Bilbao | Rioja

The most eagerly anticipated meal of the year in both the Rioja region and the Basque Country is supper on December 24.  As an American who has lived in Spain for almost 50 years, this meal is only comparable in scope and sentiment to Thanksgiving.  We look forward to dressing up, greeting our family members at the door with a glass of bubbly and sitting down to enjoy a multi-course meal, together with regional wines paired specifically for each dish, with holiday music playing in the background. It’s the time of year when we bring out the best of the wines we’ve been collecting throughout the year.

The region consolidates its position as a top dining experience


The Guide Michelin recently awarded new stars to three Bilbao-Rioja area restaurants in in 2019:  Eneko and Atelier Etxanobe in Bilbao and Íkaro in Logroño.

With the addition of these restaurants, a total of fifteen dining establishments from the Bilbao-Rioja area boast Michelin stars. 

Already holding stars are:

The Rioja Wine Train involves both public and private initiatives in favor of wine tourism and the promotion of Rioja wine.

The train runs from Logroño to Haro in the morning and returns to Logroño in the afternoon.  On arrival in Haro, the passengers are bussed to several wineries where they enjoy tastings and lunch.

From the moment they board the train, passengers are entertained by a theater group where they not only enjoy a few laughs but learn about Rioja wine at the same time.

Before the arrival of electricity, pumps, air conditioning and heating, wineries dug underground cellars to vinify and age their wines.  A fine example of this architecture is Bodega Conde de los Andes in Ollauri, the largest underground network of ageing cellars in the Rioja region. Loving maintenance and respect for ancient winemaking traditions by the owners, the Murua family, earned the winery an award for sustainable wine tourism from the Great Wine Capitals Global Network in 2018.

In Rioja, winemaking, management, sales and marketing have been until recently almost exclusively a man’s world.  However, women in Rioja have broken through the glass ceiling in a big way and currently make several of Rioja’s most iconic brands as well as manage some of the most prestigious estates.  

Here are just a few of the outstanding women in the world of Rioja wine.   


Our 4-day Basque Country Essentials tour lingers in Laguardia, with a tasting at a family-run winery and a traditional Rioja wine country lunch. You’ll start in Bilbao for a chance to visit the Guggenheim museum. And after your Rioja sojourn, continue to a true gem of a seaside city, San Sebastian.


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