WanderCurtis Wine

Wine tastings, corporate events, reviews and recommendations

Leave a comment

Rioja Wine Journey – June 2014

It started at Bodegas Muga with their Blanco and 3 days later finished in glorious sunshine at Riscal with their Rosado.

In between we enjoyed the  pleasure and indulgence of Roda , La Rioja Alta , Cvne , Contino , Vina Real and Ysios,

Interspersed by the fine dining experiences of Beethoven , Terete and Las Dueles.

Haro marks the Western edge of Rioja country surrounded by Rioja Alta .It’s a short car journey from Bilbao.

Recommended accommodation is Los Agostinos ( previously a convent , military headquarters and a jail ! )

It is ideally located for visiting the wineries which are all together a short walk over the river near the train station.

The location is important . After the phyloxerra crisis wiped out Bordeaux vines in the 1870’s the bordelaise turned to Rioja to supply their empty cellars.

Huge oak casks were transported across the Pyrenees for this purpose . On arrival at Bodegas Muga the Steam engine and cask is parked outside reminding us of the roots of the wine industry here. Full tasting notes to follow



Senor Revel-Chion, Tour organisor and general Master of ceremonies had worked up a fine appetite, so following recommendation of the locals we headed to Beethoven .

Not as might be implied  the Haro philharmonic orchestra , but instead a symphony of food and wine matching, conducted by our travelling sommelier Mr Stuart Grostern.

A note of warning , there are in fact three Beethoven outlets 1,2 and 3 . For fine dining make sure you book Bethoven 2 .

The place was a tad quiet but the food did not disappoint . The most enormous hunks of rare T- Bone sliced up on sizzling sharing platters served up with Vina Tondonia 1994 ,  Prado Enea 2005, The Vina Real was corked and returned.

A bottle of Roda Reserva in the  square for the world cup opener was the fitting end to a busy first day .

Friday morning started at Bodegas Roda Edurnay’s tour was impressive with Coloured barrels and a photography exhibition of their  new perfectly clean winery.

So clean infact that our fitness coach  Gerald managed to headbutt a window which was so polished it wasn’t visible.



We toured the old  cellar from the 1800,s which gently sloped

leading down to river Ebro ready for the barrels to be shipped out to ports afar.

We tasted Roda and Roda 1 and their lovely extra virgin Olive oils




Next stop and literally next door as all the wineries are huddled around the train track, the magnificent La Rioja Alta

Francisco conducted the most entertaining tour . The cellars . Their own cooperage.

The original copper wiring and tracks as  Haro was the first town 0utside London to have electricity.

The vast storage facilities the amazing tasting room. We were treated like kings. Francisco a gem.

The tasting was awesome including 10 wines from Alta’s four properties , La Rioja Alta SA , Torre de Ona in Rioja Alavesa , Aster in Ribera del Dueros and Lagar de Cervera in Galicia.

Full tasting note will be posted .. incredible and  going home gifts ! A beautiful book ‘Three centuries of la Rioja Alta’ and a  bottle of Vina Ardanza. Incredible wines and generosity.

This was going to be some act to follow !

Next stop CVNE with the lovely Marta Echavarri.

A tour of most mouldy cellar ever seen! More fantastic wine including Imperial Gran Reserva 2007.


It was time for a well earned late lunch at Terete.

Young lamb slow cooked the  speciality. Tim’s continued craving for the white asparagus, Stuart and Kiran happily let loose our wallets and the extensive wine list

Wines with lunch included Imperial Reserva 1978,Vina Bosconia lopez Heredia 1991, La rioja Alta 904 2001

We didn’t realize, we were sitting on top pf a fully functioning winwery making 10,000 bottles just for restaurant.

Time to burn off some calories . Big Gerald led us up a mountain bike past Villa Alba .We refreshed ourselves with a swim in the  Ebro .

The day ended in the square to the dismay of the flag clad locals as Spain were handed a lesson from the Dutch.


Senor Revel-Chion had assured, this is Spain,  we would have no problem taking our bikes on the train from Haro to Logrono. Unfortunately , probably  as the nation was in abject misery from the football we were denied and headed by car to Contino.

Lorena was our most hospitable tour guide of this French style single vineyard  winery. Part of the CVNE stable located near LaGuardia at a bend in the River Ebro.

