I was pleasantly surprised by how un-touristy the Rioja region felt. Despite the fame of this wine region, there was a relaxed and easy-going feel to the area that I very much enjoyed.
When I was planning my trip I found it difficult to work out which Rioja wineries I should visit and whether I needed to drive or take a tour etc. Hopefully, this guide will make the planning of your trip to Rioja much easier and allow you to get to as many wineries as possible!
How to Plan Your Visit to the Wineries of Rioja
Table of Contents
- How to Plan Your Visit to the Wineries of Rioja
- 12 Top Wineries in Rioja
- Haro Barrio de la Estacion
- 1. Bodegas Muga
- 2. Bodegas La Rioja Alta, S.A.
- 3. Bodegas CVNE
- 4. Bodegas Roda
- 5. Bodegas Gomez Cruzado
- 6. Bodegas Lopez de Heredia
- 7. Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta
- Wineries between Haro and Logrono
- 8. Bodegas Marques de Riscal
- 9. Marques de Murrieta
- 10. Bodegas Ysios
- 11. Bodegas Baigorri
- 12. Artadi
- My Recommendations for a Weekend in Rioja
- Key Things to Know about Rioja Wine
- Where to Eat and Drink in Rioja
- Where to Stay in Rioja
- Haro – Eurostars Los Agustinos
- Logrono – Sercotel Calle Mayor
- Final thoughts on drinking wine in Rioja
One of the reasons Rioja feels far less touristy than you might expect is that it isn’t super easy to get there. The region is about a 90 minute drive south of Bilbao or a 3 1/2 hour drive north and slightly east of Madrid.
There are two main towns in the Rioja region: Haro and Logrono. Haro is at the western end of the region and Logrono is at the eastern end. The towns are about 50 kms apart or a 40-minute drive. Haro is the smaller of the two towns and Logrono is well known for its fantastic tapas streets (more of that later in the article).
Haro station or Barrio de la Estacion is a good 10 minute walk downhill from the centre of Haro. The wonderful thing about this area is that nine wineries have tasting rooms located around or near the station. This means it is possible to stay in Haro and then walk to and in between the wineries eg there is no need for a car.
Several of the best wineries in Rioja to visit are roughly halfway between Logrono and Haro and you will need a car or driver to get to these. There are some wineries around Logrono but again a car will be necessary.
We stayed in Haro for two nights and then in Logrono for two nights. I thought this was the perfect balance for the region. We were able to explore the winery tasting rooms around Haro on foot (and these were some of my favourite wineries). We then drove between Haro and Logrono visiting the centrally located wineries. This allowed us to stay in the larger Logrono and enjoy its fantastic tapas streets.
I would highly recommend staying either 4 nights in the region with 2 nights in Haro and 2 in Logrono. If you only have 3 nights I would recommend 2 nights in Haro and 1 in Logrono. If you only have a weekend I would recommend basing yourself in Haro.
If possible, it is best to arrive in Haro or Logrono on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Many wineries and restaurants are closed on Mondays and some on Sundays as well.
If you want to do a winery tour and a guided tasting I would highly recommend booking these activities online ahead of your visit as space and times are limited. Most of the wineries in this article have a wine bar of sorts which allows for just tastings and doesn’t need to be booked ahead of your visit. I have noted opening hours where possible but these are of course subject to change. I recommend checking the winery’s websites before visiting.
You might enjoy reading some of my other articles on Spain: Famous landmarks in Spain, Ibiza Sunsets, Barcelona landmarks, Most Beautiful Cities in Spain, Things to do in San Sebastian and What is Spain Known For?
NB: Most of the wineries in Rioja will not ship outside of Spain. So make sure you buy a plane ticket with a checked bag and pack light to allow room for wine to come home.
12 Top Wineries in Rioja
Haro Barrio de la Estacion
Haro is a hilltop town but luckily the hill isn’t that high as all of the cellars and tasting rooms are at the base of it. It takes about 15 minutes to walk from the center of Haro down the hill to the station area. Cross the river and turn right. The area is well-signed for the Barrio de la Estacion and you will see the top of the cellars in the distance.
1. Bodegas Muga
This family-run winery was started in 1932 and now has over 25,000 square meters. It is hard to miss Muga as it has a large sign on a large tower and is located on the main roundabout in the Barrio de la Estacion.
Muga was one of my favourite Rioja wineries. This could be because they had a fantastic sparkling wine (only 12 euros) and some really lovely white wines (I have since seen their whites on wine lists in London).
Another reason I really liked Muga was their beautiful wine bar – a great place to taste Rioja wines. Their Crianza has aged only two years and is great value at just 15 euros a bottle.
Only a small section of the range was available to taste when I visited Muga but everything I tried was outstanding. Muga charged for a taste rather than a tasting and it was three euros per glass. The pour size was much more than a sip but not as much as a glass.
