We usually start our wine touring in the Rioja in Haro, the wine capital of the Rioja Alta, a town of 12,000 inhabitants, where you’ll find a fairly large concentration of wineries that can be visited, both highly traditional and new generation, most all requiring a prior appointment. Most of the notable wineries are located to the north below the town, in the Barrio de la Estación, also known as the Barrio de las Bodegas, near the railway station. Here you’ll find Bodegas Rioja Santiago, C.V.N.E., Muga, Bilbaínas, López de Heredia, La Rioja Alta, Gómez Cruzado and Roda. The easiest way to access these bodegas is via the Labastida-Laguardia highway, the A-3023, which will bring you into the town past the Barrio de la Estación area before entering the Haro uppertown maze. The Haro Tourism Office, located in the Plaza de la Paz, keeps an up-to-date listing of the visiting hours of each winery that does open to the public. The office opens daily at 10:00 am to 2:00 pm and from 4:00 pm to 9:00 pm on Saturdays, but is closed on Mondays, except for public holidays.
I recommend using Haro as your lodging base only if you want to walk to the wineries, as it’s somewhat difficult to navigate and lacks the charm of the small wine towns listed further on. And save for festival days, the city is a rather sleepy place after the sun goes down, with the exception of the area of the Herradura Gastronomic Route starting at Calle Santo Tomás, ending at San Martín Square. Here you’ll find the town’s best tapas bars- Beethoven, Mesón los Berones, Bar el Pasadizo, los Caños, and Mi Bodega.
Other than visiting the wineries, there’s little else of monumental importance to see in Haro other than the Basilica de Nuestra Señora de la Vega. It can be visited in under an hour, if you’re lucky enough to find a parking spot (don’t forget to feed the meter-all of Haro is a blue zone). That said, Haro’s wine interpretation center has recently been expanded, modernized and re-named, and it merits a visit. It’s housed on three floors, and the tour starts on the second floor, where the entire process of wine cultivation is explained. On the first floor the main features of the wine making process can be seen. The ground floor illustrates the character and characteristics of the Riojan villages and its people and their close relationship to the world of wine. The La Estación Enológica de Haro is situated at Bretón de los Herreros, 4, and is open Tuesday to Friday from 10:00 am to 2:30 pm and in the afternoon from 3:30 to 7:00 pm, Sunday and holidays it’s open from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm, closed Monday. French and English explanations are provided. It also offers a beginners’ wine tasting course on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays at 11:30, which costs 15€ and includes entrance to the museum. Tel: (+34) 941 305 71
Haro winery visits
In the Barrio de la Estación – Barrio de las Bodegas
The striking glass tasting pavilion and wine shop, in the shape of a decanter, designed by internationally acclaimed, Pritzker prize winning Zaha Hadid to celebrate this classic winery’s 125th anniversary has caused quite a buzz in the architectural world. It is a daring adjunct to the most traditional (Bordeaux style) of all the Rioja bodegas where centuries old wine making methods are scrupulously preserved. The winery houses 72 oak fermenting vats, and the wines are aged in 15,000 French oak barrels produced and constantly repaired by the winery’s team of three coopers. It is one of the few wineries to have its own tonelería, barrel making shop. Visits here are strictly by prior appointment only but are some of the most fascinating, as only time honed traditional methods are employed at the winery. Temperature during fermentation is controlled through the use of natural ventilation, and a natural penicillin mold covers the dark and dank cellar’s walls. And the spider-web covered underground tunnels of the original winery run up to 200 meters in length.
On Saturdays at 10:30 am the winery offers a 2-1/2 hour visit to its Viña Tondonia vineyard followed by a tasting, which costs 15€. Visitors are made to feel most welcomed by the charming, English speaking guides. We recently toured at 10:00 am with the highly informative Lidia Zanza, and our two-hour visit was one of the highlights of our latest “scouting” trip. If you only have time for one in Haro, this is the one not to miss! You can call (+34) 941 310 244, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or arrange your visit by filling out the form on the bodega’s web page. Tours are available Monday-Saturday, and costs 10€, but the visit is complimentary with a wine purchase. Closed on Sundays and holidays. The shop is open for tastings and wine sales Monday-Saturday from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.
