A Winery Itinerary for Ribera del Duero and La RiojaMost travelers to Spain arrive in Madrid, so there's usually a bit of driving to do to get to wine country. In our case, the suggested itinerary includes both the Ribera del Duero region and La Rioja. The basic travel plan includes: Madrid - Aranda del Duero - Peñafiel - Pesquera - Soria - Logroño - Haro. Depending on your personal travel style - the trip could be 2, 3 or more days. The short trip might be: first day driving to the Ribera region, visiting selected wineries, and travelling on to spend the night in Haro. Then spending the second day at your favorite Rioja "bodegas". A more relaxed version could be to spend the first night in Aranda del Duero or Soria, then driving on to Haro the next morning. Don't forget to pick up a good map before you leave Madrid.
Some 160 km north of Madrid on the N-I highway is our first reference point in the heart of the Ribera del Duero region: Aranda del Duero. The national highway N-122 is the axis of the region, we're going to look at the stretch that runs from Valladolid to Soria. Heading west from Aranda on the N-122, you'll soon see the impressive Peñafiel castle on the horizon. Peñafiel is some 40 km from Aranda, and there are several good bodegas as well as some fine restaurants. From Peñafiel there are lots of possibilities - either on or not far off the N-122 highway. A recommended side trip is Pesquera, only 6 km from Peñafiel. Another side trip could be Roa del Duero, or simply stay on the N-122 - there plenty of wineries to visit. The new purpose-built Hotel Ribera del Duero, on the N-122 highway in Peņafiel is a great place to stay.
Other wine or tourist worthy stops might be the towns of Sotillo de la Ribera, La Vid, Peñaranda, or Clunia. And don't forget to check out the Riberalta winery at Gumiel de Izan on the N-I highway just north of Aranda. There are a host of places worth a visit - not just for the wine but also for sightseeing among the historic treasures of the land of El Cid. The monastery at Silos, where the monks still sing (and also record) Gregorian chants, is another worthwhile stop.
Aranda del Duero is a must visit - for both wining and dining. There are several interesting bodegas, and some of Spain's most famous "asador" restaurants. The wood fired ovens of Aranda produce some of the world's best roast lamb - especially tasty when combined with one of those Ribera del Duero reds. There's more than lamb: "cochinillo" roast suckling pig, "chorizo" and "morcilla" sausage, and also some first-rate fish brought in daily from the coast.
There are two main ways to get from Aranda del Duero to La Rioja. The quickest way is to take the N-I highway north toward Burgos, then following the A-1 toward Vitoria, turning off on the A-68 at Miranda del Ebro toward Logroño. It's an easy drive, all you have to do is follow the blue motorway signs that point to Logroño.
The second, and much more scenic route, follows the N-122 to Soria, then up the N-111 to Logroño. This is one of my favorite pieces of Spain. The run takes you up over the Piqueras Pass, then down the spectacular Iregua River valley and on to Logroño. Once again, just follow the Logroño signs out of Soria - but be careful, especially if you travel in winter as the pass can be blocked with snow.
Haro is probably a good focal point for a Rioja visit, but the capital, Logroño - some 40 km away - is also a good base. One can spend several days without leaving Haro, but a nice drive through the countryside to Laguardia, Elciego, Ollauri, and a dozen other towns is certainly worthwhile. Check with The Rioja Tourist board (see the La Rioja section just ahead), or ask for help at your hotel. Many of the hotels have good contacts that can help in arranging the visits to the bodegas.
There's a pretty good map of Spain located in the University of Texas' Map Collection. But beware as this is a large JPEG image and may take some time to download. Also, check the Visit Spain Page for more tourist related infomation including hotels, weather, and lots more.