It had been a minute since I had organized a wine dinner or tasting.  The last one was over a year ago and then some, and it was focused on classic Rioja.  With that in mind I put together a tasting with friends of the classic Rioja Bodegas which are based around the old railway station in Haro in La Rioja.  I tried to curate carefully the most classic and iconic bodegas.  We tried two wines each from what I would call the “classic big three” of Haro:  López de Heredia, La Rioja Alta, and CVNE.  We also tried Muga’s “Prado Enea” as it is a classic wine and Muga is one of the big bodegas located by the old Haro Railway station.  These four producers are within easy walking distance as they are grouped together in the “Barrio Estacion” as it is known.  You can walk out the front door of López de Heredia, across the road, and into La Rioja Alta for example.  There are still many producers out there making classic style Rioja, but this bunch is noteworthy because they are all located in one spot, and represent some of the biggest and most legendary names in all Rioja.  It was interesting to see not only how each house’s “style” differed, but also how distinct labels within each bodega differed.  For example trying the 1999 Viña Real alongside the 1999 Imperial.  Both from CVNE but sourced from different areas, Viña Real from Rioja Alavesa and Imperial from Rioja Alta.  I did not take notes (other than mental) as I was doing a lot of speaking about the wines and the bodegas and Rioja in general, but I have a few big takeaways:

1.  There was not a disappointing wine in the bunch.  I would happily drink any one of these wines any day of the week.  The level of quality was fantastic.  Sure, I might put them in some sort of pecking order if push came to shove, but I would HIGHLY RECOMMEND any and all.

2. All the wines are blessed with low alcohol levels.  Ranging from 12%-13.5%.  This keeps the wines very drinkable in an age where most red wines fall well over the 14% mark.

Here are my tasting notes.  They are mental notes so they are more a snapshot of each wine rather than a detailed description.  Many of the wines are reviewed elsewhere on the blog if you care to search, but I will say again, all the wines showed beautifully, not a ringer in the bunch.  Very consistent in terms of quality, especially considering the prices on most of these legendary Rioja’s.

López de Heredia “Viña Tondonia” Reserva 2000 ~$40.00

Silky, refined, and drinking well right now.  Perhaps the easiest of the bunch to appreciate.  Loved by many.

La Rioja Alta “Vina Ardanza” Reserva 2000 ~$30.00

A touch of classic Rioja flavor balancing sweet and savory with a nice hit of acidity.  A great first wine that shows the La Rioja Alta style very well.  And a bargain to boot.

Muga “Prado Enea” Gran Reserva 2000 ~$45.00

Perhaps the most modern in structure (out of the bunch, relatively speaking), a bit more extracted, with some classic aromas.  Should age very well.  Muga’s only truly classic Rioja, especially compared to the rest of their range.

CVNE “Viña Real” Gran Reserva 1999 ~$40.00

Silky, with a hint of an oily quality, drinking very well now with a very classic palate.  The Burgundian bottle speaks to the more Burgundian nature of Viña Real.

CVNE “Imperial” Gran Reserva 1999 ~$50.00

On the brawny side with good tannic structure, chocolate and savory overtones mixing.  Here the Bordeuax style bottle speaks to the more Bordelais nature of Imperial.  This should age very well.

La Rioja Alta “904″ Gran Reserva 1997 ~$50.00

The picture of mature, balanced, silky classic Rioja.  The 1997 is drinking so right now, classic and effortless with great tertiary aromas.  This has been outstanding every time I have tried it.  Relatively speak, this is a great deal on a very serious Gran Reserva.

López de Heredia “Viña Bosconia” Gran Reserva 1991 ~$80.00

This is a wine that is hard to describe.  It is different and profound.  There are dark tart fruits under a waxy skin, with a unique menthol hint, and some salinity on the finish.  Rich and silky and mature yet still with a nice hint of youth.  Magical really.  No one in the world really makes wine like this… yeah.