Visiting La Rioja

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Gary Schoenwetter
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Visiting La Rioja

#1 Post by Gary Schoenwetter » February 12th, 2017, 1:12 pm

Looks like it's been a view years since this topic has been broached...

My wife and I are visiting La Rioja for a few days in October as part of our 20th Anniversary tour of Spain and I'm interested in any recommendations for winery tours, hotels, restaurants, and other sights in the region.

Thanks in advance!

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Visiting La Rioja

#2 Post by PaulMills » February 12th, 2017, 3:05 pm

I cannot make any recommendations but I am interested in the responses as we hope to visit Spain again in the next few years.

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#3 Post by Jeff Bloom » February 12th, 2017, 6:56 pm

My wife and I really enjoyed our visit to La Rioja a little over a year ago, following a few days of great eating in San Sebastian. We stayed at Marques de Riscal, not cheap but a really nice hotel (albeit with kind of funky rooms). You can stop in a lot of places just to taste but we made a number of appointments and are very glad we did. We had very nice tours at Muga, La Rioja Alta, Lopez de Heredia and CVNE and an improvised no appointment tour at Roda. We stopped in at a lot of other places just to taste but the scheduled visits were much nicer. We did the tour at Marques de Riscal just because we were staying there but otherwise I wouldn't recommend it. The restaurant at Marques de Riscal is Michelin starred and priced accordingly but was excellent. For more low key and affordable, consider Beethoven II in Haro (we ended up there twice).

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#4 Post by Bill H » February 12th, 2017, 9:21 pm

+1 on Riscal. My daughter and I had a great visit at Contador.
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#5 Post by Kevin Sidders » February 13th, 2017, 8:59 am

Haro is a great place to stay -- nice town, centrally located, and several wineries located right on the town's edge for easy access. Add in some great restaurants and walkability and I found it a pleasure...
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#6 Post by Greg Xu » February 14th, 2017, 12:38 pm

I would stay in Logroño near the town center, the narrow streets are lined with tapas bars, full of people at night, eating, shopping, or enjoying outdoor concerts. Haro is only half a hour away, so you can easily visit all the Rioja wineries. Haro is a very cute town but it gets very quiet at night.

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#7 Post by M Mager » February 14th, 2017, 8:58 pm

Greg Xu wrote:Haro is a very cute town but it gets very quiet at night.
Well, not always... One of my favorite memories from last trip to Rioja was sitting outside along the main square in Haro. Way to many glasses of Vina Gravonia (on glass pour in the tapas bar at ~ $4 euros), along with way too many plates of meats and cheeses. There was a DJ playing music in the square, and it seemed as if the whole town was out there dancing. Kids, adults, senior citizens - folks of all ages.

Then, about 1:00 in the morning, it got a little strange - in a good way. The DJ started the next song, and it sounded vaguely familiar. As more of the locals starting heading back out to dance - and I they were getting into line dancing formation - I finally realized what the song was. It was the old Billy Ray Cyrus hit, "Achy Breaky Heart". My wife and I both just busted out laughing -- a very surreal moment. And, I swear to god, it's a true story.

Once you're in Rioja, you're not that far from San Sebastian. Would recommend you really try to spend a couple days there as part of your trip. What a great city! (just be prepared to gain about 10 pounds...)

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#8 Post by MBerto » February 16th, 2017, 2:02 pm

Would recommend Hotel Los Agustinos in Haro. In town and within walking distance to most of the wineries in Haro. Riscal is nice to visit, I'm sure the hotel is nice but it's a bit in the middle of nowhere.

