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Rueda, Ribera del Duero, and Rioja

September 23rd – 27th, 2019

Hosted by James Lawther, MW

$3,495 US per person

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Join us on a vinous odyssey through the vineyards of Spain. From Madrid to Bilbao we'll explore Spanish wine, food and life. Discover the high plateau of Ribera del Duero and the pre-Cantabrian Mountain location of Rioja and visit and taste with leading producers in these celebrated regions. Try thirst-quenching Rueda and Basque-based txakoli and in between admire the landscape and architectural prowess of northern Spain.

Our tour will take you to top bodegas where you will meet the owners and winemakers, taste exceptional wines and enjoy fabulous meals. Come and experience the magic of Spain.

Your itinerary includes:

  • The Whites of Rueda: We meet the mother and daughter winemaking duo at José Pariente and taste a range of their aromatic white wines made from the native Verdejo grape variety.
  • Iberian Legends in Ribera del Duero: We spend two days visiting some of the icons of this region including a memorable lunch with Alejandro Fernandez, owner of the pioneering Pesquera, a visit to the ultra-modern Abadia Retuerta, and a tour and tasting of the cult wines of Aalto.
  • The Classics of Rioja: We marvel at the stunning architecture and wines of Baigorri and taste classic older vintages in the cellars of one of my favourite wineries in the world, López de Heredia. We also visit and taste at Luis Cañas, Remelluri, Remirez de Ganuza, and Marqués de Riscal, and enjoy a blow-out dinner at Michelin-starred Ventamcavillo. It doesn't get better.
  • The Unique Flavours of Basque Country: We finish off by driving to the coast for a visit and tasting of the rare txakoli wines of Talai Berri and wrap up with a blow-out seafood lunch at renowned Kaia Kaipe overlooking the ocean before dropping you in Bilbao.
  • Cultural Heritage Sites: It's not all wine all the time. We will also visit some of the landmark Spanish cultural sites such as the Alcazar in Segovia, and Burgos Cathedral.

Your Hosts

James Lawther MW is a veteran of the wine industry, a prominent writer for publications such as Decanter magazine, and author of a number of books. He knows Spain inside out and is a wealth of knowledge in all matters vinous. We also have the benefit of our local guide Jeremy who can explain the Spanish culture, traditions, and history. You are in good hands.


US $3,495 (taxes included)

The price includes all accommodation during the tour, all visits and tastings at wineries, all meals (except dinner on the Tuesday free night), all wine at meals, and local transport. Flights are not included.

If you are travelling by yourself there will be a single supplement of US $400.

The payment schedule is:

  • $1,000 upon registration
  • $1,500 at 120 days from tour start date
  • $995 (plus single supplement if applicable) at 90 days


Day 1
Monday, September 23rd – The Road to Rueda and Ribera del Duero

Please make your own flight arrangements to Madrid. We will leave from central Madrid meeting at The Westin Palace (5-star).

Meet at:
The Westin Palace Hotel

Plaza de las Cortes 7, 28014, Madrid
Tel +34 91 360 8000

9:45 am – Meet Guides and Depart
Meet with James and Jeremy in the back of the lobby of the Westin Palace in Madrid. Board the luxury bus and we're off to our first destination Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we have a guided tour of the Alcazar, Segovia's landmark fortress perched on the edge of a cliff. This was home to many of the Kings of Spain and the visit brings a historical and cultural setting to the start of the tour.

Lunch and Vega Sicilia in Segovia
At lunch we sample the local speciality, roasted suckling pig, at José Maria, the city's finest asador restaurant. This will be accompanied by a tasting of various wines including Spain's First Growth, Vega Sicilia. James will set the scene with an overview of the Spanish wine industry.

José Pariente Tour
In the afternoon it's on to Rueda for a visit to José Pariente, a dynamic, family-owned winery run by mother and daughter team Victoria and Martina. It's a chance to taste a range of Verdejo-based whites, Rueda's signature grape variety.

