Gregory Dal Piaz

Location: New York, NY

Rioja Reserva

Rank Wine Rating Price
1 Hermanos Pecina Vendimia Seleccionada Reserva (2001)
Comments: Dense and rich on the nose, this shows intense aromas of cut fruit, a big tobacco note, cut fresh plums, flowers, fresh herbal undertones, parchment, lots of fennel and a top note of rose petal. Very smooth yet powerfully built in the mouth with velvety rich, dark plummy fruit accented by a little bit of spice. This feels very luxurious and is packed with black cherry fruit that extends deep into a finish flecked with tobacco and dry mineral spice tones. The tannins here are supple yet packed in. The fruit makes this an excellent bet for the cellar. 93pts
Previously available for $45.00
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2 Miguel Merino Tempranillo Blend Rioja Reserva (2005)
Comments: American oak, leather, barnyard and a little cured meat with a hint of pepper greet the nose. Vanilla, incipient tobacco notes, a little cinnamon and some balsamic accents frame this complex bouquet. Upon entry, a gentle huckleberry tone is wrapped in soft tannins and a sweet, gentle disposition until the tannins build on the palate. In fact, this is packed with tannins, yet it retains a supple, soft feel on the mid-palate, which is rich with dark berry fruit and some huckleberry accents. The tannins extend through the finish, which shows an interesting combination of supple fruit and firm structure. Some coffee cream on the finish leads to a bright finale of sweet/tart cranberry fruit. 92pts
Previously available for $29.19
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3 Ontañón Tempranillo Blend Rioja Gran Reserva (2004)
Comments: This is playing coy right now with the nose alternating between being a bit dumb and effusively pouring forth herb-, earth- and ash-accented black fruits wrapped in well measured oak. Super polished on entry, this has a lovely earthy and lightly leathery tinge to the early cherry fruit of the palate. The wine gains light herb and spice notes on the mid-palate. Invisible tannins offer sufficient support to allow this to fill the mouth yet the zesty acidity keeps it lively and fresh. The fruit turns redder in the mouth with hints of red apple peels and strawberries on the back end that come with sandy soil tones and a hint of minerality. The finish is classic Rioja: cherry and vanilla, bright with a light astringency, and long but not heavy. This is rather refined Rioja. 91pts
Previously available for $24.00
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4 Bodegas Fernandez de Pierola Reserva (2004)
Comments: This is very complex on the nose with layers of tobacco, crème caramel, white pepper, cardamom, dried raspberries, old tea, dried spices and a nice low note of cinnamon-dusted dried fruit. There’s plenty of fruit on the palate with good depth. This is lively in the mouth with peppery spice accents. High toned and elegant, this is traditionally styled with a well integrated structure that turns really bright and nicely vibrant on the palate and extends through a long zesty, salted plum fruit and peppery finish. 91pts
Average price: $23.99 from 1 store
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5 Sierra Cantabria Rioja Reserva Unica' (2007)
Comments: Sweet leather and vanilla notes greet the nose followed by soil tones, hints of smoldering herbs and fine dried raspberry fruit with a hint of wild mushroom. This is broad and just a touch soft on entry but the acidity kicks in to add a lovely brightness here and serve as the tent pole that supports the fairly transparent, earthy and lightly herbal red berry fruit. The tannins are very nicely polished in the mouth yet offer fairly firm support right through the long, clear and lightly spicy cherry and cranberry finish. This is really refreshing and bright in the mouth. A pretty classic example of its type and a lovely food wine. 91pts
Average price: $23.39 from 2 stores
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6 Vina Ardanza (2000)
Previously available for $109.99
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7 Bodegas Hermanos Pecina Rioja Reserva (2001)
Comments: A bit of pronounced oak greets the nose with supporting aromas of mineral, game, dried berry fruit, dried spices, tar and a little tobacco and ash. In the mouth, this has lovely, bright acidity. The fruit shows a touch of dried fruit character with flavors of orchard fruits, cherry and a hint of juniper spice. This is a little leafy on the back end with the acid popping again on the finish. Dusty, dry tannins support a hint of truffle on the finish along with a little blueberry compote. Complex and youthful, should improve. 91pts
Previously available for $24.27
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8 Ontanon Reserva Privada (1995)
Comments: Fairly intense on the nose with an emerging complexity of green coffee, tobacco ash and roasted herb that frames the slightly medicinal-scented black cherry fruit with a light licorice top note. Smooth, supple and fairly rich in the mouth, the wine has early medicinal and vitamin edges to the black berry fruit that drifts across the palate. This is showing early signs of maturity yet remains fresh and bright in the mouth. Poppy and watermelon seed notes accent the wonderfully pure and clean core of blackish fruit. This behaves much like classic Rioja, yet it is perfectly clean and perhaps a touch denser. This really does a fine job of blurring the lines between new and old with its elegance, though it does fall a bit short on the finish. 91pts
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9 Vina Izadi Rioja Reserva (2007)
