Raul and I took advantage of the puente this past weekend and decided to take a trip to Spain’s wine country – La Rioja. Although we have already written about La Rioja on two other occasions, since I went to three wineries that were not yet commented on, I could not resist writing another post. The province of La Rioja is about a 3-4 hour drive from Madrid, depending on what part you go to, and is jam-packed with bodegas. We visited four of them on our trip, and I have to say La Rioja is the best kept secret in Spain! The fact that Spain has great wine is no secret, nor is the fact that a lot of it has denominación de origen from La Rioja, but I have met very few people (Spanish or otherwise) who have enjoyed first- hand this enchanting journey to the land of vino.
Our first stop was Marques de Riscal in the tiny village of Elciego. Over the past few years I have admired the architecture of this masterpiece in photos, so to see it up close and in person was surreal; nobody could take their eyes off of the stunning Frank Gehry design. The 1.5 hour tour included plenty of opportunities to take pictures and also explore the old and new parts of its impressive wine production operation. The total cost was €10 and included 2 glasses of wine at the end.
The next morning we headed to Bodegas Ysios in the nearby village of Laguardia. After seeing Marques de Riscal I was unsure I could be impressed again, but Ysios blew me away. Designed by Santiago Calatrava (the man behind the Ciudad de Artes y Ciencias in Valencia), the combination of the modern, creative edifice against the gorgeous backdrop of the Cantabrian mountains was mesmerizing. The tour of this boutique winery was also interesting, as it was all very new and state-of-the-art. The €6 fee also included a glass of wine at the end, enjoyed along with a breathtaking view of the vineyards.
That afternoon, since we were en route to Logroño, we stopped at Bodegas Darien (just outside the Logroño city limits). Another winery, another magnificent, modern structure. Since they did not give tours in the afternoon, we were allowed to do a self-guided tour for €3 that included a glass of their reserva at the end. Even though the tour was less informative than the others (since it consisted of us walking around for a few minutes reading signs), the wine was our favorite of the bunch and the building was new and beautiful, making it well worth a visit.
We concluded our wine route the next day at Bodegas Muga in the village of Haro. Going into the trip, Muga was our favorite of the 4 wines, so we were especially excited for this one. The first thing we noticed was that Muga, as opposed to the other 3, had more traditional Spanish architecture as well as production. It was interesting for us to see the contrast and we really admired the history. The €6 fee included the tour (about 1 hour), 2 glasses of wine (we were able to keep the glasses afterwards) and a burlap wine bottle holder.
I highly recommend this trip to even the casual fan of wine and/or architecture. My best advice would be to make reservations for tours in advance (we saw many people get turned away at the door for not having a reservation). In addition, the region is a bit spread out, so plan your route wisely. Next week I will write a post about where we stayed and the various highlights of each pueblo (food, wine and otherwise) that really rounded out our fabulous trip.