Viñas del Lentisco – Villota is one of the most exciting new projects that exists today in Rioja. The project is owned, operated, and founded by Carmen Pérez-Garrigues and her father Ricardo Pérez-Villota, the fourth and third generations respectively of the Pérez-Villota family, a line of growers and vigneron that have been rooted to the San Rafael estate in Laserna, Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa on a meander of the Ebro Rivera since 1930. While their current bodega was founded in 2013, the Villota-Pérez family are one of the most important families in the 20th century history of Rioja.
In 1930, Ricardo Pérez-Pérez, native of Rioja, returned from Chile and settled on the San Rafael estate in Laserna. At the time, the 160 Ha. estate was planted to vitis vinifera but was in considerable disrepair. It was Ricardo’s son, Ricardo Pérez-Calvet, an agricultural engineer by trade, who began recovery and resuscitation of the vineyard, and began producing wine for his own personal consumption. The family soon began selling grapes to local producers and quickly became one of the most important qualitative suppliers for Viña Real, CVNE’s Rioja Alavesa property.
In the late 1950’s, CVNE’s general manager, José Ángel Madrazo, began a project with Ezequiel García, CVNE’s head winemaker, to identify their top vineyard sites and suppliers for the production of CVNE’s top wines. García is arguably the most important winemaker in 20th century Rioja, and is known by the affectionate nick-name El Brujo or The Sorcerer. When Madrazo asked El Brujo who CVNE’s top supplier of grapes was, the legendary winemaker responded unequivocally “the vineyards in Laserna owned by the Villota family.” It is no mistake that the Viña Real Gran Reservas of the late 50’s through early 70’s were primarily sourced from the Villota family’s estate. Today, these wines are considered to be some of the most legendary wines ever produced in Rioja.
Inspired by the quality of the estate and by the two family’s strong commercial relationship, Ricardo Pérez-Calvet and his son Ricardo Pérez-Villota decide enter a 50/50 partnership with CVNE in 1973, and found Rioja’s first single estate winery, Viñedos del Contino, on the 160 Ha. of family land that they had cultivated for the previous four decades. The Villota provided viticultural and technical expertise, and CVNE provided a sales and marketing network. Winemaking was lead by Jesus Madrazo, José Angel’s son. Contino set into motion one of the most important trends in Rioja – producing wines that were expressive of a single location, and several famous producers, such as Remelluri, shortly followed suit. It wasn’t until the founding of Señorio de San Vicente by the Eguren family in 1991, when this concept was taken a step further, by focusing not only on a single contiguous estate, but on the vinification of a single individual cru.
The partnership remained for 40 years, until in 2013, the Pérez-Villota family left the partnership, taking with them 105 Ha. of land (100 of which are planted to vines) of the original estate, leaving Contino with 60 Ha. The family’s inspiration is to continue their trajectory as vigneron and to continue and improve the tradition of vinification of honest and transparent wines that communicate the history of one of Rioja’s most historic and important vineyard estates. While the family owns significant land, production is small (60,000 bottles as of 2021), and they select the best plots from their estate for their own wines, selling the rest of the production on long term agreements to other local producers.