Sunday, October 12, 2008
Spain's City of Wine
Wine tourism is on the rise in Spain, the world’s third-largest wine producer (after France and Italy). Just a little over one hour south of Bilbao is the La Rioja wine region. Its capital is Haro whose barrio de la estación (train-station neighborhood) is dotted with wineries (bodegas) where you can sample the region’s wines.
We’ll head to nearby sleepy Elciego (its Basque name is Eltziego). Here you’ll find the Hotel Marqués de Riscal, designed by architect Frank Gehry (you saw his magnificent Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao). You can’t miss its roof wrapped in pink, silver and gold titanium ribbons. Opened in 2006, the luxury hotel is home to a “City of Wine” including a renowned restaurant (Echaurren), a wine bar, wine tastings, cooking school, wine museum and shop, and “vinothérapie” spa with such features as bathing in wine. Now that’s a total wine experience! Even if you’re not staying at the hotel, you can tour the winery and taste two of the local wines for €10 (tours are in English, reservations must be made in advance). Info: 1 Calle Torrea. Tel. 945180880. www.marquesderiscal.com.
Elciego and the “City of Wine” are 68 miles (110 km) south of Bilbao/76 miles (122 km) southwest of Pamplona. If you’re driving from Bilbao, take Highway E-70 to Highway A8 in the direction of Victoria-Burgos. Follow Highway AP68 to the Cenicero exit (Exit 10). Continue past the toll booth and turn right onto N-232. Proceed for 1 kilometer and turn left onto LR-512. Turn right onto A-3210 and continue to Elciego.
(Photo courtesy of Bastian via flickr.com)