Wine Tasting in Rioja
My fiance and I will be traveling through Spain for our honeymoon this September. We plan on staying in Rioja for 3 or 4 days and need a few tips. What town should we stay in within the Rioja region? Which gives us most access to wineries? Should we stay in one central town or spend the night in several towns? I've been searching the Web and have found extremely little information to help me plan this trip. Furthermore, is it best to rent a car to go from winery to winery or should we just hire a cab every day? Are any wineries within walking distance?
Any information would be fantastic!
You are in for a great time. We are in Madrid just left La Rioja. Spent 4 days wine tasting and could spend 4 more easily.
One idea is to stay at Marquee de Riscal - an old traditional Bodega and a fabulous 5 star hotel. Great staff, wonderful rooms and the hotel was designed by Frank Geary - the same designer who did the Bilbao museum. You'll see that most Bodegas do 1 1/2 tours and then allow you to taste 2 wines -- If you work with the Concierge at the hotel, you can work around that. Don't miss the wine Museum in Briones - excellent presentation and the tour includes a couple of tastes -- but if the restaurant is open you can taste by the glass. Muga is a great winery to taste and they have a tienda where you can buy by the glass. Haro is the main La Rioja town, so use all the Bodegas there to start, however there are others out and about. Don't miss Bodegas Ysios, just for the design - tasting also. Vina Real, great place, nice people and wonderful wine. Bodegas Baigorri great design and excellent wine. We rented a car and drove ourselves (taste and spit for one of you) Easy with a GPS. I would think about just using Riscal as your base -- easy to get everywhere from there. Enjoy. Let me know if you have other questions.
I just got back from a wine tasting trip in Spain. We started in Barcelona and drove down to Penedes/Sant Sadruni to try some cava, then drove to Laguardia where we stayed for 3 nights - it's a very romantic and lovely little town perched up on a hilltop with great views of the surrounding vineyards. I think for a honeymoon, staying in one of the smaller towns would be preferable to something larger like Haro or Logrono, but you'll almost certainly need to rent a car. The whole alavesa region is easily drivable and very pretty country side to explore between tours so, I think renting a car would be a good idea no matter where you stay, particularly if you'd like to design your own itinerary.
As for wineries, we visited Lopez R Heredia Vina Tondonia in Haro first, it's one of if not the first winery in the region, very old fashioned with lovely historic buildings as well as a Zaha Hadid designed tasting room, and penacillin covered cellars. The tour was great and the tasting was very pleasant although, the wine is a bit funky. Kind of interesting, and we liked it enough to take a few bottles home, but not quite our usual style.
Next up, Ysios, with a winery designed by Calatrava - I was choosing based on architectural significance as well - it was very young - maybe started in 2003?, and seemed somewhat more new world to me with much bigger wines some of which needed more aging.
Then Margues de Riscal, with it's hotel designed by Frank Gehry. In some ways the least interesting tour with a guide who didn't quite make sense when asked to go into more detail on the wine making process. But, it was also our favorite wine on the trip. And we stopped in for a bite before hand at their cafe in the wine shop - they also have much fancier restaurants - and had the best tortilla with piquillos we've ever had! And it was very affordable.
We were able to set these up at 10, 1, and 4:30 which is about the most you could pack into a day. And I set up all the appointments by email without hiring a guide or agency which worked for us, but with the 9 hour time difference, it took a while to figure things out with each email reply taking atleast a day.
The next day, we went to Vina Real which felt somewhat more commerical than the previous 3, but we still enjoyed it. The set up in the wine making room is really very impressive and we enjoyed the wine.
As for towns and hotels, if you'd like to spend a lot, Hotel at Marques de Riscal is very nice, but if you'd like something more afforable I'd try to stay at a historic inn or hotel in a town such as Laguardia, Briones, or Elciego. They're all very romantic charming small towns within 1/2 an hour drive from one another. And while some of the wineries are certainly walking distance from the towns, I think you'd be limiting yourself without access to a car.