Would also recommend Dinastia Vivanco, not so much for the wine the but the wine museum.
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#9 Post by pbudny » February 18th, 2017, 3:24 am

If you're looking to do a tour during your visit I recommend one of two local guides:

Love Rioja (David), http://www.loverioja.com/english
Taste Rioja (Jenny), http://www.tasterioja.es

Last summer we based ourselves in Legrono and took advantage of all the pincho (Basque version of tapas) bars located there in the evenings.
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#10 Post by Julius L » February 18th, 2017, 12:04 pm

My wife and I were there Fall 2014. We stayed in Logroño and it was very easy to navigate from there to all of the wineries we visited. Calle Laurel is the heart of the tapas crawl area and there are also several good restaurants in town. As far as the wineries we visited, the best visit (and one of the best among all regions we have been to) was VIÑEDOS SIERRA CANTABRIA/VIÑEDOS DE PÁGANOS. In addition to touring the wineries and vineyards, we were treated to a lunch of typical regional fare and a selection of several of their wines, including a couple from other regions. Other winery visits we enjoyed were Contador, Viña Real (C.V.N.E.), Marqués de Murrieta, Muga, López de Heredia and Remirez de Ganuza. We followed up our Logroño stay with a few days each in San Sebastián and Bilbao. San Sebastián is a real foodies town, both for pintxos and sit-down restaurants. Overall, a great trip.
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#11 Post by Gary Schoenwetter » February 18th, 2017, 3:52 pm

Thanks so much for the recommendations...now to start booking!

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#12 Post by Scott Everson » February 18th, 2017, 6:38 pm

Ive said this before, but email Contador and taste there, or go to their tasting room ... go to La III Estación, their winebar, where you can taste and buy all of their wines. It is placed in San Vicente de la Sonsierra, in the Main Street (C/ El Remedio, 14).

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#13 Post by Ramon C » February 19th, 2017, 6:20 am

Plenty of good and fun suggestions here, especially the short walking distance winery visits at LRA, LdH, & Muga in the town Haro.

I'll break out from the pack on Marques de Riscal hotel. It's not my favorite building and I thought it's just so over-the-top that didn't do justice to the ruggedly-handsome and traditional Riojan landscape.

Depending on what the OP wants, during our visits to Rioja, we usually come from the hustle-and-bustle of the very lively nightlife in either San Sebastian or Barcelona, and so we rend to very much favor the small, quiet village hotels between (inclusive of) Laguardia and Haro.
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#14 Post by Gary Schoenwetter » February 26th, 2017, 4:54 am

While we're on the subject...what's your pick for dining in San Sebastien (bearing in mind that I will be with a pescatarian)? Thanks!

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#15 Post by Ramon C » February 26th, 2017, 7:40 am

I'm sure you'll get plenty of responses here, or at least be able to search on positive experiences at, Arzak, Mugaritz and Akelarre. Those are generally what I would call the holy trinity of restaurants in SS. You will have to inquire with them about doing all-pescatarian dishes. it's been at least 5 years since I've gone to those, so others with more recent experiences can hopefully chime in.

I'll add a couple of spots that very much hit the spot for us during a more recent trip. El Rekondo in SS is a good spot for the regional/traditional Basque cooking. Plus the wine list (bible) is a total blast, and you can go nuts here, especially if you want aged stuff at stunningly reasonable prices.

http://www.rekondo.com/en/

The other restaurant that I really liked is one that is a 1-hour drive from SS. Asador Etxebarri is a great restaurant that's located in the hills with awesome views all around. A must for us, again, the next time we make our way to the area. A perfect lunch place if you're driving to/from SS and La Rioja Alta.

http://asadoretxebarri.com/


For local pintxos in SS, there are plenty within the historic old city center, and you can probably search here for recommendations. But we've taken a liking, a lot of liking, to walking 15 minutes to the predominantly locals pintxos restaurants in the lively Gros District. Speaking in English will be a challenge, but you can always point to the many pre-cooked foods on display by the bar.

Bar Senra, Hidalgo 56, and Bar Zeruko are awesome among plenty of awesome places in the neighborhood. There's a place from the guys at Cuchara San Telmo called Borda Berri that I heard from friends as also very good in the neighborhood.
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#16 Post by Julius L » February 26th, 2017, 9:40 am

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#17 Post by Jeff Bloom » March 1st, 2017, 12:31 pm

Ramon C wrote:I'll break out from the pack on Marques de Riscal hotel. It's not my favorite building and I thought it's just so over-the-top that didn't do justice to the ruggedly-handsome and traditional Riojan landscape.
I definitely understand this opinion and cannot really disagree with it. I like the building and the hotel, so I'm glad we stayed there, but once is enough. Next visit will probably be somewhere in Haro.