This relatively “young” winery, established in 1987, lies slightly north of Viña Tondonia at the very north end of town, sitting on top of a hill. It produces some of the region’s most exciting wines in its ultra modern installations. Experts consider these to be some of the best wines in the world. Visits are arranged by appointment and are given in English, French and Spanish at 10:00 am and 12:00 noon, Monday-Saturday. The visits, which costs 10€, are followed by a tasting of two wines and Aubocassa olive oils. Two-hour private tours are available Monday to Saturday at 10:00 am for 50€/person, with a tasting of 4 premium wines. The 30-minute visit to the vineyards “Perdigón” is available on Saturdays, depending on the weather, for 5€. In September of 2010, Roda inaugurated their new space, a wine bar, 90 meters long and 6 meters wide, housed in a 19th-century aging vault carved into the rock. There, lucky visitors can sample four Roda labels; Sela, Roda, Roda I and the award-winning Cirsión. The wine bar is open Monday-Saturday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm and in the afternoon from 4:00 to 6:00 pm, Sunday from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, closed Thursdays. Email email@example.com, or call (+34) 941 312 187 or (+34) 669 776 564 for reservations.
Located just south of the train tracks, C.V.N.E., who’s initials stand for Compañía Vinícola del Norte de España, was founded in 1879. Visits here are also strictly by reservation only, and one must reserve through the central office for appointments to visit all three wineries operated by C.V.N.E.. Book online, or call them at (+34) 941 304 809. Cost is 12€ for the one-hour guided tour and tasting of two wines, or 25€ for the “premium” tour, tasting of four of their best wines and tapas. The winery is open Monday-Saturday from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (summer hours), but closed on December 24, 25 and 31, and January 1, 5, 6 and 7 (in 2017). Visits available in English and Spanish only.
You’ll find this bodega, founded in 1859, in the same area of the lower town, just behind C.V.N.E., on the southern side of the railroad tracks. It is a fascinating and immense hundred-year old winery with 3,000 meters of underground cellars. The very detailed guided tour of these installations takes a bit over 90 minutes, followed by a generous tasting. Bodegas Bilbaínas produces the highly regarded La Vicalanda and Viña Pomal, and now belongs to Codorniú, the Catalán bubbly makers. Open Monday-Saturday with visits on Monday at 11:00 and the rest of the week at 11:00, noon and 5:00. On Sunday there is only one visit, at 11:00. On bank holidays, there are usually visits at 10:00 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. You can call (+34) 941 310 147, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. Mabel, who conducts the English tours, will promptly answer your request and inform you of the possibility of an English tour (the large group on Saturdays at noon is only given in Spanish). Cost is 5€ for the tour and tasting of two wines.
Muga is another highly traditional winery that clings to age-old methods, producing spectacular wines, and like Viña Tondonia, it too has its own cooperage for making its vats and casks. The winery offers a standard 60-90 minute tour in English with a tasting of two wines from Monday to Saturday for 10€/person, and a tour of the vineyards for 25€/person, by appointment only. Spanish tours are given at 11:30 am and 4:30 pm Monday-Saturday. Please email for current times, as some tours are seasonal. Participants in their 25€ “Premium Tour” move to the tasting room in the tower, the Espacio Muga, after their winery tour and enjoy five tastings, a Muga white, a Crianza, Reserva Selección, Prado Enea Gran Reserva and a Torres Muga. For reservations for either email email@example.com, book your tour online, or call (+34) 941 306 060. In addition to the tasting room, the Espacio Torre Muga (Torre Muga Space), is open Monday-Friday from 8:30 am to 6:30 pm for wine tastings, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.
This traditional winery, maker of Viña Ardanza, which last year celebrated their 125th birthday, is located across the street from López de Heredia, at Avenida de Vizcaya, 8. Like Muga, it maintains its own cooperage. Two-hour tours are given Monday-Friday at 10:00 am (English) at a cost of €30, which includes a tasting of 4 wines. The tour at 11:30 am (Spanish) also costs 30€ and includes a tasting of 3 wines, a snack and gift bottle of wine (37,5 cl). The 1-1/2 hour tours on Saturdays (10:45 am, 11:30 am and 12:15 pm) and Sundays (at noon) are in Spanish only and include a tasting of 3 wines for 15€/person. Sunday tours are not available in August or from 18 December to 19 March. Book online or call them at (+34) 902 123 904. The shop is open for tasting by the glass Monday-Friday, June through September, from 8:00 am to 3:00 pm, and on Saturdays from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Check online for the opening days and times for the rest of the year.
