SPAIN

SPANISH REDS IN RIOJA

La Rioja is a breathtaking and most well-known wine region situated in the Sierra de Cantabria Mountains of northern Spain. It's recognized for spectacular red wines. This area has three official sub regions; Rioja Alta, Rioja Baja on the other side of the Ebro River, and Rioja Alavesa.

 

The area is a unique mix of history and modernity. The region has taken a page from the Gehry transformation of the city of Bilbao…many have invested in extraordinary displays of architecture and as well as, state-of-the-art winemaking.  You can visit a family winery that has been producing wine for hundreds of years in the caves of the 10th century walled city of Laguardia or visit a modern winery that still has a family history.

To discover the amazing wines and architecture of Rioja we must stay at the 5 star Hotel Marqués de Riscal in El Ciego; the property is a mix of the super modern with one of the oldest and most traditional of Rioja’s Bodegas. Originally opening for business in 1860. Today, this is exemplified by their 21st century hotel, a true masterpiece by designer Frank O. Gehry.

One of my favorite memories was going to Bodegas Ysios on a Christmas Eve when they opened the winery for me, and standing in the main room with the lights looking like a runway to Laguardia. It was magical! This is a stunning winery was designed by Santiago Calatrava and is well integrated into the landscape.

With an abundance of great choices, it can be overwhelming to decide which wineries to visit, but we will gain first-hand knowledge at family producers in Logroño, Elciego, Laguardia and Haro.

Not to be missed:

  • Wine pairing lunch at Baigorri, another modern masterpiece of both gastronomy and architecture.

  • Visit Bodegas Vivanco the National Prize Winner for Gastronomy.

  • Haro’s deliciously walkable, “Barrio de la Estación.” district is the largest concentration of pre-20th century wineries in the world.

  • Enjoy Ygay Castle the headquarters for the Marques de Murrieta and their extensive wine culture.

  • Dinner at Casa Terete opened in 1877 for their unforgettable Lamb roasted on vine cuttings.

  • Bodegas Lopez de Heredia Vina Todonia in Haro designed by world famous Zaha Hadid.

PRIORAT - A HIDDEN GEM

Priorat is a hidden gem in Catalan (DOQ) for wine, it is in the province of Tarragona, in the southwest of Catalonia.  It primarily produces powerful red wines, which came to international attention in the 1990s.

 

The area is characterized by its unique terroir of black slate and quartz soil known as llicorella with its heat trapping benefits. Giving outstanding wines from mostly two traditional Spanish red grapes, Garnacha and Carinena. In the late 90’s a local friend took me to visit Alvaro Palacios and taste his wine L’Ermita, it made a very big impression. Now you have Rene Barbier, Ferrer Bobet and yes, of course, Torres.

The Carthusian monks founded an Abbey in 1095 to make sacramental wines and gave the region its name. The area has dizzying serpentine yet scenic roads into the Serre del Montsand mountains. When they are not covered by vineyards there are almond groves and hazelnut trees to enhance the beauty. This is truly a hikers’ paradise in jaw-dropping countryside and yet it is only two hours from cosmopolitan Barcelona. Or even closer the Mediterranean Sea.

Not to be missed:

  • Visiting the remains of the Escaladei Monastery

  • Claim to the cobble stone village of Siurana for amazing view and ancient architecture

  • Support the Five women winemakers making a name for themselves in Priorat – Daphne Glorian-Solomon owner at Clos Erasmus, Sandra Doix Mora at Mas Doix, Isabel Fortuny at Ferrer Bobet, Maria Sangenis at Sangenisi Vaque and of course Mireira Torres Maczassek at Torres Priorat.

  • Visit the locals and sip wines at the source in the cellars.

  • Hike along the Mediterrnean Costa Daurada with miles of well-marked paths

  • Don’t miss the Roman amphitheater in Tarragona

  • Adopt a Grapevine at Cellar Devinssi a small artisanal family winery in Gratallops

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