Last year the family and I spent some time in the Rioja Province of Spain, near Logroño, during our Grand Tour. We expected to taste some great wine, and we did, but there was much more to the area than vineyards. Our stay was at the cozy Casa Verde (highly recommended, Spanish website but they will chat with you in English, don’t be shy), a country cabin, lots of space and exceptional hosts. In fact, our hosts Pilar and Andrew were responsible for a couple of our nicest memories on that leg of our journey. From a personal tour of a very small vineyard, by the owner’s son, to an incredible hike to a long-abandoned monastery, the area gave us fantastic memories. We’re very happy to have explored that part of the world. Below I’ll share some adventures by other travellers. If you are considering visiting the Rioja – keep in mind that other than vineyards, there’s a lot to see (and eat!).
A Small Family Winery in Cenicero, Spain
One of our highlights, for me – The Highlight, was visiting a small, family-owned winery. Not only did the three of us get a tour by the owner’s son but we shared some wine and vermouth right in the pressing room. The vermouth was spectacular. Don’t miss a chance to visit Jose up in Cenicero (that’s him in the middle of the pic) and his Valentin Pascual winery. The visit was organized by our wonderful host at Casa Verde.
About the winery:
We are a family winery that began its first steps in 1885, when Don Felipe Lagunilla San Martín, illustrious winemaker of Cenicero, began to produce his first wines.
We are one of the last wineries in La Rioja that continues to carry out the traditional treading of grapes from our own vineyards with bare feet and fermenting them in a stone lake and a cave of the fifteenth century in our hometown Cenicero.
** from Savoured Journeys
The Pinchos Crawl in Logroño
On Calle del Laurel, which is the main pinchos street, there are upwards of 50 closet-like bars packed into what amounts to about 150 feet worth of dining pleasure. Can you imagine the choices you’re going to be faced with? There are a few additional streets (Travesia de Laurel, Calle San Agustín, Calle Laurel, Calle San Juan and Calle Albornoz) that also contain pinchos bars — everyone wants in on the excitement.
What is a Pinchos Crawl?
A pinchos crawl is very similar to a typical bar crawl, only while hopping from bar to bar, you order a pincho with your drink of choice — a glass of Rioja (Crianza is a popular choice), a caña (draft beer), or a Sidra (Spanish cider). There are also no tables. Everyone stands either around the bar or around the wine barrels that are placed outside as a gathering place.
In these tiny restaurants, there’s room for about 15 people at the bar, and elbow space in the interior. Each place offers something different — either their house specialty or a small list of pintxos they do best, and it’s very easy to tell which ones are the most popular. We skipped some of the most popular ones just because the crowds were so intense. Be prepared to elbow your way to the bar and have your order and money ready when you get there.
A little walk through Logroño (Spain)
A Few Other Reasons to Visit Logroño
– by The Spain Scoop
When I tell people that I live in Logroño, Spain, the most common reaction I get is a head tilt followed up with “Where?” Even Spaniards sometimes don’t know where exactly it is. Logroño is a small city and the capital of La Rioja, Spain’s main wine producing region in the north. If you have heard of it, it’s most likely because you’ve seen the name stuck on the back of a red wine bottle.
Even though Logroño doesn’t have the name or number of famous sites like other cities in Spain, it is not without its charms. Most people who end up here are surprised by it and end up falling in love with this little city. In fact, Logroño was named one of the best cities to live in in Spain a few years ago, and for good reason. I have lived in several other cities in Spain, and I chose La Rioja on a whim. I came through here on the train in 2007 and I completely fell in love with the fairytale landscape! Now Logroño is my favorite place I have lived in Spain, and here’s why.
Probably my favorite thing about Logroño is the food, though my body protests every time I go to the gym. Logroño is well known in Spain for its pincho scene; pinchos are Northern Spain’s take on tapas, the small serving of food on a slice of baguette. There are streets around the city with nothing but pincho bars that get lively and downright rowdy on the weekends. Whether you want to try a fancy elaborate pincho, like a futuristic foam tortilla, or something simple and hearty like the famous champi, which is three mushrooms grilled and coated with a buttery garlic sauce with shrimp, there is something for everyone.
