The Triumph of Bacchus, Diego Velazquez, 1628-29 (Prado, Madrid)

Wine from a Private Collection: Spain, Italy, and Musar

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Wines from a tried-and-true cellar. All guaranteed, as always.

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La Rioja Alta 1997 Rioja Gran Reserva 904

I am a big fan of La Rioja Alta's Gran Reservas. This 904 might lack the punch and front palate of the 1995, but I think I like this a bit more. There is better acidity here with plenty of red fruit, lovely floral aromas, and hints of sweet oak. With some air the oak falls to the background and this becomes an integrated, elegant, and seamless wine. A great, classically styled Rioja. cb

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La Rioja Alta 2001 Rioja Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial

This is only the 3rd vintage that the Ardanza has been classified as "Reserva Especial" during the long history of the La Rioja Alta winery. The other two vintages were 1964 and 1973. That being said, this cuvee lives up to expectations and is a testament to a fantastic vintage. Ardanza is full-bodied, sweet, tangy and savory, with strawberry/plum fruit, mushroom, and notes of herbs from the generous helping of garnacha in the blend. On the palate it is well structured with gorgeous velvety tannins and excellent balance and length. As the great wines of Rioja do, this will surely cellar very well and would stand up to just about any food that you could throw at it. I specifically would pair this with game-birds with a sweet and savory sauce. cb

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La Rioja Alta 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva 904

904 is 90% Tempranillo and 10% Graciano spent four years in four year old American oak, six and a half years in bottle, and is released ready to drink. Lively acidity and tart red raspberry express youthful vigor and ageworthiness, while warm pretty spice and and just enough earth make it pleasurable to drink now. -AR

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Lopez de Heredia 1990 Rioja Tondonia Reserva Blanco

A beautifully fresh and precise wine. Another winner in an extraordinary line of Reservas. cb

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Lopez de Heredia 1991 Rioja Bosconia Gran Reserva

Soil, soil and more soil. Husky structure and flavors of mushroom and rye-like savory notes and an intense brooding mineral character. It has been uniformly praised by the critics (see John Gillman and Josh Raynolds) and, with the last bottle I tasted, I joined the chorus. cb

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Lopez de Heredia 1991 Rioja Tondonia Gran Reserva

This is my favorite of the current release Gran Reservas. It has gorgeous, delicate aromatics of cherry, strawberry, tobacco, light smoke and subtle soil notes. The palate is impeccably balanced, harmonious and silky with good tang to sweetness. The finish is long, pretty, and aromatic. cb

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Lopez de Heredia 1993 Rioja Tondonia Blanco Reserva

This shows nectarine/orange pith, herbal/petrol tones, and white flowers. There's great acidity here with an intense minerality that reminds me of Riesling. The finish has a pleasant bitterness. Outstanding. cb

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López de Heredia 1994 Rioja Gran Reserva Tondonia

75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 10% Mazuelo and Graciano, aged 9 years in barrel and 9 years in bottle. Sweet, pretty aromas of balsamic, raspberries, coriander and crunchy leaves. Complex and well-structured on the palate with bright red cherry, chewy cranberry skins, woodsy thyme, thorny rose, clove spice, and crunchy leaves that remind us this fresh Rioja has some age. At the same time, its bright acidity and taut tannins alert us to many great years ahead! -Ariana Rolich

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López de Heredia 2000 Rioja Tondonia Reserva

This is a very good vintage for Tondonia. It's no 1998 in terms of complexity but much better than the 1999. This shows a lot of pretty plummy fruit, subtle cherry and tobacco notes, very good structure, and good delineanation of flavors while maintaining harmony and balance. This wine is drinking so well it warrants a half bottle as well as a magnum. cb

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López de Heredia 2000 Rioja Gran Reserva Tondonia Rosato

