López de Heredia – Viña Tondonia Reserva 2004

I’ve spent this whole week in La Rioja, a name in Spanish wine that even the most casual of wine drinkers have usually heard of if nothing else. It’s been a trip that’s been a mix of wine tour as well as research. Being that Logroño is some four hours from home, it’s close, but not that close so I try to make the most out of any time that I’m here.

For the last visit, I was on a press trip which was covering the holdings of La Rioja Alta but while there, I slipped in to López de Heredia to pick up a bottle of their classic, Viña Tondonia Reserva. This is one of those cornerstone wines of Rioja that everyone should taste at least once to understand the region.

With the cellar based in the Barrio de la Estación in Haro, they’ve been producing wine for some 100 years before I ever came into existence, starting in 1877. Their cellar is a truly lovely “cathedral to wine” and if you find that you’ll be anywhere near Haro in June, it’s highly recommended that you go to the Cata del Barrio de la Estación where they join together with the other cellars around the train station (no, it’s not a euphemism) for a tasting that’s open to the public.

This Viña Tondonia epitomizes what Rioja does exceptionally well, which is to create a wine that’s given extremely lengthy aging (six years in barrel, followed by another six in bottle) and then released when it’s actually ready to drink, which it is. Despite being 13 years old at this point, the wine is still rather wound up and while it’s solid now, you could sit on it another 3-7 years if you wanted, or more if you like wines with a good serving of tertiary notes (those gained from aging like mushroom, cigar, tea leaves, and others) to them. Despite the quite affordable price, this is most definitely a Rioja at a different level that what you see in chain grocery stores when “reserva” Riojas going for 5€, or even less.

One of the curious things to note about this wine is the wire netting that’s a signature to the Viña Tondonia line. To be honest, it’s a bit annoying but for a sommelier serving tip, stretch the wire across the top, slink it down to the bottom of the neck and then tighten up the slack on the bottom to tuck it into the punt, being careful not to prick your finger. I’ve done it before and it hurts to no end. For López de Heredia, I get the netting as it’s a traditional touch that they continue to do but I don’t know why wines such as the Francis Coppola Claret insist on copying it. If only they duplicated what was inside the Tondonia as well, then maybe they’d have more reason…

Viña Tondonia Reserva 2004
Garnet hue. Medium viscosity. Black licorice, black cherry, coconut, touch of brioche, graphite, and wet stone. More crisp in the body, medium acidity, medium plus finish with lingering red fruit notes and still weighty, wiry tannins. Fruit still very lively and easily another 10 years of very vibrant fruit life in the wine.

75% Tempranillo, 15% Grenache, 10% Carignan & Graciano 12.5% 23€