Vinopolpick Thursday – Trioja!

February 13, 2014
TriojaBelow we are featuring a Trio of Rioja producers each with a long and distinguished history in the region: RemelluriBodegas Muga and Lopez de Heredia.


The Remelluri estate dates to the 14th century when Hieronymite monks built a farm and sanctuary.  When they left the site in the 15th century, local hermits maintained the shrine and a communal organization Real Divisa managed the farm.  Ancient wine presses carved into the stone around the hills remains as one of the oldest winemaking artifacts in the Rioja.  The estate was sold in 1845 during political unrest in Spain.  It was resold in 1967 when Jaime Rodriguez Salis purchased the estate’s vineyards.  His son, Telmo Rodriguez, was the winemaker during the 1990s.  He left on good terms to work on other projects but has recently returned to take over the estate.  Telmo is among the most heralded winemakers in Spain.The vineyards are on the south-facing slopes of the Sierra de Toloño Mountains overlooking the valleys of Valderemelluri, La Granja and Villaescusaat.  These are some of the highest elevations in the region.  The valleys help protect the vineyards from frost and wind.  The soil is mostly limestone with clay and calcareous deposits dating back to the Quaternary Period.  

All of the grapes are hand harvested and the grapes are hand sorted during and after harvest.  The wines are fermented with naturally occurring yeasts.  Each plot of land determined to have a unique microclimate is vinified separately.  The Gran Reserva is produced only in the best vintages and from the best plots within the vineyards.  It is primarily Tempranillo with Garnacha Graciano, Moscatel, Viura and Malvasia.  It is matured in barrels of various size and age for twenty-seven months.  The red wine is made from a similar blend of grapes and is aged for 17 months in barrels.  The white wine is a blend of nine different grape varieties.  The wine is aged for 18 months in French oak. The Lindes de Remelluri (“Borders of Remelluri”) is made from grapes traditionally sold to the estate and sourced from village vineyards in Labastida and San Vicente de La Sonsierra surrounding the estate.  It is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano and Viura that was aged in French oak for one year.

Remelluri Wines Here Now:
Remelluri Lindes De Remelluri Rioja 2009 ($29.95) $24.00 special, 32 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points
 “Bright ruby-red. Sexy, floral-accented aromas of candied red fruits, cherry-cola and Asian spices, with slow-building tobacco and licorice nuances. Fleshy and expansive on the palate, offering sweet cherry and black raspberry flavors and a touch of cracked pepper. Finishes with very good energy and length, leaving floral and cola notes behind.”Remelluri Rioja 2008 ($39.95) $33.00 special, 3+ cases available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points 
“(mostly tempranillo, with garnacha, graciano, viura and malvasia): Ruby-red. Redcurrant, cherry, rose pastille and spicecake on the highly perfumed nose and in the mouth. Silky, sweet and penetrating, with slow-building tannins and excellent finishing cut and length. A very successful wine for this difficult vintage, and it’s built to reward at least another ten years of aging.”

Remelluri Rioja Blanco 2009 ($89.95) $69.00 special, 16 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points
 “(made from a blend of garnacha blanca, roussanne, marsanne, viognier, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, moscatel and petit courbut): Bright yellow. A heady, complex bouquet evokes candied citrus fruits, pear skin, honey, vanilla and ginger, with a spicy overtone. Deeply pitched orange and poached pear flavors show very good breadth and are braced and lifted by tangy acidity. Closes on a gently sweet note, with impressive power and lingering spiciness. This wine is delicious now but it also has the concentration to reward mid-term cellaring.”

Remelluri Rioja Gran Reserva 2005 ($89.95) $79.00 special, 13 bottles available
Wine Advocate 93 points 
“The 2005 Gran Reserva is the first since 1999 selected from the best casks, where it is aged for 25 months in used French and American oak. It has a wonderful, wild mint-scented bouquet with hints of licorice and white fennel. The palate is medium-bodied with bold tannins that bolster its vaulted structure. It has very good weight with grippy, dry, tertiary tannins towards the long finish. It will need several years in the cellar. Drink 2016-2025.”

