Spanish Wine Regions

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Andrew Ing
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Spanish Wine Regions

#1 Post by Andrew Ing » August 12th, 2019, 12:23 pm

Thinking about a Spanish wine tour, specifically the Rioja region. Anyone been? Impressions? We are used to US wine tastings (vineyards close together and near accomodations, driver, etc.).

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#2 Post by Jeff_M. » August 12th, 2019, 12:49 pm

I went with my wife in 2015. We hired a local tour operator and they handled transportation from Bilbao to the wineries, a one night stay in the walled city of Laguardia and then day 2 tasting. We got dropped off in San Sebastian so we could eat at Mugaritz which was the #6 restaurant in the world at the time.

Day 1: visted Bodegas Artadi, La Rioja Alta with lunch and Valenciso.

Day 2 we did Muga, Bodegas Roda and Bodegas Baigorri with lunch.

Muga and La Rioja Alta were really neat to visit. I enjoyed seeing the facilities there. Valenciso was interesting as we had a 1 on 1 with the owner and he pulled out a really nice library reserva Rioja.
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#3 Post by GregT » August 12th, 2019, 1:25 pm

Only a few bodegas are set up like Napa. You should check first. If you go to Haro, you can walk from one bodega to another. The bigger ones have regular tours. Literally next door to each other are Muga, Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia, CVNE, Cruzado, and Roda. You can walk to all of them.

Farther east and needing to drive would be Marques de Riscal, and towards Logrono, which is about an hour or so away, would be Vina Real, Marques de Caceres, Altanza, Marqués de Murrieta, and Franco Españolas. Vivanca may be worth a visit too.

That would be a nice tour and you would not have to be traveling all day. As far as a driver - no clue. I always drove myself. Remember that general wine region hasn't been developed into a big tourist destination with golf courses, big hotels and casinos, etc. Riscal has a huge ugly Frank Gehry hotel and a few of the others are thinking in those terms, but if you're hoping for Napa, that's not the place to go. Haro is a tiny town, Lagrono is a little larger and you may be better off near there, unless you want to stay at the Riscal hotel.

But there are companies over there that will set up a tour for you and if you don't know people over there or the specific bodegas, that would be my recommendation.

I have heard decent things about these guys but have absolutely no first-hand knowledge or affiliation:

https://riojawinetrips.com/our-rioja-wine-tours/

The other thing you may do is contact the Consejo Regulador, or better, Wines from Spain, which is at:

Trade Commission of Spain
405 Lexington Ave. New York, NY 10174
winesfromspainusa.com

They are interested in promoting the region and would have up to date info, as it's been a few years since I've been there. Good luck.
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#4 Post by MikeHill » August 12th, 2019, 3:30 pm

GregT wrote:
August 12th, 2019, 1:25 pm
Only a few bodegas are set up like Napa. You should check first. If you go to Haro, you can walk from one bodega to another. The bigger ones have regular tours. Literally next door to each other are Muga, Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia, CVNE, Cruzado, and Roda. You can walk to all of them.

Farther east and needing to drive would be Marques de Riscal, and towards Logrono, which is about an hour or so away, would be Vina Real, Marques de Caceres, Altanza, Marqués de Murrieta, and Franco Españolas. Vivanca may be worth a visit too.

That would be a nice tour and you would not have to be traveling all day. As far as a driver - no clue. I always drove myself. Remember that general wine region hasn't been developed into a big tourist destination with golf courses, big hotels and casinos, etc. Riscal has a huge ugly Frank Gehry hotel and a few of the others are thinking in those terms, but if you're hoping for Napa, that's not the place to go. Haro is a tiny town, Lagrono is a little larger and you may be better off near there, unless you want to stay at the Riscal hotel.

But there are companies over there that will set up a tour for you and if you don't know people over there or the specific bodegas, that would be my recommendation.

