta is one of four brands of wines produced from four winery estates that farm over 2000 acres of vineyards in Northern Spain, each marketed under its own distinct brand.

La Rioja is in the northern Basque region of Spain, an hour south of the Atlantic coastal port of Bilbo, just north of the village or Haro, along the banks of the Ebro River. 

The area La Rioja is known for its production of Rioja DOCa (Spain's version Appellation control system such as AVA in the US, AOC in France, and DOCG in Italy) wines.

Their "904" bottling contains Tempranillo and Graciano (no Garnacha) and is seen as one of the classic traditional historic Rioja Tempranillo labels. 

It sees aging in used American oak barrels for at least 48 months, racking twice a year, and then further aging in bottle. 

La Rioja Alta "904 Selección Especial" Gran Reserva Rioja 2015

This was marked "Selección Especial", the first 904 to do so, reflecting high expectations for this vintage release, believed to be one of the finest vintages so far to date.

This is 90% Tempranillo as the main varietal, with grapes selected from high altitude estate vineyards in Villalba, Briñas and Rodezno, blended with 10% Graciano from the Montecillo vineyard in Fuenmayor.

All the grapes were placed in small boxes and transported in refrigerated vehicles to preserve the integrity of the fruit. 

This vintage was the first that the grapes were optically selected, berry by berry, so only those that met the strictest quality standards were chosen for this wine. 

In January 2016, they selected the finest wines to age them in American oak barrels for an average age of four and a half years, The barrels were made by on site by in-house coopers. It was aged four years in these barrels with traditional racking by hand and candlelight every six months. The final blend was bottled in February 2020 for further bottle aging. 

In January 2022 they decided to delay the release of this wine for another year. The producer felt it was needed and thus gave the wine a little more time in bottle to polish the tannins and then held it until release in March 2023. It was labeled a "Special Selection", the first such designation in the wineries 120 year history.

Winemaker notes: "Perfect as an after-dinner drink. Medium-high robe with an elegant garnet rim. Great aromatic complexity, with notes of wild strawberry, red cherry, plum, blackberry and cranberry combined with aromas of tobacco, brioche, ground coffee, caramel, cedar and cinnamon blossom. The alcohol and acidity are elegantly balanced on the palate and its polished, gentle tannins and freshness provide a smooth and refined mouthfeel. Fine, delicate and very long aftertaste, that will continue to be rounded with time in the bottle, making this new Gran Reserva 904 a wine with great cellaring potential. Subtlety, elegance, finesse, delicacy. Silk.'

"The 2015 vintage was a healthy one with balanced ripeness that delivered wines with good aging potential. It will develop the sophistication in the palate with a little more time and that is should achieve the silkiness that is the signature of 904."

This release was awarded 97 by points James Suckling and Penin Guide, 96 points by Tim Atkin, and 95 points by Wine advocate and Vinous. 

Dark garnet colored with purple rim, medium full bodied, complex, concentrated, full, round black raspberry and bright cherry fruits are accented by a layer of expressive sweet oak showing that four years of oak aging, with notes of sweet tobacco, spice and herbs with bits of vanilla and smoke with fine tannins on the oak laced fruity long, polished finish.

RM 92 points.

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