New Winemakers In The Rioja

There has been a number of new projects happening in the Rioja the past few years as a crop of new winemakers have emerged. A few belong to some of the oldest families in the Rioja, while others are newcomers who are changing the landscape of wine making in Spain.

Sign announcing the new Bodegas Javier San Pedro Ortega, 2018

Roberto Oliván is a determined and energetic 37-year old winemaker has been making extraordinary wines from the 8 hectares of his family estate Tentenublo in the hamlet of Viñaspre (Lanciego), which lies about 12 km northeast of Laguardia as the crow flies, since 2011.  The high, wind-swept vineyards of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Viura grapes are at an altitude of between 450-650 meters.  His Escondite del Ardacho Las Guillermas 2016 is aged in French barrels and Hungarian oak for 10-11 months and received 94 points from the Peñín Guide, the 2018 vintage receives 93 points.  You can contact Roberto at (+34) 699 236 468 or email him at @tentenublo.com.

Earning his doctorate in Enology, the San Vicente de la Sonsierra native, Pedro Balda, the son and grandson of wine growers, returned to Spain in 2008 after traveling to Chile, California, Australia and New Zealand, and is now in Vintae’s R & D department for Hacienda López de Haro, Bodega Maetierra and Proyecto Garnachas (Rioja), Aroa (Navarra), Atlantis (North Coast), Bodegas Bardos (Ribera del Duero), Matsu (Toro).

The Logroño-born winemaker is the first in her family to work in the wine business, part of a new generation of winemakers focusing on the terroir and the grapes.  Sandra Bravo returned to the Rioja after seven years managing vineyards in the Priorat and working in places such as in the Chianti region of Italy and California.  After producing her first Rioja vintage in 2012, she added 9.5 hectares of her own vineyards in Villabuena de Álava Sierra de Toloño SL, which are located at an elevation of 650 meters, some of the highest altitude vineyards in the Rioja Alavesa, in the shadow of the ruins of the Santa María de Toloño monastery, destroyed in the First Carlist War, to the vineyards she manages in nearby Rivas de Tereso, where she continues to produce her red and white Sierra de Toloño cuvées. Tim Atkins awarded Sandra Best young winemaker 2019, and her La Dula Garnachas de Altura, Red, the wine discovery of the year.  You can email Sandra @sierradetolono.com, or call her for more information (+34) 626 233 085.

Born in Laguardia, Javier San Pedro Ortega is the fifth generation of a wine-making family.  After years of working at the family winery, and producing his first wine in 2005, he decided to undertake his own project in 2013, Bodegas Javier San Pedro Ortega, located along the Camino de La Hoya, directly across the road from Bodegas Ysios, to the north of the walled village of Laguardia.  The wine bar opened in the fall of 2018 and where you will find “quick-guided tastings”, all the vintages, served by the glass and a selection of “tapas”.  You can contact Javier at @bodegasjaviersanpedro.com, or call (+34) 945 386 196 to arrange a tour and tasting, or book a tour online.  Open daily from 10:30 am to 7:30 pm.

Bodegas Ruiz De Viñaspre was orginally founded in 1910 in the village of Elvillar-Bilar, which lies a few kilometers northeast of Laguardia.  The modern winery, opened in 2005, and part of ABRA International, sits between the walled village and the Sierra de Cantabria-Toloño mountains, in the same area as Bodegas Ysios and Bodegas Javier San Pedro Ortega.  Now managed by the sisters Jaione and Ainhoa Ruiz de Viñaspre Alegre, two young Bodegueras, the family produce their wines on the old estate of de la Hoya.  The 30 hectares of vineyards have an average age of 40 years.  Guided visits to the winery, which include a tasting of two wines, are available Monday-Thursday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Private tours are also available on the weekends.  The wine bar is open for those who only want to taste the wines and relax in the garden.  You can contact them online, send an email to @bodegaruizdevinaspre.com, or call (+34) 945 600 626 to request a tour.

Bodega Viña Artuke is a small winery and is all about small scale.  In 1991, Roberto de Miguel decided to to move away from bulk wine and produce his own bottled wine.  The twenty-two hectares of vineyards are spread out over thirty-two plots between the villages of Baños de Ebro and Ábalos.  The family winery, dating back over a century, is now in the hands of Miguel Blanco’s two sons, Arturo and Kike Artuke, where the name ‘Artuke’ was derived from. The aim of the brothers has been to create a thoroughly modern style of Rioja, light, not heavily wooded.  They are part of the Rioja’n’Roll, founded in 2016, a group of young producers who are committed to making singular wines which reflect their origins and terroir.  You can email them at artuke@artuke.com or call (+34) 945 623 323 for additional information.

A new player in Rioja, Oxer Bastegieta is a Basque producer who divides his time between the family winery in the Bizkaiko Txakolina appellation, Oxer Wines, and his highly personal wines in Rioja.

Bodega 202 as a personal, family endeavor of Francis y Kathleen Rooney that strives to handcraft small batch vintages from old mountain plots, focusing on quality over quantity.

Situated along the slopes of Los Montes Obarenes, the  Bodega Alegre Valgañon family vineyards are scattered along the slopes with most of the plots around Fonzaleche, a tiny hamlet of 80 inhabitants, on the LR-302, just off the road from Miranda de Ebro.  Fonzaleche is the last village at western edge of La Rioja along the N-232.  Eva Valgañón and Oscar Alegre, both oenologist, they opened their own winery in 2010, producing their first vintage in 2014, after nine years of producing wines with their friends.  Their Bahierra 2012 was awarded 95 points by Tim Atkin in 2020 and 94 points from the Wine Advocate.  You can email @alegrevalganon.es for additional information.

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