After working in the industry for 33 years, Santiago Ijalba Garcia established Bodegas Santalba in 1998, in the Riojan 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 who do everything hand-in-hand. They represent two generations of winemakers. They have traditional style wines from Ermita de San Felices; 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.”
In speaking of how he and his father work together, Roberto says, “Both of us look for the Rioja style. We believe that Rioja has a great name and quality. It has its own style. The difference [between us]? Maybe he’s more focused on balance and elegance, [while] I’m looking for an expression of the grape, Tempranillo. Not to make an international wine, but a more concentrated Rioja–not heavy. I studied at UC Davis, so my style is a little different.”
In the winery, both father and son employ spontaneous fermentations. They use indigenous yeast from the vineyard, and never add artificial yeasts. Some of the wines are filtered, the white and the rose wines, but the rest see only gentle fining.
|Abando Rioja Blanco
Abando White is made with indigenous Riojan grape "Viura" harvested by hand. The altitude of this area is around 500 meters above sea level and it is influenced by Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
|Abando Rioja Crianza
Abando is produced exclusively in the best vintages with the most famous grapes from Rioja "Tempranillo" and "Viura" and harvested by hand. The wine is produced from 4 different vineyards with special characteristics. One of them is completely sandy and other is chalk. The other 2 vineyards are around 40 years old and they have a small percentage of white vines planted. After malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is kept for 12 months in French oak barrels and 3 months more in American oak, and later bottled and kept in the cellar for a minimum of 24 months.
|Ermita Rioja Blanco
The Ermita White is made with indigenous Riojan grape "Viura," that is harvested by hand. The altitude of this vineyard is around 500 meters above sea level and it is influenced by Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. This gives the wine very elegant acidity and bracing salinity on the palate.
|Ermita Rioja Rosado
Full-bodied and rich but with bright acidity, lots of strawberry aromas.
|Ermita Rioja Crianza, San Felices
Ermita is produced exclusively from the famous grape from Rioja, Tempranillo, and harvested by hand. The altitude of this area is around 450 meters above sea level and it is influenced by Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. The wine has 9 days skin maceration. After malolactic fermentation is complete, the wine is kept for 14 months in American oak barrels and later bottled and kept in the cellar for a minimum of 6 months.
|Ermita Rioja Reserva
Bright ruby. Dark berries and cherry-vanilla on the nose, with complicating notes of musky flowers and oak spices. Offers dark fruit flavors and notes of licorice and bitter chocolate, along with a smoky nuance and a touch of vanilla. Dusty tannins add grip to the long, smoky finish.