Monday, November 09, 2009

Laguardia, Spain (Part 1)

We went on a weekend trip to Laguardia, Spain to try some Rioja wine and eat some tasty Spanish food. We stayed at Mayor de Migueloa (20 Calle Mayor, Laguardia), on our friend A's recommendation, and we loved it, even though there were a lot of quirks. First, we arrived late on a Friday night, and the woman who seems to run the place (let's call her Mama) explained in Spanish that since we had come so late she had given away our room for the next night. My Spanish is really poor, so I basically made helpless noises and looked distressed, and then somehow it was all resolved and we were back in her good graces. The hotel itself is really charming and it contains a restaurant, wine bar and wine cellars that you can visit underground. One more thing happened with Mama before we left, but I'll leave that for later.

We were tired and hungry on arrival so we popped down to the wine bar and tried glasses of the hotel's Crianza wine (aged for a minimum of 2 years, with a minimum of 6 months in a barrel) along with plates of jamon serrano, chorizo and Idiazabal cheese. The wine was lovely but we wanted to relax with a bottle so we tried their Reserva (aged for a minimum of 3 years, with a minimum of 1 year in a barrel) - you can really tell the difference as the Reserva was much more complex and oaky, but I think what you prefer at any given time might depend on the mood you're in.

The next morning we breakfasted on a mix of fresh squeezed orange and grapefruit, a wonderful cake and yummy rolls filled with chorizo. Coffee with milk, raisin bread, butter and jams and a big fruit plate completed the spread. We were ready to start some wine tasting!

We got a bit lost on our way to the first winery and ended up stopping at Heredad Ugarte (A-124 Road, Laguardia). Most wineries require a reservation for a visit, but they were extremely nice and let us do a free tasting when we wandered in. We tried their Joven 2007 (very young wine, no minimum aging), Crianza 2006 and Reserva 2005, but as they had a 3 bottle minimum for purchase, we couldn't buy any wine since we didn't have enough space in our suitcase.

Onwards to Ysios (Camino de la Hoya, Laguardia), which is identifiable by the gorgeous wavy architecture pictured. Again, we had no reservation as they were all full for the tours, but a very nice lady allowed us to try their wine - they only make two Reservas and she poured a taste of the 2004, which we liked enough to get one for home.

Back in Laguardia we went for a tour of one of the few wineries that still exist within the city walls. At Carlos San Pedro (44 Calle Paganos, Laguardia), we got a little history about Laguardia's military past and then were taken down to the caves underground, where they still store their wine in their cellars in tanks and barrels. We found out that only four types of grape are grown in Rioja, the primary one being Tempranillo. The special part of the tour was tasting their 2006 Crianza straight out of a tank before it had time to age in a bottle. It was good, and our tour guide said it would get even better and smoother once it rested in bottles for a few more months. We also tried their Reserva and one of their "special" wines labeled simply as Tempranillo. Really great wines and a very interesting tour - this felt like the most personal place we visited.

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