Brad Ring, Publisher and Founder of WineMaker Magazine, personally invites you to join him on this exclusive and remarkable wine vacation.
- Explore Spain with Jenny Siddall, our British guide living in La Rioja who has a winemaking background and who provides key insights into exploring the culture of her adopted homeland
- Relish the flavors of the area with a picnic by the sea: artisan sheep’s milk cheeses, local anchovies, freshly baked bread and cured ham, all paired with a crisp white txacoli, the slightly sparkling wine of the area
- Visit the French town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, famous for its chocolates and macarons
- Discover the history of winemaking in Rioja and the towns of Haro and Laguardia
- Savor multi-course meals, many served with paired wines
- Experience a wonderful outdoor Rioja-style dinner with traditional foods like chorizo, sausage, roasted peppers and homemade bread
- Contrast old world vs new world wines and take part in intimate private wine tastings at famous bodegas…and ones you may have never heard of!
Your guides will meet you in the heart of Bilbao, Spain, after lunch. If you arrive the day before, you will have time to visit the Guggenheim Museum and wander the winding streets of the historic center of this modern Basque city. We depart together for the Bay of Biscay for an introduction to the area via a seaside picnic with local fish, cured ham, freshly baked breads and Ramon’s artisan cheeses (from his farm near the coastal town of Zarautz) made from sheep milk. Not surprisingly, his cheeses taste alarmingly good with Txakoli, a crisp white Basque wine with a slight sparkling quality. We then visit a nearby vineyard and speak with the grape growers about their harvest (and, of course, sampling the fruits of their labors) before heading to our final destination for the day: the small fishing village of Getaria on the coast. Our hotel rooms face the rolling waves of the sea, a reminder that the Basques are master fishermen. Tonight’s dinner includes the wonderful grilled fish for which they are famous.
If you wish, you can get a little exercise this morning by walking to “the mouse,” a small islet in the harbor connected to Getaria via a causeway. After breakfast we’ll cross the nearby border into France and the major fishing port and beach resort town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, less than an hour away. There we will sample wonderful chocolates, breads, macaroons and other epicurean delicacies. After, stroll along the crashing waves of the waterfront to pick out the perfect restaurant to enjoy a lunch of seafood that has recently been plucked from the sea (we’ll provide recommendations, of course!) with the mighty Pyrenees mountains as a backdrop. Then it’s on to San Sebastian, where your Host Jenny will take you to one of her favorite restaurants in the city for dinner!
Today we leave the coast and travel south; it is time to go to La Rioja, the most respected wine growing region of Spain, and Haro, its wine capital. Haro is an ancient and beautiful town set on a hill above the River Ebro and is our base for exploring Rioja. We will begin our wine exploration with a tour and an outstanding wine-paired lunch at the esteemed Bodegas Muga, where we’ll enjoy special crianza and reserva wines with our meal. You can partake in a siesta this afternoon or explore the town a bit on your own after checking into our four-star hotel, a beautifully converted convent. Tonight we will embark on a culinary adventure as we experience a casual outdoor Rioja-style dinner at a winery: chorizo, black pudding sausages, fried eggs, roasted peppers, and homemade bread from the village, all washed down with delicious local wine.
Today’s theme is Classic Rioja Wines. We’ll start out with a short walk to the prestigious Bodegas López de Heredia Viña Tondonia, or simply Viña Tondonia, a 137-year-old winery that offers one of the best tours and tastings we’ve had the pleasure to experience, as well as a funky, decanter-shaped tasting room. Afterwards, we will shuttle to the nearby town of Elciego and Marques de Riscal winery, world-famous for its architecture and hospitality. The incredible main building was designed by Frank Gehry and is intended to mimic the vines in the surrounding vineyards. We’ll eat lunch in one of the two restaurants of the winery, both overseen by famous local chef Francis Paniego, and considered a must-stop destination for high-end food experiences in the region. Later this afternoon, we will visit the small town of Laguardia, a walled village that hasn’t changed much since the 13th century! Bodegas Carlos San Pedro offers a barrel tasting in the underground caves below the city, as well as a taste of their locally-produced olive oil. We let you free to plan your own dinner tonight — maybe you’ll be ready for an earlier night and more casual fare — dinners in Spain are typically quite late and last a while by American standards!