Muga does offer guided tours as well as vineyard tours which include a tasting. I would advise booking in advance.
We didn’t book and just headed to Muga and tasted what was on offer. If you choose to do this, check the opening hours and days before heading to each winery – they vary quite a bit and several have siesta breaks.
NB: Pours at Rioja wineries are generous – it is important to pace yourself!
2. Bodegas La Rioja Alta, S.A.
Only a few doors down the road from Muga, La Rioja Alta SA was started in 1890 by five families. They have vineyards in four regions of Spain: Rioja Alta, Ribera del Dueros, Baixas and Rioja Alavesa.
Like most of the wineries I visited in Rioja, the tasting room at La Rioja Alta was quite spectacular. It is modern and colorful in a way that feels almost futuristic. The light bright room with its high ceilings is a lovely spot to taste great wine. The winery also has another new tasting room downstairs which is open between 1030 and 3pm and serves tapas.
I started with some of La Rioja Alta’s white wines from Galicia. One was100% Albarino and one a blend. The blend was my favourite.
However, as you may have expected La Rioja Alta is best known for its reds, particularly its award-winning Gran Reserva.
We tried the Crianza, Reserva and the famous Gran Reserve. Their Crianza is aged in oak for two years and made up of 100% tempranillo grapes. The Reserva and Gran Reserva are aged for three years but have more of a mix of grapes.
I preferred the Rioja reds, which were 100% tempranillo, rather than a blend. I like a black fruit/jammy red wine eg shiraz/malbec so if this is what you like you may feel the same way.
Guided tours and tastings are available but should definitely be booked ahead of time. The wine bar that I visited is open every day but closes at 3pm on the weekend.
3. Bodegas CVNE
CVNE is one of the top winery names in Rioja and I am sure you will see it on every list of wineries to visit in the region. But don’t let that turn you off – they have a big range with different sub-brands and price points. CVNE literally has something for everyone and I loved (and purchased) some of their wines.
CVNE was founded in 1879 and the name stands for company of wines of northern Spain. Their white wine, Monopole, is the oldest registered white-wine brand in Spain. Their reds are made using only grapes grown or purchased in the Rioja Alta sub-region and they are packed in a Bordeaux style bottle. Their biggest seller is their CVNE Cune Crianza.
This Rioja winery offers a range of tour options inside and outside in the vineyards and picnics. I was also very impressed that it is possible to get personalised wine labels printed at CVNE!
Again, I chose to visit by dropping in and tasting at the CVNE wine bar.
4. Bodegas Roda
Bodegas Roda is one of the newer wineries in the Rioja area, having begun producing wine in 1987. However, their cellars date back to the 19th century and their winemaker is very well known.
The tasting experience at Bodegas Roda feels smaller and more boutique than some of the other wineries in the area. A 90-minute full tour is available all year round and from May to October, it is possible to take a tour including the vineyards.
Again, we chose to visit the wine bar and just taste without a tour or a booking. The cellar opens up to a spectacular balcony with fantastic views over the River Ebro. This has to be one of the most scenic places to taste wine in Rioja.
5. Bodegas Gomez Cruzado
Alas, I didn’t have time to visit this Rioja winery but it receives good reviews. I tried a glass of their Crianza at La Tavina in Logrono and it was very smooth.
Bodegas Gomez Cruzado is the smallest winery in the Barrio area and is open every day. They offer a range of guided tours and tastings.
If you visit please email me and tell me what you think.
6. Bodegas Lopez de Heredia
I got quite confused about the name of this winery. I also saw the name Tondonia being used and wasn’t sure if it was two or one wineries. Tondonia is the signature wine brand at Bodegas Lopez de Heredia so it is all in one place.
Bodegas Lopez de Heredia was one of the first three wineries in Rioja and has been operating for 144 years. It is a very attractive winery with its red bricks, picturesque red outdoor tables and chairs and many flowers.
However, the most spectacular visual element of this Rioja winery is its visitor’s pavilion, designed by Zaha Hadid. The shape is similar to an asymmetric decanter in this pavilion where wine tastings are held. Don’t miss the stunning oak art deco bar counter inside.
Unlike many of the other wineries in Rioja, Lopez de Heredia only allows tastings by the half or full bottle. We bought a half bottle of Tondonia and received a large plate of tasty meat as well.
Depending on the weather, the outside area with its many tables and flowers is a perfect spot to enjoy a half or full bottle of this outstanding Rioja red with a snack. The tasting room is open Monday to Saturday from 1000 to 1500.
Tours of the winery are only available for industry professionals.
7. Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta
Martinez Lacuesta is not located in the Barrio area of Haro but it is located on the other side of the hill on which Haro sits. This winery is known for both wine and vermouth.
Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta began making vermouth in 1937. Apparently, it is quite famous for vermouth in Spain and you’ll see some of its stylish past advertising around the winery – sort of like a vermouth Guinness. If you’re a vermouth fan don’t miss their reserve with its taste of sweet honey and herbal notes.
However, it isn’t just about vermouth at Bodegas Martinez Lacuesta. I tried one of my favourite white wines here which was oaked and very drinkable. They are best known for their red reserve.
The staff here was super friendly and the tasting area was lovely. It is also one of the cheaper tasting options in Rioja with three wines for just five euros.
Guided tours for both the winemaking and vermouth-making process are both available.
Wineries between Haro and Logrono
8. Bodegas Marques de Riscal
Bodegas Marques de Riscal is a must-visit winery in Rioja for three reasons. The first is the wine, which is outstanding. The second is the jaw-dropping Gehry building which houses the winery, restaurants, and hotel. And finally the food.
This Rioja bodega was founded in 1858 and it produces more than 3 million bottles of wine each year. This was one of my favourite wineries in Rioja for wine. Their reserve red is outstanding and they also have quite a few white wines.
We found it a little confusing to work out where we could taste when we arrived at Marques de Riscal. Upon entry to the hotel area there is a small guard house. The traditional style tasting room and shop are opposite the guard house.
For a more luxurious experience, head up to the hotel and its wine bar. You will need to order wine by the glass here but hey why not!
A range of winery visits and guided tastings can be booked online ahead of your visit. The tasting room and the wine bar are open every day.
The hotel is home to two restaurants, one of which has a Michelin star. We went to the restaurant that doesn’t have a Michelin star for lunch and it was outstanding. Don’t miss the beef cheeks!
If you’re looking for a romantic weekend away or are celebrating something special I would highly recommend staying at Marques de Riscal.
You might enjoy reading my posts on the Canary Islands in Spain: Things to do in Lanzarote, Best Place to Stay in Lanzarote, Things to do in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria Markets and Best Gran Canaria Excursions.
9. Marques de Murrieta
Marques de Murrieta is one of the wineries located quite close to Logrono. However, you will still need a car to get here. They have a lovely wine bar, and I liked their cool orange packing. Their wines were smooth but quite expensive. Whilst I enjoyed my visit to Marques de Murrieta, it didn’t make it to my must-visit list of Rioja wineries.
Winery tours and guided tastings can be booked ahead. The wine bar is open Tuesday to Saturday.
10. Bodegas Ysios
Bodegas Ysios is another winery with iconic architecture in Rioja. The spectacular building was designed by Santiago Calatrava to resemble a wave. The tasting room inside is just as impressive as the waves of the roof are clear over the barrels, making for an atmospheric setting.
But what about the wine? We tried a few of their reds which were all outstanding. This was towards the end of the trip so my notes became far less detailed but the combination of the phenomenal architecture and some great wine makes this another must-visit in Rioja.
Ysios offers a range of tours and tastings that should be booked ahead. Or visit the wine bar and terrace as we did. They are open every day but do check opening times before hopping in the car.
11. Bodegas Baigorri
This ultra-modern winery was designed by Inaki Azpiazu and resembles a glass box. The building itself actually takes up seven stories underground. There are some fantastic views of Rioja from the terrace.
The tasting room is several floors down and Baigorri has an extensive range of wines. If you like white wines this was the biggest range I saw while in Rioja with a great range of Albarino wines.
Bodegas Baigorri offers winery tours and tastings which can be booked online. Or head to the wine bar as we did. It is open for tastings Tuesday-Saturday from 1030 to 1230 and then 330 to 530pm.
We were really keen to visit Artadi. This winery was founded by a group of winemakers in 1985 and they are looking to rewrite what Rioja wine is about with a high level of experimentation. Alas, for the life of us we couldn’t figure out when it was open and if it was open to the public. If you like experimental wines see if you can do a better job than we did in visiting this Rioja winery!
My Recommendations for a Weekend in Rioja
My favourite wineries in Rioja were the ones in the Barrio de la Estacion. I would definitely recommend spending at least one day visiting these. I would then recommend combining Riscal, Ysios and Baigorri into a second day (they are relatively close to each other) for great wine and architectural marvels.
Key Things to Know about Rioja Wine
Rioja was the first region in Spain to gain DO (Denominacian de Origen) status and it is arguably the country’s most famous wine region. It is predominantly a red wine region (although I really liked some of the whites) and the most common grape variety is Tempranillo.
Within Rioja, there are three sub-regions: Alavesa, Alta and Oriental. This article focuses on the Alta region, home to the most well-known Rioja wineries.
Wines in Rioja are classified according to four categories. The first is Cosecha. These are young wines that should be enjoyed in their first year or two. The second classification is Crianza. A Crianza wine has been aged for a minimum of one year in casks and some months in the bottle.
