Monday, 8 October 2018

Hola Rioja

So, at last in September SOH and I eventually made our way to Northern Spain to go and meet Roberto from Bodegas Santalba and find out where the utterly gorgeous Rioja that we sell comes from. 

We have been so lucky in our jobs as publicans to go to various suppliers of both food and drink and look at the process - Champagne in particular (twice) - but this was a much awaited visit and already postponed once from earlier in the year. 

The first part of our road trip was the Brittany ferries crossing from Plymouth, and I have to say that we were both VERY pleasantly surprised. Not by the bunk beds it has to be said, but by the general high standards on the ferry, the food and drink and entertainment!! Excellent and probably something we will repeat again. 

Arrival at Santander after about 22 hours was slightly delayed, but we made a  fairly fast escape from the boat and onto the road to Brinas.  

A sweet little village in the province of La Rioja. Now SOH does NOT like travelling with a sat nav - he finds it hard enough with me! But only a couple of wrong turns and a little bit of colourful language from both of us, found us in this delightful village and a hotel set right near to the river. 

The following day we did a little sightseeing, before going out with Roberto and enjoying his hospitality in his home town of Haro. Haro is known for its fine red wine and every year the Haro Wine Festival is held where locals hold a wine battle!!! 

The little bar we went to offered the most exquisite tapas and authentically local too - hence I ate a Pigs Ear - absolutely NOT like the type we sell for the dogs in the Vic!! 

But the following day was an absolute highlight for us. We've sold Roberto's wine for about 8 years, when he came to the Vic and talked to us about his wines.  Since then he's been to Salcombe for a visit with his wife and family, and we keep in regular contact on social media. So going to see the grapes and the winery itself was just super. 

Santalba is a family run operation and you feel that from the off when Roberto told us about his Father Santiago starting the business in 1964. In fact the name of the winery is a fusion of the first name and surname of him; Santiago Ijalba. 

I always find it fascinating to see the grapes that will be used in the making of the wines or Champagnes, and to see this here at Santalba was no less special. Roberto explained that the time we were there was absolutely crucial as to not wanting too much rain otherwise it may affect the harvest. The care that Bodegas Santalba take in monitoring and selecting their grapes certainly show in the finished product. Their grapes are also harvested manually!! 

He explained to us that the geographical location in the heart of the Rioja Alto  with it's climate and it's soil have all contributed to giving the regions wines their unmistakeable character. 

We had an absolutely brilliant tour with Roberto (who is an exceptionally busy man - spending a lot of time abroad) and the winery was far bigger than we expected it to be.  SOH was in his element as he's a bit off a wine buff and has a genuine thirst for knowledge when it comes to all things to do with our business. 

Then of course came the tasting!  My favourite part of the tour of course! Now, of course to taste professionally, you taste, swill and spit into a spittoon - nope! Not for us, we embraced the tasting with gusto and I can honestly say that it was a very pleasurable hour or two.  

Roberto very generously gave us a gift of wine and meats and we spent a few shillings on a dozen or so of his very best wines to bring home with us1  

This was all followed by a delightful lunch in Sajazarra a hill top setting where the heavens opened, and I mean truly opened,  and there was a little fretting by Roberto that it would not be as heavy back at the the Bodegas............. 

I'm pleased to say that it wasn't and the grapes have just started to be harvested in the last couple of days  

So all in all a delightful couple of days and we felt very privileged that our friend Roberto took so much time out of his busy schedule to be with us. 

Following on from that we went to Santiago de Compostela where we had a very pleasurable couple of days before driving back to Santander. 

We made lots of memories and felt even more enthusiastic about the Rioja Ermita Crianza that we are so happy to recommend and to sell. 

Till the next time

Much love

Liz x