The Writing Life · Travel

Rioja Day Three

Our first stop today was to the Bodega de Artadi. Three of their wines are in Robert Parker’s top five Riojas. We didn’t have an appointment. But according to Google, it was open.

Two trees marked each space in the parking lot. There was just enough room for a European sized car. Most American cars would have taken the trees out.

The doors to the tasting room were locked. There were cars in the lot, so we walked over to the winery offices. We shared that we were interested in tasting some wine.

“We are not busy. So no problem,” said the woman at the desk. She grabbed her keys and jacket.

As we walked back to the tasting room, Christina explained the history of the winery. I missed most of the explanation but did hear that the winery started in 1985. I was occupied with my camera. Christina also told us about the vineyards planted by the owner’s grandfather in 1945 and how he wanted to make a wine that honored his grandfather. This old vine wine (I don’t remember the specific year) received a 100 point rating from Robert Parker. They no longer make that particular wine. Instead, they make single vineyard wines. These wines consistently earn 95 + ratings from Robert Parker.

Christina asked if we had time because she wanted to give us a tour of the vineyard. We had an appointment at 1:30 but figured an hour would provide us with plenty of time between wineries.

We rode out to the vineyards in this London style taxi. The vineyard was set apart from the rest of the property. Once we passed through an old rusted gate, we walked along a path in the middle of the vineyard. The vines were all between 10 and 75 years old. Christina shared that in a good year, this vineyard will yield 6,000 bottles of wine. That was such a contrast to the millions of bottles produced by Marques de Riscal.

The vine on the right is 75 years old. The one on the left is ten years old.

Another interesting fact about this vineyard is that they plow it with horses. It’s believed that horses are better for the vines because the horses don’t stand in one place too long, like trackers.

Once back at the tasting room, we waited as Christina cured the glasses for our tasting. Then we found out why Robert Parker rated the wine so highly. We even got to taste the old vine wines that they no longer make. At some point during the tasting, Christina mentioned the special events they do for wine club members.

Michael looked at me. “You know where this is going?”

I nodded my head and laughed. “Of course,” I said. But to be honest I knew the moment pulled in the parking lot, he was shipping wine home.

We left Artadi a few minutes before our next appointment. Fortunately, it was only five minutes away. Christina had warned us that the next winery, Ysios, was more famous for the architecture of the building than the wine. Calatrava designed the building.

We quickly parked and walked the long dramatic path up to the building. I took several pictures but felt hurried because we were almost ten minutes late. When we got to the door, it was locked. As we went to walk away, someone came to the door. Michael explained that we had an appointment at 1:30. The woman at the door said they were in a meeting. They were aware there was an appointment, but it hadn’t been confirmed. This was contrary to the information we had received for the concierge. The woman stated that they were in a meeting so we would have to come back tomorrow. We explained that we were leaving town the next day. Her response was, I’m sorry.

As we walked back to the car, it was striking how differently Artadi treated us. We concluded we would never buy Ysios wine. I noticed the Javier San Pedro Odega winery across the street. We pooped over and tasted three of their wines. I liked the white, so we bought a couple of bottles to take back to the hotel. Noel, who helped us with the tasting, suggested a place for us to have lunch over in Laguardia. She wrote a little note for the owner, who didn’t speak any English.

We had late lunch at Cueva De Lobos restaurant, as suggested. We ordered a bottle of Vuida Negra, which we had tasted at the winery, and roasted lamb chops, which were absolutely delicious.

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