Monday, December 17, 2018


We tried a few amazing Riojas in New York so we decided to go to the Rioja region to try these amazing wines. I thought that in New York we could only have had a small sample of Rioja wines and therefore there were a lot more amazing Rioja wines to discover. What did we visit?

We stayed at the Marquis de Riscal hotel. An amazing hotel I strongly recommend in Cenicero.

What wineries did we try?

Bodega Tritium - open on Sunday
A more modern Rioja winery. We tried their various wines and we thought that as a mix it was overall the best wine set/mix.  We got a bunch of wines mostly reserva and blends. Also, you get a tour of a traditional winery set up in the center of a small town.

Bodega Ostatu - traditional Rioja
To compare with the modern and innovative Tritium wines we then went to Bodega Ostatu in Rioja Alavesa. It is a family winery with a nice tasting room. We personally preferred the more modern Riojas. Howeve,r the drive from Guardia to Ostatu was beautiful with the snow mountains in the back, certainly worth a drive.

Bodega Benjamin de Rothchild & Vega - they don't take visitors
We had the opportunity to try their wines at the Michelin starred restaurant at the Marquis de Riscal hotel and we loved it. The concierge told us that they unfortunately don't take visitors. Perhaps a next time we can try to leverage this blog to get their doors to open.

Lunch in Guardia
We had a great lunch in La Guardia where the view was really nice. Quite a lot of small restaurants. We strongly recommend a reservation though as it is very hard to get in otherwise.

Marquis de Riscal - extremely commercial to an unpleasant point
After lunch, and a nap, as we were staying at the Marquis de Riscal hotel we of course got in the wine tour and tasting of the Marquis de Riscal winery. For the first 20 minute,s we were sat down in a movie theather and we were shown all kind of movies without much substance all to the glory of the winery. It reminded me a lot of the communist propaganda movies. Als,o they spent a lot of time talking about their hotel architecture, plans, moneys spent, etc. We were there for the wine. So we snicked out of the tour, went to the tasting room, where we tried 3 wines that felt very average to us. And then we paid extra to have 2 or 3 glasses of their more expensive wines which, we also felt in the moment, were just ok at best. We didn't try their ridiculously most expensive wine though. I really believe that at comparable prices La Rioja Alta Reserve 904 or Roda kicks the ass of the Grand Reserva Riscal for example.

Most of the large wineries are in Haro and closed on Sundays. We did a few wineries there:

La Rioja Alta - large commercial and nice tasting room
We had some older Rioja Alta, which is what we had in New York too. And it turns out they are probably my favorite Rioja wines. A lot of nose and flavors. And reasonably priced for such old wines. We took the number of the New York importer for them : Michael Skurnik Wines + 1 516 677 9300

Roda - at the entrance in Haro
The other amazing Rioja we had in New York. Larger winery as well but maybe more boutique. The tasting room was nearly empty and small. We also loved their wines. Dark and fairly strong. We loaded on Roda I from there.

We also stopped at Muga. Also large commercial but more traditional winemakers. It turns out we prefer modern Rioja wines.

Overall it turns out from this trip that I am more intrigued by the Ribera Del Duero wines on average.
In Rioj,a my favorites were older La Rioja Alta Reserve 904 of 10+ years of age. My wife preferred the Roda I, also older bottles. And the other wine worth a mention were Tritium and The Rothchild & Vega wines which unfortunately we didn't get to try extensively.

After visiting Rioja we went to San Sebastian for the food and the surf. We strongly and entirely recommend San Sebastian, staying at the hotel Maria Christina, as an amazing next step from Rioja.