Take A Trip To This Beautiful Spanish Destination For A Picture-Perfect Wine Vacation

Ah, the fermented juice of the grape. Sometimes, there is nothing better than just sitting back with a glass of good wine. Maybe two glasses. Or three? If this made you sit up and take notice, there is a region of Spain — the European country that is a must-visit for all wine lovers — you must visit for a delightful wine vacation: La Rioja. Located in the north, near Basque country, it's one of the most underrated destinations in Spain and gets its name from the Rio Oja, which runs through the area.

La Rioja, an under-the-radar international wine region, is home to more than 500 wineries, many of which you can visit. This region, not far from Bilbao, has been used to grow grapes for wine since the time of the Roman occupation. Some of these wineries have produced product for hundreds of years. You may even have had wine from this region before. La Rioja specializes in Tempranillo, Maturana, Garnacha Blanca, Macabeo or Viura, Graciano, and several others, though Tempranillo is probably the best-known.

The area, which was part of the religious pilgrim trail to Santiago de Compostela, is full of cathedrals and medieval city streets to wander. Let's take a mini tour of the La Rioja region, learn what to see and do, and sample a few of its wineries.

What to do and see in the La Rioja region

The first stop for your La Rioja, Spain, wine vacation should be the Vivanco Museum of Wine Culture in Briones village. There, you'll learn how wine has been made in the region (you'll see some ancient winemaking tools) and view beautiful art as well. You can also take part in a wine tasting with a sommelier. Visit the capital city of Logroño and stop by as many tapas places as possible. (You need a food base for all that wine.) Many of these spots specialize in a single ingredient, while others have their own specialties — and wine, of course. 

Wine tours are aplenty in the area and will take you to different wineries in small groups (usually around eight people). That means others are doing the driving for you, which is much safer. Many of these tours include lunch, which will help keep you from getting sloshed too quickly. One even takes you on a wine/architecture tour, where you'll see incredible buildings from Santiago Calatrava and Frank Gehry, as well as lovely wineries with tastings (this one includes lunch as well). Make sure to take some selfies and get some spectacular landscape shots, too. 

If you need a break from imbibing, visit Arnedillo village where you'll find their hot springs that have been used since Roman times. Of course, Arnedillo has plenty of wineries to visit as well. 

Wineries to visit in La Rioja, Spain

Of course, you're in La Rioja, Spain, to visit the bodegas, or wineries, many of which have caves (great for wine selfies) where the wine is stored. One incredible winery to visit is Bodegas Tritium in Cenicero. Some of their vines are over a century old. Take a tour here, and experience a tasting in some super cool underground caves. While they feature Tempranillo, Grenache, and other reds, there is also a blush and a white, as well as local olive oil.

The Viña Real winery is part of a major wine group in the country called Cvne. It's located right between Logroño and Laguardia. Despite the more modern look and feel, the winery has existed since 1920. They feature a Crianza, a Gran Reserva Especial, with mostly reds, as well as a blush. 

Another one to check out is the family winery Bodegas Bohedal, which is near Haro in La Rioja Alta. Established in 1917, it's now run by the great-grandchildren of the original owner. They're known for their Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva, Graciano, Tempranillo, and Garnacha wines. You can tour here, do tastings, and visit the vineyards. Bodegas Bohedal is also a good spot for people with mobility issues to visit. This is just a tiny sampling of the wineries in the area, so there is a lot to explore. Salud!