So about a month ago, I took a long weekend jaunt to the Rioja region of Spain. I have wanted to go since I arrived in Espana and finally I succeeded in convincing the novio (boyfriend) that his second trip to Rioja wouldn’t be a repeat of his last,which consisted of tour after droning tour of endless wineries. We agreed we would pepper the trip with a little trekking and possibly a trip to a spa to soak in a big ol’ tub of vino. (We ended up missing our Wine Oil Spa treatments but its a great excuse to go back for another visit.)
I plotted and planned our route with the help of Google Earth and some serious investigative work to pin-point the top bodegas for our visit. I happen to think that I am bit intuned with the world of design and all things cool, so I made sure to include the new ”wine palaces.” I am talking about bad ass bodegas designed by the likes of Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry. If you dont know who they are, look ’em up.
For four days LogroÃ±o was our home base and from there we took off to Arnedillo, a charming, miniscule pueblo nearby for a grueling 4 hour mountain trek, as well as to other deserted pueblos such as El Ciego and Laguardia to catear (wine taste) the best of Rioja. We actually toured Vina Real of the CVNE fame, Bodega Darien and Marques de Riscal to get the secret details on how these three actually harvest, ferment, bottle and age their vinos. Absoltely fascinating. Not to mention, many noted that their current staff of oenologists were women! I guess there is something to be said for our God given sensitive palates and heightened sense of smell. Unfortunately Bodega Ysios was booked for that weekend so a tour was out of the question but we did visit the asstounding structure designed by Santiago Calatrava. (Not really an architect, moreso an engineer but he ranks up there with Hadid and Gehry.)
The vist to Rioja on a rate of 1-5 would have to be 4. It would have been a 5 if only we hadn’t missed our vino bath. I’ll be going back though. Its a huge region and four days isn’t sufficient to explore all of it. But it was good enough to wet my taste buds.
Wine lovers will enjoy obviously the vinticulture and the rich history that is steeped in Rioja wine making. However nature lovers will also go ga-ga for the low valleys and high peaks that are made for exploring on foot or mountain bike. There are tons of trails to explore old ruins of monestaries, caves and ofcourse there is the River Ebro that splits the territority from the Basque region. Last but not least, food lovers are going to salavate non-stop at all the asadors (grills). Fresh grilled meat is the specialty but dont skimp on the veggies too, which just like the magnificint grapes from the area, the verduras taste like fresh, wholesome goodness. We didn’t do it because we were too tired every night after a long day of walking to do a tapas crawl but on Calle Laurel in LogroÃ±o is famous for their tapas bars. Next time we will have to do that. For anyone interested, here are some of my top picks for quickie-tour of Rioja.
Marques de Riscal by Frank Gehry â€“ Located in the tiny village of El Ciego this winery is more of a destination spot than just a bodega. There is a boutique hotel, a Michelin rated restaurant, cafÃ© as well as spa that uses all Caudalie products. Antioxidants anyone? Feel free to drink them, soak in them or exfoliate with them as you please.
Bodega Lopez de Heredia Vins Tondonia by Zaha Hadid â€“ Â The town of Haro is one of the capitals within Rioja for the quantity of outstanding wineries however this particular bodega is a must see. The winery has a rich history and even more interesting is how Zaha Hadid came to design the decanter style structure for which she won a Prtizer Prize. It is said the grand daughter of the propeitor decided the Bodega needed a spruce-up and wrote to Hadid asking for her asistence and ta-da, Zaha said, ”Sure, of course, no problem. I’ll do it. Just pay me in bottles of your best vintage.” By the way, we didn’t make it here either.
Bodega Vina Real by Philippe Maziers – A huge wine-barrel like structure tinted aubergine plays homage to aging process of vino in oak barrels. This was the first bodega we visited upon our arrival and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off our vacay. The tour was relaxed and fun as their was a little tyke accompanying us. He could have cared less about the whole explanation of the grape harvest however he enjoyed the ”grape jucie” cata and cheese and bread stickets and the end. I was impressed not only by a lovely white tempranillo but alsoÂ the deep tunnels where they store the barrels used for aging the wine. Vast and incredibly deep.
Bodega Ysios by Santiago Calatrava â€“ Gorgeous. Gorgeous. Gorgeous. That says it all. This bodega is best viewed from afar in order to soak up its majestic beauty. It sits at the foot of the Cantabria mountains and its clear as Calatrava has said, that undulating roof structure was meant to mimic the peak of the mountains above.
Bodega Darien by Jesus Marino Pasqual – A stark white futuristic structure that juts out oddly from the serene natural landscape that surrounds it is an amazing sight to see. The vino tino aint bad either! This bodega happens to be one of the new kids on the block however its already making a name for itself within the world of wine. Out of all the tours we took, this one was probably THE best as it included videos with amazing imagery and music to give a visual representation of what the guide was explaining.