I have heard decent things about these guys but have absolutely no first-hand knowledge or affiliation:

https://riojawinetrips.com/our-rioja-wine-tours/

The other thing you may do is contact the Consejo Regulador, or better, Wines from Spain, which is at:

Trade Commission of Spain
405 Lexington Ave. New York, NY 10174
winesfromspainusa.com

They are interested in promoting the region and would have up to date info, as it's been a few years since I've been there. Good luck.
My wife and I used Rioja Wine Tours last August, and they were great. I picked the "unusual suspects" tour, because I wanted to see smaller producers that I cannot get easily back in the states and learn more about the authentic rioja tradition. Very different experience than Napa, in fact the complete opposite of the touristy tasting experience. We were pretty much the only ones wherever we went, with the winemaker or the grower themselves, no formal "tasting rooms" to speak of. Very little was available for sale, it pretty much all went to distributors. My wife is an architect who used to work for Frank Gehry, so we stopped to take pictures by the hotel, but didn't stay there, or go any wineries as commercial as Riscal.

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#5 Post by GregT » August 12th, 2019, 7:10 pm

Mike - so what did she think of the building? Not like he had any desire to blend in with the surroundings at all! In any event, Riscal is not a bodega to pass up. Any winery that can put out millions of bottles of age-worthy decent wine year after year is one to respect. I would rather have a bottle of their reserva than a wine costing much more from some of the producers I've had in CA and elsewhere.

The authentic Rioja tradition produced wine unlike anything made there today. While the Visgoths made wine there and it was continued in the Middle Ages, the wine was mostly like a rosado and it was done in big tanks. In the late 1700s Don Manuel Quintano, a priest, travelled to France and when he came back, he got some people to begin using wooden barrels. That was an innovation. That was the tradition for about a hundred years, until Murrieta visited France and came back to establish the first commercial bodega in 1852 to make wine like that of the Médoc. For his efforts, he was made a Marqués. Marqués de Riscal came next. Both of them brought the idea of barriques rather than the large casks, but they had a hard time convincing anyone to use those since they were not traditional and were more of a PITA. The general idea was that the big bodegas would buy grapes from the small landholders.

After phylloxera hit France and the French wine makers showed up, barrels became more common and that's when CVNE, Lopez and the others were started. They were innovators at the time. They also bought out some of the smaller guys and/or planted their own vineyards. That's the tradition from the late 1800s that most people think is "traditional" Rioja.

Then the idea was to bottle estate juice only, and then vineyard designated fruit, and that's "modern" thinking. There's still a lot of discussion taking place over there, so it's an interesting place to visit, since it's still in flux.
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#6 Post by MikeHill » August 12th, 2019, 9:37 pm

Greg, thanks for the history lesson, you are correct I was referring to the late 1800's as "traditional"!

My comment about Riscal was not meant to be pejorative towards the winemaking, just that we were looking to visit smaller scale producers unavailable back in the US. Regarding the building, the wife was not impressed. We began our trip in Bilbao, visiting the Guggenheim Museum that Frank designed. That was much more impressive, as it is the "original" of his works in that style, designed with cutting edge techniques, and seamlessly integrated with its surroundings. So while I understand the motivation behind Riscal's decision to try and recreate the "Bilbao effect", it just comes across as derivative.

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#7 Post by James Billy » August 12th, 2019, 11:47 pm

Jeff_M. wrote:
August 12th, 2019, 12:49 pm
We got dropped off in San Sebastian so we could eat at Mugaritz which was the #6 restaurant in the world at the time.
Is that a fact? Who decides? [rofl.gif]

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#8 Post by Jeff_M. » August 13th, 2019, 6:27 am

James Billy wrote:
August 12th, 2019, 11:47 pm
Jeff_M. wrote:
August 12th, 2019, 12:49 pm
We got dropped off in San Sebastian so we could eat at Mugaritz which was the #6 restaurant in the world at the time.
Is that a fact? Who decides? [rofl.gif]
https://www.theworlds50best.com/The-Lis ... aritz.html

This web site has the World's 50 best restaurants. At the time Mugaritz was #6.

