Rioja DO is the oldest and most famous of all the wine regions in Spain. It is located in the political region of La Rioja. We spent an entire day exploring the area. Too bad we did not have a week to spend here; it is such an interesting spot with so much to see. With the Iberian mountain range as the backdrop and the River Ebro meandering on the valley floor though beautiful vineyards, the vistas are stunning, Each small country road we travel leads to small La Rioja towns surrounded by vineyards and Bodegas. Most of the Bodegas we pass are very old, many built in the 19th century. But then, some are very new and modern ones like the two wineries we visit, the Bodegas Marques de Riscal and the Bodegas Ysios.
In the small town of Elciego, we visited the very bizarre winery of Marques de Riscal. This bodega is one of the oldest in Spain, established in 1860. This winery has been at the forefront of introducing modern wine making to this region. Marques de Riscal recently opened this new bodega complete with a hotel. It was designed by Frank Gehry and is a totally gaudy structure that is a wonder to behold in this small medieval town. It is a must see and very popular tourist spot. We missed the English tour so we missed out on seeing the inside of the winery. The bodega does have a tasting room and cafÃ© and a store where you can purchase wine.
About 10 minutes away in the town of Laguardia and tucked against the mountains is the amazing Bodegas Ysios. It is closed to the public, but you can drive to the winery, park your car and wander through the vineyards. What a spectacular sight against the mountains.
Rioja wine region produces both red and white wines, but Tempranillo that produces vino tinto is the grape of choice. Harvesting is going on in much of the area on our visit but the following week will bring the peak of the harvest.
Our hotel is in Burgos, about an hour and half driving distance to La Rioja. Next time we visit Spain, and we certainly plan to do that again, we will stay in one of many grand hotels in one of the small La Rioja towns. This is truly a spectacular area with a beauty all of its own.