A late start and a cooler temperature made Saturday a more gentle day as we headed to the outskirts of Logrono to Vina Ijalba. I last visited Ijalba in 2005 and they were at the forefront of organic viticulture and were prominent in a project to redevelop old traditional grape varieties.
Our host was Vincent. Vincent is Dutch, speaks six languages and hosted a truly special occasion with a charm and skill that belied his years. Instantly picking up on the sense of humour of the group, he gave a concise but extremely informative narrative of the estate as well as some really useful details about the terroir and the Ijalba vineyards that are planted on disused quarry pits. Moving from the winery to the tasting room we then experienced a somewhat raucous session tasting eight wines and matching with some delicious tapas.
The wines went down a storm and allowed us to taste the rare Maturana Blanco and Tinta, a Tempranillo Blanco, Joven, Crianza and Reserva, as well as their delicious White Rioja and 100% Graciano. Brilliantly made and great insights were added by Vincent.
This was an utterly fabulous end to the tasting part of our tour. Just dinner to go…….
Restaurante La Galeria was our destination at a mere 300 yards from the hotel. Modern and innovative, owner Raul has endeavoured to deconstruct some Riojan classics and present them in a highly distinctive way. Patatas bravas soup with some jamon, pankura Hake, mushroom risotto, roast pork and an ice cream mille-feuille were all served with aplomb. Plus, as an added bonus, we were joined for dinner by Juan Carlos Sancha and his wife Marian. Juan Carlos is a Professor of Enology at La Rioja university and Marian is a lawyer at the DO Rioja regulatory body. Juan Carlos punctuated the evening with introductions to the variety of wines as well as giving some thoughts on the future of Rioja. We tasted the future as one of the wines was a single vineyard Rioja which is now being approved by the regulatory authorities as well as a Late harvest dessert Rioja. A white dessert wine made from Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano that was utterly delicious and only permitted four years ago.
This was a superb tour, if I may say myself, showing Rioja in a modern and progressive light. The quality of wine and food was exceptional and we have seen Rioja in a wonderful new light.