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La Rioja The wine experience

La Rioja has become synonymous with Spanish wine. These earthy wines from the north of Spain gained fame in the Middle Ages, when pilgrims walking west to Santiago de Compostela traversed Rioja’s picturesque vineyards and villages, replenishing their energy along the way with local wines made by medieval monks. During this trip, you’ll sample a range of prestigious Rioja wines, from vintages aged in medieval caves through to wines produced in the most avant-garde installations.  You’ll visit renowned estates and smaller boutique wine producers, depending on your preference.
But there is more to La Rioja than great wine. You’ll dine on delicious regional cuisine, sleep in charming wine hotels and visit picturesque villages and historic monasteries and churches. Here, the people are warm and the wine is always flowing. If you love Spanish wine and would like to explore one of the most beautiful regions of Spain, then this unique vacation is for you. ¡Salud!

Day 1. Laguardia

Private transfer from Bilbao airport to the medieval village of Laguardia, where you’ll check into your hotel with views of the vines. Enjoy a free afternoon exploring this beautiful walled town, once the capital of the Rioja region. The hilltop village is built upon an intricate system of underground “caves” or cellars, excavated under the houses and streets. Walk through its narrow cobbled streets, explore one of the underground wine cellars or perhaps visit the 12th century Church of Santa María de los Reyes. Dinner at your hotel is a gourmet Riojan feast.

Day 2. Laguardia

With your private driver /guide, visit a renowned bodega in Elciego, one of the oldest wineries in Rioja and one of the first to introduce French winemaking techniques. The new hotel and winery building have been designed by famous architect Frank Gehry. After a winery tour and tasting, enjoy lunch in a typical Riojan restaurant that might include “chuletillas al sarmiento” (lamb chops grilled over vine shoots) and “pimientos asados” (roasted red peppers). Continue to the impressive wine museum, the Vivanco-Museo de la Cultura del Vino (Museum of Wine Culture). The museum was created and developed by  a family with a long tradition of winemaking in La Rioja. Later in the evening explore Logroño, the capital of La Rioja. Discover the art of tapas-hopping with your guide in the lively old part of town. The narrow streets are lined with bars specializing in different tapas, such as wild mushrooms grilled with garlic and olive oil.

Day 3. Ezcaray

Your private tour commences in the busy town of Haro, the capital of the Rioja Alta wine region, where we visit the oldest winery in town. Little about some wineries have changed in the past  since their foundation . The family adheres to a winemaking doctrine blueprinted in the 1880’s — to make wine only from their own vineyards, using natural yeasts, long aging in wood, and no filtration at bottling.  Lunch on your own in Haro. Continue with your guide to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, a small town located on the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela. Stroll through the medieval Old Quarter, admire regal stone mansions boasting original coats of arms, and tour the 12th century Cathedral (famous for its legend of the “hen and the cock”). Your final destination is Ezcaray, a mountain town situated on the banks of the Rio Oja. Check into your delightful hotel and enjoy a fabulous dinner in a Michelin star restaurant presided over  one of Spain’s rising young chefs.

Day 4. Casalarreina

Enjoy a full-day tour today with your private driver/guide. In San Millan de la Cogolla visit the beautiful monastery complex of Suso and Yuso (dating back to the 6th century). Nestled in a green mountain valley, both monasteries are World Heritage sites and it is here that the first manuscripts written in the Castillian and Basque (Euskera) languages are preserved. After lunch, continue to the village of Casalarreina and our elegant accommodations for the next two nights, a beautifully restored monastery. Dine tonight in a restaurant popular with local wine-makers. Complete with 17th century stone wine cellar, the restaurant features local specialities including the classic “pimientos de piquillo” (sweet red peppers) stuffed with cod and more original creations like crisped pasta with jumbo shrimp in a feathery leek sauce.

Day 5. Casalarreina

Today is a special wine tasting day, with visits to two famous estates, one historic and one modern. Firstly, you’ll visit one of the prettiest and most historic wineries in Rioja. Established in 1852, the winery boasts its own castle! The next visit is to a boutique winery surrounded by picturesque vineyards and situated right next to the Ebro river. This prized vineyard estate, produces only one style of wine each year, a delicious rich red. After a tour and wine tasting, lunch is in a traditional restaurant. Enjoy a free evening. Stroll around the village of Casalarreina, visit the historic church, or perhaps indulge in a luxurious wine-therapy treatment or relaxing massage at the hotel.

Day 6. Bilbao

Transfer to Bilbao and check into your boutique hotel, located a short stroll from the famous Guggenheim museum. After lunch on your own, enjoy a private tour of this internationally acclaimed museum and discover why Frank Gehry’s mind-boggling titanium masterpiece has brought new life to the coastal city of Bilbao.
Continue with your guide for a walking tour along the Nervion River, passing the new Santiago Calatrava Bridge, and crossing into the old town. Bilbao has a colourful medieval quarter (the Casco Viejo), and you’ll explore the original seven streets where Bilbao was founded some 700 years ago. Your farewell dinner tonight features Basque specialties that might include crab croquettes, spicy green peppers, smoked Idiazabal cheese and delicious seafood dishes.

Day 7. Departure

After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to the airport for your onward flight.

 

 

Fine Wine & Gourmetravel offer  personalized travel services and our itineraries are fully customizable to better suit our customers’ needs.  All these tours are available in the finest  hotels  and  accommodations in the area and available to be done guided or driving by yourself. Please check possible extensions to Madrid , Barcelona , Rioja or another destination.

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