There are other very high ranking restaurants in San Sebastian
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#9 Post by Blake Brown » August 13th, 2019, 7:43 am

Excellent info gents. Greg T, you continually add depth to any discussion on this board for all things Spain.

Thank you all for providing some detail that I find very useful for an upcoming trip next Spring. We're going with another couple and spending 10 days in Portugal before moving on to San Sebastian as a base for another 10 days.

I have a dear friend who reps for LdH and lives nearby. She has connections to get us visits at many of the top and preferred wineries including Muga, CVNE, Vega Sicilia, La Rioja Alta and a couple of others that I know of.

When it gets closer, I`ll prevail upon you and others to give us some more recs re restaurants, places to tour and things to do. Thanks in advance.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#10 Post by lleichtman » August 13th, 2019, 12:51 pm

Jeff_M. wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 6:27 am
James Billy wrote:
August 12th, 2019, 11:47 pm
Jeff_M. wrote:
August 12th, 2019, 12:49 pm
We got dropped off in San Sebastian so we could eat at Mugaritz which was the #6 restaurant in the world at the time.
Is that a fact? Who decides? [rofl.gif]
https://www.theworlds50best.com/The-Lis ... aritz.html

This web site has the World's 50 best restaurants. At the time Mugaritz was #6.

There are other very high ranking restaurants in San Sebastian
Yes, including Rekondo that has an amazing cellar and good, reasonably priced food.
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#11 Post by lleichtman » August 13th, 2019, 12:52 pm

We enjoyed just going up and down streets in Haro tasting our way through along with the obligatory LDH visit.
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#12 Post by Jeff_M. » August 14th, 2019, 7:41 am

Blake Brown wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 7:43 am
Excellent info gents. Greg T, you continually add depth to any discussion on this board for all things Spain.

Thank you all for providing some detail that I find very useful for an upcoming trip next Spring. We're going with another couple and spending 10 days in Portugal before moving on to San Sebastian as a base for another 10 days.

I have a dear friend who reps for LdH and lives nearby. She has connections to get us visits at many of the top and preferred wineries including Muga, CVNE, Vega Sicilia, La Rioja Alta and a couple of others that I know of.

When it gets closer, I`ll prevail upon you and others to give us some more recs re restaurants, places to tour and things to do. Thanks in advance.
All I can say is wait til you see the prices of the wines from the winery direct. I cringe when I buy Spanish wine now knowing how cheap they are at the source. I have some of the 890 Gran Reserva's from La Rioja Alta and some of the Torre Muga's that are WAY below bottle shop costs here in the US
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#13 Post by Blake Brown » August 14th, 2019, 8:15 am

Jeff_M. wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 7:41 am
Blake Brown wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 7:43 am
Excellent info gents. Greg T, you continually add depth to any discussion on this board for all things Spain.

Thank you all for providing some detail that I find very useful for an upcoming trip next Spring. We're going with another couple and spending 10 days in Portugal before moving on to San Sebastian as a base for another 10 days.

I have a dear friend who reps for LdH and lives nearby. She has connections to get us visits at many of the top and preferred wineries including Muga, CVNE, Vega Sicilia, La Rioja Alta and a couple of others that I know of.

When it gets closer, I`ll prevail upon you and others to give us some more recs re restaurants, places to tour and things to do. Thanks in advance.
All I can say is wait til you see the prices of the wines from the winery direct. I cringe when I buy Spanish wine now knowing how cheap they are at the source. I have some of the 890 Gran Reserva's from La Rioja Alta and some of the Torre Muga's that are WAY below bottle shop costs here in the US
Perhaps this is suggestive of taking a wine carrier along to fill it up as well as having some shipped especially if this is true for relatively mature wines= 1950s-80s, not easily available here.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#14 Post by Blake Brown » August 14th, 2019, 8:15 am

Jeff_M. wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 7:41 am
Blake Brown wrote:
August 13th, 2019, 7:43 am
Excellent info gents. Greg T, you continually add depth to any discussion on this board for all things Spain.

