Wine Connoisseur’s Tour Across La Rioja & Northern Spain

A 13 day trip to Spain 
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La Rioja is the essence of Spain, fiery and passionate yet subtle and elaborate. Untrammeled tradition weaves through its cobblestoned streets while rows of vines dominate every horizon. Escape into its beauty and indulge in the sensual flavors with this unique wine connoisseurs’ tour. Starting in Basque Bilbao, you slowly wind through La Rioja before finishing the journey in French Biarritz. Enjoy exclusive tastings, boutique hotels, Michelin restaurants, and luxury transfers throughout.

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Bilbao, Guggenheim, Burgos, Covarrubias, Berlangas del Duero, Lerma, Ribera del Duerno wine country, Penefiel, La Rioja, Haro, Laguradia, Samaniego, Paganos, El Ciego, Logrono, Navarra wine country, Puentellarreina, Olite, Puente la Reina, Pamplona, Hondarribia, Biarritz

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Bilbao – Innovative Introductions to Northern Spain

Bilbao's history dances across the ages, its continual demise and revival an ode to Northern Spain's innovation. Terraced windows are flanked by a juxtaposition of styles that span many centuries. Land in Bilbao and your first unique stop is the Guggenheim, a bizarre concoction of steel that twists its way across the harbor. One of Europe's most unusual museums and galleries, the Guggenheim follows a mantra that art is in the mind of the observer, not incorporated within the object itself. Spend a couple of hours exploring the postmodern art before sitting down at Nerua, the museum's Michelin-Starred restaurant. Like the building's design, expect the food to be unusually Spanish and alluringly futuristic.

What's Included: airport transfer, accommodation, dinner at Nerua

Day 2: Burgos to Covarrubias to Lerma – Medieval Towns and Country Wine Estates

Gothic facades welcome you to Burgos, the ancient capital of Castile and Leon. A turreted gateway lines the road, guiding you towards a 13th century cathedral seemingly straight from a fairytale. Like every day on this tour, you're traveling by private, chauffeured Mercedes. The flexible itinerary is led by a professional driver guide who will adjust the pace accordingly, dependent on the day's mood. It's easy to add further wineries or reduce the number of stops on each day of the trip. Sprinkled with mystique and centered on preserved palaces, Burgos is a mythical introduction to Northern Spain. Spend a couple of hours exploring before sitting down to a traditional lunch of roasted lamb with red beans, and gratin with peppers.

Wines from famous Ribera del Duero estates compliment the meal. Vega Sicilia's Valbuena starts your wine tasting journey, followed by the deep flavors of three vintages from Aalto's vineyards. After a lunch - and optional siesta - wind along rural roads to medieval Covarrubias, a hamlet of timbered houses that's ideal for aimless wanderings. Tonight is spent in Lerma, nestled in a converted royal palace that overlooks the charming Plaza Mayor.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 3: Lerma – Exclusive Tastings in Ribera del Duero Wine Country

Tempranillo scents emerge from the vineyards of Ribera del Duero. Rows of vines ascend to small estates reserved for private tastings. While the tour is centered on La Rioja, this adjacent region is famed for its extremely full bodied grapes and high-end wines. Start in the cellar of Prado Rey, oak stained barrels lining vast stone farmhouses. Sample six of their finest wines with the Prado Rey Palace as a backdrop, before continuing to the equally exclusive O'Fournier. Wander the vineyards and enjoy a tasting session with the owners. Such deep wines require strong lunch flavors. Game meat is the specialty at Molino de Palacios, roasted in the wood oven and blended with truffles.

Completing the Ribera del Duero journey is Abadia Retuerta; the tasting takes place in a 13th century Roman monastery. While O'Fournier is all about the wine, Abadia Retuerta's sublime setting makes it perfect for a languid few hours of tasting at leisure. Return to Lerma for an easy evening at your leisure. Restaurant Asador Case Anton is the best in town and recommended for an atmospheric evening.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch at Molino de Palacios with wine, tasting at three wine estates

Day 4: Haro – First Scents and Samples of Deep Red Rioja Wineries

La Rioja is a throwback to aristocratic reverie, the green valleys dotted with chateaus and 19th century estates. Wine isn't just something to drink here. It's a whole culture, extending from the grandest of castle terraces to the humblest of town squares. You start in the Rioja Alta subregion and Lopez de Heredia, an elegant 59 year old estate with remarkable flavors. La Rioja is more famed for its red, but their Vina Gravonia white is a highlight here. Crossing rural harvests you next visit Bodegas Roda, a sharp and fruity contrast to Lopez de Heredia. Virtually disregarding the Rioja fondness for long oak aging, this vineyard has been pioneering the modern and stylish new face of the region. An exclusive tasting session is included and there's a chance to sample the farm's olive oils. After lunch in a converted local farmhouse, continue to historic Haro and spend an easy afternoon on its al fresco terraces.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch, with wine, tasting at two wine estates

