We made up a big paella with some friends and I decided to open the trinity of classic Rioja producers.  That is, a Crianza, a Reserva, and a Gran Reserva from what are, in my humble opinion, the three most traditional producers in Rioja.  The king of all classic Rioja producers is undoubtedly López de Heredia.  They are splashed all over the (z)infidel and really there is no one who would argue otherwise about their position at the top of classic Rioja producers.  I would say the queen of traditional Rioja is La Rioja Alta.  They have made some nods towards modernization but the character of their wines has remained traditional none the less.  And finally the jack would have to be Bodegas Hermanos Peciña.  Their origins do not date back over 100 years like López de Heredia and La Rioja Alta, theirs goes back only about 20 years.  But their classic wines bear all the hallmarks of classic Rioja and despite their status as the new kids on the block, they are right on the money.  There are many other traditional producers out there or producers who make some traditional wines, but I think these three stand above the rest, and I say that loving other great wines like CVNE Imperial, Viña Real, Riojanas, etc.

I will tell you quickly a few reasons why I love the classic wines of Rioja so much.  You can look at these three for example.  The alcohol levels are reasonable:  12.5% on both López de Heredia and La Rioja Alta, and 13% on Peciña.  Thank you lord that they have continued to exercise restraint.  You can experience these classics with or without food and not feel blown away with alcohol or over extraction.  Amen.  And I love them because of the Crianza system.  You can find wines to suit any occasion and you will know that they have typically been aged to perfection when released.  And classic Rioja wines have the unique ability to reach maturity quickly (perhaps because of the Crianza system) and stay there seemingly indefinitely under proper conditions.  With producers like these, you really cannot go wrong.

Señorío de P. Peciña 2003 Crianza

Classic Crianza with spicy red fruit and solid acidity.  This is the new kid on the block of traditional producers and one of the best.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

López de Heredia Viña Tondonia 2000 Reserva

Salinity marks the 2000 Tondonia.  It is the light in body, silky and classic.  Drinking well right now so drink it while you wait for your 2001′s to come around.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

La Rioja Alta 1998 Gran Reserva 904

The 1998 La Rioja Alta has pretty good structure and great spicy acidity and is classic 904.  It is drinking well now but can certainly hold for a good long while.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED