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If you’re a red wine enthusiast and a foodie, you’re going to find yourself in paradise when you visit the remarkable wine region of Rioja in Spain. One of only two of the highest quality wine-producing regions in Spain, Rioja has (officially) tantalized palates for decades.
Here, the red Tempranillo grape is king. Although there is strong competition from its brethren Garnacha. White wines are also beginning to show up on Rioja enthusiast’s radars in the form of Viura, Malvasia and small quantities of Torrontes. Rosé varietal wines and blends are also on the rise, so be sure to keep an eye out when you visit any of the wineries on this list.
The region itself is formally divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja (now called Rioja Oriental). Each exhibits a unique terroir and varying wine styles. We recommend visiting wineries within each sub-region to get a more complete understanding of the area as a whole. In this guide, we’ll recommend visitation experiences in each.
But the wine isn’t the only reason why it’s worth visiting Rioja, it’s also the vibe. One of our favorite food-centric towns in all of Spain is Logroño. It’s here that you can find two streets loaded with exceptional and bespoke tapas bars and restaurants: Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan. The streets come alive in the evening, and you’ll have the opportunity to try locally produced wine by the bottle or glass for just a fraction of the price you’d see in the states.
Long story short, you don’t need to visit wineries to have a great time in Rioja, but we do recommend getting out in the countryside because it’s beautiful, and the winemakers are often very warm and welcoming.
Travel Logistics Getting To and Around Rioja
Rioja resides within North-central Spain, just south of what’s known as Basque country. Logroño is the capital of Rioja, and the largest city closest to the region is Bilbao. To get to Rioja, you have a couple of options.
First, you can fly into a major city such as Bilbao, Madrid or even Barcelona and take a short-haul flight into Logroño’s small airport. Check here for current flight deals into these major cities as well as deals on short-haul flights with carriers like Air Europa, Vueling and Iberia.
Another option is to rent a car from one of these cities and drive to Rioja yourself (highly recommended). We recommend taking a car because the Spanish countryside is incredibly scenic. The drive itself will become one of the highlights of your trip. Check here for some of the best rental car rates in Spain offered through Expedia. Make sure you get lost, but do watch your speed when on major roadways as there are traffic cameras everywhere, and they WILL bill you 2 months later once you’re back home.
If you want to enjoy the wine and scenery of the region without having to worry about driving, consider hiring a private guide and driver, with all tasting fees and lunch in a medieval village included.
Taking a train from a major city in Spain is also an option, and you can then rent a car when you arrive in Logroño. For example, Renfe (Spain’s national railroad company), offers direct rail routes from Madrid to Logroño for around $80 one-way. The trip lasts just under 4 hours. Your cheapest option is to take a bus from one of the major cities mentioned previously. Bus tickets may be as low as $20.
It’s also worth noting that there’s another small town called Haro within Rioja’s borders. This is a much quieter, humble town where many of the wine production and storage facilities reside. Some of the wineries we discuss in this guide offer tours and tastings in Haro at these facilities.
*Winetraveler Side Trip Suggestion: Consider visiting the incredible city and foodie capital of the world: San Sebastián! No other city in the world is home to as many Michelin-star restaurants per square kilometer. If you’re staying in San Sebastián, you can also schedule a private day tour through Rioja with lunch included.
Top Wineries To Visit in Rioja Spain
Now, onto the wineries. There are many in the region, but for the sake of this list, we’ll recommend a blend of options that we feel express the culture of Rioja, great quality wine, beautiful scenery, and warm service. The first four wineries on the list include accommodation if you’re looking to stay on a vineyard.
Marqués de Riscal, a Luxury Collection Hotel
Why Guests Like It: Accommodation, Architecture, Beautiful Grounds, Upscale, Luxury
“A marvellous creature, with its hair flying in all directions, launching itself over the vineyards.”
Frank O.Gehry. Architect.
For luxury accommodation and a winery visit that will leave a lasting impression on you, no visit to Rioja is entirely complete without staying or at least stopping by Marques de Riscal. If you’re familiar with Rioja wine, then there’s no doubt you’ve seen this brand on grocery and liquor store shelves. Like most Rioja producers, wine quality levels and methods of aging vary with Marques de Riscal. And while some of their library, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva wines are excellent, that’s not the reason why we’re recommending you visit this property.
The hotel building itself is enough to ‘wow’ visitors, as it’s one of the most unique structures in the wine world, designed by famed architect Frank O. Gehry. The structure conveys a sense of luxury (it’s one of the most luxurious in Marriott’s portfolio), and its unique forms certainly stand out amongst the backdrop of Rioja Alavesa’s wine country.
Everything at Marques de Riscal is advanced. From the technology utilized on the property for wine production to the VIP lounge. Oh, did we mention the wine is pretty solid too? You can check availability and book one of the 61 luxury suites right here.