Tapas Dinner in Hotel Pesquera
The modern Hotel Pesquera in Peñafiel is our home for the next two nights. After check-in and time to relax we have a casual tapas dinner with a selection of wines from around Spain, typically from regions we are not visiting. Bierzo and Rias Baixas could be on the table.

Day 2
Tuesday, September 24th – Iberian Legends of Ribera del Duero

9:30 am - Depart hotel
After breakfast it's a short drive along Ribera del Duero's golden mile to Abadia Retuerta.

Abadia Retuerta
One of the stars of Castilla y Leon but based outside the DO Ribera del Duero boundary so permitted to cultivate Cabernet, Syrah and Petit Verdot as well as Tempranillo. We'll take a walk in the vineyards and visit the modern, high-tech winery before tasting the estate wines including the award winning Selección Especial, ranked “best wine in the world” by Decanter magazine at a major competition.

Just up the road from Abadia Retuerta is the cult winery Aalto. Javier Zaccagnini and Mariano Garcia (the winemaker at Vega Sicilia for 30 years) make one of Ribera's finest reds. From 110 hectares of prime, old-vine Tempranillo or Tinto Fino as it is known locally they make two selections, Aalto and Aalto PS. The winery is minimalist and stunning, dedicated to quality wine production. The visit finishes with a tasting in the barrel cellars. For wine lovers it's a WOW.

Lunch at Condado de Haza
Now for an epic lunch. Alejandro Fernandez believed there might be more to Ribera than Vega Sicilia and in 1972 launched his bodega where he started to make 100% Tempranillo wines aged in American oak. Since then he has become known as El Rey (the king) of Tempranillo and his Pesquera winery was named by Robert Parker as one of the world's top wine estates. We meet for lunch in Alejandro's boutique Condado de Haza winery near the legendary wine village of La Horra, known for Castile's best Tempranillo.

We'll have a typical Spanish lunch of lamb accompanied by wines from each of Fernandez's 4 estates. Alejandro is in his 80's but he always comes and has lunch with us.

Peñafiel Castle
The day finishes with a quick visit to Peñafiel Castle. It was originally built in the 9th century and now houses the region's wine museum. The views out over the Ribera countryside are spectacular.

Back at the hotel, there is an optional Gin 'workshop". Spain is mad about Gin and there are so many different types and flavours. The bartender will show us how to make the perfect G 'n T, and Mojitos, and we kick back with a few tapas. The rest of the evening and dinner is on your own, if you're still hungry after lunch!

Day 3
Wednesday, September 25th – The Revolutionaries of Rioja

9:00 am Depart Hotel
We leave Ribera del Duero and head north towards Rioja, stopping en route for a coffee and guided tour of Burgos Cathedral. Built between 13th and 16th centuries this Gothic masterpiece also houses the tomb of Spanish folk-hero El Cid.

Remelluri Vertical Tasting
We start our visit to Rioja with a visit and tasting at Remelluri. Almost Tuscan in style, this is the family property of Spain's most respected travelling winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez. Telmo spent time learning his trade in Bordeaux and now makes wines across the great Spanish wine regions. He is the most influential flying winemaker in Spain.

Remelluri is the family jewel that he and his sister Amaia run, producing wines with tremendous complexity, finesse, and elegance. This is great wine, in the strictest sense. Our pre-lunch tasting includes some older vintages.

Baigorri Visit and Lunch
Complete with stunning views we head further into Rioja Alavesa to Samaniego and Baigorri, one of Spain's most dramatic modern wineries. After a brief tour of the gravity-fed installations we sit down to a tasting menu lunch in their restaurant overlooking the vineyards. This will be accompanied by the top wines in Baigorri's range. Riojan chic.

Luis Cañas
In the village of Villabuena de Alava where we are staying there are more bodegas than any other village in Spain, and Luis Cañas is the best. A family-owned winery since 1928, Luis Cañas also includes the modern style Amaren range which complements its more classic wines. Five of Spain's seven 3-star Michelin restaurants carry Luis Cañas wines, now a Riojan benchmark. We have a tasting overlooking the vineyards before driving down the hill to our hotel in the village.

