Wine Touring – The Najerilla Valley

The Najerilla river flows from the mountains of the Sierra de la Demanda to the Ebro River making this a special corner of La Rioja, with a unique style of wine, the lower part of the valley yielding the region’s most balanced wines.  The valley, considered by many to be central to La Rioja vineyards, is one of the Seven Valleys of the Rioja, has the greatest number of acres dedicated to wine growing in the Rioja Alta, some are ancient terraces carved out of the hills higher up in the valley.  And here is where you will find Najera, the ancient capital of the kingdom of Navarra.  If you divide the valley in half, the middle of the valley, with the highest terrain, home to the Garnacha grape, is where the classic Riojan “claretes” are made, rivaling those from Cordovin, San Asensio and Badaran.  The lower part of the valley is more open and which could be considered as the Ebro Valley itself rather than just its tributary, and is one of the most densely planted areas, with a penchant for Tempranillo.  The lower end of the valley also includes two Iron Age hilltop settlements, Castillo Antiguo, and Cerro Molino, near Hormilleja, known locally as “El Risco”, belongs to the Celtiberian period (fourth-second centuries BC).  For more information, see: A valley in La Rioja: The Najerilla Project.

Najerilla Valley Wineries To Visit

Zinio Bodegas vineyards

Bodegas Ayagar

Located just outside of the historic village of Hormilleja, the family winery began in 2004 and is open daily for visits at 10:00 am.  90-minute tours and tastings are 10€/person.  You can also visit the ancient cave.  The restaurant is open for small groups by reservation only.  Email correo@bodegasayagar.es, or call Victoria Garrobo at (+34) 660 693 330 to arrange a tour and tasting or group lunch.

Zinio Bodegas

This modern winery in Uruñuela, surrounded by more than 450 hectares of vineyards at an elevation of between 450 and 590 meters above sea level, at the north end of the Najerilla Valley, is the result of 200 wine growing families getting together in 1985 to begin producing their own wines.  The first harvest for Bodegas Patrocinio was in 1986, the first bottling came in 1993.  It has an ideal climate as it is bordered on the north by the Sierra Cantabria and to the south by the Sierra de la Demanda.  Visits with a tasting of three wines and an aperitivo are available Tuesday-Saturday at 11:30 am and 4:30 pm for 15€/person, and children 9-17 for 6€.  There is the possibility of having lunch in the bodega.  The gastrobar, open Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, offers two set menus, 35€ and 50€.  A 2-1/2 hour long visit of the vineyards and winery, with a tasting of five exceptional wines, is also available Tuesday-Saturday for 30€/person, children 9-17 for 10€.   You can also do a bicycle tour through the vineyards.  A private tasting with Ana María Martín are 80€.  Call (+ 34) 941 37 13 19, or email enoturismo@ziniobodegas.com to reserve your tour and tasting.

Bodegas Viña Berneda SL

Opened in 1981 in Uruñuela by Jesús Amor Artacho as a family project, it wasn’t until ten years later that the “Viña Berneda” brand wine was born.  The vineyards, located in Cenicero and Uruñuela, average 30 years of age, but the most select wines are from vineyards over 100 years old.  Their Berneda Reserva, 100% Tempranillo, spends 18 months in American oak, while the Berneda Crianza Vendimia Seleccionada spends 12 months aging in American oak.  The guided 2-hour tour of the winery, with a minimum group of 5, includes a tasting of two wines accompanied by an aperitif.  You can call (+34) 941 371 304 / 699 468 661, email berneda@vinaberneda.com or contact them online to arrange a visit.

Bodegas Martinez Corta

Opened in 2005, this is a 21st-century winery with deep roots built up over four generations (since the 1960s), when their first vines where planted along the slopes of the Najerilla river, below Torremontalbo.  Their vineyards now cover 80 hectares, from the upper zone of Cenicero to the banks of the Najerilla river.  Their Cepas Antiguas Tempranillo 2016 won the Gold Medal at the International Wine Challenge 2020.  The family is part of Bornos Bodegas group of wineries, which cover six of Spain’s major wine regions.  The modern winery is located to the northeast of Uruñuela, just off the LR-113.  For additional information or arrange a visit, email info@bornosbodegas.com, or call (+34) 941 898 889.