Finca de los Arandinos Bodega
Why Guests Like It: Great Service, Great Breakfast, Architecture, Great Views, Peaceful, Great Home Base
If you’re not looking to spend as much at a hotel in Rioja but still want the experience of staying on a wine estate, Finca de los Arandinos may be for you. Like other establishments across the region, this property seeks to differentiate itself and push the concept of ‘progress’ with a more modern style of architecture.
We like Finca de los Arandinos because you can have several wine experiences without even leaving the property. These include guided visits with the winemaker, group tastings with lunch, and vineyard tours. At the same time, the property is conveniently located within the town of Entrena. A humble setting that provides easy access to all of the other wineries we mention on this list. Take a look at booking availability here.
Bodegas Finca La Emperatriz
Why Guests Like It: Beautiful Setting, Historic, Location, Warm Staff, Great Wines, Private Villas
For a private villa experience in a stunning setting, consider visiting Finca La Emperatriz. Stay right in the middle of the largest working vineyard in Rioja that once belonged to the last Empress of France and wife of Napoleon III. You’ll have access to free WiFi, tour and tasting experiences on-site, breakfast, a wine bar, and a private terrace. It’s pet-friendly, and conveniently located near other wineries on this list and all of the important towns in Rioja. You can take a look at dates that may be available to book here.
Rusticae Hotel Teatrisso
Why Guests Like It: Exceptional Service, Vibrant, Great Breakfast, Boutique, Family Run, Old (Refurbished) Castle, Peaceful
While not a winery itself, we love Teatrisso because it speaks to the Riojan culture. It’s a beautifully restored palace from the 16th century. Stay at this property if you’re looking for boutique accommodation with convenient access to vineyards throughout Rioja. This family-run hotel is packed with unmatched charm in a gorgeous and quiet village. There’s a beautiful stone cellar and courtyard terrace that offer locations to relax and taste wine. This property is rustic, yet clean and vibrant, and the staff could not be more welcoming. Check availability for your travel dates here.
Beautiful Grounds and Scenery
Why Guests Like It: Architecture, Great Quality Wines, Beautiful Scenery / Backdrop
Designed by architect Santiago Calatrava, Bodegas Ysios is one of the most iconic buildings in Rioja Alavesa. It stands out because the building is designed to mimic a wave. Contrasting against the vines in the foreground and the mountains in the back, you can actually feel a sense of motion when looking at the building.
Aside from the structure itself, Ysios offers 6 wine tasting and guided experiences on the property. Options range from simple tastings at the bar, to taking a wine car through the vineyards, tasting in the vineyards, terrace tastings and guided, customized experiences. Whichever you choose, be sure to call and book ahead of time.
Bodega Hacienda López de Haro
Why Guests Like It: New Winery, Beautiful Scenery, Warm Staff, Great Wines
For a more personal experience in a gorgeous setting, consider visiting Hacienda Lopez de Haro. Guided tours and tastings are offered on the property in the countryside, and there’s a good chance (depending on the time of year), you’ll be able to eat grapes right off of the vine, and/or try wines straight from the barrel. They frequently offer live music on their beautiful terrace, and you can eat lamb cutlet steaks cooked over vine shoots or sample tapas alongside their wines. Schedule a visit here.
Bodega Marqués de Murrieta
Why Guests Like It: Stunning Property, Great Wines, Warm Staff, Delicious Food
A Rioja staple for any discerning wine tourist, Marques de Murrieta is not to be missed for a dose of scenery, drink and food pairings. Here, you can take a guided tour through the vineyards followed by a walk through their 19th-century winery castle. If that isn’t enough, enjoy a range of wines paired alongside gourmet appetizers and cheeses prepared by their in-house chef. Reservations for these experiences and visits to the wine bar are currently required.
Boutique/Family Wineries & Intimate Tours and Tastings
Bodega Miguel Merino
Why Guests Like It: Boutique, Family Operated, Warm Staff, Great Quality Wines, Off-the-beaten-path
Visiting Bodega Miguel Merino is the essence of a boutique winery visit in La Rioja. This is a small, family-run operation and each staff member truly takes pride in their work. The winery offers private tasting experiences that give you the opportunity to walk and taste along with the winemaker or a family member. It’s positioned just below the quaint town of Briones, which is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful rustic towns in Rioja. In order to make an appointment, email [email protected] or call (34) 689384566.
Why Guests Like It: Family Operated, Warm Staff, Great Wines, Tapas, Organic, Great Setting
Combining a sense of place, family tradition and visitation customization options, we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest stopping by Bodegas Santalba. For the “discoverer” Winetraveler, this is one of those boutique experiences where at the end of your visit you’ll feel like a part of the family.
It’s important that you book a visit to Santalba ahead of time. Not only will this allow you to reserve a spot, but they’ll also try their best to tailor your visit to your specific preferences. Be sure to email [email protected] or call (34) 941 304 231 to enquire about opportunities.
Bodegas Vinícola Real
Why Guests Like It: Boutique, Warm Staff, Great Wines, Historic Setting, Customizable Experiences
A hidden gem in Rioja, step into the underground cellar of Vinicola Real and be transported back in time. The cellar here has been in use for over a thousand years when medieval monks once inhabited the property. Here, you can taste wine in a familial setting on historic grounds. Contact the winery ahead of time to see if you can secure guided experiences through the monasteries of Suso and Yuso, vineyard tasting experiences, or how to attend their annual harvest festival. Bodegas Vinicola Real also offers customized itinerary options once you get in touch.
Bodegas Gregorio Martínez
Why Guests Like It: Personal, Intimate Tours, Small Family Winery, Passionate Staff
Keeping with the boutique theme, this humble producer crafts a delicious portfolio of terroir-driven wines. In most cases, you’ll receive a private guided tour through the small property by Miguel, the winemaker himself. Following the tour, relax in the tasting room and enjoy small bites of local cuisine designed to be paired with the wines, including somewhat rare truffle-topped potatoes. Advanced reservations are highly recommended, though you may be able to drop in for a tasting unannounced. Contact [email protected] or call (34) 941 22 62 63.
Vinos naturales DOCa Rioja Bodegas Ojuel
Why Guests Like It: Beautiful Views, Organic, Charming Setting, Intimate Tours, Small Family Winery, Passionate Staff
The epitome of a boutique, familial visitation experience in wine country, we highly recommend scheduling an afternoon with winemaking couple Mila and Miguel. A visit to Ojuel on the slopes of the Sierra de Moncalvillo offers guests the opportunity to experience something different. Whether it’s picking the grapes themselves and hanging them up to dry, or sampling the resulting (and somewhat rare) dessert wine called Supurao, you’ll leave with an incredible memory. Get in touch ahead of time by emailing [email protected] or call Mila at (34) 629 455 157, and plan to enjoy a glass or two with Ojuel out in the vineyard.
Why Guests Like It: Charming Setting, Personal Tours, Wine Caves, Local Cuisine, Warm Staff
Another humble winery worth stopping by if boutique is your thing. Bodegas Gonzalez-Puras keeps it simple and offers two kinds of tasting experiences. Their “Discover Rioja” experience will take you through the winemaking process which culminates with a visit down into the centuries-old wine caves. You’ll get to taste three of their wines on their terrace paired with a local appetizer. At the end, enjoy a walk through the vineyards. Their “Authentic Rioja” experience is similar but includes more local cuisine paired with their wines. Call ahead at (34) 687 936 272 or email [email protected].
Cellar Tours & Tastings in Haro
Lopez de Heredia
Why Guests Like It: Beautiful Tasting Room, Great Quality Wine, Location, Friendly Staff
The town of Haro presents an opportunity for Winetravelers to quickly navigate through a number of famous producer’s cellars and tasting rooms. Grape production takes place out in Rioja’s countryside, but some winemakers process and age their wines at facilities within Haro. Lopez de Heredia (Viña Tondonia) is one of those producers. Their label is one of the most iconic, and if you’re already a Spanish wine lover, you’ve probably seen it before.
The winery has been in operation for over 144 years and is one of the 3 first wineries in Rioja. You can expect nothing less than quality juice no matter what you taste here, simply because they’ve been making it for so long.
Lopez de Heredia offers small private group tours through their cellar and facilities, and the staff are very accommodating if you’re looking for advice on other things to do in Haro. Learn more about scheduling a visit or drop in for a tasting.
Bodegas La Rioja Alta, S.A.
Why Guests Like It: Exceptional Wines, Beautiful Grounds, Great Guided Tours, Warm Staff
If there’s one aspect about Bodegas La Rioja Alta we hear more than anything else, it’s the quality of their wines. Our readers rave about them. If you’re looking for a true expression of what wines from Rioja Alta should be, look no further than this producer.
We also like this winery because they offer a number of visitation options. You can taste and tour the facility within the town of Haro, or during certain times of the year, you can visit the wine estate (Torre de Oña) out in the countryside of Rioja Alta. Guided tours and tastings are offered at both.
Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta
Why Guests Like It: Great Wines, Vermouth, Wine Cellar, Engaging Staff, Location
Another option while in Haro is to drop by Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta, known for their engaging wine cellar tours and high-quality Rioja wines. Enjoy a guided, walk-around tour and tasting in the barrel room and learn about the winemaking process. Lunch may also be an option for larger groups. You can also simply drop by their wine bar and terrace to try wines by the glass.
