In 1996 the Hernáiz family purchased part of the former estate of Spanish-born Eugénie de Montijo, Empress of France and wife of Napoleon III. The estate is located on one of the highest plateaus in the Rioja Alta, including its 101 ha vineyard. In addition to its high, 570m altitude, the vineyard has extremely rocky, nutrient-poor soils and parcels of 45-65 year old Viura, Garnacha and Tempranillo bush vines.
Most of the wines reviewed here came from the 2015 vintage. A cold winter with heavy snowfall was followed by a mild spring, but then came the hottest, driest summer in decades. While temperatures cooled down beginning mid-August, the harvest still began 10 days earlier than normal.
Viñedos Hermanos Hernáiz makes wines from its Rioja Alta estate vineyards under the Finca La Emperatriz label. The winery also makes wines from other vineyards that it sells under the Viñedos Hermanos Hernáiz label. Both are reviewed here.
Finca La Emperatriz 2017 Viura Rioja Alta ($20) 90 The unoaked Viura offers an enticing melange of stony minerals, white peach and pear fruit and hints of honey and herbs. Lanolin like on the palate, it’s a lively, mouth filling wine of excellent intensity. 100% Viura given short skin contact before pressing and fermentation in all stainless steel. Finca La Emperatriz 2015 Viura Cepas Viejas Rioja Alta ($45) 93 Starbright light yellow gold. Showing white almonds, minerals, white flowers and touches of grapefruit citrus and herbs on the nose, this is certainly among the best Viuras we’ve tasted. The oak is seamlessly integrated with intense mineral and white citrus notes and a texture that is both crisp and focused yet dense and suave. An incredible wine! Fermented and aged 10 months in a mix of new and used oak. 100% Viura from 68 year old bush vines in Rioja Alta.
Finca La Emperatriz 2015 Crianza Rioja Alta ($20) 92 Revealing red and black cherry with a touch of sandalwood on the nose, the Crianza is a superbly balanced wine as well as perhaps the best value red wine we’ve encountered so far this year. The oak treatment is subtle, and the medium plus weighted palate is smooth and complex. Still young but nicely evolved with round tannins. 95% Tempranillo, 3% Garnacha and 2% Viura. Aged 14 months in 225 litres barrels of American (80%) and French (20%) oak. 14.1% alc. Finca La Emperatriz 2015 Garnacha Cepas Viejas Rioja Alta ($45) 92 Dark ruby. Rich black cherry with mineral and earth notes. Silky mouth feel with a core of pure, dense fruit and youthful tannins. A complex wine of huge potential. 100% Garnacha fermented in open top stainless steel tanks, then racked to 500L barrels of new and used French oak for malo and maturation. Finca La Emperatriz 2015 Parcela No. 1 Rioja Alta ($69) 91 A very silky, international style wine. Very generously oaked, resulting in toasted oak aromas and dry tannins. There’s wonderful red fruit in this wine, and the palate texture is fine, but we can only hope the oak softens and integrates before the fruit disappears. 100% Tempranillo fermented in small wooden vats and then racked to barrels for malo; matured 18 months in new fine grained, French oak barriques. Bottled without fining or cold stabilization. Finca La Emperatriz 2014 Reserva Rioja Alta ($26) 92 Medium ruby red. Attractive scents of black cherry and tobacco and a hint of honeyed American oak. The Reserva has a soft, round entry and lovely pure fruit core. Beautifully balanced and blended, finishing with round tannins. A blend of old bush vine Tempranillo with small amounts of Garnacha, Viura and Graciano. Aged in American (70%) and French (30%) barriques of 225L. Finca La Emperatriz 2015 Terruño Rioja Alta ($40) 92 Medium dark ruby. Terruño is a modern, stylish wine offering a generous bouquet of dark cherry and spicy chocolate that are mirrored on a fruity, fresh tasting palate that finishes with firm tannins. 100% Tempranillo matured 14 months in a mix of new and used French (80%) and American (20%) oak.
Viñedos Hermanos Hernaíz 2016 El Pedal Tempranillo Rioja Alta 89 Fruit forward nose showing red cherry, berry, and youthful red plum. The attack is soft, and the palate is suave and round and very fresh with carbonic like notes. Made from the fruit of several vineyard parcels, mostly bush vines with more than 30 years of age.Fermented in cement and stainless steel and aged 5 months in a variety of vessels made of cement and used barrels. 10% of the wine comes from the previous vintage. Viñedos Hermanos Hernaíz 2015 Las Cenizas Tempranillo Rioja Alta 89 Dark cherry and hints of toasted oak aromas provide a graceful entry to the Las Cenizas Tempranillo. Rich black cherry leads the flavors on the palate with firm tannins on the finish. 98% Tempranillo, 2% Mazuelo from Cenicero vineyard parcels, fermented in open top tanks and matured 16 months in new and used barriques. Angel Ortega is the consulting winemaker.