Bodegas Muga
Bodegas Muga winery is located in the historic town of Haro in the Rioja Alta.  It is owned and operated by Juan Muga, whose grandmother Aurora founded the estate.  The estate’s 620 acres of vineyards rest at the foot of the Montes Obarenses within the Rioja Alta, a sub-region of the Rioja.  The Rioja Alta is considered the most important sub-region due to its quality and quantity of wine produced.  The vineyards are typically at a high elevation with warm growing days and cool nights that contribute to complexity of flavors, retention of acidity, and moderate alcohol levels.  The soil in the region is a mix of clay, iron, alluvial and limestone.  The region is well known for its love affair with oak and Bodegas Muga is no exception.  The estate owns over 14,000 barrels from a variety of sources, even employing their own coopers, and makes use of them in the fermentation and maturation stages of vinification.  Their usage of new barrels is, however, judicious and their wines represent tradition albeit more robustly than most. The red wines are produced from a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazeulo (Carignan) and Graciano and the cask-fermented white is produced from Viura and Malvasia grapes. 

Bodegas Muga Wines Here Now:
Bodegas Muga Rioja Blanco 2012 ($17.95) $14.00 special, 3+ cases available
Stephen Tanzer 91 points 
“(90% viura and 10% malvasia, fermented in new French oak, where it then spends three months on its lees): Green-tinged gold. Powerful aromas of honeydew melon, orange zest and toasty lees. Sappy, round and concentrated, offering intense melon, citrus fruit and spicecake flavors and a slow-building vanilla quality. Finishes smooth and long, with mounting spiciness and a touch of fennel.”
Bodegas Muga Rioja Prado Eneo 2004 1.5L ($129.95) $99.00 special, 13 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “80% tempranillo, with garnacha, mazuelo and graciano): Dark ruby. An intensely perfumed nose displays cherry-cola, cassis, licorice and woodsmoke, with a sexy floral quality and very good focus. Juicy, penetrating dark fruit flavors are given spine by tangy acidity and pick up bitter chocolate and spicecake nuances with air. Supple tannins add shape to the very long, sappy, smoke-accented finish. This is still a baby.”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Prado Eneo 2005 ($69.95) $49.00 special, 3+ cases available
Wine Advocate 95 points
 “The 2005 Prado Enea Gran Reserva spends 36-months in oak, nine months in new oak after which it is racked into American oak that is ‘semi-new’ (i.e. a new barrel that is ‘broken in’ with a wine beforehand). It has an unashamedly opulent bouquet of primal, ripe, boysenberry, mulberry, dark chocolate and crushed violets that blossom with aeration. The palate is full-bodied with crisp acidity cutting through the pure blackberry and cassis fruit. It has wonderful focus and intensity, though the finish demonstrates convincing composure. This is an outstanding Gran Reserva whose silky texture will instantly win you over. Drink 2013-2030+”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Seleccion Especiale 2006 ($39.95) $33.00 special, 3+ cases available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
 “(70% tempranillo, 20% garnacha and the rest mazuelo and graciano): Saturated ruby. Pungent cherry and dark berry aromas, with spice and floral nuances adding complexity. Sweet and concentrated, but with excellent cut and vivacity to its dark fruit flavors. Builds and deepens toward the back, finishing with a sappy floral quality and resonating spiciness. Offers very good richness of flavor with no excess fat.”

Bodegas Muga Rioja Seleccion Especiale 2009 ($49.95) $39.00 special, 3+ cases available
Wine Spectator 95 points
 “Powerful yet harmonious, this rich red delivers black cherry, licorice, fresh herb, smoke and mineral flavors that mingle seamlessly over firm, well-integrated tannins, while balsamic-tinged acidity drives the flavors through the long, spicy finish. Drink now through 2025.” 

Bodegas Muga Rioja Torre Muga 2006 ($79.95) $59.00 special, 18 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 93 points 
“(($.95) $94; 75% tempranillo, 15% mazuelo and 10% graciano) Opaque ruby. Musky, complex and powerfully scented, with floral-accented red and dark berry aromas, complemented by notes of spicecake and minerals. Lush, sweet raspberry and mulberry flavors are given spine by juicy acidity and pick up a bitter chocolate note with air. Dusty tannins add grip to a very long, smoky finish, which leaves sweet red fruit and floral pastille notes behind. This was raised in all new French oak after fermentation in large American oak vats, but the wood is an afterthought.”

