A few weekends ago I finally made it to the ‘La Rioja’ region of Spain, a trip I’ve been looking forward to for over a year. La Rioja is perhaps the most well known of Spain’s many wine regions and is located just south of the Basque Country along the Ebro River. The entire region is very well known for its gastronomy with an influence of pinchos from the Spanish north as well as, of course, a long history of Spanish wines.
Did you know that Spain ranks 1st in the world for most land covered by vineyards and 3rd in wine production just behind Italy and France?
Most of our weekend was spent in the region’s capital city, Logroño, but we were also eager to see what the radiant Rioja countryside had to offer. With a little help and guidance from my friend Amy of Restless Fork, we decided to venture outside of the city to the itty-bitty town of Haro.
Haro is the center of the region’s wine production and the self-proclaimed “Capital of Rioja wines.” This is probably because they are home to many of Rioja’s renowned bodegas (Spanish term for winery) and most activities in the town are centered around just one thing. You guessed it- wine. In other words- Haro is a wine lovers dream.
This little pueblo has a very short list of your typical touristy attractions: cathedrals, churches, museums, monuments, etc , etc, which I actually found to be incredibly refreshing! Instead of running around like a chicken without a head, trying to check off as many sights as possible in a short period of time, I got to do something that I surprisingly rarely do when I’m traveling, RELAX!
We leisurely strolled through quaint narrow streets, wandered and explored with no end point in mind. After some time drifting away from Haro’s center, we happened upon a lovely quiet back plaza- the perfect place to stop and sit for lunch. We decided on Los Caños, one of the plaza’s many inviting restaurants, and witnessed the square slowly fill with Rioja locals meeting for their usual large weekend meal. We sat, people watched and enjoyed a meal as true Spaniards-chatting, reminiscing and taking the time to fully savor each and every bite. We happily took our time and never felt rushed.
Oh, if only every trip could be so pleasantly tranquil!
After lunch we fled the center, crossed the Ebro and walked down a long country road towards “Bodegas López de Heredia Viña Tondonia.” Tondonia is the oldest bodega in Haro and the 3rd oldest in La Rioja.
The winery has remained in the López de Heredia family since opening in 1877 and has upheld their traditional wine production process, keeping it as close to past generations as possible. A producer of subtle elegance with a great influence of the French Bordeaux, they provide exceptional quality wines and refer to their stock as the ‘Supreme Rioja.’
For just 30€ you are welcomed into the family as one of their own and taken on a journey into the past. As a small group we were led through the winery’s premises through aging rooms full of immense oak vats, the family’s own underground galleries and the web covered wine cellars. We sampled three of their smooth rich wines and were even gifted a bottle of their 2002 Viña Tondonia Red Reserva, my favorite of the three, as a token of appreciation for our visit.
What a wonderful day in wine paradise!!
What type of traveling do you prefer- packed in sightseeing or laid-back wandering?
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