Replies: 16 - Last Post: Jan 29, 2013 4:48 PM Last Post By: GIANTSteps
Jan 23, 2013 3:12 PM
I am from a wine region in California that specializes in many Spanish varietals (Tempranillo, Granache) and I'm very excited to explore the old-world wines in their original setting! I've heard Logrono area called the "Napa Valley of Spain" (which makes me cringe, as Napa in my opinion is expensive, pretentious and highly overrated), so we figured it would be a good place to start. Since neither of us have been there however, we'd love recommendations for other towns/cities/regions.
In general, we are trying to travel on a budget and spend between $40-$90 USD/nightly for lodging, cheap but wholesome food, and typically don't prefer to spend more than $20-$30 USD for a bottle of good wine. We will have a car and are willing to go off the beaten-track to find the less flashy, less touristy places to find good local flavor.
Recommendations on wineries, B&Bs/pensiones, sights in wine country, or places to visit are greatly appreciated. On a different topic, we are also looking for places to rent road or cyclocross bikes and get out and do some exploring of backroads on two wheels (daytrips only). Input on good regions for riding and finding decent rentals will be helpful too.
Jan 23, 2013 7:03 PM
It all depends on what you define as a good bottle of wine but in Spain/Portugal/Italy a decent bottle can usually be had for 5-10 EUR. Of course you can also spend 100 EUR- it all depends on what you're after. But In my experience it is not uncommon to be offered house in a restaurant for EUR 5 for a liter.
Jan 23, 2013 7:40 PM
2In the US and other English speaking counries, the grape is grenache, in Spain it's garnacha....
I'd suggest choosing regions then looking for local listings for places to stay:
Jan 23, 2013 8:06 PM
3Thank you for the resonse MTL, my relationship is fine thank you. While I realize my grammar may not be spotless when posting quickly for travel advice, I did after all come here for little other than travel advice. I do very much appreciate your time, some of the other information offered and points raised.
When we are outside of larger cities, my girlfriend and I intend to spend between 30-75 EUR total nightly for lodging not including meals and we will prefer to keep meals reasonable (maybe 10-15 EUR per person; more if something really appeals). We are budgeting for spending more while in larger cities and on weekends. Much of my research has led me to believe that money will go a little further when in smaller towns, especially midweek but I realize this is probably overly simplistic and subject to infinite variables.
As I said, I cringed when I heard Logrono likened to Napa Valley and didn't mean for it to be interpreted as neither compliment nor distrespectful. However, we are far from La Rioja and it's not uncommon for our media to try to apply likeness to familiar places. Since I have never been to Spanish wine country I'm only going by third-party knowledge and that's after all why I posted here.
Again, thanks for the local knowledge and your personal experiences and recommendations.
Jan 23, 2013 8:14 PM
Jan 24, 2013 9:16 AM
5We plan to stay a night or two in the wine country of La Rioja and I'm looking for recommendations of your personal favorite places to stay/eat/taste.
Two nights will only give you a full day and a bit of other one. That's not too much time.
Since neither of us have been there however, we'd love recommendations for other towns/cities/regions.
I think the first you should make is to decide wether you want to visit La Rioja or another wine area. According to the first quote I transcribed in this post, it seems you want to visit La Rioja but according to this one it seems you don't have it clear...
There are many wine areas in Spain so you have a choice. You can take a look at the Wikipedia with all the DO wine areas of Spain. To go to La Rioja would be to make a detour on your way from Barcelona to Lisbon and the time you plan to spend there is very short (BTW, do you plan to visit only wineries or do you plan to visit the area too -towns, parks, churches...-?). You could consider to visit a wine area in Catalonia instead (e.g.: Priorat or the area where cava is made).
If you finally decide to go to La Rioja wine area, you should decide if you want to visit a location in the part of the area in the Autonomous Community of La Rioja or a location in the part of the area in the Basque country as your time is too short...
Jan 24, 2013 10:04 AM
6As #5 rightly points out, going to the Rioja wine-region requires quite a detour. As he also points out, the Rioja wine-region is not restricted to the autonomic region of La Rioja, but expands into the Basque Country. You could consider going to the region of the "Ribeiro de Duero", which would mean less of a detour. I suggest you use google to get more information about this area.
As far as the cost for meals is concerned, one can find in many places a so-called "menu del dia", which may cost as 8 euros, sometimes even less and include normally three courses, one drink (water or a beer or a glass of the house-wine) and coffee. The places I go to in the area where I live, have normally at least two different entries and two main courses. As you rightly assume it may be easier to find such places in smaller towns and villages than in bigger cities, but they exist there also.
I also suggest you use http://www.viamichelin.com/ for the planning of your trip. I assume you are aware that a lot of the motorways in Spain and Portugal are tollroads. The michelin-website gives you the possibility to specify "no toll" and also gives you the price of the tolls. The tollroad between Zaragoza and Logroño is in my opinion one of the most expensive in Spain.
Jan 24, 2013 11:52 AM
7I believe I forgot to mention that our planned route will be roughly Barcelona > San Sebastian > Madrid > Lisbon, so I think we should be right in the neighborhood of some very good options either on our way into, or out of San Sebastian.
