The Writing Life · Travel

Rioja Day Two

Having learned our lesson yesterday, we started a bit earlier today. The plan was to visit a few wineries and then have lunch. We had to be back at our hotel by 4:00 PM for a scheduled tour of the Marques de Riscal winery on the grounds.

We drove out to Haro, where there are several wineries on one street. It was sort of like Champagne Avenue in Epernay. The most well know winery was Muga, so we started there.

The staff wasn’t exceptionally friendly. She briefly explained our choices, gave us a menu, and told us to let her know what we wanted. We opted for the traditional testing after I started with a glass of Conde de Haro. The test included five wines beginning with a white. None of the wines stood out to me. But in all fairness, I wasn’t a fan of Muga wines before our visit.

We walked further down the street to a small winery, Gomez Cruzado. We were greeted as we walked into the tasting room and invited to sit at a little table for a tasting. Our host not only explained the specifics of each of the wines we tasted, but he also explained how wines are classified in the Rioja region. He explained that only wines that have a Rioja sticker are true Riojas and that the labels indicate the amount of time the wine has spent in the barrel.

The last wine we tasted was a bold white that was different than any other white I’ve ever tasted. Our host claimed that in a blind taste test, it was difficult to tell if it was white or red. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. It very much tasted like a white to me. Nonetheless, we enjoyed it enough to have some shipped home.

When we left, we thought we’d hit another winery, but didn’t want to miss lunch before our 4:00 appointment.

The hotel concierge recommended a restaurant not far from the wineries. We figured it would be another chance to sample some of the best food in the region. When we got to the restaurant, the parking lot was empty. We didn’t let that deter us. But as we walked up to the door, it was clear they weren’t open. It turns out, they were closed until the 12th for vacation. Imagine that — the whole restaurant on vacation.

We decided that we would be adventurous. We drove into the next town, parked, and walked to what “the google” said was a four-star tapas bar. The looks from outside of the restaurant weren’t very promising, but we went in anyway. All the food they had was displayed on the counter. It looked as if it had been sitting there for many hours, if not days. We decided it would be better to grab lunch at the hotel before or appointment.

Here’s the view of Elciego from lunch at the hotel restaurant.

The winery tour of Marques de Rsical wasn’t much different than other mass-market wineries. The major difference was the inclusion of the Frank Gehry hotel we were staying in. We walked to the top of the hill to get a better look at the hotel.

The one thing that blew my mind was the sheer volume of wine they had in the room where they age the bottles before labeling. There were three and a half million bottles of wine in that one space, floor to ceiling. That didn’t include another four million housed at another site.

After our tour, we drove into Logrono to visit La Laurel street that has a bunch of tapas bars. We didn’t get there until almost 9:00 PM. But most of the restaurants don’t open until then. Walking down La Laurel reminded me of my first experience with tapas bars forty years ago in Madrid. Back then, I didn’t feel any nervousness about the food or the language.

We settled on Letras de Laurel, the restaurant suggested by the hotel. It was a bit touch and go as they didn’t have an English menu. However, our waiter did a wonderful job translating what he could. I feel in love with the Pisto, which is a Spanish vegetable dish. But the most amazing thing about dinner was that it cost less than 70 euros, including a bottle of wine and dessert.

The ride back to the hotel was a bit scary. Google took us a different way than the way we came, and there were no street lights. Though we didn’t say anything to each other during the drive, we were both relieved when we pulled on the grounds of the hotel.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.