Tag Archives: rioja

Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja 2004

Viña Ardanza 2004
Viña Ardanza Reserva 2004


Cost: $35.00

Where buy now: Thomas Liquors

Grapes: 80% Tempranillo, 20% Garnacha

Region: Spain

Vintage: 2004


Yo estoy enamorado de vino de Rioja, Viña Ardanza. This baby will set you back a cool $35, but baby, it’s so worth it. I know, I know, my last wine choice was under $10 and this one is more than $30, what gives? All I can say is that my wine drinking habits are about as bipolar as I am. I never said I made sense.


I first experienced this wine last Fall at Terroir in TriBeCa, NYC. We were on vacation, and our mantra: fuck money, let’s do this right. While at the bar, I asked the keep what she’d been drinking lately. The gal poured me a taste of this wine.  “Hmmm,” I thought, “I do like Rioja.”


Swirl, smell, sip.

Swirl, sip.



Eyes rolled back in my head. Hot. Damn.


I asked for a full pour. She advised it was $18 a glass. You know what, I didn’t even balk. Not because I was on vacation, but because it was worth every penny.


A bit surprised, she blessed me with a very generous pour. I savored that pour for a good long while.


It haunted me.


Flash forward three months and I found myself at Thomas Liquors on a Saturday at 9:30 pm,  sneaking in during the last ½ hour of their wine sale. I’m perusing, grabbing comfort bottles here and there. Then, I looked up, and… There it was. Viña Ardanza Reserva Rioja 2004, sitting proudly on the top shelf. An overhead bulb mimicked that of a spotlight,  it’s gaze directly showcasing this glorious bottle. As if in a trance, I slowly extended my arm and gently reached for the bottle. Oh, I was so giddy!


I’ve written about other Riojas but not one of this caliber. A quick reminder Rioja is not a grape varietal rather it is wine made with grapes from the La Rioja region of Spain. Grape varietals include: Tempranillo, Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo and Macabeo. La Rioja Alta is a winery celebrating 125 years. Back in 1942, they registered Viña Ardanza (now their most famous wine) which is dominantly a blend of Tempranillo and Garnacha.


This Rioja has all the moves! The foreplay, the love-making and the knee weakening orgasm all in one bottle. It embodies the weathered love of plump ruby red fruit in concert with rich, supple spice, vanilla and leather. This is balanced out by commanding, yet, soft tannins and a finish that does not over stay it’s welcome. Tastebuds flare in delight as the delicate tannins and acidity create structure telling you this is it – this is THE one. You tenderly swallow this wine, your heavy eyelids falling victim to the Rioja’s seduction. Eyes closed, you pause to catch your breath (not too fast- you don’t want to be selfish). However, your breathing begins to amp up again knowing you get to enjoy this moment over and over and over again (until you drain the bottle dry.)

Need a tissue?

Rio Madre Rioja

Cost: Average price $10.99

Where buy now: Solo Vino, Sorella Wines & Spirits Sale has it for $8.97

Grapes: 100% Graciano

Region: Rioja, Spain

Vintage: 2011

Rio Madre

Last Friday, we ordered pizza from my fave, Crescent Moon Bakery. I’m an unabashed homer and love Northeast Minneapolis, so naturally I have these guys on speed dial.

“Hello, may I get your phone number?”


“Oh, yes, it’s you! You like it spicy.”

For real- that’s how the conversation starts. It’s true, I like it spicy. We get two pies, both “Afghani style”, which is football shaped and served with a side of chutney. Their version of chutney is filled with cilantro, garlic, spices and vinegar (plus other ingredients that they won’t devulge, even to a regular). We ask for extra because, hey, I’d bathe in the stuff, but for the havoc on my “down there” parts. The House Special contains some onions, peppers and the ever-so-ubiquitous, “Afghani beef”. The Chef Special includes roasted eggplant and other veggies. It’s all just incredible.

Recently, I stopped in to Solo Vino for one of their Friday tastings. I just love the vibe of this shop. With it’s wooden floors and wine racks, it feels homey and neighborhoody, just the way I like it. Upon walking in, you’d think a little party was being thrown. Folks chatting, people perusing the shelves with dogs in tow, many sampling the goods, so-to-speak. Before I know it, I’m swept in as one of their own (the Cathedral Hill neighborhoody folk). Let me tell you, if I weren’t such a homer for NE, this would be my ‘hood(y).

Enter Chuck. He’s Solo Vino’s owner and one crazy cat. He has such a vitality and mirth to his persona, it’s easy to see why everyone’s guard is down whilst in his shop (and why some locals consider it their second home).

I asked him, “What’s sexy right now, what do you love?” Without skipping a beat, he told me Riojas are some of the best tasting, best value wine being made right now. He took me straight to this, Rio Madre, and explained it was 100% Graciano. His staff soon concurred how much they like this particular Rioja. A few minutes later, Chuck announced he was to leave for a yoga class, which prompted a few patrons to do their best triangle, warrior or revolving half moon pose. Chuck didn’t show off his yoga moves but I could imagine catching him practicing his downward-facing dog while sipping a glass of vino.

Back to me stuffing my face with delicious Afghani pizza. I popped open the Rioja because I had a hunch it would go well with the spicy pizza. I was not only correct, I was right on the money with this pairing. I just love it when I open a bottle and the aromas waft out like a wine genie slithering out to grant your wish. Swirl this bad boy around as scents of ripe blackberry, cherry and pepper notes smack you like a Colonel’s white glove challenging you to a duel. (All this slapping, slithering, smacking and swirling- I’m actually blushing thinking about how much I enjoyed this wine!)

The Rio Madre did just that, likely because it’s made of 100% Graciano grapes. What’s the big deal? Rioja red (tinto) wines typically use four types of grapes: most notably, Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes and less common, Mazuela and Graciano grapes. Like the Pinot Noir of Spain, Gracianos produce the lowest yield of any grape in Rioja. [I think I read something like 1%.] The soil and weather conditions have to be “just right”. Thankfully, all this patience and time invested to get it “just right” leaves us with a silky, stupid good wine.

Rioja Reds are often a Tempranillo and Garnacha blend, a higher yield and better value. The “nicer” bottles blend in Graciano grapes. The Graciano adds a bold fragrance and flavor that is outstanding. But this, this gorgeous, dark beauty is 100% Graciano. All Graciano and it won’t break the bank? More, please.

This wine is superlative: plush, it’s got bite, it’s got fruit, dreamy nose – it’s the whole damned package. I see why Chuck gravitated toward Rio Madre so quickly when I asked for a sexy bottle.

Montebuena – Rioja, Spain

Cost: average price $12

Where buy now: Surdyks – $9.97

Grapes: 100% Tempranillo

Region: Rioja, Spain

Vintage: 2009

Montebuena - Rioja
Montebuena – Rioja

Yum – this review will be simple. I drank it, loved it, cannot remember much but that. Hmm, let me scroll through my wine photos. . .

Oh yeah, now I remember. There was a snowstorm; we stayed in, watched Iron Man II and got take out from a local Mexican Ristorante down the street. I had it with tacos al pastor, it was heavenly. Just pick this one up and let me know what you think.

Montebuena with tacos al pastor
Montebuena with tacos al pastor