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Tapas Weekend in Logrono

Tapas Weekend in Logrono

Last week I posted about the spectacular wineries I visited during my trip to La Rioja earlier this month. I wanted to expand on that post this week and dedicate some well-deserved space to one of the other highlights of our trip – the 24 hours  Tapas Weekend in Logrono we spent , the capital of La Rioja.

The scene on Calle Laurel early Friday afternoon



We arrived at this small but lively city of 150,000 early on a Friday afternoon. My last minute Google research in the car indicated that the city had a street famous for tapas (Calle Laurel), so we decided to head there for lunch. To our surprise, it was absolutely crammed with people spilling out of the more than 40 bars that are on this tiny, pedestrian street. We strolled down the length of the calle (it only takes about a minute, to be honest) and quickly deduced how it worked – each bar has its own specialty tapa, which is advertised on the outside of the bar. Since trying the local specialty everywhere I go is one of my favorite pastimes, Raul and I went from bar to bar trying the advertised “especialidad de la casa” accompanied by a small copa de vino (Rioja of course).
The specialties in this tapas paradise included such things as patatas bravas, roasted garlic mushrooms on bread (this was the highlight for me), matrimonios (small sandwiches with anchovies and grilled peppers), zapatillas (a hunk of bread with olive oil, tomato and jamón serrano), and sepia. They ranged in price from about €1-3, making for some cheap meals. In fact, we had such a great time and enjoyed the food at lunch so much that we went there for dinner the same day. The wine was also easy on the wallet, making for arguably some of the best and most enjoyable eating and drinking I have ever done in Spain (which says a lot).
The glorious “champis” at Bar Soriano

Our time in Logroño was such a pleasant surprise. While we were there tapeando our hearts out, we were already planning our next trip. The combination of the architecture of the wineries, the wine itself and the tapas of Logroño made this a weekend I will never forget!

Bodega Hopping in La Rioja

Bodega Hopping in La Rioja

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.



Wine Tasting in Madrid

Wine Tasting in Madrid

You do not have to live in Spain to know that this country has some great wine, as Courtney pointed out a few months ago.   From Rioja to Rueda to Ribera del Duero you can find something to complement almost any meal beautifully.  I am not a wine connoisseur by any stretch of the imagination but Raul and I really enjoy trying the different varieties of Spanish vino and continually finding new favorites. Wine Tasting in Madrid is more than a national sport!!

Luckily for me we recently discovered Reserva y Cata, a small wine shop/liquor store in our neighborhood  in Madrid that offers a variety of events on a regular basis that have allowed us to indulge this new diversion.   Approximately three to four evenings per month the store offers some sort of alcohol-related course or tasting.  These events are usually wine-based, but I have also seen a gin & tonic as well as a whiskey tasting since I have been following the calendar.   

We signed up for the email list so we would know about the courses as soon as they were announced (you can also find a listing on the website under “Eventos y Cursos”.)  The events are very popular and only hold about 17 people, so you have to sign up quickly if you want in. Over the past few months we went to a tasting of Spanish wine and French cheese (there is no adjective strong enough to sufficiently describe how much I enjoyed this combination), Spanish wine and Spanish cheese (a match made in heaven) and gin & tonic (muy de moda in Spain these days).

Not only did we learn how to pair everything to achieve the optimal taste from both, we also had the chance to meet other people and have a great time in the process.  If you have a passion or even an interest in Spanish wine, I would highly recommend an evening at Reserva y Cata.

Reserva y Cata

Conde de Xiquena, 13

Metro: Chueca, Colon, or Alonso Martinez