Reserva wines must be aged for a minimum of three years and at least one year must have been spent in casks. This classification is also available for white wines. However, they must be aged a minimum of two years and have spent at least six month in casks.
Gran Reservas only come from exceptional vintages and must have spent at least two years in casks and three years in the bottle. White wines must be aged for a minimum of four years in total with at least one in casks.
Where to Eat and Drink in Rioja
We wondered into the very atmospheric Bar La Pista during our stay in Haro. Bar La Pista felt like a spot that was genuinely full of locals and they had a large selection of local wines by the glass. Plus we had a fantastic and very reasonably priced giant platter of meats and cheeses. Perfect pre dinner or dinner itself spot!
We had a fantastic traditional style meal at El Terete. This 136 year old restaurant is known for its wood oven where it cooks amazing roast lamb legs. I chose to have their chicken instead which was outstanding. But the roast lamb looked and smelt amazing. The lamb is served at the table to encourage even more food envy. El Terete has its own beautiful wine cellar.
Whatever you do while you are in Rioja make sure you have at least one meal and hopefully more in the pintxos streets of Logrono. Logrono has two pedestrianised streets that are famous for their many delicious pintxos restaurants and bars.
The most famous street is Calle Laurel. Here are some of the best things that I tasted during my visit:
El Soriano – El Champi (mushroom and prawn skewer)
Bar Lorenzo – El Tío Agus (pork with garlic sauce)
Blanco y Negro – Zapatilla (jamón and goats cheese tapas)
Bar Jubera – Patatas Bravas (best in Logroño)
Calle San Juan is another pintxos street similar to Calle Laurel and nearby. It is a little less busy but still has some fantastic pintxos.
The best thing to do is to hop between the different bars and restaurants along these two streets. The item at the top of the menu or featured on their walls is generally the pintxos for which the establishment is best known. All of them serve wine and bars by the glass.
We also found two fantastic wine bars in Logrono. If you want to be able to sit down and relax (you’ll spend most of your time standing on the pintxos streets) and enjoy a selection of local wine head to Fandango. It is a wine bar as well as a restaurant with a very impressive wine list, knowledgeable staff and great ambiance.
On Calle Laurel we loved La Tavina. This little wine bar is the edge of the street and is has a huge selection of wines by the glass, great pintxos and loads of atmosphere.
We didn’t eat at any restaurants while in Logrono as the pintxos streets were too much fun. But I did hear good things about La Cocina de Ramón and Tondeluna. Drop me an email and let me now what they’re like if you visit.
Where to Stay in Rioja
I chose the hotels for this trip and if I do say so myself I did very well! Both hotels we stayed in were great value for money, sufficiently boutique and had fantastic locations.
Haro – Eurostars Los Agustinos
This charming four star boutique hotel has a 600 year history as well as a fantastic location in the centre of Haro. In its past, this building has been a convent, military barracks, prison and hospital. The highlight of the hotel is the spectacular central cloister. Bathed in light from a glass ceiling, this is a wonderful area for sitting and relaxing as well as the location for breakfast (more to come).
The rooms at Eurostars Los Agustinos are big. They are nicely decorated but the style isn’t particularly modern. My room had space for two arm chairs as well as a large separate bathroom. The decor was heavy wood furniture with a wooden floor and two coral walls. But most importantly the bed was very comfortable.
Breakfast at Los Agustinos is a fantastic event. It is served along the edge of the cloister and takes the form of a huge buffet. There were hot dishes from eggs to tomatoes to sausages, cereal, different breads and some extremely tasty pastries. Breakfast does cost extra but is well worth it – plus Haro doesn’t have a load of breakfast restaurant options.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor – Check Prices Now
Logrono – Sercotel Calle Mayor
Sercotel Calle Mayor was another lovely four star hotel with a great location in the middle of Logrono’s old hotel. The hotel is located in an old 16th century palace but is very light and modern inside.
I loved my room at Sercotel Calle Mayor. It was large and light with wooden floors and wooden beams on the ceiling. The design was simple and nordic in style with touches of soft furnishings in blue. The bathroom was also large and modern with a bathtub and shower.
There were several “living” spaces within the hotel that looked lovely for cozying up on a rainy day. Having said that, my room was so light and bright I spent all of my extra time in there.
We didn’t try the hotel breakfast as Logrono has some great little breakfast options. However, we went down and took a look and it was quite an impressive buffet offering.
Read more reviews on TripAdvisor – Check Prices Now
Final thoughts on drinking wine in Rioja
I was unsure what to expect from Rioja as it is such a well known wine region. I was pleasantly surprised by the region’s more boutique and authentic feel. For me, few things are more enjoyable than doing a winery wine bar crawl (Haro) and the same thing with pintxos (Logrono). It’s a beautiful, friendly area with awesome wine and food and I highly recommend a visit – I will return!
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