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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Fuente de Irache

Before I started researching for this trip, I had no idea that nearly 40,000 pilgrims a year travel the Camino de Santiago. It's a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain to pay homage to the remains of St. James. Historically, one traveled from one's home to Santiago de Compostela but nowadays there are popular routes to follow. 

Follow the signs


One of the stops is the Bodegas Irache

Free wine (on the left) and water (on the right) are dispensed to pilgrims. It operates from 8 am to 8 pm.

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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Marques de Riscal

Just 7 km from Laguardia is the town of Elciego and Marques de Riscal. This is a winery with a gorgeous Frank Gehry-designed hotel.

On the grounds of the winery complex.

Processing the grapes by hand.

Part of the winery complex.

Frank Gehry-designed hotel.

It's worth the drive just to see the building.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Bodegas Carlos San Pedro, Laguardia

We took a tour of one of the wineries in Laguardia: Bodegas Carlos San Pedro. The family has been producing wine for over 500 years and the wine is stored in underground cellars. The tour costs €4 with a taste of the Crianza wine or €7 with a Reserva wine added. 

Crianza--3 year old wine that has spent 1 year in oak cask and 1 year in the bottle.
Reserva--4 year old wine that has spent 1 year in oak cask and 2 years in the bottle.
Gran Reserva--6 year old wine that has spent 2 years in oak cask and 3 years in the bottle.

The years in the bottle smooth out the wine. The first year of the wine is spent in giant concrete vats.

The underground cellars.

The tasting room.

I'm not a big fan of Rioja wine but the tour was fascinating and I'm glad I got to see the underground cellars.

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Sunday, October 28, 2012


Laguardia, or Biasteri in the Basque language, is a fortified town of 1500 people. The medieval walls are still present and there is a maze of underground caves which are used as wine cellars. This was one of my favorite towns in the Rioja region.

One of 4 medieval gate entrances to the village.

All over town, garlands of red peppers are hung.

Bronze sculpture of shoes. Another one with bags is nearby.

Coat of arms decorate door portals.

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Saturday, October 27, 2012


We had wanted to dine at Hector Oribe but it was closed on Mondays. Instead, we had lunch at Amelibia in Laguardia. It was rated highly on Trip Advisor.

Amelibia is located just outside the city walls.
You can order a la carte but ask for the "menu" of the day. For €16.50, you can have a 2-course lunch and an amuse bouche. No dessert but by the end of the meal, we were stuffed.

Amuse bouche--thick carrot soup. Slightly sweet but delicious.

This was one of the choices for the first course--pasta carbonara. I loved this one. Creamy but not eggy.

One of the choices for the second course--braised oxtails. Tender and delicious.

Another second course option--Albondigas. This was not good. Too much filler.

Beef tongue--not the prettiest presentation but very tender and flavorful.

2012 10 08

Friday, October 26, 2012

Ysios Winery

Just outside the town of Laguardia is an impressive modern winery designed by Santiago de Calatrava--Ysios.

You can see the undulating titanium roof from miles away.

Be sure to make reservations to tour the winery: If you're not able to make reservations, at least drop by to see the stunning building.

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thursday Night Dinner

Another Thursday night, another dinner at Flavor's.

Bruschetta Con Fico--topped with Organic Local Figs, Gorgonzola Dolce, Autumn Leaves & Walnut Gremolata served with 2008 Domaine Carneros Brut. The champagne paired beautifully with the fig.

Ravioli Di Zucca--Butternut Ravioli Topped with Roasted Organic Mushrooms, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Crispy Sage served with 2010 La Merika Pinot Noir from the Central Coast. This pinot is a great bargain at $11.99.

Agnello Alla Griglia--Grilled Marinated Lamb Loin Chop Garnished with Slow Cooked Peperonata and Creamy Herb Polenta Flavored with Roasted Garlic and Fontina Cheese served with Gundlach Bundschu Cabernet Sauvignon from Estate, Sonoma Valley. I loved the polenta--so creamy.

Crostata Di Mele Cotogne--Caramelized Quince Galette with Vanilla Cream served with Ceretto Moscato d'Asti from Piemonte, Italia

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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lopez de Heredia

Just outside the center of Haro is one of the oldest wineries in the area--Lopez de Heredia, founded in 1877. Make advance reservations to tour the winery but it is possible to stop by for a tasting without a prior reservation. It's closed on Sundays.

Tasting room, in the shape of a decanter.

They make their own barrels on site.

It's amazing how old their equipment is. It certainly doesn't go along with the modern appearance of the buildings.

€2 for a taste of the wine. It was okay--a little young.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Just 3 km southwest of Brinas is Haro. If you happen to be in town on June 29, you can experience the Haro Wine Festival, which features wine drinking competitions and the Batalla de Vino (Wine Battle) where wine is poured at each other from buckets.

In the center of town is the Plaza de la Paz.

It's worth stopping in Haro to visit the Tourist Information center where you can get information on wineries in the area. Most wineries require advance reservations and it's difficult to stop by for a tasting without making prior arrangements.

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Monday, October 22, 2012


After leaving Bilbao, we drove south to the Rioja Wine Country. An hour later, we stopped in Brinas, a medieval village, whose Old Quarter has been declared a Historic Artistic Monument.

It also has many mansions formerly occupied by Haro's wine nobility.

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

GORbeA, Bilbao

After the pintxos at Irrintzi, we wanted a little more. We found GORbeA, located on Calle Jardines in Old Town Bilbao.

Hake (Merluza) for €12--moist, tender and oh so delicious!

Carrilleras de Ternera en su Jugo (Beef Cheek in its own Juice served over Potatoes) for €7--this was an amazing dish. The cheeks were so tender and the sauce delicious. Hard to believe this was only 7 eruos.

Foie Gras Sobre Pina Caramelizada y Salsa de Manzana (Caramelized Foie Gras with Pineapple and Apple Sauce) for €13.90--3 large pieces of perfectly cooked foie gras. It was amazing with the sweetness of the pineapple and apples.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

Irrintzi, Bilbao

In the Basque region, the tapas are called pintxos. We tried them at Irrintzi, located at Santa Maria 8 in the Old Town (Casco Viejo) of Bilbao.

Ask for a plate, a glass of txakoli (white wine poured from high to aerate it and give it sparkle) and pick out the pintxos you'd like to try. Serve yourself.

Dulce de Tomate, Pera & Foie--Tomatoes, Pear and Foie Gras. Interesting and tasty combination.

Carpaccio de Puerro con Pulpo & Jamon--Leek with Octopus and Ham.

Croquetas de Cabrales--Croquette with Roquefort-type Cheese. Very good if you like Roquefort but don't call it Blue Cheese.

Roast Beef con Mousse de Espinacas & Mahonesa de Batata--Roast Beef with Spinach Mousse and Sweet Potato Mayonnaise. This was not a good combination.

Croquetas de Txipis en su Tinta--Croquette of Squid in its Ink. I thought there would be little pieces of squid but it was just squid flavoring in a potato base with squid ink.

Bacalao Ahumado con Naranja--Smoked Cod with Oranges. I liked this one.

Setas Rellenas de Foie--Mushrooms Stuffed with Foie Gras. Couldn't really taste the foie gras.

Mozzarella con Tartar de Tomate & Antxoas--Mozzarella with Tomatoes & Anchovies.

Tortilla de Espinacas con Salmon--Spinach Omelette with Salmon

We tried 10 pintxos and had 3 glasses of txokoli for €19.50.

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