I’m no wine snob (I’m yet to be known to turn a glass away), I’m just a great believer that you should consume your 5 a day and if that happens to come from grapes, all the better. My true love of Rioja came when I experienced Marques de Riscal 2004 150 Anniversary when the boy and I were staying at Hotel du Vin in Bristol. As with most things, I have the ability to select the most pricey option without even a glance at the price. This was no different.
To mark the boy’s birthday this year, I organised a trip to the Rioja region of Spain (North Spain). Whether this was a gift for him or me is yet to be decided but either way, it was booked and off we were trotting.
We chose to stay at Hotel Viura which is a beautifully designed modern hotel nestled in a tiny quaint village just 5 minutes from the winery, Marques de Riscal. It’s clear to see where our priorities lay.
For anyone looking to stay in the region, I can’t recommend the hotel highly enough. It was young and funky with a clean aesthetic with a clear nod to it’s local heritage. As you’d expect from the such a hotel, the wine list was extensive (we didn’t get anywhere near to working our way through it) and the chef was experimental in his approach and it worked, it worked so perfectly. All of the meals were thoughtfully balanced and proportioned well enough to ensure you could squeeze in 3 courses – trust me with desserts and cheeses like they offer, you’ll want to make sure you don’t miss that last one!
One of my favourite things about the hotel is that they make a concerted effort to only work with local supplies and wines. The passion for everything that they produce and the service that they provide is impeccable.
We were lucky enough to stay in one of their suites, which was HUGE, simplistic and gorgeous. It came complete with a freestanding bath, mood lighting and a gorgeous large veranda which was great for soaking up the sunshine during the day. For the little extra that it cost, we thought it proved really good value for money.
We made the wise choice of hiring a car for our stay and it’s definitely something that we’d recommend for anyone planning a visit of their own. The nearest airport (Bilbao) is over an hour and a quarter’s drive away and with many of the vineyards being spread apart, it allowed us to explore and discover small towns that we would never have stumbled upon otherwise.
Marques de Riscal was incredible. For €10, you’ll be given a 90 minute tour of the winery, a full walk through of all of the processes involved (particularly interesting for the Gran Reserva wines) as well as tasting some of their signature wines. We loved visiting the cellars and seeing some of the wines which have been stored for over 100 years. Not surprisingly, we didn’t get to try those 😉 There were very few Brits around (which we loved), but this did mean that there were only 2 English speaking tours per day at 10am and 4pm. 10am was too early to consider wine (even by my standards), so be sure to book in advance for the 4pm tour.
If you have time, make a reservation at one of the restaurants in the hotel at Marques de Riscal which has plenty of Michelin star delights for you to enjoy. Be sure to leave plenty of room in your case too – at home bottles can retail at as much as £130 in some hotels for our favourite bottle, but can be bought here for little over £25. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
The next few days saw a trip to Logroño, local wineries and a small walled village. Never has a long weekend had so much activity packed in! Be sure to check back where I’ll share our favourite bits! I’d love to hear about places that should be next on our itinerary!
You can book your stay at Hotel Viura here: https://www.hotelviura.com/
Villabuena de Álava
01307 – Álava