Lopez de Heredia
The Lopez de Heredia estate was founded by Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta in the 19th century.  He was inspired by French negociants that were visiting the region looking for alternative sources of grapes during the phylloxera epidemic.  The winery he designed and constructed is the oldest in Haro, the center for winemaking in the Rioja Alta.  Today, the winery is operated by his great-granddaughters Maria José and Mercedes Lopez de Heredia with the assistance of their father, Pedro and brother, Julio César.  It is well-respected for its traditional winemaking and its lengthy ageing of both its reds and whites.  In a region where Gran Reserva wines can be released after six years, Lopez de Heredia sets a high standard by oak ageing its wines for eight before cellaring in their high humidity cellars for almost a decade more.  The result is wines of exquisite complexity, maturity, and ability to drink upon release or age longer at a fraction of the price of other classic wine regions.The family is proud of their history of exclusively using their own estate-grown grapes from traditionally farmed vineyards untouched by modern machinery or chemicals.  Today, they four vineyards: Viña Tondonia, Viña Cubillo, Viña Bosconia (El Bosque) and Viña Gravonia (Zaconia).  Many of their vines date back to the period of replanting after phylloxera hit Spain in the beginning of the 20th century.  They are in the traditional bush shape that produces low yields and protects against wind damage.  Their most famous vineyard, Viña Tondonia, was founded in 1913 by Don Rafeal.  It is on the right bank of the Ebro River in a shell-like depression and produces silky and elegant wines.  Viña Bosconia produces richer wines with more earthiness and power, which are typically aged for one less year in wood.  

All of the estate’s red and whites wines are fermented in cask before they undergo extended oak ageing in Bordeaux barrels.  The oak flavor is integrated into the wine and softened during the lengthy bottle ageing.  The Lopez de Heredia whites are particularly unique because the extending bottle ageing integrates what would otherwise be an overpowering oak influence.  All of the wines are aged in bottle for extended periods in their cellar that is naturally temperature controlled and high in humidity, which is regulated by the naturally occurring mold.

The Gran Reserva wines begin as all the other wines by being aged in oak for eight years.  During this time, the family frequently tastes the wine as it develops.  If it is considered of high enough quality it is labeled Gran Reserva, bottled, sealed with wax and cellared for eight addition years.  

We are pleased to present several of their unique and well-aged wines for your enjoyment.

Lopez de Heredia Wines Here Now:
Lopez Heredia Bosconia Gran Reserva 1995 ($99.95) $89.00 special, 8 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 95 points, Wine Advocate 94 points
 “The 1995 Vina Bosconia Gran Reserva has an alluring leather, dried orange peel and strawberry leaf scented bouquet that blossoms beautifully in the glass. The palate is medium-bodied with very fine, elegant tannins. It is both precise and exquisitely defined with hints of cured meat and leather towards the graceful finish. Drink now-2018+”
Lopez Heredia Rioja Bosconia Reserva 2003 ($37.95) $28.00 special, 3+ cases available
Stephen Tanzer 92 points
 “(80% tempranillo, 15% garnacha, 3% graciano and 2% mazuelo): Medium red. Ripe red fruit, flowers and spices on the nose, with a smoky nuance emerging with aeration; very fresh for this notoriously hot vintage. Concentrated but not at all heavy, with intense red berry and floral pastille flavors and a deeper note of singed plum. The finish is bright and high-pitched, with lingering cherry and raspberry flavors and a hint of candied licorice.”

Lopez Heredia Tondonia Gran Rsva Rioja 1991 ($119.95) $89.00 special, 4 bottles available
Stephen Tanzer 94 points
 “(75% tempranillo, 15% garnacha and 10% graciano and mazuelo) Light, vivid red. Deep cherry and blackcurrant on the nose, with suave vanilla and potpourri qualities adding complexity. Round, fleshy red and dark berry flavors are impressively concentrated but not heavy. Gains strength with air and finishes on a sappy blackcurrant note, with excellent spicy persistence. I marginally prefer the finesse of the Bosconia today but would bet on this one aging longer.”

Lopez Heredia Tondonia Gran Rsva Rioja 1994 ($119.95) $79.00 special, 2 bottles available
Wine Advocate 96 points
 “The 1994 Vina Tondonia Gran Reserva has an elegant bouquet with light red cherries, orange blossom, mahogany bureau and burnt buttered toast. The palate has a meaty, savory entry with crisp tannins and racy acidity. It displays superb structure towards the finish where one finds notes of bitter lemon, orange peel and sage. Delicious! Drink now-2030+ “

Lopez Heredia Tondonia Reserva Blanco 1996 ($59.95) $49.00 special, 6 bottles available
Wine Advocate 95 points
 “The 1996 Vina Tondonia Blanco Reserva offers dried honey, lemon curd, tangerine and honeysuckle on the nose. The palate is crisp and honeyed on the entry, counterbalanced by its racy acidity, leading towards a waxy textured finish with subtle almond and dried pineapple notes lingering long in the mouth. Superb.”