In contrast to yesterday’s classic wines, today’s theme is Avant Garde! Behold, a new tradition of Spanish winemaking. Enjoy a relaxing breakfast in the atrium of our hotel before departing for our intimate private tasting at Viña Real, whose parent CVNE is legendary and whose architecturally innovative structure is shaped like a giant wine vat set into the hillside. After filling your head with as much wine knowledge as you can muster, we will visit Bodegas Baigorri, an award-winning winery in the town of Samaniego at the foot of the Sierra de Cantabria. The structure appears to be a glass box perfectly integrated into its surroundings and we enjoy a spectacular view during our five-course wine pairing lunch. Afterwards, you can opt to visit the fascinating Dinastia Vivanco wine museum or enjoy some down time in Haro. Tonight we join the locals in one of their most famous customs: a fun pinxtos (tapas) crawl of our favorite tapas bars of the city – a great way to try many of the local specialties and a fun way to end our food odyssey!
No wine trip to Spain would be complete without a taste of Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine. After breakfast, we will walk to nearby Bodegas Bilbainas, which produces Cava (which is not customarily made in Rioja). Similar to Champagne, Cava is also produced in varying levels from very dry to sweet, and we will be able to sample two variations, as well as some of their wines. After checking out of our hotel and having lunch on our own, we’ll continue our journey by completing our loop back to Bilbao, where we will bid one another farewell and either travel onward or depart for home.
"Wonderful way for a seasoned traveler to get a more intimate cultural experience in Spain."− Lynea K.
"The food was so incredible ~ I had the time of my life! Just, a few more days would have made it even better! I made new friends and learned so much! This time in Spain will always be the sweetest of all my life experiences. Thank You!"− Therese F.
"We enjoyed every minute. Jenny was fantastic and incredibly knowledgeable about the region and, of course, wine. Each winery we visited was unique so we never felt like we were hearing the same information over and over again. We had a wonderful experience."− Greg R.
Nights 1 & 2: Hotel Saiaz (Getaria) Hotel Saiaz is converted from Gothic houses in the historic center and located on a narrow street of cobblestone. The hotel sits over the ocean and is minutes away from a wonderful beach, perfect for a swim before breakfast or dinner. The owner Mikel and his staff take excellent care of us.
Nights 3, 4 & 5: Hotel Los Agustinos (Haro) The Hotel Agustinos dates back to 1373 when Don Diego Lopez de Haro built the licensed convent. Since then its incarnations have included a military garrison, hospital, prison, and school. Completely renovated in 2006, the hotel features a magnificent cloister which is covered in glass and wonderful accommodations.
Accommodation upgrades available upon request.
Please note: Hotels are subject to availability. If listed hotel is not available at time of tour, a hotel that is equal or better to the original will be secured.
What is Included
- All Local Transportation
- Double Occupancy Lodging
- All of your meals except one dinner and two lunches
- All Scheduled Activities
- Wine During Organized Tastings
- Professional Tour Host
Not Included: Travel to and from destination, wine with meals (included on Deluxe Private Tours), personal expenses, and optional gratuities to local staff and your Host. Travel insurance is also not included, though we highly recommend it. Check out our Travel Insurance page for more information.
While the general trip itinerary will remain the same, the actual restaurants, hotels, and activities listed are subject to modifications. Changes that are out of our control are common — restaurants close or lose their amazing chef, a winery changes their visiting hours, a hotel gets remodeled, etc. You are entrusting us to create an outstanding vacation for you and so it is possible we may take the liberty of making necessary changes to the itinerary that will improve your overall trip experience. If there is any one experience that is going to make or break your trip, please discuss this with us in advance.
Arrival & Departure
Your guides meet you in the early afternoon in Bilbao, Spain on the first day of the trip. If you choose to arrive that day, we will meet you at the airport. If you arrive earlier we’ll meet you at a downtown hotel. We’ll return to Bilbao’s airport the last afternoon of the trip, giving you time to travel onward or stay another night in Bilbao.
There are no direct flights from North America to Bilbao (airport code BIO), but flights generally require just one stop in a major European airport before arriving in Bilbao. All flights from North America to Europe are overnight flights. Returning home, you can catch an afternoon flight from Bilbao and return to major North American or European airports that same day.