Friday, 5 June 2009

To La Rioja or to not La Rioja, that is the question..

It's official. E and I have been married for a year now.. So to celebrate, the lovely folk at F&G where we held our wedding last year gave us a night in one of their hotels for our first anniversary.

Where to go was the question - the only solution being to Logroño, heart of the La Rioja district so as you can imagine, we forcibly went.. Imagine, a *whole* weekend tasting wine - you'd have to like it a bit for a start, and then somehow manage to find your way to a restaurant to eat something to soak up all that wine.. A difficult task was at hand..

Well, in Logroño they've got that under control, you just stagger
along. The weekend we were there it was the festival of the Laurel district meaning that everyone was out on the street eating pintxos, but unlike Bilbao the bars *ONLY* did one pintxo each.. To be honest, I'm not sure which one out of all the different ones we tried (yes another pub crawl was in order) was the best.. it's a toss up between the Triple-tiered garlic button mushrooms, where the liquidy, pungent juice sank into a day old piece of bread (Garlic mushrooms and garlic bread in one bite!) or maybe the gula or saltcod scramble roll (gulas are a delicacy of Spain - originally the young baby eels before they were nearly fished out of extinction, nowadays made from a fish paste but still in th
e form of tiny slivery, worm-like eels).. Sounds ucky but the scramble was just at that point between cooked and slightly runny that it made it a marvellous bite..
Anyway, getting back to the real motivation for the trip - the wine, and oh so much of it! Everywhere, of every type, and for every pocket (imagine €0.70 for a shot of wine!). I don't think I really *got* wine, until going to New Zealand but now, it seems that E and I are somewhat experts, well if you can compare us to the other visitors to the area who didn't have much of a clue (why go to visit Bodegas if you don't even like wine??¿¿!)

E had done some thorough research beforehand, checking out the best wineries to go, which I goes to figure since he couldn't let the Spanish side down after all that fabulous tasting in NZ.. And he didn't let the side down.
The first stop-off was in CVNE's Viña Real, half way between Logroño and Laguardia, heart of the Rioja district. What can I say, we arrived at a great time - winery to ourselves, just one group of girls with us as we toured around the facilities (state of the art and the flagship of CVNE now) and proceeded to taste the standard samples and then some.. We stumbled across the real reason why Corona beer isn't called Corona in Spain (it's Coronita) as CVNE makes an incredible sweet wine called Corona - definitely a must-try.
I could go on and on about that winery and their other one in Haro (La Rioja Alta) .. but then, the best way to know what I mean is to go there as they're so well set up that visitors can even look around during harvesting, which is totally unheard of here in Catalunya (our viniculture friend Ramon disappears off the space of the earth during September and October).
Other great finds were Bodegas Bilaínas and La Rioja Alta, each so completely different, with totally different philosophies but the same basic processes. And yes, the car did come back a few cases heavier... You can't go and not bring souvenirs for everyone! :-)

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