La Rioja Alta is one of the top two or three producers in Rioja and is a giant in the world of Spanish wine. The company was founded in the late 19th century by a group of growers looking to exploit the scarcity of fine Bordeaux created by the phylloxera infestation that had devastated French wine production. The Rioja region had the perfect soil and climate and only needed an opening, which the phylloxera pandemic provided, to reach the world market.
La Rioja Alta has grown somewhat in its 130 years of existence and currently has more than 50,000 casks and 6.4 million bottles stored at any one time (about three years’ worth of inventory) and owns 300 hectares of vineyards in different parts of the best zones of the Rioja Alta region. Up to the 1980s, La Rioja Alta bought the majority of its grapes. However, according to vineyard manager Roberto Frías, this figure has dropped to less than 10 percent today. "We buy some Graciano and Mazuelo, but that's about it," he adds. "It's still cheaper to buy grapes than grow them, but we prefer the control it gives us."
The 890 is named after the company’s founding in 1890. It is made from mostly Tempranillo with 3 percent each of Mazuelo and Graciano. After vinification, aging is in American oak casks which are made at an in-house cooperage, a dwindling tradition it shares with Lopez Heredia. The wine spends six years in barrels and then six more years in the bottle with the goal that the wine be ready for drinking upon release. This practice is exceptional, though it is also the practice with its other traditionalist neighbor across the road . . . Lopez Heredia. The 2004 will age for another 15 years or more. There is no filtration and the estate is practicing organic. See reviews below for tasting notes.
Pjs has long specialized in Spanish wine and we have older vintages in stock going back to the 1980s of many La Rioja Alta bottlings, including the 890, 904, Viña Arana, Viña Ardanza and Viña Alberdi. Please inquire if interested.
La Rioja Alta Gran Reserva 890 2004
Retail Price: $174.99
Sale Price: $159.67
Wine Advocate, 94+ pts. – “The 2004 Gran Reserva 890 is the top of the range here, a wine that is only released three/four times per decade in exceptional years. They start by sourcing grapes from their oldest vineyards and going through a slow process of aging the wine in American oak barrels for six years, with ten manual rackings, and each time there is a selection of only the best barrels . . . The nose is all about forest floor aromas, game, cigar ash, incense, old furniture and some smoked meat. The palate shows what the technical data was hinting--very fresh with slightly dusty tannins and nice acidity. It's polished, but feels livelier than some older vintages.” (8/2016)
Wine Enthusiast, 96 pts. – “Lightly rusty in color, this outstanding gran reserva is just now entering its golden years, which should endure for another two decades or so. Aromas of raisin, malt, tobacco and cedar are beautiful. This is tight and sinewy in feel, with rooty, creamy, classic Rioja flavors of vanilla, tobacco and dried red fruits. A lasting, stout finish isn't breaking down at all.” (4/2016)
James Suckling, 94 pts. - “Slightly dusty nose here showing ripe strawberries with savory and herbal undertones. Medium body, very silky tannins and a long and fruity finish. Beautiful length and finesse. The real deal.” (12/2016)
Wine Spectator, 94 pts. – “Tea, tobacco, cedar and spice notes mingle with deeper licorice, plum and iron flavors in this savory red. The texture is supple and polished, but there's a firm tannic backbone. Focused and harmonious, in the traditional style.” (12/2016)
Past Cellar Selections:
Meix Foulot Mercurey 2017 – Burgundy for Bargain Hunters
Giuseppe Mascarello Nebbiolo 2018
Lopez de Heredia Bosconia 2006
Domaine Huët 2019 – Grand Cru from the Loire Valley
Brunello di Montalcino 2015 – Selected Bottles
Shafer Vineyards – Relentless, One Point Five and Chardonnay
Paul Jaboulet – Majestic Wines from the Northern Rhone
Alion and Pintia – The Other Vega Sicilias
Pierre-Yves Colin-Morey – Magic in Burgundy
Don Melchor 2015 – 98pts!
Muga ‘Selección Especial’ 2015 – Classic Rioja
Domaine A. et P. de Villaine – Budget DRC?
Three Oderros: for the Picnic Table, the Dinner Table and the Cellar
Castilla Ygay 2010 – at 98 pts a ‘First Growth’ Rioja
Chateau Troplong Mondot St. Emilion 2017 – 98pts!
Burgundy with age from Jean Chauvenet
Cornas and Côtes-du-Rhone from Franck Balthazar
Quintessa 2016 – 98pt Bordeaux Blend from Napa