Day 5: Haro – Prestigious Wineries and the World's Largest Wine Museum

Breakfast is always a special time in La Rioja. Coffee fumes meander through narrow streets of 19th century terraces. As the sun rises above red tiled roofs, Haro's central square is alive with chatter and sociable breakfasts. Today's tour heads towards Labastida, with the opportunity to stop at two to four historic wine estates. The focus is the region's reserva and gran reserva bottles. Rioja's gran reserva is oak aged for at least two years and often not released for ten years following bottling. It's this excellent aging that most excites enthusiasts. Ideal for up to 30 years, they're perfect keepsakes that will keep La Rioja alive in your own cellar for decades to come. Enjoy lunch at a terrace in picturesque Briones before another unique stop on today's itinerary, the world's largest wine museum. Dinastia Vivanco is a clear ode to the pioneers who first cultivated the land and a chance for a tasting session with very unusual tones. Like each day, the tour's timings are flexible. Return to the village of Haro in the afternoon.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch, with wine, tasting at two wine estates

Day 6: Laguardia – The Charming Streets and Underground Cellars of Laguardia

There's a break from the tasting this morning as you settle into your next base, Laguardia. Nestled inside the village walls, your art nouveau castle hotel offers an immersion in medieval times – with all the boutique mod cons of course. Church spires rise above the Plaza Mayor and the crumbling wall provides remarkable panoramas onto the Rioja valleys. Explore with a local guide, a bearer of keys who opens doors to the cellars of the village. Descend and breathe in the scents, thousands of oak barrels lining a vast network of alleys stained red with indulgence. Laguardia is completely pedestrianized and its lantern-lit cellars epitomize a century old obsession with wine. Spend the afternoon at Ysios winery, savoring a unique banquet lunch and sampling eight different vintages with adorable views onto Laguardia.

What's Included: accommodation, guided Laguardia tour, breakfast, lunch with wine tasting at Ysios

Day 6: Laguardia – Chateaus and Private Estates in the Heart of La Rioja

Cantabrian mountains roll across the horizon, their rugged peaks an eternal focal point to the vistas. After a serene breakfast in Laguardia you spend the morning in one of Rioja's most elite wineries, the Campillo estate. Excite the eyes by exploring a cellar with over 3 million bottles, the immense catalogue of wines reflecting Campillo's traditional style and history. As always, you're hosted by the winemakers and enjoy a full guided tour of the vineyards, before a tasting journey that runs through the vintages to the gran reserva. Campillo is also another winery with a heritage of producing outstanding whites.

Wine is also at the forefront of Rioja's cuisine. Most of the world thinks of pairing wine with food. Chefs in Rioja have an alternative angle, searching for creations that can be paired with the wine. The exquisite tasting menu at Hector Oribe in Paganos is an example of this approach. A succession of dishes, both traditional and elaborately modern, are paired with wine from across the Rioja region. After this hearty lunch, this afternoon's tasting comes at the elegant and exclusive Marques de Riscal winery.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch with paired wine tasting at Hector Oribe in Paganos, tasting at two wine estates

Day 7: Logrono – Gastronomic Delights in La Rioja's Capital

The village of Samaniego seems enchantingly stuck in time. Bakeries leave toasty smells on street corners. Church spires command the skyline but their entrances are tucked down forgotten streets. So it's a surprise to enter the Remirez de Ganuza estate and see such modernity. This is one of the new schools of wineries that has quickly garnered cult status in the region. Less oak, less aging, more fruit, and a delicacy that La Rioja was sometimes accused of missing. In particular, their Trasnocho has put the estate at the top of many world connoisseurs’ must-visit list.

Wind to the village of Paganos for an indulgent lunch of roasted lamb, and then continue to La Rioja's capital. Logrono is postcard perfect, its status as administrative center barely making a mark on the old quarter. Spend an afternoon at leisure before a guided evening of tapas tasting. Hundreds of bars line Calle Laurel, each advertising their specialist tapa via escaping smells. Discover the tapas by hopping down the street, dipping into individual bars for a single dish of delight. The gastronomic compasses turns in circles, each bar presenting an eclectic and idiosyncratic creation. These dishes are well regarded as Spain's most famous tapas and always make for an atmospheric evening.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch, tasting at two wine estates, guided “Tapas Hop”