Lopez de Heredia Rosado is a Spanish national treasure.  It is the only wine of its kind, having 10 plus years of aging in barrel and bottle.  This vintage is great, with notes of cranberry, hazelnut, and citrus with the usual signature of crunchy Lopez acidity.  This is the last vintage of rosado until the 2008 vintage.  It's time to stock up. cb

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López de Heredia 2001 Rioja Tondonia Reserva

75% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, and 10% Graciano and Mazuelo, aged 6 years in barrel and 4 years in bottle. Rich aromas of wild cherry, rose oil, black raspberries, and toasty baking spice, with a full, silky, structured palate of cherry skins, tart cranberry, plump ripe strawberries, wild nettles, sweet tobacco, black tea, orange rind, and warm, woodsy earth. Generous and satisfying in its present youthful stage and an exciting candidate for long-term cellaring. AR

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López de Heredia 2004 Rioja Tondonia Reserva

This is serious Rioja: no new oak, extended pre-release bottle aging, and exquisite vineyard sites (for the Tondonia, vines dig deep through fine-grained alluvial soils overlooking the Ebro River that were first planted almost 140 years ago).  Don Rafael López de Heredia y Landeta founded Lopez de Heredia in 1877, and the wines continue to serve as a benchmark for the region (the familyy business is now led mainly by his grandson Pedro, and great-granddaughter Maria Jose). The bodega comprises four distinct vineyard areas and extends to a total of 170 hectares, with Tondonia being the largest and most famous of the holdings. Jancis Robinson considers 2004  "a very good year, with wines that should last well," and the Tondonia Reserva is certainly that: powerful, lean, and layered  with gorgeous, generous fruit and all the cigar box, cedar, and leather notes a lover of classic Rioja could wish for.

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Lopez de Heredia 5 Ano Rioja Crianza Bosconia (bottled before 1981)

Prior to 1981, Rioja producers were not required to designate vintages for Reserva and Crianza bottlings. According to Maria Jose Lopez de Heredia, "5° Año" indicates that the wine had been aged for 5 years prior to bottling. Thus, as far as we can tell, this wine is from 1975 or earlier and may be a blend of vintages.

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Muga 2000 Rioja Gran Reserva Prado Enea

The Rioja Alta vineyard that gives us Prado Enea wraps around the town of Sajazarra. This is Muga's coolest site and Prado Enea is only made in certain vintages. For instance, none was made in 2002 and 2003. The wine shows tangy dark fruits, leather, iron, and incense. It's quite broad on the palate and fully-resolved in the tannin department. The finish resonates with coffee grounds and minerals. I enjoyed this with Fejoada. P.S. Everybody over-looked this vintage to get to the 2001. Too bad. As much as I love '01's. 2000's can sneak up on you. This is great wine! cb

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Peciña, Hermanos de 2001 Rioja Reserva

This Reserva is a fine example of what a great vintage Peciña had in 2001, showing aromas and flavors of strawberry, cedar, flowers, and baking spices. There is an almost luxurious quality to the palate with plush fruit, mushroom, soft silky tannins, as well as beautiful acidity and a floral lift to the finish. This Reserva bottling speaks of the singularity of Rioja Alta and in particular of Peciña's village, San Vicente, where most of their best holdings are located. After two days open, nothing had changed about this wine; if anything, it was more crystalline and concise. How's about a traditional age-worthy Rioja at a very reasonable price? cb

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Peciña, Hermanos de 2001 Rioja Vendimia Seleccionada

The Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva is only made in exceptional vintages where the power, elegance, and ageworthiness of Pecina's wines will achieve their highest expression with three years in used American oak followed by three years in bottle. 2001 is a singular vintage and one that gives great pleasure even in relative youth. Densely knit but incredibly subtle, with dusky wild cherry, gentle baking spice, seedy berries, dark earth, and umami. This is a wine for the cellar but also delicious right now with herbed grass-fed steaks or savory lamb. AR

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  • Biodynamic
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Brovia 2007 Barolo