Thank you all for providing some detail that I find very useful for an upcoming trip next Spring. We're going with another couple and spending 10 days in Portugal before moving on to San Sebastian as a base for another 10 days.

I have a dear friend who reps for LdH and lives nearby. She has connections to get us visits at many of the top and preferred wineries including Muga, CVNE, Vega Sicilia, La Rioja Alta and a couple of others that I know of.

When it gets closer, I`ll prevail upon you and others to give us some more recs re restaurants, places to tour and things to do. Thanks in advance.
All I can say is wait til you see the prices of the wines from the winery direct. I cringe when I buy Spanish wine now knowing how cheap they are at the source. I have some of the 890 Gran Reserva's from La Rioja Alta and some of the Torre Muga's that are WAY below bottle shop costs here in the US
Perhaps this is suggestive of taking a wine carrier along to fill it up as well as having some shipped especially if this is true for relatively mature wines= 1950s-80s, not easily available here.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#15 Post by GregT » August 14th, 2019, 10:17 am

Take a carrier with you for sure. Or a few.

And stop in a few stores. You never know what you'll find.
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#16 Post by Blake Brown » August 14th, 2019, 10:53 am

GregT wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 10:17 am
Take a carrier with you for sure. Or a few.

And stop in a few stores. You never know what you'll find.
older vintages too?
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#17 Post by Jeff_M. » August 14th, 2019, 11:23 am

I didn't stop in any stores since we didn't drive but they definitely had great value direct at the winery. They did have some library vintages at some of the wineries we visited but we maxed out on the number of bottles we could bring home. I would definitely look into shipping them back next time instead of carrying.
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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#18 Post by GregT » August 14th, 2019, 12:33 pm

Blake Brown wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 10:53 am
GregT wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 10:17 am
Take a carrier with you for sure. Or a few.

And stop in a few stores. You never know what you'll find.
older vintages too?
I originally wrote this as part of the earlier post but deleted it in the interest of brevity.

But yes.

I was leaving town heading back to Madrid and passed a wine store. I had time so I went in. Stone building between two others. No AC but it was considerably cooler than the outside, which was brutally hot. I poked around and found a few 1982s and a 1994 Imperial GR. Great prices. I mentioned to the owner that we don't see those all that often in the US. "Same here," he replied. So I took them all.

Another trip, a buddy found some old Port. He asked the owner how long he'd had them and the guy said since release. He asked if there were any others. Ended up taking home a half case.

If you were even to find those in the US, they would be much much more.
G . T a t a r

[i]"the incorrect overuse of apostrophes is staggering these days. I wonder if half the adults these days have any idea what they are for." Chris Seiber, 5/14/19[/i]

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Re: Spanish Wine Regions

#19 Post by Blake Brown » August 14th, 2019, 1:07 pm

GregT wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 12:33 pm
Blake Brown wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 10:53 am
GregT wrote:
August 14th, 2019, 10:17 am
Take a carrier with you for sure. Or a few.

And stop in a few stores. You never know what you'll find.
older vintages too?
I originally wrote this as part of the earlier post but deleted it in the interest of brevity.

But yes.

I was leaving town heading back to Madrid and passed a wine store. I had time so I went in. Stone building between two others. No AC but it was considerably cooler than the outside, which was brutally hot. I poked around and found a few 1982s and a 1994 Imperial GR. Great prices. I mentioned to the owner that we don't see those all that often in the US. "Same here," he replied. So I took them all.

Another trip, a buddy found some old Port. He asked the owner how long he'd had them and the guy said since release. He asked if there were any others. Ended up taking home a half case.

If you were even to find those in the US, they would be much much more.
Thanks so much for this. I'll be on the hunt when there.
"In victory you deserve Champagne. In defeat, you need it".
Napolean Bonaparte

“Remember gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s Champagne!” – Winston Churchill

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