Suggested retail price $18-$22
Distributed by Peter Matt from Monarchia-Matt in NYC
Peter Matt has been in the wine business for quite some time (more than me for sure) and I've been buying quite a few of his wines over the past 7 years. He always comes up with good stuff and we always end up buying something from his portfolio. Yet small (the size of the company he represents), he is a solid wine merchant that has more than one trick up his sleeves. He came at the store to introduce us to this traditional Rioja and we fell in love with it.
Living and breathing Rioja for all of his life, Santiago Ijalba García was born, in 1948, in Haro, the capital town of Rioja bordering La Rioja Alta and La Rioja Alavesa. Haro encompasses some of the best and most ancient wineries of Rioja: Lopez de Heredia, CVNE, La Rioja Alta, Roda, and Muga (and a few more, but I just named my favorites).
As a teenager, Santiago Ijalba García started working for a local reputed Bodega (couldn't find the name). At 16, he was hired full-time and worked there for about 24 years. During that time, he helped establish the Rioja Wine Exporters Group, and obtained a degree in oenology in 1974.
In 1998, now 40 and full of experience, having grown gradually in higher positions with the years, he left his position as general and technical manager in the Bodega to launch his own personal project, under his own name "Santiago Ijalba, S.A." and his motto "Vinos de Calidad de Rioja Alta", in the Rioja Alta sub-region. His modern winery is located in Gimileo, a small village nestled a few kilometers south-east of Haro. The customers-and-tourists friendly winery includes a shop, a wine club and a dining room.
Roberto Ijalba, Santiago’s son, has also joined the business a few years ago, bringing his youth and passion for oenology to the winery, starting a renaissance with modern winemaking techniques, marketing innovation and cutting-edge trends. For the past few vintages (2004, 2005, 2006, etc..), the wines are made in a riper, fuller, modern style. Yet some remain a bit more traditional than others, with some being organic, and all are vinified using wild, naturally occurring yeasts.
Santiago Ijalba García and his son, Roberto Ijalba Pérez, produce wines from their own 10 hectares of vineyards but also buy fruit from other producers. They produce many wines under about 8 different labels. Let's discover their range of wines.
Ermita de San Felices (tinto), Ermita de San Felices Crianza and Ermita de San Felices Reserva
and the new frontiers of Rioja wines.
Jarrero, Abando Crianza, Abando white barrel fermented, Irep and Ogga
They are like super special Cuvées from exclusif single vineyard for some and very old vines for most; aged in mostly French oak barrels for some and mostly Americain oak barrels for others; from mostly low yield vines and macerated and aged for a longer period of time to allow better concentration of aromas and flavors, depth and complexity. Some were produced only in great year like 2001 and 2004. (see their website for more details at www.santiagoijalba.com)
Recently introduced to their collection, they now also elaborate and produce certified Organic wines from their own vineyards but also from other Ecological Wine Growers, made under the strict rule of the Organic Agriculture control authority: Mutuo Cosecha and Mutuo Crianza
However, let's come back to our wine of the day, which is also our Discovery of the Month wine for April 2009:
2001 Santiago Ijalba Viña Hermosa Reserva Seleccíon Familia Rioja Alta
Made with grapes coming from over 60 years old vines, located in Rioja Alta and producing very low yields, this wine was fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with wide lids to facilitate the “remontage”. After a long maceration, it was then aged for 18 months in American oak barrels. It was bottled without any filtration and the final result is a powerful yet very elegant wine worthy to be selected especially by and for the Ijalba family. It is clearly their most interesting wine under the Viña Hermosa label.
This is quite a stunning wine, especially if you, like me, adore traditional Rioja(s). The color shows already some signs of age with a light brique color on the rim with a pruny, brownish hue. The nose is beautiful and bright, quite intense, with red berry, floral, mineral, earthy, secondary aromas and tertiary notes, and a soft, woody characteristic usual to Rioja(s). The fruit quality of the vintage (2001 was excellent in Rioja) and the barrel ageing contribute to its earthy, woody, spicy and slightly balsamic aromas by adding dimension and complexity without the heaviness of the oak. It’s complex and rich yet balanced, of medium intensity yet with a lingering finish.
Somewhat light and easy to drink, this very enjoyable, traditional, medium bodied Rioja should pair nicely with baby lamb "Chuletas" (cutlets) served with country style patatas fritas and green salad. It tastes even better for a Reserva Seleccíon Familia under $25.
LeDom du Vin
Info partly taken from the winery website: www.santiagoijalba.com
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