While plenty of people are willing to sell out Rioja to the next oak chipper, there is hope. Here's the story: Before I left for Spain I stopped by the David Bowler tasting. I have no idea what tempted me, but there I was, asking to taste the Rioja from Bodegas Hermanos Pecina( Jose Pastor, importer). Instead of being disappointed I was excited. This one reminded me of wines I had years back of La Rioja Alta. Fast forward eight days from first sip and father, son and Mikel, (a long time friend of Jr. who works at the winery in marketing) picked me up at my Logrono hotel and we went out to the western end of the region, on the 'other side' of the Ebro river, San Vicente de la Sonsierra, which while vast, seemed to be a secret pocket of nature through a magic door. We were in the season when vines were weeping, the very bit of tearing that comes from their joints and trimmed limbs and a few vines were just pushing out their buds. So much nascent sexual activity! It was like sexual hormones coursing through, stimulating nocturnal emissions and swellings of tender breasts. Vines are the most amazing creatures. The soil here seem to be as pink as crushed coral soils of the Tondonia vineyard, but it is different: the rocks are more challenging but this land through the looking glass is likewise charismatic. The wind was strong, and giving the mixture of goblet (called coppa, here) and double guyot trellising a good workout. The Pecina's seem to work meticulously and farmed with love. A few years into organics, they also work the soil vigourously, thrice yearly. And when asked why, all they could tell me was that it was traditional. When we tasted through the wines, always a scary thing because I tasted them in New York, would I still like them on their own home ground? The answer was yes. Mikel took this shot of me with dad and jr. When I told someone who organizes wine tourism about them, she asked, 'But they have a modern winery, no?" Yes, it's modern and thankfully NOT architectural as had been the fad, a few years back when the Gehry hotel came around and the money spending was fast and loose. Now, I love a romantic winery but isn't it more important to make good wine? Like, is there a question? What is important? They make wine relatively naturaly and except for their high expression wine, (Chobeo) a nod they think is necessary for the modern wine drinker, 300,000 barrels get only old barrels. From crianza to the gran reserva, they are lovely wines. Not terribly expensive but very expressive. Worth the money for sure. At the top of the ladder is the 98 gran reserva --vibrant, savory, salty and filled with the umami-ness I get on the wines from here. Pedro Sr. has the look of a satisfied and kind man who derives equal enjoyment from working the soil as smoking a cigar. To my dismay, the cigar came out when he ordered a glass of Macallan and Perrier. He asked me about the Chobeo. I admitted it wasn't my thing. He said, "it's not mine either." I was contemplating more cardoons but I was stuffed. The owner came out, said something to Jr. and all of the sudden the boyish thirty-year old turned red. Turns out the woman was asking him when he was going to call the woman she wanted to set him up with? Sweet kid. Been making wine with his father since he was 15 and has no desire to use any fancy winemaking trills and really isn't into blind dates. So now that we're all so cozy, Sr. filled me with a little bit of his philosophy and history. . The difference between a good wine and a bad wine? The small details. To be a good winemaker you must have sensibility. We have fights with people here who believe it is impossible to make natural wines. Yeast and malolactic are expensive, why waste the money especially because natural is best? And then..... *La Rioja Alta went to making recipe wine. How does he know? Now, sipping my own post lunch Perrier and Macallan creation Sr. tells me that he was in charge of the La Rioja Alta vines--all 1000 hectares until he left to expland the family property into a winery. This explained it all! The gorgeous vineyard work. The La Rioja Alta vigorous racking (to avoid sediment). Feeling a little bit like a detective who found her answers, I looked at my watch. Lunch ended at about 6pm. I was jonesing to go and walk off the wines and the cardoons. Leaving Sr. with the cigar, Jr took me back to my last night in Logrono and I walked the streets.