Close to nature
Logroño is a small enough city that it’s really close to parks and the mountains. You can literally walk right out of the city and into the vineyards. Even wandering around the city, you can catch glimpses of the snow-capped mountains and rolling fields of grape vines from the tops of buildings and looking down certain streets in the old quarter. It’s the best of both worlds.
Since Logroño is such a small city, the cost of living and visiting here is really cheap. A pincho and a glass of good red wine will usually set you back about €2.50 and you can get a really good meal with several courses for around €15 in a restaurant.
Why Logroño, Spain is an Up and Coming Destination Getaway
When people plan a trip to Spain, I can honestly say very few of them choose to go to Logroño. This is not because it isn’t worth visiting, but rather because few people have heard of it. Well off the beaten tourist trail, Logroño is the capital of La Rioja, a charming, tiny region four hours north of Madrid. Famous for its red wine and for being a stopover on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage that cuts across northern Spain, Logroño has plenty of undiscovered merits and allures of its own.Perfectly situated between cities like Bilbao, Pamplona, San Sebastián, Burgos and Zaragoza, Logroño is well worth a stop on any trip around northern Spain.
Modern gastro-bars and old-world taverns rub shoulders with each other in and around the old quarter of Logroño. The capital of La Rioja is famous for its pincho bar scene. Pinchos are Northern Spain’s take on tapas, small portions of food served up (usually) skewered to a slice of bread. There are hundreds of pinchos to chose from in Logroño, with some bars offering many varieties, while others are famous for just one. They are usually cheap, and when paired with a glass of local red wine, it’ll usually cost around 2.50 euros. In the past few years, there has been a new fad of gastronomic pincho bars, places that serve up elaborate, extravagant, and occasionally futuristic (or just plain strange) pinchos, like kangaroo, mushroom and avocado paste or a foam tortilla de patata.
But the best reason to visit Logroño, and what distinguishes it from many other cities in Spain, is the wine culture. Itty bitty La Rioja happens to be one of the biggest wine producing regions in Spain and you can find it everywhere here, from wine-stomping festivals, to the harvest in the fall, to even a wine battle (Batalla del Vino), a massive annual food fight with wine. There are hundreds of wineries to visit in La Rioja, and many in Logroño itself, where you can learn everything and more about wine production. My favorite bodega is just outside Logroño, called Marqués de Riscal. A mix of innovation and tradition, the oldest winery in La Rioja was redesigned by Frank Gehry (the architect of the Guggenheim in Bilbao) a few years ago.
1 Wonderful Week of Rioja Wine in Northern Spain!
Stop #1 Bodegas Muga
This is a traditional winery and has been producing great wines since 1932. Many of the wineries require you make a reservation to take a tour or have a tasting. We just weren’t organized enough to have scheduled everything in advance, but this Bodega offered something special. They had a wine bar!
A Day of Luxury at Marqués de Riscal
This was an extra special day for us, as I have wanted to see this winery for some time. We had organized the wine tour in advance, but also schedule a tour of the hotel and the afternoon enjoying the spa. Ideally, we would have stayed at the hotel for 1 glorious night, but we enjoyed as much as we could in one day. We have detailed out the entire day, so check out the article now! I think technically this is just across the La Rioja border in Cantabria.
The Private Rioja Wine Experience
Lastly our 3rd wine experience was a special unexpected bonus. The owners of our apartment were wine makers! They invited us over to their home and gave us a tour of their private cellar. We learned how they started with winemaking and how it’s the family passion. The cellar was incredible, full of charm and they even gave us a bottle of their wine. It was a privilege to spend time with them and have them show us the private life of a winemaker. I highly recommend staying with them. You can see more below in the “Where we stayed” section.
It wasn’t all about wine
We also just enjoyed small town living, with a 2 minute walk to the local bakery, town center, open air market and my favorite, coffee! It was nice to just roam around town and see how the locals live. It was busy enough to keep us entertained, fed and close to so many things.
If you want any other information on what to do in and around Logroño just ask in the comments below. I hope you enjoy your stay there as much as we did.