Bodegas Leza García

Juan Leza Arenzana started the family winery in the early 20th-century, opening the winery at Calle San Ignacio, 26, in Uruñuela, making excellent wines at affordable prices, including their Valdepalacios Crianza, 85% Tempranillo, 10% Red Grenache and 5% Mazuelo, is aged for 12 months in American and French oak, with 6 months in a bottle before being released.  All of their vineyards are all located in the Najerilla Valley.  The LG de Leza García 2015, 100% Tempranillo, received 92 points in the Rioja 2019 Special Report by Tim Atkin and a gold medal in Wine 100 Challenge 2019.  Call (+34) 941 371 142, or  email bodegasleza@bodegasleza.com to request a visit. 

Bodegas Cuna de Reyes

This modern family winery called the “Birthplace of Kings” was founded in 1999 along the road from Nájera to Uruñuela.  All of their wines, overseen by winemaker Alfredo Ciria, are from their own vineyards, Finca Las Cabras, and from select vintners in the area.  The Cuna de Reyes Crianza, 80% Tempranillo, 15% Garnacha, 5% Mazuelo, is aged for 12 months in American and French oak with two rackings.  Guided tours are available by emailing Alfredo at bodegas@cunadereyes.es, or by calling (+34) 941 360 280 to arrange a visit.

Bodegas JER

Now in it’s third generation, this family winery dates to 1954 when Javier Cantera Cañas built his first winery in the village of Azofra, an important crossing point on the pilgrimage’s route.  His son, Javier Cantera Corcuera, opened the modern winery in 2000 in nearby Huércanos and was joined by his daughter Eva Cantera in 2010.  Their high altitude vineyards in Alto Najerilla, at 600 meters and between 40-60 years old, and produce a limited production of very high quality and complexity.  Named the Rosé Winery of the Year in the Annual New York International Wine Competition 2019, when their Thaler de Plata Garnacha 2007 , which sits “hidden in the cellar, in the dark, sleeping peacefully while life goes on”, received 92 points in the Tim Atkin Special Rioja report 2019.  In addition, their Vermouth Cantera 2019 was awarded 91 points by Guía Peñín in 2019.  Call Eva at (+34) 635 955 448 or email info@bodegasjer.es for more information or to arrange a tour and tasting.  Tours are available weekdays between 10:00 am and 1:00 pm.

Bodegas Pedro Martinez Alesanco

The Martínez Alesanco Family has been harvesting the grapes in the red soil of Badarán near San Millán de la Cogolla, in the heart of Rioja Alta, for centuries.  The Gran Reservas, 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha, are aged 36 months in new American and French oak and received 91 points from Tim Atkin in 2019, while their Pedro Martínez Alesanco Selección received 94 points from James Suckling and 92 points from Tim Atkin.  The winery at Calle Jose García, 20, in Badarán, now in the hands of Angela Martínez Alesanco, is open for guided tours Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 1:30 pm and in the afternoon 4:00 to 7:30 pm, and on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 10:00 am.  You can request a tour online, by email at info@bodegasmartinezalesanco.com, or by calling (+34) 941 367 075.

Bodegas David Moreno

We first visited David during a tour with the Tourist Office of Spain in the spring of 2003.  Once an engineer working in Barcelona, his winery began step by step in 1988 when he returned home, and in 1991, opened his first cellar, in the clay and stone called “Don Pociano”.  The third cellar was finished in 2013.  HIs daughters, Gemma and Paula, had become involved in the winery in the mid 90s.  The winery in Badarán now controls 130 hectares of vines in the Alto Najerilla, all within 6 kilometers of the winery, which itself is only 8 kilometers from the monasteries of Yuso and Suso de San Millán de la Cogolla.  The bodega is open all year for visits; Monday-Friday at 11:30 am, Saturdays at 12:30, 5:00 and 6:00 pm, Sundays at 12:30 pm.  Tours last 90 minutes and include a tasting of two wines, a Crianza and a Reserva, for 10€/person.  Premium visits are 15€ and a 2-hour visit to the bodega and vineyard is 20€/person.  4-hour Harvest Day visits are also available for 35€, plus lunch.  You can also take 5 km walk along the Route of the Guardaviñas through the vineyards.  Email reservas@davidmoreno.com, or call (+34) 941 367 338 to reserve your tour and tasting.  You can also contact David online for additional information.

Bodega César del Río

The family winery was opened in 1988 at Camino de San Martín, 57, in Cordovín, in the cradle of the traditional Riojan claret.  César and his son Iván, the winemaker, opened a new bodega a few minutes away Alesanco in the middle of the Ruta de the Monasteries of La Rioja Alta in 2015.  Their top wine ‘Yursun’, alludes to the nearby Yuso monastery.  Their claret is fresh and bright, made from grapes harvested by hand from vineyards located in the Cordovin area with an average age of 30 years.  Paired tastings are available by appointment only at both wineries and tastings include a tour of the vineyards.  Email info@bodegascesardelrio.com or call (+34) 941 367 061 for additional information or to request a tour and tasting.