After taking some of the suggestions here into account (again, thank you all!), and doing more research I think I have a good idea of a potential route: I think we may decide to take our time from Barcelona to San Sebastian, and stay a night in or near Logrono, a night around Haro, and another in Vitoria. It seems that Haro is in close proximity to some great wineries. If we totally fall in love with the area, we may even decide to go slower here and skip Madrid entirely, who knows.
Txakoli also sounds very interesting and unique - would we encounter places to try Txakoli around Vitoria, or between Vitoria and Bilbao?
Jan 24, 2013 12:18 PM
8GiantSteps, I think you need to learn to take babysteps first.
Three things stand out to me in your comments.
First is budget. At current exchange rates you would need $133 US dollars per day for what is generally accepted as the minimal backpacker budget for 2 people. That covers staying in hostels and eating supermarket food with the odd drink or museum entry. It does not cover transportation (rental car and gas for example). Your figure of $40-90 is simply not enough as an average, even in smaller country towns. So you either have to up the budget or reduce the time accordingly.
There was a recent thread in which quite a few regular and experienced posters discussed just this topic. Consensus seemed to be that although it was possible on 50E per day, a more realistic yet still pretty basic budget would be 65E per day per person. I would suggest you aim for at least that.
Second, you say you are interested in wine tasting and yet clearly are not allowing enough time to do any meaningful amount of it. For example, I happen to like Gewurztraminer which comes from the Alsace region of France. In one week, tasting an average of perhaps a dozen Gewurzt a day, every day, I found it entirely possiblel to educate your palate to what a good Gewurzttraminer tastes like. To taste for just a day or two even if only one variety, is not likely to teach you anything. So what then would the point really?
Third, in your last comments talking about a night here and a night there you seem to be making the classic mistake of trying to do/see too much in too little time. Every time you move you lose time that could be spent IN places, not in BETWEEN places. In travel, less is always more.
The common phrase we see here is an expressed desire to 'see as much as possible'. But if you give it a little thought you will realize that the way to do that is to spend time IN places, not between places. People tend to confuse the word 'much' with the word 'many'. They are not synonymous.
So I would suggest you slow down and plan on basing yourself in fewer places for more than a night at a time. There is a good general rule you can use called the 'Rule of 3s'. In terms of travel it says, never spend less than 3 full days/4 nights in a place unless it is just an overnight stop between A and B. Note the 'less than', it is a minimum and note the 3/4, which indicates that to get 3 full days in a place you need to allow for a travel day in between.
With 3 weeks available, minus your arrival and departure day which are basically a write off, that leaves you 19 days. Using the Rule of 3s that says you should consider no more than 5 stops and 4 would be even better. Given your 4 stops you seem to have decided already, that doesn't leave you much room to play with.
Jan 25, 2013 6:55 AM
9would we encounter places to try Txakoli around Vitoria, or between Vitoria and Bilbao?
A well known place where txacolí is made is Getaria; close to the toll motorway from Vitoria to San Sebastián. For more info, you can take a look here
For info about txacolí in Araba (aka Álava), you can take a look at this web. Vitoria is Álava's capital.
If all what you want is to drink some txacolí, you can ask locally what are good bars to make it. BTW, you can also find it easily in food stores (supermarkets and other food stores), just in case you want to purchase some bottles.
Jan 26, 2013 11:07 AM
10Don't forget to check out beautiful Laguardia in the Rioja Alavesa (Basque).
There are loads of wineries in this area, notably the fabulous winery-hotel Marqués de Riscal in El Ciego, built by your countryman Frank Gehry. It's on my list of must stay places for when I win the national lottery...
After La Rioja I would visit the Ribera del Duero region (Valladolid) famous for its tempranillos and also for its verdejos (Rueda). After this, I'd head downstream for the wine route of the Portuguese "quintas", fabulous country houses/wineries on the upper Douro (Duero) wine region.
Jan 26, 2013 11:23 AM
Jan 27, 2013 3:17 AM
12#11 - Yes, I'm aware that Ribera del Duero and Rueda are two different D.O. When I recommended Valladolid, it was perhaps because it's the western-most province of the D.O.
and would be perfect if the OP decided to travel on to the Portuguese stretch to check out the Quintas etc. Having said that, Burgos and Segovia would also also be good places to base oneself while in the area. Regarding your question, yes, I've tried Cigalés (Vinea Crianza) and was impressed. I'm more familiar with the wineries around Cacabelos and their excellent reds made with the Mencía grape. This spring, the US wine tour company I work for will feature this region for the first time. It'll be our first venture outside Galicia, though you'd think you were in Galicia listening to some of the locals talk, especially in villages like Vega de Valcarce, Balboa etc... ;-)
Jan 27, 2013 6:56 AM
Jan 27, 2013 8:31 AM
14#13 - absolutely correct. El Bierzo. Marvellous countryside. The spectauclar Templar castle in Ponferrada, the incredible setting of the Palacio de Canedo, Villafranca del Bierzo, the charming 'palloza' mountain dwellings, el botillo, the peppers and the wine, oh' the wine. Altos de Losada, Pittacum, Ultreia de Valtuille de Raúl Pérez, Tilenus etc, etc, :-)
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