Lopez de Heredia is an interesting concept in the context of Rioja. Most Rioja wineries don't mention vineyard names on their labels. It's just not part of the wine culture. Heredia is one of the venerable household names that not only has three separate brands demarcated by vineyard of originn, but its top vineyard, Tondonia, has become so synonymous with Heredia that many think it’s actually the name of the winery.
Heredia is very much a classic Rioja bodega. Almost to an extreme. Very traditional, low tech winemaking techniques, a winery full of mildew and fungus, very long barrel aging. They make Gran Reservas only in grand years, which sadly is not always the norm in Rioja.
The Red Crianza Flight
Cubilio, Crianza, 2008
Cubillo is a vineyard that makes only Crianza, as though Bosconia and Tondonia are too precious to waste on the workhorse wines that most people drink. This shows savory, relatively simple red fruit and vanilla, soft tannins, juicy acidity. Very classic in form and character, after some airing it shows hints of smoked meat.
Cubilio, Crianza, 2005
This is more mature on the nose, naturally, even evocative, with notes of balsamic vinegar. The palate is not much more evolved, it even feels youthfully sweet. Most of the wines were opened just before being poured, per the winery's recommendation. Given the large number of bottles tasted, we did not have enough time to give the wines enough time to develop in glass.
The Red Reserva Flight
The Reservas are aged long enough to be considered Gran Reservas by Rioja law.
Tondonia, Reserva, 2001
I'm uncomfortable making judgement on this. I got light TCA immediately, and while I may be wrong on a lot things, I always get TCA. I've drank the 2001 in the past, so I know it's good and the proof is that even the TCA couldn't obscure the lovely crushed fruit and mellow, mature complexity.
Tondonia, Reserva, 2002
2002 is considered such a bad vintage that for the past six years I've seen the same bottle of Artadi Pison 2002 up for sale at 50% discount at the Tel Aviv Wine Route branch with no buyers. Nonetheless, this is very good and shows exactly the mellow complexity I expect from a mature Reserva.
Tondonia, Reserva, 2005
Because the TCA issue, this turned out to be the best of the lot, the aromatics the most elegant and complete. Like all the Reservas, It is still on the fat and sweet side. I’d let my bottle rest another 5-10 years. Having said that, it was a hedonistic delight with the jamon.
Bosconia, Reserva, 2005
The winery rightfully claims this is Burgundian in style, hence the bottle shape. I prefer it to the Tondonias, at this point at least, the body being a little leaner, the aromatics more in the direction of cooked vegetables and balsamic vinegar.
The Weird Solo Flight
Tondonia, Gran Reserva Rosado, 2000
Nail polish remover and barely alive on the palate. I drank the same wine five years ago and enjoyed the experience, but even though it was released around 2010, I don't think even the winery meant for it to be drunk this old.
The White Flight
The white wine flight was my favorite. Rioja whites are not my immediate choice, but these I enjoyed a ;ot.
Gravonia, Reserva, 2004
An oxidized, herbal style. If you accept the style, and I do, it’s really a lovely, expressive wine.
Gravonia, Crianza, 2007
This is a very appealing contrast. It's less oxidized, which allows the minerals to take center stage and tones down the sweetness of the fruit.
Tondonia, Reserva, 2004
The best of all worlds. A fresher style, despite the age, with fine focus. Just a hint of oxygen, but mostly about minerals.
Tondonia, Gran Reserva, 1991
Harnessed wildness and a great wealth of mineral aromas and intensity of lime and saline flavors. This is my third bottle. The second was just nice, but the first time, and now this, are truly, unquestionably unique experiences. An Iberian Corton-Charlemagne.
The Grand Flight
Tondonia, Gran Reserva, 1994
And the reds have arrived. This is regal and fresh in the nose, focused on the palate, tannins, acidity and fruit well balanced, with no fat.
After the three decade mark, there are no great wines, only great bottles. For the final flight, Eldad brought out two bottles from bodegas I don’t think exist anymore. Along with a bottle from Tondonia, these were relics from a bygone age, harvested around the time of A Hard Day's Night and released after the Beatles broke up.
Grand Condal, 1964
The nose would not appeal to everyone, with the fruit deep in the outfield and showing iron, rust, sea water. Alive in the palate, with savory sweetness, fruit married with brine, tannins still there. Not very complex, the enjoyment is derived from how aged has transformed the fruit.
Maderized, but still alive - although the Grand Condal has survived the havoc of Time much better. I don't really have a lot to say about it.
Tondonia, Gran Reserva, 1964
Teetering on the brink of death, initially there are nice notes of cigar box, but lacks oomph and conviction. And then the oxygen takes over.
Tondonia, Gran Reserva, 1981
Wine Of The Night and it knows it, with the tempered savoriness of virile middle age. A better show than a bottle two years ago, which proves my point about this being a game of great bottles and not great wines.