Logrono – The Heart of Rioja
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Driving from Santander to the Costa Brava
gave me the opportunity to stop along the way for a couple of nights. My idea
of a few days in the heart of the Rioja region brought us to Logrono, the capitol of La Rioja.
What a wonderful find as Logrono is a delightful compact city that heaves with tapas bars and wine
bodegas; all coming alive as soon as darkness falls. We arrived in the early
evening after a long drive. It was already dark with heavy black clouds and a
thunderstorm that was rumbling in the surrounding mountains, the air was hot
and humid but thankfully it wasn’t raining. We checked into our very centrally located
hotel and walked a few yards towards the sounds of music and laughter. This is
what we love about Spain, all ages out on the streets until late at night,
eating, drinking, chatting and generally enjoying life. Calle Laurel is the
centre of the tapas action where your senses are overloaded with the smell of
fruity wines, the artistry of innovative tapas on show and music playing in
every bar. The dilemma for the first time visitor is where to start and the
tourist information centre is a good place as they have detailed maps. We followed
a ‘tapas route’, calling in to welcoming bars for a bite of this and a taste of
that, all accompanied by the most delightful wines. A kobo beef mini hamburger
was a highlight, followed by a crispy and delicious homemade shrimp croquetta. Warm slivers of Tortilla and fiery prawns in
garlic and chilli and plenty of Rioja along the way.
The next morning, feeling slightly
delicate, we decided to visit a vineyard (the hair of the dog?) and there are
many to choose from. Again, the Tourist Information has all the details.
We decided on Campo Viejo as we both enjoy
their wines. As we were en route to a villa holiday with our family we needed
to stock up, so figured we may as well buy what we know we like.
The vineyard is just outside the town and
once you have driven through acres of vines you reach a modern, but
surprisingly small building. The reason for the small footprint on the
landscape soon became clear as the tour began, the place is enormous and all
underground. The architectural design was innovative and forward looking as the
vineyard grew from a small family business to one of the biggest producers in
Europe. The numbers are staggering.
We were guided through areas the size of
aircraft hangers where the enormous fermenting tanks hold up to 60,000 kilos of
grapes. Rows of French and American Oak barrels stretched as far as the eye
could see. Then into the pitch darkness of the cellar where up to 6 million
bottles are held to mature. Campo Viejo is a leading brand in the UK but the
vineyard also produces 2 other brands, Alcorta
and Azpilicueta. Both are only sold in Spain and are unavailable in the UK. At the end of the tour we had the opportunity to taste the
unfamiliar brands and I can report they are as delicious as Campo Viejo.
Back to our hotel for a snooze after all that wine and the place we chose was the Sercotel Portales Hotel, a modern centrally located hotel, clean and simple with the bonus of a secure garage (for all that wine we had bought!).
When you have had enough wine and tapas it
is refreshing to take a stroll over the Punte de Hierro, an iron bridge dating
from 1882 and linking the city with Northern Spain. There are several parks
which together offer 8kms of walking or cycling opportunities as well as areas
of shade for those very hot days.
If a self-drive holiday is not for you, our
favoured partners, SmoothRed, offer
inclusive tours to the Rioja region and have two very interesting itineraries
that feature Logrono. SmoothRed have contacts at many of the
vineyards in the Rioja region, some large like Campo Viejo and some smaller
family owned establishments. Their staff are experts on the area and they are
happy to tailor make trips to suit individual requirements.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends SmoothRed
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