2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial

Vina Ardanza is an estate owned by La Rioja Alta who is widely recognized as one of Rioja’s finest, classical producers. The 2001 Reserva Especial from Vina Ardanza is not only an example of great Rioja, but is among the world’s greatest wines. Only twice before, in 1964 and 1973, has Vina Ardanza classified their Reserva with the added designation of “Especial”. In 2001 the growing season and harvest was uniquely uniform and gloriously uneventful albeit a smaller crop due to spring frost, though it was the resulting wine that confirmed the exceptional quality of the vintage. I have come to Spain late in my wine life; after all you can’t know it all…nor drink it all. A few years back, as The Wine House looked to expand its offerings of value-priced wines, Spain entered the picture; so I began to taste. I had (and still have) a lot to learn. A few months back, TWH had been invited to meet with a principal from La Rioja Alta to taste through their current offerings. Before arranging this appointment, I asked David if he was familiar with La Rioja Alta and he said of course, that they are considered one of the best, old-school Rioja producers and that he would very much like to be present to taste the wines. I love to taste wines with David as his impeccable tasting skills force me to pay that much more attention. The range of wines from La Rioja Alta went from delicious to sublime. It was, however, the 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial that had us oohing and ahhhing the loudest.

The 2001 Vina Ardanza is redolent of spice with rich fruit and long oak notes. My tasting book has “smells AMAZING!!!” in black ink blazing across the page. The developed aromatics are attributable to the traditional method of aging the wine in American oak for 3 years, racking the wine every six months before bottling and then resting the wine in bottle even further before release. This oxygenation, if you will, of the wine allows for a development of flavors without losing any of the vigor of fruit. The benefit of this long winemaking process to the consumer is that you essentially get a perfectly cellared wine that is ready to drink and has a long life ahead of it. I am told the aging trajectory of great Rioja is not typical of most wines because it can plateau at peak drinking potential for decades. Interesting. I will need to discover this for myself!

I enjoy wine reviews that give a tasting note and then suggest a theoretical bottle price for what it tastes like versus what is actually costs to better illustrate the wine’s value. At TWH we reached a consensus that the Vina Ardanza at twice the price would still be a deal and is probably worth even more given its pedigree. At $29.98 per bottle, the 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial gives affordable entree to one of the world’s great wine regions from a legendary producer for a wine they deemed “Especial”, having done this only twice before in their long history!

By this point I hope I’ve made a strong case for the 2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial. I’ve done due dilligence at the store, suggesting it to anyone who is inclined to listen to my recommendations. In almost every instance where I or my colleagues have convinced someone to taste a bottle, they have come back to buy more. This is true; cross my heart. A loyal customer who normally sticks to California wines under $15, picked a bottle of Vina Ardanza to take along to a dinner party after Pete told him he had to try it; a few days later he came back to buy a case. I share this story because it shows anecdotal evidence that for someone who normally spends half as much on a bottle of wine found such value and quality in the Vina Ardanza, it was worth it to them to buy more and in quantity.

The Halloween decorations have been pulled out of storage, so things have been looking pretty spooky around chez Balistreri. I still have some finishing touches left to do on a few costumes and l still need to stockpile more candy because we get over 200 trick-or-treaters. I’m not going to lie and say I’ll be drinking Vina Ardanza that night, no I’ll wait for a more intimate occasion. I will, most likely, be filling up my glass with something blood red. Or perhaps a sticky to go with the candy would be better? Ummm, what to pair with Twix and Snickers? Any thoughts? I’ll report back on that one later! —Anya Balistreri

2001 La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial Rioja
Red Wine; Red Blend; Rioja;
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“2001 Vina Ardanza Reserva Especial is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha from their vineyards in Fuenmayor and Rioja Baja respectively and it represents only the third vintage to be declared after 1964 and 1973. Aged in American cask for 36 months, it has a bucolic, natural bouquet of bright red cherries, balsamic, mint and a touch of dried honey all with superb delineation. The palate is medium-bodied with wonderful delineation and supple, lithe tannins. The acidity is very well judged and it leads to a pert, tense finish of bitter cherry, loganberry and licorice. This is an outstanding wine drinking perfectly now, but it should age effortlessly. Drink now-2030.” Wine Advocate 93 pts.

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Filed under Anya Balistreri, Rioja

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