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Rioja Wineries/Hotels

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My husband and I are planning to visit the rioja region in mid July. We are looking for suggestions for wineries that we can visit and taste at. Does anyone know of any that make cava? I don't know a lot about where its made so this may be a silly question.
Also, we are looking for a nice boutique like hotel to stay at during our visit. Has anyone ever visited Haro? This looked to be a good base for our stay. Any feedback or suggestions would be great!

Thanks!
Michelle

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  1. Although 99% of Cava is made in Penedes, Catalunya (south of Barcelona), a quick google "rioja cava" gave the following results (as Cava is made in small quantities throughout Spain):

    http://www.noticiasderioja.com/2004/0...

    RIOJAN WINE CELLARS ELABORATORS OF CAVA
    SIX FIRMS BELONG TO THE DENOMINATION OF ORIGIN CAVA

    Six wine cellars from our region elaborate not only excellent Rioja wines, but wines of the Denomination of Origin Cava.

    Rioja is showing that it produces excellent wines, but also is the second Spanish Cava producer.

    The Regulating Council Board of Quality Spumous Wine Produced in a concrete Region (VECPRD) has allowed Rioja producing Cava with varieties viura and malvasia.

    In this area there are about 33000 hectares for producing cava, by the bodegas: Bodegas Bilbainas (Haro), ), Benito Escudero (Gravalos), Faustino (Oyon), Ondarre (Viana), Mainegra (Mendavia) and Muga (Haro).

    No help with the rest though, sorry!

    4 Replies
    1. re: ilyar

      Muga makes the best - or more correctly they also specialize in it - the others are far less prominent.
      I've been to Rioja a few times - Haro was OK but a bit boring. My strategy now is to stay outside the core area and visit the wineries by day. Last time I stayed near San Sebastian (Donostia) - about 90 minutes north - but host to the greatest concentration of Michelin starred restaurants anywhere.
      The time before I stayed at the Parador in Santo Domingo - about an hour south.

      1. re: estufarian

        We are actually staying in San Sebastian and spending one planning a side trip ( probably 1 night) in rioja. Is Haro a place we could spend a day in? Are there decent restaurants?

        Thanks!
        Michelle

        1. re: MBea

          Haven't stayed/eaten in Haro for several years. Last good meal in Rioja was in Casalarreina - review:
          "Hotfooted it to Rioja and had our first taste of Spain in Casalarreina (a couple of hours drive south of both Bilbao and San Sebastian). The restaurant (La Vieja Bodega) was situated in a 17-century wine bodega (barn!), beautifully restored with a rustic feel. This turned out to be a very important meal, as well as being an excellent start. First we learned that restaurants open up for dinner much later in Spain than Europe. Then we over-ordered (according to the server) because the choices were so tempting. The first courses were spectacular – worth a visit here just for those. I had a simple plate of Iberico ham. Paper-thin slices, but what flavour! Had the mouth feel of a ham, but none of the fatty taste sometimes encountered with lesser hams. This serving was all flavour, melt-in-the-mouth, simply the best ham I can remember ever having. Chowspouse also tasted this and was amazed at the delicacy yet intense flavour, no sensation of filling up with food – almost ethereal. Throughout the trip this dish became a regular choice, but nowhere (regardless of stars) did the ham match up to the one here (not cheap however – we checked out prices at delis and typically Iberico sold for about double the price of the next most expensive – Serrano). Chowspouse’s starter was also superb. A salad of Lamb Sweetbreads. The sweetbreads were breaded, nugget-sized and totally grease-free. Sweetbreads are a favourite ingredient for me, but invariably a disappointment when presented. The colour is bland, even when breaded, and it’s also a difficult texture to present. Here the salad was multicoloured, so visually attractive, and accompanied by pine-nuts (crunch) and raisins (chewy and a sweet contrast) as well as a beet reduction dressing – more colour and sweetness. And lamb sweetbreads (or at least the way prepared here) seemed to have more flavour (I don’t ever recall being offered lamb in North America). The nugget size also helps texturally. An astonishing start. Next we tried a Foie Gras course and a Risotto. That allowed us to learn to eat local food – not fancy French or Italian transplants! Both were partially left (even foie gras; a first for me). Then the mains, (actually in Spain this is a misdescription as Appetizers and Mains tend to be about the same size – another learning), one of duck and one of pigeon. The local pigeon was excellent, the duck less successful. Desserts best forgotten, particularly the cheese plate which was dried out. But being Rioja, the wine list was excellent. We had a half-bottle each of a Crianza (Cubillo) and a Reserva (Tondonia) from the same producer (Lopez de Heredia – very reliable). All in all a mixed meal, but the starters were a revelation.

          You might want to check out the new hotel at Marques de Riscal - designed by Gehry. We tried to go there for a drink (we don't normally travel at those prices) but it was due to open the following week (Oct 2006).
          My recollection of Haro itself is mainly some good winestores - but the better dining was outside the town.

      2. re: ilyar

        Thanks so much! This is all very helpful.
        Michelle