Originally founded as a co-operative of 13 growers in 1985, in Laguardia in the heart of the Rioja Alavesa sub-region, the entire business and estate was subsequently purchased by winemaker Juan Carlos López de Lacalle.
The original estate consists of 83 hectares, all in Rioja Alavesa, but in 1996 and 1999 the company expanded into Navarra (the Artazu estate) and Alicante (the Pinoso estate) respectively.
The vines at all the estates are planted on nutrient poor soils, which encourage low yields, and see no chemical intervention. On arrival at the wineries grapes receive gentle treatment, using gravity wherever possible to feed the vats rather than the more vigorous pumping. Native yeasts are used for the alcoholic fermentation and there is minimal use of sulphur. In short, sustainability is central to the philosophy behind the wines.
Indeed, upn taking the reins Juan Carlos insisted on implementing a program of sustainable practices in the vineyard and the winery in order to show the terroir and to allow the fruit flavour of each variety as much expression as possible. His skill lies in growing grapes of exceptionally healthy quality.
In Rioja tempranillo is the main grape variety grown with garnacha alongside, while it is garnacha that rules the roost in Navarra, where a warmer and more continental climate than neighbouring Rioja ripens it to perfection. The highlights of the Navarra wines are Artazuri (an unoaked, simple expression of garnacha, made to be enjoyed young and vibrant) and the new, more serious Pasos de San Martin which is made with garnacha grapes coming from vineyards over 35 years old lying on a slope over 600 metres high. Much further south, at the estate in Alicante, monastrell (aka mourvédre) is king because of its aptitude for taking the Mediterranean temperatures in its stride. The main wine, El Sequé, is a southern blockbuster whilst the second wine, Laderas, is an excellent, fruity introduction to the Alicante style.