For a taste of something different, be sure to ask about their Vermouth, which has been made in the same style since 1937 and includes over 30 different herbs and spices. Schedule a visit or learn more here.
Why Guests Like It: Elegant Tasting Room & Shop, Warm Staff, Great Wines, Location, Accommodating
Located just down the road from Lopez de Heredia, it’s well worth a stop at Bodegas Muga. This is another iconic Rioja brand with a beautiful tasting room, shop and guided tour opportunities. If you’re interested in a guided tour of the facility, we highly recommend scheduling a visit ahead of time, but we’ve found the staff to be accommodating and willing to fit last-minute arrivals into a group. Tours are offered in multiple languages and start at different times. Click here for contact information and visitation options.
Note that you don’t need to participate in a tour, you can also drop in and taste through their wines. They have sommeliers on staff that are very friendly and will walk you through the winery’s history, philosophy, and the wines themselves.
Why Guests Like It: Location, Great Wines, Beautiful Grounds, Olive Oil Samples, Underground Cellar
It’s not every day we find a winery with such a well-known brand name that can still offer a boutique experience. Roda provides tasting opportunities within Haro, but if you book one of their more luxurious tours in advance, you can have a guided experience in the vineyard that ends with a visit to a cave where some of their wine is stored.
Bodegas Roda makes an effort to accommodate every kind of Winetraveler. If you want to get outside of Haro for a bit, consider their horse-and-carriage tour through the vineyard for just 50 euros. They also offer lunch and picnic experiences on a balcony overlooking the Ebro River and surrounding Rioja landscape. Click here for contact information and experience options.
Unique Experiences, Tastings and Museums
Why Guests Like It: Museum, History, Restaurant, Educational, Beautiful Cellar
If you’re curious about winemaking and the culture of Rioja as it evolved over the centuries, you’ll find no better starting point than Bodegas Vivanco. While the winemaking process is overseen by Rafael Vivanco Saenz himself, a third-generation winemaker, Bodegas Vivanco attempts to bring the entirety of the growth and development of global wine culture under one roof with specific attention to Rioja.
The museum on the property will take you back 8,000 years to when we believe wine was first produced. The space spans over 4,000 meters and includes 6 rooms worth of displays and artifacts articulating the world of wine. Note that touring the museum is un-guided and audio is provided.
Aside from the museum, you can of course also taste the wine on-site, have a drink at the gastro bar or enjoy a meal at their restaurant with the Sierra de Cantabria mountains in the background. Schedule an experience of your choice here.
Viña Real (CVNE)
Why Guests Like It: Great Wine, Modern Facilities, Friendly Staff, Architecture, Impressive Cellar, Great Views
One of the more well-known Rioja producers, Bodega Viña Real stands out for its architecture and cutting-edge wine production techniques. This is a large winery, with numerous tour and tasting opportunities, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of experience and wines you can expect at Viña Real. They offer tours through their expansive cellar, lunch at both the winery and on the vineyard, and tastings on the terrace. Take a look at the various visitation options and availability here.
Why Guests Like It: Exceptional Wines, Local Produce, Friendly Staff, Charming Setting
For a slower-paced and boutique-tasting experience through a range of exceptionally crafted Rioja wine, it’s worth a stop at Bodegas Aradón. The staff at this farmers cooperative are incredibly attentive and passionate about their work. This is an opportunity to sample small-craft wines (including delicious whites) on grounds that have been inhabited since Roman times. If you’re lucky, you may get to enjoy some live jazz while you sip and take in the scenery. It’s best to call ahead of time to inquire about scheduling a visit: (34) 941 16 50 36
Bodegas Senorio de Libano & Castillo de Sajazarra
Why Guests Like It: Castle Experience, Unique, Beautiful Grounds, Great Wine, Small Bites
For a winery experience that includes a side of medieval castle, consider scheduling a visit with Bodegas Senorio de Libano. You’ll make stops in the vineyard of the Fuente Negra country estate, explore outside the 15th-century Sajazarra Castle which belongs to the Libano family, and taste through their wines paired with an appetizer. Currently, 4 different wine-tourism experiences are offered. Each includes a visit to the castle gardens, but the wines and cuisine offered vary (red/white and various appetizer options). Learn more here and do schedule your visit ahead of time.
Bodegas Y Viñedos Puente Del Ea
Why Guests Like It: Great Wines, Warm Staff, Beautiful Grounds, Great Value, Charming Setting
If you’re heading out from Senorio de Libano, continue your drive through Rioja Alta and meander along the road until you find yourself in the historic and charming setting of Bodegas Puente Del Ea. This small but high-quality organization offers guided wine tasting options as well as wine and local food pairings on the property. Taste through red, white and rosé wines along with a visit to their underground cellar. Reservations are required ahead of time, call (34) 941 320 405 or email [email protected].
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