After working in the industry for 33 years, Santiago Ijalba Garcia established Bodegas Santalba in 1998, in the Rioja town of Gimileo. Obtaining his degree in oenology in 1974, Santiago was later joined by his son, Roberto, in 1997, after he'd finished studying at UC Davis in 1996. "This is a father/son team," says Jorge Perez, our South American Portfolio Director. "They do everything hand-in-hand. These two winemakers represent two different generations. They have traditional style wines, Emirta; and Abando, which is the son taking over, introducing modern techniques." Making wines under eight labels, including Santiago Ijalba Ogga, Vina Hermosa and Bodegas Santalba Abando, the Ijalba family has 20ha under vine, all of which is certified organic. The remaining fruit, they purchase from other growers. "My dad's 63 years old," says Roberto, "he's been in the business for 46 years; he knows a lot of people, very good producers [from which we buy our fruit], 35-40% of which are practicing organic." Santiago Ijalba is in charge of their label Ermita, which produces rose, white, Crianza, and Reserva. And while Santiago produces other wines, these are not available on the U.S. market. Abando and Ogga are produced by Roberto. "The Ogga plantings are 90+ year old certified organic," says Jorge. "They come from one contiguous vineyard, which is very unusual in Rioja. It makes Ogga quite a statement. It [the wine] is pretty stellar."
What so often makes Rioja such a crowd pleaser is its rich, almost cured pork fat like structure, with medium acidity and tannings that provide a glowing canvas for concentrated red fruits, decadent vanilla, and lively baking spices. This wine is no different, even showing a brief hinting of cherrywood smoke.
Chorizo croquettes, pan con tomate with cured jamon, Cauliflower.