Bodegas Trodos Quattro

The winery at Camino San Martín, 1 , Cordovín, created in 2003, was born from the initiative of four friends (“Quattro”) who are passionate about the world of wine and a long-standing illusion of being able to make a great wine with its own personality and character, from their own vineyards, some now more than 100 years old.  Their TRODOS IV Vendimia Seleccionada 2015, a limited edition (6000), 100% Tempranillo, is aged for 27 months in French and American oak in a centuries-old cellar.  Visits to the winery are available by reservations only.  Email info@trodosquattro.com, or call (+34) 941 367 283 / 610 262 182.

Bodegas Florentino Martínez

Florentino Martínez opened his new winery at Calle de la Ermita, 33, Cordovín in 1992, combining several smaller centuries old locations in Cordovín where the family sold their wines.  All of their wines are from their own vineyards, including the limited production Distercio.  They also produce a wine from the near-extinct red wine grape, Tinto Maturana, discovered by Riojan viticulturist Juan Carlos Sancha.  Both the Distercio and Tinto Maturana wines are aged in native Riojan oak from the nearby mountains.  Private tours with the enologist are available for both the winery and vineyards.  The winery is open Monday-Saturday from 9:30 am to 1:30 pm and Monday-Friday after lunch from 4:00 to 7:30 pm.  Call (+34) 941 418 614, or email bodegas@florentinomartinez.com to arrange your visit.

Bodegas Hnos. Lozano

For more than five generations the Lozano family has been involved in making wines as the wooden press and concrete vats, which in 2000 gave way to modern stainless steel tanks and horizontal presses, while maintaining aging their wine in oak barrels.  You can email info@bodegaslozano.com, or call Alfredo Lozano at (+34) 941 367 283 / 941 367 351 / 677 847 458 for additional information or to arrange a visit to the winery at Calle de la Ermita, 51, (LR-207), in Cordovín.

Bodegas Najerilla

Established in 1975 by 300 families from the villages of Alesón, Arenzana de Abajo, Arenzana de Arriba, Badarán, Baños de Río Tobía, Bezares, Bobadilla, Camprovín, Cárdenas, Manjarrés, Najera and Tricio, the winery, in the Bajo Najerilla valley, the high Rioja, has more than 1100 hectares of vineyards, all small producers, who with care and patience, generation after generation, cultivate, harvest, make, breed and love their wine.  The cellars currently hold  2,500 oak barrels.  The cooperatives modern winery sits along the LR-113, before the turnoff to Arenzana de Abajo.  Email najerilla@bodegasnajerilla.es or additional information, or call (+34) 941 362 783.

Bodegas Fin de Siglo

This beautiful winery-estate, created in 1999 by a small group of local families, vine growers for many generations, has been a part of the Peralada Castle’s Wineries Group (Girona) since 2014.  The winery owns 45 hectares of vineyards with vines that are more than 100 years old, and manages 10 more hectares between Nájera and Arenzana de Abajo.  You can call (+34) 941 410 042 or email bfs@bodegasfindesiglo.com, or contact them online for additional information or to arrange a tour and tasting.

Bodegas Horola

The Hornos family, with more than 100 years of history, stories and legends, owns a modest 7.5 hectares of vines between 30 and 110 years old in the Alto de San Antón (Yalde river basin).  The 2015 Horola Garnacha, harvested in the first week of October at an altitude of 600 to 700 meters, was aged 11 months in 500-liter French Oak.  The premium barrel fermented 2016 Horola MIL, 100% Tempranillo, was aged for 12 months in 225-liter French Oak and finished with 6 months in the bottle.  Tours of the winery at Plaza Mayor, 5, Baños de Río Tobía, with a tasting of two wines, are available daily by appointment by calling (+34) 625 375 994, or Javier Hornos at (+34) 670 616 840.  You can also contact them online for additional information.

Bodegas Juan Carlos Sancha

Juan Carlos, who started his project in 2008, is a professor of enology at the University of La Rioja.  His small winery sits on 5 hectares of vineyards just to the north of Baños de Río Tobía, just off the LR-113, and specializes in the production of artisan organic wines elaborated from the minority varieties of Tempranillo Blanco, Maturana Tinta and Maturana Blanca, varieties that he and his university colleague, Fernando Martinez de Toda, discovered, rescued from extinction, and developed. You can contact Juan Carlos at (+34) +34 941 232 160 / 639 216 011, or email juancarlossancha@yahoo.es to arrange a tour and tasting.

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