Since wine has been made in La Rioja for over a thousand years, you might assume these Spaniards have it pretty well figured out by now. But just in case, Kristin and I spent a week here to make damn sure! While we went to La Rioja to immerse ourselves (figuratively, but almost literally speaking) in their wines, we also fell in love with this area due to its interesting contrasts. The terrain and views are mountainous and rugged but there are lush green vineyards everywhere. The scenery includes both ancient walled cities and futuristic structures, many within view of each other. Wineries can be new, flashy and made of glass and steel or hundreds of years old and underground (and some combine both). And as one of the culinary capitals of Spain, Rioja food ranges from grandma's traditional to Michelin star modern.
After a fabulous adventure of exploring Rioja, our opinion is that they've got everything dialed in just right. But you owe it to yourself to discover the food, the wine and the scenery. We can help.
1. Visit ancient and notable towns such as Elciego, Laguardia, Haro, Sorzano and Ezcaray.
2. Our top winery picks are Viña Tondonia, Ugarté, Marqués de Riscal, Ysios, Bai Gorri, Ostatu and Lopez Heredia. Most of these require advance reservations.
3. Find a peaceful, meditative experience at the ancient monasteries Yuso and/or Suso, both UNESCO World Heritage sites.
1. Call the tourist office in Laguardia and arrange for a private tour of the San Pedro underground wine caves as well as a tour of the main church in town which is very special. You can only see both of these by making advanced reservations.
2. Skip the fancy Michelin Star restaurant El Portal for the more relaxed Hector Oribe in Paganos.
3. Tapas crawl in Logrõno is much sought after for a fun and unique experience.
4. For a very special wine tour before you lunch at Hector Oribe, book in advance at Torre de Oña located in the same sleepy town of Paganos.