2011 Alonso Lopez Rioja Riserva



“Aged like a fine red wine…”

That is a beautiful statement but one that is rarely practiced.

The reason is twofold. First, almost all wine purchased in the U.S. is consumed within three days. Second, most wineries don’t make age-worthy wines anymore. But some do – and the husband and wife team of Ignacio Alonso and Eva López is one of them. Here they take the traditional aging statements for Rioja very seriously. First the wine spends nearly two years maturing in barrel. And then, with this wine, it’s been a full seven more years before coming to our palates.

Upon opening aged wines, I like to stop and think about them. Think about a living, delightful, wonderfully tasty piece of history secreted away in a glass bottle. In our current age of constant electronic contact it’s worth stopping, pondering, and drinking one of wine’s greatest pleasures: the ability to age gracefully.

In order to make wines that can last a decade (and beyond – I believe this wine will make its 40th year), you need two things. First, exceptional fruit that creates intensely alive and realized wine. Second, continuous reinvestment in the winery. In this day and age it would be considered business suicide to create a product that won’t return an investment for a single quarter of the fiscal year, let alone 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. Yet this is what Ignacio and Eva have done!

The result goes beyond “great” wine. It is legendary.

The 2011 opens with the boisterous expression of young and pure Rioja: sweet red cherries, bits of sweet tobacco and mocha, hints of vanilla, sous bois, and tertiary aromas around its soft and silky edges. While Ignacio and Eva believe in Rioja’s traditions, they don’t shy away from modernity. The luxurious French oak used to mature this wine will be easily recognizable to any lover of Bordeaux or Napa Cabernet – the palate is fully integrated with its loads of black fruit and meaty tannins, offering a powerhouse of a mouthfeel. It’s compelling as a cocktail, yet with this level of delicious complexity, how can we not grill a T-bone steak smothered with roasted onions and an almond Romesco sauce?

Aging wine is an expensive commitment for any winery. How this small family-run operation managed to create this wine and offer us a fantastic deal on it I do not know. But I love drinking well more than I like understanding the vicissitudes of the U.S. three-tier liquor supply system. I think you do, too. Enjoy!

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