A blend from younger vines from the various Brovia crus. A fine wine that expresses the essentials of the Brovia style — subtle, disciplined, balanced; not flashy but offering the world to anyone who takes a little time to reflect. JW

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Burlotto 2007 Barolo Monvigliero

Amazing finesse for 2007, especially given the uncompromising vinification (see our note for Monvigliero 2006). A wine for the cellar, nonetheless this has a lovely open quality, especially on the palate where it tastes very clean with good freshness and vivacity, along with a lot of depth. Plenty of ripe tannin; cocoa, tea, rose, chalk, truffle — an aristocratic wine, and one of the very best of the 2007s tasted. Gold Medal! JW

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Burlotto 2008 Barolo

A beauty — and a great intro to Burlotto — classic young Nebbiolo nose; medium-bodied, elegant and pleasing with very fine tannins — actually quite easy to drink now, although a year or five in bottle will add considerable depth and complexity. Very fine old style wine.

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Burlotto 2008 Barolo Monvigliero

Very aromatic, showing cherry/red fruits, cinnamon/baking spices, truffle, stone and chalk. The fruit continues sweet on the palate, balanced by very fresh acidity, rich savory and herbal notes, and fine ripe tannin, carrying on to a very long finish. The wine is lovely and light in the mouth – kind of amazing considering the very old-school production, with whole clusters crushed by foot in open wood fermenters, and up to 60 days of fermentation and maceration, all of which still results in remarkable elegance and finesse – a powerful wine with a truly delicate presence. Burlotto Monvigliero is surely one of the great wines of Barolo. 

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Burlotto 2009 Barolo Monvigliero

A very aromatic and terroir-driven wine, with the chalk of Monvigliero showing bright and citrusy. There are fine truffle aromas too, and wild strawberry fruit; a long and vivid finish – terrific wine. Quite ripe but with cut and softer tannin – as with many 2009s not hard to drink now, and perhaps not a wine for the really long haul. Also a really fine value for the very high quality of the wine. JW

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Burlotto 2011 Barolo Monvigliero

Another great, superb, over-the-top-good vintage for Monvigliero. As usual. And I’m prepared to dance, to steal from our friends and shout glorious, boldface adjectives of praise in all caps, to foam at the mouth, just to try to say: If you have admired this wine in the past, even a little, then you must have some of the 2011. Jamie Wolff

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Burlotto 2012 Barolo Monvigliero

Burlotto's Monvigliero is famous in part because of its very old-fashioned 90-day maceration in wood; what's interesting to the non-scientific mind is that it's much more elegant and silky than many other wines that see much shorter maceration - somehow the extended process yields a super-elegant wine. Aromatically savory and herbal (but not green), with distinct notes of quinine and orange peel, the wine is very fresh and long. As usual, a remarkable wine. Jamie Wolff

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Clerico, Francesco 2010 Barolo Bussia Vigna Colonello

I think the 2010 Barolo is a special wine, showing transparent Bussia dark fruit, elegant and austere stoniness, and the harmonious character of the vintage's best wines. The equilibrium and finesse that are part of those best wines is very evident; although the 2010 will age (and improve) for a very long time, it’s quite delicious now. Regarding Bussia, in Barolo MGA, the great cartographer Alessandro Masnaghetti writes: “The first cru, along with Rocche di Castiglione, to be officially declared on a Barolo label in the “modern era”, Bussia is not only the best vineyard site in all of Monforte d’Alba, but one of the super-stars of the entire appellation, capable of stimulating the dreams and desires of wine lovers all over the world.” Don't be put off by the low price! We set prices based on what we pay – if we get a good buy, then you do too. The Clerico wines are imported for Chambers Street; with more beaks dipping, the Barolo would normally be 50-60% more expensive in this market, as is the case for many of Clerico’s peers. The favorable exchange rate with the Euro has also helped make this an incredible buy for the quality of the wine. Jamie Wolff

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