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 .
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.
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 .