Brad Ring, Publisher of WineMaker Magazine, personally invites you to join him on this exclusive and remarkable wine vacation.
- Explore Spain with Jenny Siddall, our British guide who lived many years in Rioja, working in various capacities in the wine industry, and has earned a WSET Diploma in Wine and Spirits as well as a masters degree in Viticulture and Oenology
- 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!
- Savor the flavors of Spanish and Basque cuisine with unforgettable meals
- Visit the French town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz, famous for its chocolates and macarons
- Take part in a fun local tradition: a tapas crawl with delicious traditional foods paired with wine as you walk from bar to restaurant to bar – a walking feast!
Day 1 > Aug 19 > Thursday
Your guide, Jenny, will meet you in Bilbao, Spain in time to whisk you away for a wine-paired lunch at the Michelin-starred Nerua, ranked among the 50 best restaurants in the world (number 32, in case you’re counting) in 2019. Housed within Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum (which we hope you took the time to visit before our tour!), Nerua’s chef Josean Alija draws from Basque ingredients to create culinary masterpieces.
We then have a private transfer to 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. After settling into your hotel room, Jenny will lead you on a fun introduction to Spanish wines. From there, it is on to the beautiful winding streets of Haro to participate in one of the most famous local customs: a fun pintxos (tapas) crawl of our favorite tapas bars of the city – a great way to try many of the local specialties!
Day 2 > Aug 20 > Friday
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, an over 140-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.
Next, we’ll walk across the street for an outstanding lunch at Bodegas Muga. They are quite famous, of course, for their wine but they also prepare the most wonderful lamb for lunch! Additionally, they have their own cooperage. Following traditional methods, Bodegas Muga uses oak throughout their wine-making processes and is one of the very few Spanish wineries that employs three coopers plus a “cubero” (who specializes in big casks).
After you’ve eaten your fill, you will have free time to explore (and perhaps walk off our hearty lunch) along the postcard-esque streets of Haro on your own. Later, we’ll reconvene for dinner, this time at Bohedal Bodega, a winery where we will experience an informal and fun Riojan meal eaten outdoors. As a special treat, we cap off the night’s meal with wine ice cream!
Day 3 > Aug 21 > Saturday
Today’s theme is modern wines! We will explore the modern style of Spanish winemaking as we head to our intimate private tasting at Viña Real, whose parent CVNE (pronounced coo-nay) is legendary and whose architecturally innovative structure is shaped like a giant wine vat set into the hillside.
Afterward, we will shuttle to Marques de Murrieta near Logroño for a haute cuisine lunch and wine. The estate is home to Ygay Castle, surrounded by acres of vineyards and recognized as one of Europe’s most iconic century-old industrial buildings. Inside the castle, you can visit the historic production cellar, the cask aging rooms and a private collection of wines from 1852 to the present.
Later this afternoon, we will visit the small town of Laguardia, a walled village that hasn’t changed much since the 13th century! This is where Bodegas Carlos San Pedro, a hidden gem of a winery, offers a barrel tasting in the underground caves below the city, as well as a taste of their locally-produced olive oil. We then 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!
Day 4 > Aug 22 > Sunday
After breakfast, we say farewell to the wonderful Rioja region, and say hello to the delightful Basque Country and the town of Getaria, our home base for the next two nights. Along the way, we stop for a gourmet picnic and tasting of delicious txakoli, a slightly sparkling, dry white wine with high acidity and low alcohol content produced in Spanish Basque Country. Traditionally, the wine is poured into tall glasses from high above.
If you like, you can walk the 6-kilometer seaside promenade between Getaria and the high-end surf town of Zarautz this afternoon. Our rooms at Hotel Saiaz face the rolling waves of the sea, a reminder that the Basques have a long tradition of being master fishermen, and tonight’s dinner at Kaia Kaipe includes the wonderful grilled fish for which they are famous.
Day 5 > Aug 23 > Monday
Today, we’ll cross the border into France and visit 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, macarons, and other epicurean delicacies. You’ll have free time to stroll along the crashing waves of the waterfront and 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. For dessert, Jenny will guide you in a tasting of wine and chocolates.
Then it’s back to Spain and the bustling foodie paradise of San Sebastian (a city supposedly with more Michelin stars than Paris) where we’ll have a fantastic dinner at Jenny’s favorite restaurant, Rekondo. She is known to choose a couple really special bottles of wine from their immense cellar to go with dinner. What a perfect way to end our last night together.
Day 6 > Aug 24 > Tuesday
On our last day of the tour, you’ll enjoy a leisurely morning of free time on your own, perhaps walking on Getaria’s peninsula of San Anton, also known as “The Mouse” due to its characteristic shape. 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 to either travel onward or depart for home.
Nights 1, 2, & 3: Hotel Viura (Villabuena de Álava) This luxury property is located in the vineyards right outside the city of Haro in “the land of wine,” named because the village has only 300 inhabitants, but 43 wineries!
Nights 4 & 5: 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.
Accommodation upgrades available upon request.
What is Included
- All Local Transportation
- Double Occupancy Lodging
- All of your meals except for one dinner and one lunch
- 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
Jenny, your guide, will 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.