Visiting Haro: Rioja’s Wine Capital

We clearly love wine so of course our northern Spain trip would have to include a stop in Rioja to do some wine tasting. We based ourselves in Haro since it is surrounded by many of the wineries.
We have done many wine and winery tours so this time we were looking for something different. We only booked one tour ahead of time; Bodegas Conde de los Andes. We chose this winery because the tour went through their wine caves. The rest of our time we planned to just find one or two more wineries where we could just taste or have a glass of wine and relax.
The tour at Bodegas Conde de los Andes was very different than most wine tours we have been on. Typically you go through the vineyard and the winery and are educated on the wine making process, then you end with your tasting. At Bodegas Conde de los Andes you immediately go down into their wine caves and actually spend most of your tour in the caves. You are given education about the history of the caves and the wine in them as well as some education about their more modern day wines. We were super excited that about half way through the tour we stopped at a beautiful cave and actually got to taste a bottle of their 2005 vintage that had been aging. Our small group was just us and one other couple along with our guide. The five of use shared this entire bottle and then the tour continued through the caves. We thought that was the tasting and we were really happy with the wine. But then the tour continued on through the caves and concluded in the modern part of their winery with a tasting of two newer bottles. This tasting was accompanied by snacks  (almonds, iberico ham, chocolate) to pair with the wines. Our guide explained a little about each wine we were tasting and then gave us time to enjoy the wine and the food on our own. We would highly recommend this tour to winos or anyone else visiting the area. The caves are a bit chilly so we would recommend bringing a light jacket or sweatshirt with you. If you don’t have a jacket or sweater the staff will offer you a vest to help you stay warm in the caves. There are some narrow hallways were only one person can walk through at a time but other than that none of the caves are super small or claustrophobic.

 

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We also stopped at Bodegas Muga which has a modern tasting room where you can taste their wines without having to do an entire tour. The tasting room was full of tourists from all over while we were there. Here they had a set flight so you tasted four of their reds and your fifth wine you could chose from two of their roses or a white. We really enjoyed all of the wines we tasted here.  Our last stop was CVNE, here we chose to taste two different reds which again we really enjoyed both.  They have multiple tasting options if you wanted to taste more than we did. For a quick lunch near the wineries we would recommend Asador Cerveceria Tirondoa. This place is nothing fancy but they had great fried chicken!
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Haro is a small city that is very walkable. There is a central square where you will find lots of places to sit and enjoy a glass of wine and a tapa or small snack. There are also several wine shops in the city where you can find a great variety of Spanish wines. Our last night in the city we had dinner at Restaurante Arrope and would highly recommend it.

 

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There are plenty of other wineries in Rioja to explore as well. We spent our time in Haro but have heard that Logrono is also a great place to base yourself for exploring Rioa. Either way you are sure to have some really wonderful wines!