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#18 Post by Jeff Bloom » March 1st, 2017, 12:36 pm

Ramon C wrote:I'm sure you'll get plenty of responses here, or at least be able to search on positive experiences at, Arzak, Mugaritz and Akelarre. Those are generally what I would call the holy trinity of restaurants in SS. You will have to inquire with them about doing all-pescatarian dishes. it's been at least 5 years since I've gone to those, so others with more recent experiences can hopefully chime in.

The other restaurant that I really liked is one that is a 1-hour drive from SS. Asador Etxebarri is a great restaurant that's located in the hills with awesome views all around. A must for us, again, the next time we make our way to the area. A perfect lunch place if you're driving to/from SS and La Rioja Alta.

http://asadoretxebarri.com/
These are really good recommendations. Based on a visit about a year ago, I think Arzak will work with you on a pescatarian menu; just be sure to contact them in advance. It might be tougher with Etxebarri, which is a great place to stop for lunch not only between SS and Rioja, but also between Bilbao and SS.

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#19 Post by Vinod S. » March 8th, 2017, 1:08 am

In 2013 we spent a week in Haro/San Sebastian, a few recommendations below:
1. Can recommend staying in Haro/Los Agustinos as well. Walking distance to Lopez Heredia and La Rioja Alta, both must visits if you like classic Rioja.
2. For high-end dining, Etxebarri was our favorite, but given its grill focused, try this place instead: http://www.restauranteelkano.com ; seafood focused place on the coast between Bilbao and San Sebastián and given a shout out by David Chang as the best seafood on earth.
3. Definitely spend time in San Sebastián for wine/pintxos and hiking, can't beat €5 for foie gras on brioche and a glass of bosconia.
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#20 Post by jmckinley » March 9th, 2017, 12:41 am

Just did a short trip there 2yrs ago.

Stayed one night in Logrono as my wife has extended family there. Great to walk around at night and eat the 1€ pintxos(tapas) from bar to bar. Not very good wine, but great food. Plenty of good wine bars/shops though.

Stayed 2 nights at Marques De Riscal. Gehry designed hotel, funky but very very nice. Excellent Michelin star restaurant. Cashed in all of my spg points for that stay!!

Just drive around one day. Good spot to stay would also be the quaint and beautiful town of Laguardia. Right in the heart of the area and all different ranges of accommodation.
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#21 Post by Jeff Loftus » March 29th, 2018, 2:31 pm

The mrs. and I will be taking a detour from walking the Camino de Santiago to spend 4-5 days in Rioja. We will veer off the camino frances at Logrono and spend the days visiting wineries in Laguardia, Samaniego, and Haro. Then meet back up with the camino frances in Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

Ideally we'd like to send a couple cases back to lay down and drink on anniversaries of the trip. Because we will be walking for 20+ days after visiting the region, taking the wine with us is not a possibility. We've always brought back wine from trips by checking them in our luggage on the way back to The States. My questions are:
1. Is it even possible to find wineries that will ship a case directly to The US? (further complicating this would be shipping to a family member in PA, which I know has very strict and head scratching liquor laws)
2. If so, around how much $ would be? I've seen tons of references to it being more expensive than it's worth, but I have not seen actual numbers.

Should I just give up on this plan?

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Re: Visiting La Rioja

#22 Post by Sherri S h a p i r o » October 15th, 2018, 7:27 am

I was just in Rioja this past weekend and wanted to post some impressions. (I am still traveling in Spain.)

We rented a car and drove to Rioja from Madrid. It took about 3 hours to get to Haro, and then we stayed in Logrono, which was about 30 minutes from Haro.

It happened to be Spanish National Day on friday, our first day in Haro, so I don't think it was a typical day! Everything was very, very (unpleasantly) crowded, particularly the tapas bars along the horseshoe in the historic old town of Haro where we went for lunch.

I had booked appointments at a few wineries ahead of time (tip: the Amex concierge was helpful, as I was unable to get the appts on my own due to the holiday weekend), and in addition to the tours, most of the wineries' tasting rooms were open. On Saturday, everything was less crowded. It also was harvest, so the wineries were buzzing with activity of seasonal workers carting and sorting grapes, pumping the fermentation tanks, etc.

