Are there "not to be missed" Rioja wines?
My husband and I will be traveling to Spain and France late this spring. We will spend three days in Bilbao and three days in the Rioja region before heading into France. I know determining what is a good wine is, at least to some extent, a personal thing. But while we are in Spain, we would like to taste some of what are considered to be the "best" Rioja wines, either at bodegas or in restaurants. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
If they give tastings/tours the two I would not miss are Roda and Lopez de Heredia. COMPLETELY different ends of the spectrum from one another. Whereas Roda is modern, Lopez de Heredia is beyond rustic. But to me they represent the best of the two extremes in style that Rioja can give. LdH also makes phenominal white wine -- the best I've ever had from Spain.
Strongly agree with the Lopez de Heredia suggestion. They are one of the most traditional, and brilliant, wine producers in Spain and the world. While some of the very old bottles can be hit and miss, when on, they are ON! Brilliant, complex and elegant wines. For my taste (which does not prefer "modern" Rioja) these are potentially the best red wines of Spain.
While the older Gran Reservas can get quite pricey, the Reservas are a great value, although not "cheap". Recent vintages like the 99 Bosconia and Tondonia are brilliant.
Yes, LdH has tasting tours (in English or Spanish). You have to reserve as far ahead in advance. Even if you can't make the tour, the new Tasting Room at Haro is worth visiting for tastings and is a plus if one is into good architectural designs.
They were tasting 1987 Gran Reservas (both Bosconia and Tondonia), as well as 1989 Reserva Blanco when we were there last Spring.
This is a "not-to-be missed".
Another one, imho, is La Rioja Alta which is just across the street from LdH at Haro. The 1994 "806" and the 1995 "940" were offered for tasting when we were there. Both were very good wines.
Bodegas Muga is right beside La Rioja Alta along the same street. I'd also recommend including this one if you're already in the area.
However, Rioja is a very large region and 3 days would not cover every one of them. The 3 wineries that I mentioned above are in the Alta regions.