La Rioja Alta sounds like a region but it’s actually a broad brand which spans three different labels, all of course focused on classic Spanish Rioja. Today we take a look at four high-end wines from the brand — three with a different name on the label, and from three different vintages. Let’s drink!
2015 Vina Ardanza Rioja Reserva – Hearty and well-structured, this Rioja perks up from a beefy, peppery attack quickly, bringing spiced cherries, plums, and some orange peel into focus. Lingering hints of cloves and allspice give the finish a festive feel, and the spicier elements add some necessary depth. Well-rounded and, ultimately, surprisingly versatile. A- / $32 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]
2016 Vina Ardanza Rioja Reserva – The 2016 expression of this wine cuts a somewhat similar profile as the 2015, though it’s less clearly meaty up top, letting more dense cassis and dark berry notes dominate. Peppery and spicy, again with cloves and allspice, late in the game — with hints of violets on the finish. Powerful, but with a certain delicacy. My favorite wine in the lineup. A / $32 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]
2018 Vina Alberdi Rioja Reserva – Some austerity here. This wine could use a bit more time in bottle before drinking. Notes of turned earth, leather, and dried berries dominate on a moody palate that evokes notes of gauchos with cigarillos and toasted cereals. Plenty of black fruits on the back end, but the experience feels underdeveloped and a touch green. Give this one some cellar time. B+ / $26 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]
2015 Finca Martelo Rioja Reserva – The darkest and most austere wine in a lineup of dark and austere wines, this bottling up front pours on notes of bittersweet chocolate and licorice, leather and punchy, dried spices to complement classic notes of raspberry and cherry. Earthy and leathery as it develops on the palate, the bitterness that creeps in helps to provide some level of balance, culminating in a finish that is brightly acidic, evoking notes of Amontillado sherry, dried figs, and (very) dark chocolate. A- / $35 [BUY IT NOW FROM TOTAL WINE]