Day 8: Logrono – Sensual Journeys Through Rioja's Boutique Farms

Logrono's central location provides a range of options for your final day in La Rioja. All three subregions are within an hour's drive and this day has been deliberately left free to cater to your acquired tastes. Is your tongue craving the heavy dark reds of Rioja's 150 year old estates? Or perhaps the ornate aromas emanating from experimentation? Head into the Rioja Baja region or discover crumbling farmhouses with cellars that would make any connoisseur swoon. Your expert driver guide will plan the day according to your discerning tastes. Lunch will be included.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 9: Navarra to Olite to Pamplona – A Sumptuous Taste of the Navarra Wine Country

Navarra has always been a playground for cross-fertilization. Sandwiched between La Rioja and the Bordeaxu region, its vineyards continue to be an experimental cross of Spanish soil and French grapes. Full flavored Tempreanilo and Grenache are mixed with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon as Navarra delights in its originality. Confused? Intrigued? Navarra's oldest estate is an ideal place for an eclectic sampling of the region's nectar. Chivite is responsible for a huge proportion of the region's exports and you'll taste your way through a dozen wines from their renowned rosé to a flagship Moscatel.

Olite comes from the annals of antiquity, its pristine castle towering over wood beamed houses and the odd herd of wandering livestock. As charm abounds, Casa Zanito is a generations-old restaurant that radiates the gastronomic history of the region. Expect to try some of Spain's finest cured meat. Spend the afternoon leaving footsteps on the cobbled alleys, before visiting Guelbenzu for a late afternoon of tasting in an estate with a reputation for flair. Finish the day by driving over to Pamplona, a World Heritage city that isn't just visited when bulls run through the streets.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch, tasting at two wine estates

Day 10: Pamplona to Hondarribia – Enchanting Towns and Michelin Dining

The Plaza del Castillo resembles a myth, all delicate and shaded as the sun flickers over 18th century rooftops. Cathedral bells chime languidly, their unhurried pace reflective of the incumbent ambiance. Settle into the rhythm and explore, the whole morning left free for you to discover Pamplona's streets of seduction. There's a break from wine tasting today but no lack of sensual treats. Enjoy lunch on the French border, savoring a tasting menu that blends French and Basque influence: foie gras with roasted apple, pistachio mousse, squid with artichokes. As you would expect, the sampling menu is paired with wines from Navarra, Rioja, and across the border. Continue to Hondarribia, a fortressed village on the banks of the River Bidasoa. As the sun sets across the French border, you settle into your final boutique Spanish hotel.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch

Day 11: Biarritz – Chocolate, Cheese, and Wine on the French Coastline

Barely 30 minutes across the border (no need to show your passport), Biarritz completes this wine connoisseur’s journey. But before the famed hangout of royalty and celebrities, wind slowly through the mountains and stop at Chateau de Brindos, perched above a lake and evoking all preconceptions of sublime French food. A paired tasting menu takes up much of the afternoon, dish after dish complemented by glass after glass. Roll into Biarritz and the beach umbrellas deliver hexagonal shade onto yellow sand. Before settling into your five-star hotel, two French favorites complete the tasting journey. First Mille et un Fromage, full of soft cheeses with explosive flavors, then Les Ateliers du Chocolat de Bayonne, where the boutique samples are dark and impossibly rich.

What's Included: accommodation, guided tour, breakfast, lunch, cheese tasting, chocolate tasting

Day 12: Biarritz – Free Day in Europe's Aristocratic Playground

Biarritz is a town of indulgence, the Mediterranean waves rolling beneath luxurious restaurants and streets of chic charm. Today is left free for you to explore; hang out on the famous beach, sample champagne in lavish hotel bars, and take your pick from dozens of fine dining options. Of course, there's plenty of wine to try in the surrounding region. The services of your driver guide are still available and you can choose to visit some of the surrounding vineyards.

What's Included: accommodation, breakfast, use of driver guide

Day 13: Biarritz – Departure

Fortunately, you won't be departing Biarritz with great cases of wine clanging in the Mercedes's trunk. Throughout this itinerary, your driver guide will have assisted in boxing and shipping all your purchases back home, so scents and tastes of La Rioja will continue for many years. You're dropped off at the airport for a connecting flight to Paris and your international departure.

What's Included: airport transfer, breakfast

Price

Price 

Zicasso recommends the following guidelines for customized Spain tour packages, excluding international flights:

  • 5-star: USD $350 - $1,000+ per person per day
  • 4-star: Minimum USD $300 per person per day
  • 3-star: Minimum USD $250 per person per day

The customized package will include accommodations, airport transfers and other transportation within Spain, guided tours or activities, unique experiences, trip planning, and 24x7 support during your trip.

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final accommodation choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.