We were welcomed by their beautifully made Contino Blanco  2011 on the terrace overlooking the vines .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Then on to Vega Real located on the Cerro de la Mesa hill in Rioja Alavesa. 40 million euros and 7 years to build . A gargantuan project, a tome to wine .

A 57 m barrel sunk into a mountain.The brainchild of Bordelais architect Philippe Mazieres.

Cellars bored into mountain side.Massive stainless steel UFO’s lifted into place with 6000 kg of grapes, with a 25 ton capacity crane mounted with a pivot capacity.

9 storey towers, skyscrapers of wine storage . 8 depth barrel storage illusionary roofs, barely conceivable .

Tasting of rare single varietal  Graciano 2006 ,Vega Real Oro 2009 . Kiran for once didn’t ask for spittoon ! The proof in the pudding of the quality of these wines.

Next stop , the lovely 13th Century Medieval walled town of  Lagardia for tapas . Set up high on a hilltop with marvellous panoramic views of Rioja wine country.

A circular bike ride through the vines on the camino natural  to mountain village of San Vicente and beautiful village of Briones kept us lively until

dinner at Las Dueles.  This is a top recommendation for any stay in Haro. Fillet steak and foie gras , tender  octopus with smoked paprika . 904 Alta 2001, 809 Alta1998. Tondonia 1994, Alion 2007.

We were in a most relaxed state for England’s opener against the Italians .


Nestled in the foothills of the Sierra de Cantabria mountain range is the stunning Bodega Ysios It  has to be seen to be believed .

A huge winery now owned by Pernod Ricard.  A stunning wavelike  roof made up of  horizontal aluminium columns, giving a mesmerising pixelated appearance .

Polished wood gently undulating surrounds the entire winery and enormous beams of Canadian pine for the roof .It was built for a much larger production. Temperature controlled cellars meant  no excavation was required, The tasting room jets out over the vineyards . No expense spared.











There was only one way to finish this beautiful journey .

Lunch on the terrace at Marques de  Riscal with  views over the wine growing area, the medieval village of Elciego and the mountains in the distance.

It took  four tonnes of titanium to create the multi-coloured convoluted roof .  Created by Frank O Gehry famous for the  Guggenheim in Bilbao.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


We highly recommend a trip to Rioja . The quality and value of the wines, the stunning architecture , the lovely landscape and views , the excellent food.

Six very satisfied Oenophiles in planning for our next WanderCurtis wine Journey.

If you would like any more information about Wine Travel in Rioja Please contact us .






Leave a comment

Wine tasting trip to the Ribera Del Duero, 20-23 May

A stupendous long weekend in Ribera Del Duero arranged by R-C tours.

Day one
Commenced with a private tour of Dominio de Pingus, which was very hard to find just off a back street in the village.

Winemaker Patricia Benitez took us first around the super modern science labs including PCR machine! The scientists among us were already drooling even prior to the barrel samples of Pingus and flor de pingus 2009. A fascinating insight into one of the worlds most expensive ‘garage wines’.

We were whisked off to the ultra modern Bodegas Alion (Vega-Sicilia). Purification answered every last question, valiantly, from the density of the grain of French versus American oak to the concentration of TCAs on corked samples. Then to the exotic Japanese Gardens of Pablo Alvarez’s Vega Sicilia, and finally the private tasting from immaculately pristine top range Riedel-Alion 2005, Valbuena, Unico 2000 and the most mindblowing luscious marmalady Tokay 2002. This was going to take some beating!

Off to Bodegas Protos – a very much larger more modern, and somewhat colder operation.
Impressed by winemaker Maria but the wines were disappointing. In fairness they did have a very hard act to follow.

Day two
Viejo Coso by Jesus Ramos who descended from his castle in Curiel de Duero to show us his maturing barrels in a converted church with 2m thick stone walls. Then off up to the spectacular castle-hotel, hundreds of feet high on a limestone escarpment. Amazing setting, interesting toilets and good quality wines. He kindly invited us back for lechazo (baby lamb stewed for four hours) and Champions League final.

30km by bike later and to the highlight of the trip -Juan Carlos Vizcarra, Bodegas Vizcarra.

