2018 Villota, Rioja “Viña Gena” Viñedo Singular, Rioja Alavesa, Spain.
Brilliantly ruby/garnet in the glass with pure Tempranillo character, this single cru Viña Gena by Villota shows off the Rioja Alavesa, with its higher elevation cool climate character and energy, making it a wine of terroir and a very unique Rioja bottling and one of the most luxurious and silky versions in the region. The 2018 is filled with layers of blackberry, currant and black fruit, plus sweet sandalwood, vanilla, anise, lilac and pipe tobacco, in a medium bodied and sensual wine, a cross between the density of a Bordeaux and the transparency and nuance of Burgundy, but all Tempranillo in personality, impressive stuff. The Familia Peréz Villota Viticultores, as mentioned in prior reviews, makes a 100% estate grown, Rioja Alavesa Tinto, with a wealth of history in the region. Villota was, as the winery notes, established four generations ago on their San Rafael Estate, near the famous Ebro River where it flows through the village of Laserna in Rioja Alavesa, mostly known as suppliers of grapes to Contino, which they co-founded decades ago. The current bodega was founded not long ago in 2013, and they have set about making small production wines that are more distinctly terroir driven and modernly transparent and less oak driven than the traditional Rioja of the big bodegas. Villota now has some of Rioja’s most historic, interesting and important vineyard sites to express in their unique collection of wines, which are mostly all old vine Tempranillo plantings.

The Viña Gena Rioja comes from old school dry-farmed vines, without any use of systemic herbicides, fungicides, pesticides, or fertilizers, and they are cultivated primarily “en vaso” or goblet style head trained. This100% Tempranillo vineyard, Finca San Rafael, has been owned and cultivated by the Villota family since the 1930’s and the site is farmed on three terraces that slope gently towards the Ebro River which makes for a dramatic view, from what I gather. The hand-picked grapes are fully de-stemmed following a rigorous sorting process in the vineyard and continuing in the cellar where the wine ferments spontaneously with native yeasts. The Viña Gena macerates in stainless steel before being racked to French barrique for malolactic fermentation, which also begins without additional cultures. The wine is matured in these fine grained oak barrels for 16 months, then that is followed by 6 months in concrete vats before bottling. Again this distinctive Rioja comes from, what the winery calls, traditional dry-farmed bush vines, set on rocky limestone and clay soils, holistically cared for to provide low yields and intense concentration, that shows in the finished product! This vintage, 2018, and the following 2019s from Villota have attracted a lot of attention, and I can see why, and they might not be easy to find, but it is well worth taking time to look for. I also recommend their entry level Rioja Tinto bottling too, which I reviewed previously, but their single vineyard Viña Gene 2018 is exceptional wine on the next level.
($54 Est.) 95 Points, grapelive

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