The Viura is a small, luxury, boutique hotel with a remarkable design located in the heart of Villabuena de Alava. We're here for our two nights in Rioja. In the evening we enjoy a light dinner and tasting of reds and whites from the village. The dining room has barrels suspended from the ceiling.

Day 4
Thursday, September 26th – Rioja

10:00 am Depart Hotel
We head back to Samaniego for our first visit of the day to an innovative cult producer based in the heart of Basque Rioja.

Remirez De Ganuza
Fernando Remirez de Ganuza is one of Rioja's great characters. A wine broker from the region, he used his contacts to acquire 80 hectares of prime Rioja Alavesa vineyards in the late 1980s. He makes a variety of wines and uses some unusual winemaking techniques. This is a modern take on Rioja using techniques you are unlikely to see elsewhere. It's also a great contrast to the follow-up visit at Lopéz de Heredia, the temple of tradition in Haro.

López de Heredia
This is my favourite visit, perhaps in the world. A visit to this winery alone makes the trip worthwhile. I have never been to another like it. This is traditional Rioja, to say the least.

Many of the wines are aged for over a decade before release, often in barrels that are extremely old. In fact, the fermentation vats are over 150 years old. The underground cellars are several kilometers long. It's like being in a winery from the Middle Ages. The wines are phenomenal. They also make their own barrels here, and we will visit the cooperage.

The visit concludes with a tasting of reds and whites from the 80s, 90s and 2000s. Fasten your seatbelts. This is a wine lovers dream. López de Heredia is off the charts.

Back at the hotel we have a brief sherry tasting to highlight a couple of sherry styles the way the Spanish drink them, along with light tapas. There's time for a short siesta then we set off again at 5:15pm for our final evening of fun.

Marqués de Riscal
Another benchmark. Another classic. Marqués de Riscal is one of the great names in Spanish wine. We'll enjoy a tasting of their range at the city of wine followed by a brief tour of the buildings. Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum established Bilbao as a tourist destination. He followed it up with the remarkable Marqués de Riscal city of wine and hotel in Elciego. After our tasting, we head down the road for a Michelin star dinner.

Michelin Dinner at Ventamoncalvillo
The Echapresto brothers run the Michelin-starred Ventamoncalvillo restaurant in nearby Daroca, the smallest village in the world to hold a star. Carlos was recently voted Spain's best sommelier, so the wines are always excellent and unusual as well as of course complementing the fine 'farm to table' style Michelin dining. It's our last blow out evening. The wine flows.

Day 5
Friday, September 27th – Basque Country

9:30 am Depart Hotel
There's time to sleep in after the big dinner or explore the village before heading off for our last winery visit and lunch by the ocean on the Basque coast.

Talai Berri
Txakoli is the most Basque of wines; a lively and refreshing accompaniment to the best Basque pintxos, made in a similar style to Vinho Verde. We visit Talai Berri, a highly renowned txakoli producer spanning over 4 generations. Here, the vines tumble down the steep hillsides overlooking the Basque coast.

We see the vineyards and the winery before enjoying a tasting of Talai Berri txakoli accompanied by small dishes of local food. As soon as we're done we head into Getaria to enjoy the best that this Basque fishing village has to offer.

Kaia Kaipe
As well as being one of the best fish restaurants in the Basque country, a food mecca, Kaia Kaipe houses one of the finest cellars in Spain. We enjoy locally caught turbot grilled on the asadores, accompanied by txakoli and a selection of other wines. It's a relaxing and atmospheric last lunch and a fitting conclusion to the tour.

After lunch we set off for Bilbao. We will drop people off at Bilbao airport around 5:00pm. From here you can catch flights back to Madrid, or to dozens of other places in Europe. Or you can stick around in Bilbao. We can also drop you at our recommended hotel in Bilbao if you wish. The Hotel Carlton is the grand old lady of Basque hotels, once host to Orson Welles and of course Ernest Hemingway.

The Hotel Carlton
Federico Moyua Square, 2, 48009, Bilbao
Tel +34 94416 2200

To Join the Tour: Simply click on the Book Now icon at the top-right of this page. If you have any questions please email David, your personal travel concierge, at

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