We did tours at Roda, Cvne, Muga and Remirez de Ganuza, and we spent time in the tasting rooms of Lopez de Heredia and Gomez Cruzado. Cvne and Muga were generic, large group tours (although since we booked English language tours, they were significantly smaller than the Spanish ones), and we tasted their entry level wines. Roda and Remirez de Ganuza were fabulous.

At Roda, it was only my daughter, me, and a man from Germany in an essentially private tour and tasting. Our host was friendly and warm, and we had a truly enjoyable visit. We tasted the 2014 Riserva and 2015 Sela (a blend of mostly tempranillo and graciano), both quite tasty. We also tasted 2 olive oils that were amazing!
Roda.JPG
Remirez de Ganuza is located about 10 minutes outside of Haro in a little town called Samaniego. The winery is only 29 years old but was built to blend into the old village it inhabits and looks much older. This was the only winery we visited that used steel fermentation tanks and emphasized cleanliness. They had a very modern "assembly line" for sorting and destemming - they made a big point that they cut off the bottom portion of the grape clusters and separated those for the "young" wine and only the top part went into their top wines. We tasted the 2013 Fincas de Ganuza Riserva (90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano but made from the youngest vines) and 2008 Vina Coqueta (90% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano also but only the top part of the grape clusters - the "shoulders" - go into this blend). I never had either of these wines before, and while I definitely enjoyed both, I prefer the yellow label flagship reserva wine that is 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, 5% Viura and Malvasia that I have had many times previously
remirez.JPG
remirez 2.JPG
It was a beautiful day, so at both Gomez Cruzado and LdH (which are across the street from each other), we sat outside and leisurely tasted the current releases. I had never tasted the Gomez Cruzado wines before, but really enjoyed the lineup. We tasted the 2016 Coseche white wine (85% Viura and 15% Tempranillo blanco), the 2014 Honarable "field blend" (Mostly Tempranillo blended with Garnacha, Graciano, Mazuelo and Viura of over 50 year old vines), the 2011 Reserva rioja, 2014 Cerro las cuevas (95 %Tempranillo from vines around 80 years old, blended with 5% Graciano) and the 2016 Pancrudo (100% old vine garnacha) I really enjoyed these wines, but for me, the Pancrudo was the standout and I bought a few bottles and am bringing them home in my suitcase!
Gomez Cruzado.JPG
Gomez Cruzado 2.JPG
.

I am very familiar with - and love - the wines of Lopez de Heredia. They were pouring 3 current releases (2 of which I have had previously) - 2009 Vina Cubillo, 2006 Vina Tondonia and 2006 Vina Bosconia. I liked the Tondonia the best, and surprisingly, I preferred the Cubillo to the Bosconia, which I had never had before. (Side note: I ordered the 2005 Tondonia at a restaurant in madrid the following night, and it was incredible, and to me, better than any of the current releases.)
Ldh 2.JPG
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Ldh tasting.JPG
This was a wonderful region to visit. It was pretty laid back, and the wines were in my wheelhouse.

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Re: Visiting La Rioja

#23 Post by Julius L » October 16th, 2018, 10:50 am

Sherri S h a p i r o wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 7:27 am
I was just in Rioja this past weekend and wanted to post some impressions. (I am still traveling in Spain.)

...we stayed in Logrono, which was about 30 minutes from Haro...
Did you do a pinchos crawl on Calle del Laurel?
L = L@$Øff

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Re: Visiting La Rioja

#24 Post by Sherri S h a p i r o » October 17th, 2018, 3:32 pm

Julius L wrote:
October 16th, 2018, 10:50 am
Sherri S h a p i r o wrote:
October 15th, 2018, 7:27 am
I was just in Rioja this past weekend and wanted to post some impressions. (I am still traveling in Spain.)

...we stayed in Logrono, which was about 30 minutes from Haro...
Did you do a pinchos crawl on Calle del Laurel?
Yes! and it was Spain National day so it was insanely crowded. Loved it. The best pincho we had was a stack of grilled mushrooms with a tiny shrimp on top, a slice of bread on the bottom, covered in a garlic sauce, all held together by a toothpick.
pinchos crawl logrono.JPG

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