Comments: Fresh cherry fruit on the nose is well balanced by vanilla and oak spice notes as well as a hint of pink peppercorn and lingonberry fruit. There are nice suggestions of tar, mint and a little rust. Perhaps a touch soft in the mouth and decidedly fruity, this has a lovely core of wiry tannins and a nice, almost medicinal edge to the transparent mid-palate. There is a huge rush of raspberry liqueur fruit on the long finish with nice, gentle suggestions of spices on the finale and a return of raspberry fruit. This is modern but shows its fruit very well. 90pts
Average price: $31.85 from 1 store
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10 Viña Cubillo Crianza Rioja (2006)
Comments: This is a little ashy on the nose with hints of arugula, blood and carob adding gentle complexity to the nose. The aromas are more savory than fruity but there is a base of raspberry/blackberry fruit here along with well-balanced briary oak. This is easy to drink texturally but it has the same savory, arugula-like flavors on the palate adding compelling complexity to the round yet nervous wine. There are subtle layers of flavor here. It is a little nutty, a little meaty, but then mineral and taut with a hint of rust coming out on the back end with raspberry fruit, licorice and spiky little tannins. The finish is long and zingy with lovely layering of subtle savory and fruity flavors and just a hint of heat on the finale. This is really attractive. It is not rustic but not modernly smooth either, with a mouthfeel that is zesty, sapid and refreshing. Serve this with red meat like lamb. 90pts
Average price: $24.19 from 3 stores
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11 Bodegas Bilbainas Rioja la Vicalanda de Vina Pomal Reserva (2006)
Comments: Leather, game and rust greet the nose with a classic Rioja profile. This is not particularly fruit-driven, instead recalling the winery and the land. Air brings out more smoky, herby notes along with a base of cranberry fruit. Smooth and polished on entry, another quintessential attribute of Rioja Reserva, this has wispy tannins and juicy acidity that make the texture a near perfect blend of brightness and a firm base. There’s more fruit on the palate. Raspberry and strawberry tones with earth, rust and herb flavors are topped with a light lashing of vanilla. The lovely finish is slightly astringent, slightly austere, long and savory. This is how I prefer my Rioja, a bit rustic! 90pts
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12 Valdelana Reserva (2005)
Comments: Pencil lead pops on the leafy nose with hints of toast, violet and blackberry fruit. On entry, this shows a subtle and elegant character that is followed by a fairly strong vanilla note. This turns rather decisively fruit-driven with small wild berry fruit, very small black berry fruit, a hint of boysenberry, a little sausage, and a hint of juniper and fine spice notes. This is beautifully proportioned with faceted, transparent fruit on the palate. The finish shows nice persistence to the blackberry fruit but falls a little short. 90pts
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13 Sierra Cantabria Unica Reserva (2008)
Comments: This is smoky and nutty on the nose with aromas of medicinal herbs, dried meat and jerky. There are strong notes of coffee bean and some floral top notes from oak. On entry, this is rich and smooth with fine acids though it turns a bit matte in the mouth. There’s nice fruit here along with nice cut. Sweetness of wood appears on the mid-palate, accenting the nice, wild plum fruitiness of the wine. The finish is a bit dry, woody and spicy, with a hint of Mexican chocolate. Ultimately, this is very good but it is in a dense and chunky style. 90pts
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14 Rioja Alta Arana Reserv (2004)
Comments: Deep leather, white flower, subtle orange peel and sour red cherries greet the nose with hints of tobacco, ash, vanilla, dill and spicy wood making for a beautiful perfume. There’s a hint of early wood sweetness here, yet this is soft and elegant in the mouth. The red fruits are accented by bright acidity and lovely polished tannins. A deep wild cherry fruit element on the back end turns into red cherry candy with vanilla and spice on the finish, where hints of austere tannins remain fully covered by the rich fruit. This should improve with a bit of age and should also have very broad appeal. 90pts
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15 Dinastía Vivanco Tempranillo Blend Rioja Reserva (2005)
Comments: Plenty of toasty French oak on the nose is met with notes of dried herbs, fresh leather, tobacco, sweet dark berry fruit, cinnamon, licorice and seared beef. In the mouth, bright acids and nice firm tannins are buried in a core of sweet and sour Jolly Rancher grapy fruit with hints of pomegranate. A little black currant and some black plum notes pop on the finish, which shows a bit of sticky sweetness. A polished, modern and fruity style. 89pts
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16 Martinez Lacuesta Tempranillo Blend Rioja Reserva (2005)
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17 Baigorri Reserva (2004)
Comments: This is super aromatic with spicy, toasty French oak notes on the nose along with vanilla, sandalwood, cherry licorice and a hint of citric green anise seed. Smooth, rich and just a touch soft in the mouth, this manages to retain a certain sense of delicacy even though it is fairly opulent and rich in the mouth. The tannins and acidity are totally covered by the fruit but with time you can sense their firmness. The flavors are marked by dark and spiced oak over earthy black berry fruit. The finish is all structure at this point, with a shading of black cherry sticking to the structure. This is quite a powerful wine that shows just a hint of heat on the finish. If you like powerful wine, this might be for you. 89pts
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18 Lan Rioja Reserva (2007)