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-TFWYs

Rivero Gonzalez Wine Tasting

During our weekend road trip to Parras del la Fuente one of the wineries we visited was Rivero Gonzalez. This winery is kind of in the middle of nowhere. We got lost and drove in circles through some small side streets around Parras before we finally found it. We had a reservation for our tour so we we talked to the gate attendant who let us onto the property and showed us where to park. We were still a few minutes early even with getting lost. When we walked back to the winery we could not find anyone who looked like they were planning to give a tour. The only people we saw were a few guys cleaning some farm equipment in a back building. We wandered all over the property without anyone questioning us or offering to direct us to where we needed to be. We decided to go back towards the first building we had seen which was a store where you can buy their wine and other products. We figured that would be most likely where our tour guide would be. After waiting a few more minutes our tour guide arrived and everything went well. So all that being said- remember that the rest of the world doesn’t operate on a American schedule/time table where being a few minutes early is normal and somewhat expected. Also since this isn’t a huge area for wine tourism you may be the only tour the winery has that day or week. Our guide was truly surprised he was showing two American’s around without any locals. I think we wondered how we even found this place!
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We had a private tour (in English) through the vineyard and winery before sitting down for our tasting. Our guide was very helpful and willing to answer whatever questions we had. He was nervous about his English but we felt he did a wonderful job and by this point in our trip we were so happy to find anyone who spoke any English! We sat outside for our tasting with great views of the vineyard. Along with our wine we had some chocolate covered pecans, bread, goat cheeses and jams all made onsite by the winery. The winery had pecan trees all along the property. The chocolate covered pecans were awesome and you can buy a bag of them before you leave! We also tried some pecan and whiskey cream liquors at a small street market in Parras which we would also recommend trying if you are in the area.
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We were given plenty of time to relax and enjoy our wine and snacks during the tasting.  We really enjoyed all the wines we tasted here. We would recommend their Scieno Reserve line as we felt that was the best value. These wines are their middle line of wine (they have a cheaper line and a more expensive/premium line you can also purchase) We purchased the R2 Scieno Reserve Cab Sauvignon and the R3 Scieno Reserve Syrah. We also really enjoyed their Naranja which was an interesting experimental wine they had. It is a Palomino and Riesling blend that is aged in oak barrels which gave it more body and a light orange color. It was very unique with the distinct Riesling characteristics. We found this wine to be really refreshing and we always enjoy when wineries are doing something different so we can expand our wine tasting pallet!
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Here are the links to our other Parras de la Fuente and wine tasting posts from this region of Mexico.
-TFWYs

The Oldest Winery in North America

The oldest winery in North America surprisingly is in Mexico. Casa Madero was founded in 1597. It is located near the small town of Parras de la Fuente of the South side of the Coahuila desert. The winery does offer tours but do be aware they are in Spanish only. You do not need a reservation ahead of time but it may be helpful to secure your spot. They day we went we ended up joining what we think was a large family who had reserved their tour and tasting ahead of time. It worked out okay but we were the only two not from this group of people on the tour. We are not entirely sure the winery staff knew we weren’t part of that group when they sold us our tickets.
The tour doesn’t take you through the vineyards but focuses on the wine making process in the winery. You see where fermentation happens, where they make Brandy, and where they store the barrels. You also get to see some of the very old equipment still on the property. Our Spanish was not very good when we did this tour so we missed a lot of the smaller details. It was still cool to walk through and see everything. If you don’t know a lot of Spanish you can definitely still enjoy this tour.
The tasting is separate from the tour itself, meaning there is a separate fee. We had our tasting with our tour group immediately following our tour. We tasted several of their wines, again the tasting is in Spanish. One of the staff members pouring the wine did know some English to help us out but the details given about each wine we did not fully understand. We really enjoyed the 3V which is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo as well as the Shiraz Reserva.
Overall this tour is more established that the other wineries in the area. Not that you are not getting a good experience but you will likely be on a bigger tour with lots of other people. They are more prepared for tourists than the other wineries in the area as well which can be helpful to you when trying to communicate your needs if you are not a fluent Spanish speaker. Being the oldest winery in North America seems to bring them more tourism. While it was not the greatest winery tour and tasting we have ever done we would still recommend visiting if you are in the area.

 

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The town of Parras is not well set up for tourism. It is a very small town with few hotel options. There are other wineries in the area so if you are looking to a day or two of wine tasting that is possible.  Mexico does not have a strong wine drinking culture so wine tourism hasn’t taken off here as it has in other parts of the world. It was interesting because we were told that they are trying to establish higher end wine in Mexico and a lot of the tours we took focused on that education that leads to a greater appreciation for wine in general. We really enjoyed the wine at all the wineries we visited. We also visited Rivero Gonzalez and Don Leo winery. Check our our other posts for more details on both of those wineries:
We visited Parras de la Fuente as a weekend trip from Arteaga and felt that was a good amount of time. We found some great family run restaurants in town and enjoyed walking around the small streets.  For any wino this is a great off the beaten path place to do some tasting.
-TFWYs