Recommendations for La Rioja region, Spain
Would appreciate any recommendations for wineries, dining and hotels in La Rioja. Planning on spending 1 day/ 1 night in the region on the way from Sen Sebastian to Bilbao and so am looking for the "greatest hits" given the brief visit.
Here are some notes from past trips.
During our last trip in Rioja (Alava), we stayed in Laguardia since it was, somehow, in the center of the wineries and towns that we inteneded to go to. Plus, it's a pretty hill town. We stayed at Hotel Villa and which is about 5 minutes walk into the center of the town, as we wanted to avail of free hotel parking for our rental. The hotel is quite nice, clean, modern, with the basic amenities and then some. Quite popular with locals and European tourists.
I'd put Lopez de Heredia (Vina Tondonia) in Haro at the TOP of any Rioja winery list. A great bodega with traditional structure and one heck of a modern tasting room. They'll take you through the gamut of recent releases and some old library stuff during the tasting. At half the price of what we pay here in retail, it'll take a bit of restraint to come away without purchasing anything.
Almost opposite LdHeredia, just across the street, is La Rioja Alta. Another winery producing very good traditional wines.
Bodegas Muga is along side La Rioja Alta. All these 3 wineries are within 3-5 minutes walk from one another. I’d recommend the tour.
CVNE Bodegas Vina Real, is about a 5 minute drive east of Laguardia. Quite an imposing structure, especially as you approach from afar. Reminded me of a James Bond’s arch enemy’s hideout. The huge robotic machines and processing equipments, and even the coverall uniforms by the workers will make you anticipate an sudden appearance by Dr. No during the visit. Good range of CVNE wines, too.
Restaurants are terrific, from modern Basque to traditional Riojan cuisine. Go nuts with the wine list! Prices could be half to less-than-half of what we see in US restaurants.
In Rioja Alta:
1. Hector Oribe (http://www.hectororibe.es
) This small restaurant is just in the outskirt of Laguardia (going west towards Haro/Labastida) and can be a little hard to find. Go for lunch and you’ll see plenty of wine itb’s with the very good dishes of Riojan classics presented in modern style. Highly recommended and excellent value for very moderate dining cost. Must reserve in advance.
Tel: +34 94 560 0715
2. El Portal del Echaurren (http://www.echaurren.com/Restaurante-El ... -Echaurren
) In Ezcaray, a short 20-minute drive from Haro. I believe that this is the only 2-starred Michelin dining in Rioja and the Euro75 pp menu is worth it, but at over 2 hours. Reservation is a must.
3. Las Duelas (http://www.lasduelas.com/menus.php
) In Haro. Very good traditional Riojan and excellent local wine list. Need to reserve.
4. Asador Arino
In Labastida, about 10 minutes drive from Haro. Very casual, traditional Riojan steak and meat places. The chuleton (grilled porterhouse) is the dish, among good side dishes. Euro 35 pp gets you a plenty of good eats here.
Tel: +34 94 533 1024
5. Dinastia Vivanco (http://www.dinastiavivanco.com/inicio...
) Another one of the Dr. No’ish humongous modern winery structure that are all over the place. This one is near the town of Briones. Forget about the modern Rioja wines which they provide free with your lunch or dinner (they’re serviceable). It’s the moderately-priced Riojan classic dishes that makes this a destination, imho. Again, must reserve in advance.
Well, the last time we were there, we covered most of these restaurants/wineries with 3-nights 4-days stay. Although, the Rioja Alta/alavesa area has some very fascinating rugged landscape, the region is totally wine-and-food-centric, so if you plan to spend more time, be aware if you have very young children with you that they may not be that thrilled. As for us, we can’t wait to go back.
Some of the wineries have tasting rooms that are open during the day and can be visited without advanced appointment (Lopez-de-Heredia in Haro is one and it has a very nice modern one amidst the old, traditional winery compound). If you want to get a tour in any of the wineries, advanced appointment via email is required.
Needless to say, advanced reservation, as I noted in my restaurant posts below is almost a given.
I was 3 weeks ago in Rioja (the last of 5 trips to the region)
All recommendations shown are very good, but maybe a bit expensive some of them (like Riscal hotel)
If you have 1 Day I´d suggest:
Lopez Heredia in Haro. I believed the oldest in Haro, great tunnels, wine... and interesting historical facts that explain how wine culture developed in Rioja.
In Briones (less than 10km from Haro) Vivanco museum. You can have lunch there with views to the vineyards or go to the restaurant Los calados, set at an old village winery.
Take the road to Elciego to enjoy views of Riscal hotel (the winery is not so special after all). The vineyard landscape is really good in this road. Then drive to Laguardia. I´d suggest you visit one of the old wineries in Laguardia (family run like Sampedro or el Fabulista) or a very modern one like Ysios or Campillo (walking distance).
I got my wineries booked at this site (I link the english version) Easier than phoning or emailing wineries.
For hotels, Los Agustinos in Haro is a good option, or Villa de Laguardia in Laguardia... or Viura (similar style to Riscal but half the price)...
I hope this helps. Many more options are available for longer trips, but one day is one day (2 wineries + nice lunch should be enough.. and be careful if you are driving!)
I was in Rioja about a week ago and concur on the Lopez de Heredia recommendation. We also visited Finca Valpiedra, which is a modern contrast to Lopez de Heredia but equally enjoyable.
We stayed in Laguardia at Hotel Villa de Laguardia Sercotel. This was centrally located and very convenient to many wineries. It is walking distance to Laguardia. Breakfast was included. I recommend it. Dinner restaurant was only ok however.
Laguardia is beautiful but we felt very uncomfortable in the town. People were extremely unfriendly and there was plenty of staring/dirty looks when we went out for tapas. We found it quite odd and it was our only unfriendly/negative experience in an 11 day trip to Spain. It wasn't the language, as my wife speaks quite well.
Our favorite meal in Rioja was at Asador Alameda, in Fuenmayor. Really creative standout meal including ahi carpaccio, sauteed porcini mushorooms, fantastic sea bream for two (equal to the same dish at Asador Extebarri a few days later) and incredible dessert of cheesecake with queso gelato. Service was very good. Wine list had the usual fantastic bargains just like every other restaurant in Rioja. Highly recommended.