Comments: Licorice, root vegetables and plenty of toasty oak sweetness on the nose are joined by wild cherry, rhubarb, pencil lead and a fair veneer of spicy oak and vanilla. This is softer on the palate with round tannins in an easy drinking style. It delivers plenty of black cherry, black currant fruit, a little vein of black spice and herb. Smooth and polished, it shifts to more of a black berry flavor on the back end and long finish, with acidity and wood tannin becoming more obvious. 88pts
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19 Bodegas Muga Tempranillo Blend Rioja Reserva Unfiltered (2008)
Comments: Sweet on the nose with a really engaging blend of wood spice, herb, leather, light barnyard and fruit notes that recall candied black cherries and blackberry pie. This has really nice aromatic intensity and complexity. Smooth on entry, this shows a light edge of acidity and lightly splintery wood tannins on the tongue, but they just add a youthful impression to the fruity palate that follows the nose with flavors of blackberry and wild blackberry. The wood spice adds nice detail on the back end with a slightly chewy feel and suggestion of astringency on the moderately long finish. This shows a little brett on the nose and the finish, but it is currently well within reason. 88pts
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20 Bodegas Luis Alegre Parcela n.5 (2008)
Comments: Violets and purple fruit fight for attention on the nose against vanilla and creamy oak. The fruit and floral notes do seem to be winning this battle, gaining green anise seed and fennel notes with air. Very smooth and polished on entry, this is still a bit tight. Medium bodied and a bit low on the palate, the wine has a certain aromatic freshness to this that comes out with air. That freshness highlights the spicy fennel notes and taut core of transparent if dark cherry/berry fruit. Very refined. I have no experience with this producer so I am hesitant to predict where this might go, but it has excellent balance, complexity and freshness of flavor. It needs a bit more intensity, but I think that will come. A conservative bottling. 88pts
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21 Bodegas Riojanas Tempranillo Blend Rioja Viña Albina Reserva (2005)
Comments: Earthy on the nose with low notes of leafy greens and carob under tobacco, roast beef and spicy red fruit, all topped with a light vanilla top note. A touch soft in the mouth, this spreads out across the palate like cashmere. Wonderfully ripe, lush tannins are wrapped in a nice layer of sweet blackberry and strawberry fruit. The acidity makes itself known on the back end along with a little earthy detail and well-judged but obvious nutty oak. There’s a hint of herb on the back end that adds some complexity to the finish, which really shines. Lightly leathery dried cherry fruit recedes to expose grippy tannins that offer a nice, drying contrast to the sweet lushness of the palate. This offers more of a textural experience than a flavor experience and as such should prove to be wildly successful. 87pts
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22 Valdelana Reserva (2006)
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23 Bodegas Altanza Seleccion Especial Reserva (2004)
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24 Bodegas Martínez Bujanda Rioja Conde de Valdemar Reserva (2006)
Comments: Sharp wood greets the nose, which is nicely focused with small, wild strawberry fruit and a little tobacco. This is a bit high toned, lean and crisp in the mouth with a focused, elegant feel showing off fine tannins and a nice brightness. While retaining good tension in the mouth, this lacks a little follow through and drops off on the palate. Very front-loaded with somewhat tarry fruit, which is sort of a suggestion through the modest finish. 86pts
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25 Finca Nueva Rioja Crianza (2007)
Comments: A little tight on the nose with fine oak accents to the vanilla-, cinnamon- and pencil lead-dusted taut black fruit. Nicely focused in the mouth, this does show a fair amount of sweet, black fruit. There’s a little hollowness on the mid-palate followed by nice wood spice notes and a faint hint of herb that accents the black cherry fruit. This is lightly chewy in the mouth and the finish is fairly tannic and spicy from the wood. Ends with licorice and toast notes over a base of persistent black cherry fruit and a hint of heat on the finale. 86pts
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26 Faustino Rioja V Reserva (2005)
Comments: Dark and earthy on the nose with notes of caramel, tobacco, cocoa, leather and chalk over roasted fruit. Smooth on entry with acidity that is just a touch low by Rioja standards, this is smooth and silky with flavors that are a bit simple. The texture will be very appealing to a broad range of consumers as will the simple vanilla, cherry and toast flavors, but this lacks complexity and detail for me. Ends rather abruptly with a leather, almond and cherry pit finale and dry tannins. 85pts
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27 Bodegas Luis Alegre Reserva Rioja (2008)
Comments: This is subtle and refined on the nose, full of seedy spicy notes and wrapped in vanilla, tobacco and oak aromas over a bed of dandelion-tinged earthy black fruit. Soft and smooth on entry, this is almost tender in the mouth with a delicate feel. There’s some nice acidity here and spicy wood flavors early on. Soft tannins support black cherry and blackberry flavors on the mid-palate. It’s very easy to drink and enjoy with cherry pit flavors on the back end and through the modest finish, but this strikes me as a Rioja with training wheels. 85pts
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