La Rioja

DSC00021One night, two days, three estates, four total visits, five + hours on the bus (each way) and … over 120 students. I’ve already been to Spain twice this summer but this was my first wine tour and I got two experience both La Rioja and Navarra. While there were a lot of things I found frustrating about the trip and it wasn’t how I would have chosen to do things, I got to drink some awesome wine and enjoy a night out in Logroño.


Tasting at D.O. Navarra

Our first visit, and one of the best of the trip, was at the D.O. Office of Navarra. We sat through a short presentation and then enjoyed a great tasting of white, rose, red and sweet white wines. The director we spoke with was very passionate about his work and his enthusiasm was contagious.

Next, after a slightly disconcerting lunch, we made a stop at Marco Real. Part of a large family group that has estates in Argentina and Spain as well as a spirits production branch, Marco Real is based in Navarra. With a gleaming modern facility, one of the best aspects of this visit was the aromatics room. With over 70 essential oil diffusers this room is all about exploring the unique aromas that can be found in wine.

Cathedral in Logrono

Cathedral in Logrono

That night, despite my initial reservations, we spent a lovely evening at a seminary in Logroño. And of course… we wen’t out on the town. We had a couple of bottles of wine in the shadow of the lovely cathedral and then moved on for a tapas tour. I’ve had some amazing Spanish food over the years and enjoyed some amazing tapas. But I had, hands-down the best tortilla I’ve ever had. I’m still having dreams about it. Le sigh…I guess I’ll just have to go back and find the tiny little bar again.

Frank Gehry's Amazing Hotel at Marques de Riscal

Frank Gehry’s Amazing Hotel at Marques de Riscal

Then Friday morning, we dragged our slightly sorry, hungover buts out of bed and back onto the bus. I will confess this is where my group was especially lucky. We got to visit two estates instead of another D.O. Office and an estate. The first stop: the internationally celebrated Marques de Riscal. With stunning architecture and impressive production facilities, this estate encapsulated some of the best Rioja has to offer. Although I have to say I was a little disappointed by the visit…the estate was beautiful and we got to see some of the behind-the-scenes sites, but it almost felt too perfect. Clearly a well oiled machine, Marques de Riscal has turned the winery tour into an almost conveyor-belt like process.

Vat tasting at Marques de Teran

Vat tasting at Marques de Teran

But our second stop…was a completely different story. The best visit of our trip by far, Marques de Terán, was a unique experience characterized by passion and endless enthusiasm.  Our tour guide: the CEO. Utterly dedicated to producing the best possible wine and remaining both unique and eco-friendly, his excitement was contagious. Our tasting included two wines from the vats and a stunning 2009 Crianza. Not your typical Rioja wines, I liked them so much I bought three bottles.

We then stopped for a lovely three course lunch – that included more of the fabulous Marques de Terán wines. And then unfortunately, we were headed back to Bordeaux and real life. I’m looking forward to going back and getting a chance to do more exploring. Also there seems to be some tortilla calling my name… In the mean time, click below to see my tasting notes from the trip or click here to see the full range of photos.

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