Struggling Vines

Struggling Vines is a recently started project by Melanie Hickman.
Melanie, a native of Ohio, fell in love with a Spaniard and changed the path of her life. A lover of nature and wine, both of which can be found in Álava, Melanie decided to settle in Elvillar (Rioja Alavesa), combine her passions and convert her dreams into her livelihood by elaborating three single vineyard wines with the help of her husband, David Sampedro.

Her mission is to rescue old vines with high quality grapes, convert the land to biodynamic farming, and create single vineyard wines. Each wine is an expression of the vineyard, passion, care and dreams fulfilled. All with a focus on nature and respect for the environment.

How it all started

One day while exploring the vineyards surrounding their village of Elvillar in Rioja Alavesa, a vineyard perched atop a hill at 2,100 feet called out with its 2.9 hectares of white limestone soils and high-quality white Viura grapes. Melanie had found Hapa’s vineyard. She used her retirement savings to buy the vineyard and follow her dream of crafting a soulful single vineyard wine.

Shortly after, David discovered an old and isolated parcel that was destined to be replanted due to its age, location and steep terrain that prevented tractors from entering the vineyard. Together, Melanie and David convinced the owners to sell them the vineyard and save it from destruction. The remote location of these extremely low yielding vines posed no problem for the plow horses and were the perfect addition to her single vineyard dream.

Hapa’s Vineyard

A west-facing vineyard located in the village of Elvillar, Rioja Alavesa, perched atop a hill at 640m (2,100 feet). A 2.9 hectares (6 acres) parcel of white limestone soils graced with fifty percent of the plantation consisting of high quality white grapes, quite a rare find in Rioja, alongside Tempranillo and Graciano. Planted in 1967, this was the first vineyard planted beyond the village, scaling the hills of the Sierra Cantabria mountains. The white vines adorn the top section of the vineyard where the chalky limestone soils are poor, thereby intensifying the quality, while naturally controlling the yields. Red varietals such as Tempranillo and Graciano encompass the middle to lower portion of the vineyard. This vineyard is farmed following biodynamic tenets, using two horses whose stable is located in the lower part of the vineyard.

Phinca Hapa tinto
Phinca Hapa Tinto Phinca Hapa Blanco

San Julián Vineyard

Phinca San Julián A small, isolated vineyard with just over half an hectare (about one acre) of surface area, located next to Laguardia. Rescued from replantation, this century-old vineyard contains a large array of varieties, some still not identified. The vineyard lies on the back of a hill facing the boundary between the two viticultural zones of Elvillar and Laguardia. Its steep grade and uneven surfaces, inaccessible to tractors, pose no problem when farmed by horses. Pure limestone soils and an east-facing orientation keeps the vineyard fresh and cool. To respect the land, the fauna in and around the vineyard was untouched. It continues to share space with some small almond trees and peach trees. The arteries of ancient retaining walls and the ruins of a Guardaviña, a stone shelter typical of La Rioja, can still be found. This secluded location is perfect for biodynamic farming, presenting no crossover from conventional farming neighbors. The special energy of this vineyard and its gnarly vines growing from underneath rocks and trees can continue their fight for space and intense quality of the little fruit that it bears. It has the reputation of being a fairy garden… The original name of the parcel was kept. 

Available by special order only.