Tasting Notes

Coso Viejo
Vinification takes place in Peniefel, followed by aging in barrel and bottle in a restored church with 1.5m thick walls. Our tasting took place in the hotel Coso Viejo also run by Jesus, a restored castle on the hill with fantastic views over the valley and back towards Peniefel. Hotel Coso Viejo, Encarnacion 9, 29200 Antequera, Spain

Jesus ages his wines for longer than the minimum stipulations for Roble, Crianza, Reserva and sells 70% of his wine in Madrid and the rest to central Europe.

Roble 2005, released 2008.
Slightly brick coloured rim. Fruity nose, simple and tasty on the palette. Develops in the glass, soft ripe tannin, black cherries and becoming even more enjoyable. Shows the extra effort and aging ** Sells for 7 EU.14%

Crianza 2003 released 2008.
Again a bricky rim, blackberry fruit, compost and vegetal notes on the nose, smooth with plenty of tannin on the palette, needs food as many of these wines do. Opens up on returning to the glass later with caramel and more complexity. Very tasty. For 9 EU a bottle fantastic value. **

Reserva 2001 released in 2006.
A sweet nose, vegetal with hints of spice and caramel, nice and interesting. Soft and smooth on the palette, quite long, a lot of tannin has dropped away. Some still present, but the fruit is disappearing. A little rioja like. We returned that evening for chuletas, baby slow cooked lamb at the castle, which was accompanied perfectly with another couple of bottles of the Reserva which really came into its own. Again at 12 EU a bottle certainly the best value wine we had delivering loads of please.**

Bodegas Vizcarra
As we cycled back from Roa del Duero through Mambrilla wondering how we were going to find our last appointment of the day, we noticed some guy in a tractor in a field shouting and waving at us. It turned out to be Juan Carlos, owner, oenologist, winemaker, PR department, labourer and everything else at Bodegas Vizcarra. An inspiring and passionate man who has since our meeting pipped Cantona as Adam’s all-time hero.


Having visited four fascinating wineries and learnt all about winemaking in Ribera, and after a rather large lunch in Roa we thought we knew what to expect. But from the moment Juan Carlos stepped off his tractor to when we left three hours later it was clear that Bodegas Vizzcarra was something very special.

We visited the vineyards themselves and heard about the low yielding old bush vines and the younger row planted vines, also the different soils and positions in the valley. In the new winery, JC explained his use of larger new oak barrels to encourage a more gentle expression in the wines. We tasted 2009 from the barrel and were privileged to visit JC’s family cellar in the town and taste a mature bottle of one of his premier wines.

Senda del Oro 2009 from barrel
Fruity nose then packed with fruit, chewy yet fresh, tasty and balanced, nicely under oaked. **+

Vizcarra 2009
From 20-30 year old vines, a crianza. Roasted coffee beans on the nose also fruit. Lovely sweet blackberry and coffee beans, soft tannin, long viscous and tasty.  **++

Torralvo 2009
From 55 year old vines. This is the wine where JC is aiming for the perfect Ribera Reserve, made in bigger barrels to temper the effect of the oak. Full fruity, concentrated with a mineral undercurrent, powerful, viscous with a long lingering fruit aftertaste.  ***+

Celia 2009
Some Garnacha in the blend here again in big barrels with attractive pink metal bands (Celia’s favourite colour?) This wine is more feminine and refined in every respect, even delicate following the Torralvo. Compact and a little closed but beautifully balanced dense complex core and soft lingering tannin at the end. This has amazing potential. ****+

Innes 2009
This blend has a10% merlot in it and again a long maturation in large barrels. Wonderfully cool and fine textured, sweet and compact, with plenty of tanning, a great mouth feel.  ***++

Celia 2003
Delicate nose, sweet with hints of the savoury/sweet plum sauce one gets with crispy duck, complex and powerful in the mouth, soft tanning, very long and persistent on the palette.  Evolves in the glass, passing through waves of sweet fruit flavours and savoury soy notes.  One of the best of the trip, absolutely delicious!  ****

Torralvo 2006
Bit closed to begin with but opens up with fruit, limestone and persistent nose, then in the mouth, wow! Big, intense, powerful seemingly endless, good balance, and so very, very tasty.  ****

By the time we got to these last two we all gave up spitting – the wines were just too good. When we finally got back on our bikes, and JC got back into his tractor, there was not a drop left.