This weekend, I was in the Rioja region with some friends for a few days of wine-tasting and eating. And it was amazing. The weather was warm, almost hot, but fall had already spread over the vineyards…
We visited a few wineries, including a very modern one (think hourly mistings to keep the barrels perfectly humid) to an old-school winery (cellars with spiders and mold to keep the humidity and bugs at bay). And drank some really delicious bottles. It helps when you’re visiting locals that are in the restaurant business!
Check out the old barrels made into lamps…
And the dark, underground caves at Tondonia winery.
After visiting two wineries the first day, we stopped at La Viega Bodega in a small town called Casalarreina. The restaurant was quite large, but we were seated in a side room, all decorated in wood. Coffee table books on wine and the region lined the walls.
We started with a few dishes to share, the aubergine and escarole salad, which was topped in a cured beef, pistachios and chives. This dish was very good but didn’t have enough eggplant for that having been listed as the first ingredient!
Marinated cod with marinated vegetables underneath… eh.
Veal cheeks, fried with a foie gras cream around them. AMAzing. I had about twenty servings.
And, my first croquettas of the trip. Don’t worry, there will be more. Many more.
Then, on to the main courses. Most of us got some sort of lamb. And each dish was amazing. Fall-off-the-bone amazing. I mean, look at that…
We each managed to lick the bones on these clean… A little dessert, then we were on our way to the last vineyard for the day, at the Marques de Riscal.
This building, designed by Frank Gehry, is the hotel that surrounds the Marques de Riscal winery. The ribbons of pink, gold and silver are meant to remind you of wine flowing next to the metallic silver of the capsule covering the cork, to the gold glint of the sun. The flowing ribbons alongside the sandstone background and the wooden window extensions… Gorgeous, isn’t it?
The best part? There’s a really good gastronomic restaurant in the hotel. I had an amazing shrimp carpaccio followed by perfectly cooked pigeon. As appeitizers, we had some croquettas (shocker), some “twigs” or as they called them, vines, which were squid ink cheese sticks, and some “caviar” that was a small tin of wine bubble “caviar” served on a foie gras mousse. Definitely worth a meal if you’re passing through!