One of our favorite stops, situated between Bodegas La Rioja Alta and Muga, is a small and very pretty family-run winery founded in 1886 by the Duke of Moctezuma de Tultengo. Guided tours and tastings (three wines and one olive oil) are available Monday-Sunday, bank holidays included, at 12:00 noon and on Saturdays at 10:30 am and 12:00 noon, for 25€, by reservation only. The special 90-minute premium tasting, accompanied by Iberian ham, cheese and olive oil, is available for 50€, Monday-Friday, upon request. You can call (+34) 941 312 502, or email Casilda at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange a tour and tasting. Walk-in tastings are available March-October, Monday-Saturday from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm, and on Sundays and holiday until 3:00 pm. Cost is from 3€ to 8€/glass, depending on the wine.
Beyond the Barrio de las Bodegas
This unique estate, dating from the 11th-century when it was part of the Cistercian monastery of Santa María de Herrera, lies along the route of Saint James, a short 20-minute drive west of the Barrio de la Estación in Haro. Although officially part of the Castile-León province, it’s location, a unique microclimate in the foothills of the Obarenes Mountains, places it on the western edge of the Rioja DO. The Tempranillo grapes for their Picea 650, fermented in new French Oak, are hand picked from vineyards located at the highest elevation of the estate, 650 meters, one of the highest vineyards in the Rioja. Tours and tastings, including a visit to the vineyards, are available Saturdays and Sundays by appointment only. You can email email@example.com or call (+34) 941 320 021 to arrange a visit.
Dining in and around Haro
The reinvented restaurant (reopened 22 April 2016) is located in the 4-star Hotel Los Agustinos, a former 14th-century monastery in the center of Haro on Calle San Agustin. Chefs, Oscar Puente and Jorge González, offer traditional Riojan dishes in addition to more modern creations. The Menu Caparrones (Riojan red beans) is available for 19€ + VAT during the week. Open for lunch Monday-Saturday from 1:30 pm and for dinner at 8:30 pm, closed Sundays in low season and from January 1 to the 25.
Tel: (+34) 941 311 308 / 941 304 463
Lucrecia Arana, 17, one block up from the Plaza de la Paja, was first opened in 1877. It appears in all guidebooks, and you’ll find a menu prominently displayed in English at the entrance. This legendary asador has long, unvarnished pine tables and pine benches on the floor above a butcher shop and is a very informal place to try the regional specialty, roast baby lamb along with a Rioja selected from its vast wine list. Offers 8 fixed menus, plus a special seasonal menu. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch from 1:15 to 4:00 and for dinner from 8:30 to 11:00, and Sundays for lunch from 1:15 to 4:00. Closed Mondays.
Tel: (+34) 941 310 023
Located 5 kms south of Haro, in the village of Casalarreina, at Travesía Jardines, 15, in the northern part of the town, is where we were treated to a delightful gastronomic feast as guests of the Rioja Tourism Board, a meal of hearty regional specialties including a main course of delicious roast lamb. They also serve a terrific T-bone steak, a chuletón, partridge salad, wild boar stew, wild mushrooms in an onion confit and fabulous foie-gras. You’ll find over a hundred labels on their wine list. This former 17th-century winery has a charming, rustic-inn décor, decorated with farm utensils, traditional Castilian carved furniture, wrought iron chandeliers, polished wood floors, walls of exposed stone, beamed ceilings. Count on an average check of around 40€-45€/person. It receives a 6/10 rating from the Gourmetour guide a 10 from the Guía Gastronómica y Cultural del País Vasco y su Entorno. Closed Monday night, all day Tuesday and from December 24 – January 6, the last week of February to the first week of March.
Tel: (+34) 941 324 122
This lovely former wine cellar is also found in Casalarreina on Avenida La Rioja, 17. We dined here on a previous familiarization tour, guests of the Rioja Tourist Board. This is another reconverted winery dating from the 17th-century with charming country-sophisticated décor and a wood-burning oven, quite popular among the local winemakers. We recommend it equally highly. The cuisine here is a bit more contemporary and Chef Angel María Pérez Aguilar procures his vegetables (tomatoes, artichokes, pumpkins, peppers) and herbs straight from the restaurant’s garden. The restaurant receives a 14.50 rating (quite high) from the Guía Gastronómica y Cultural del País Vasco, a 6.25/10 from Gourmetour and commands one sol (equivalent to a Michelin star) in the reliable Repsol guide. It boasts a wine list of over 300 labels. An English menu is available. Average fixed menu cost 58€-60€/person. One must reserve here in advance, particularly for a weekend. Open Monday-Sunday for lunch from 1:30 to 4:00, Friday and Saturday for dinner from 9:00 to 11:00.
Tel: (+34) 941 324 254