After leaving Bilbao, we took the scenic route through Rioja on our way to Vitoria for our last night of the trip. Rioja is the rich wine country located in northern Spain. After the Franco era ended, and the ban on wine making was lifted, people of this region took advantage of the largely profitable business and thrived from the perfect growing conditions. As a result of the profits and potential long term investment, winemakers of Rioja commissioned many huge and innovative wineries, and awarded the projects to some very prominent architects. Among them Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Santiago Calatrava. It is pretty crazy that such an eclectic group of designers have projects in such a concentrated area. We visited all 3 of these projects, and I have to say, the Calatrava winery was the most impressive. It was breathtaking. It’s a pretty simple formal idea, but the way it integrates with the landscape and the backdrop and everything else is pretty awesome.
Eventually we ended up at the Bodega Baigorri, a winery designed by prominent Basque architect Inaki Aspiazu. This winery had a big glass box on the ground, with 7 giant stories buried in the ground. Baigorri prides itself on using exactly zero pumps to make their wine – they only use gravity. This is why the building is so deep, because every process is below the next. It also helps keeps the atmosphere cool and controlled for better quality. Here, we enjoyed an (English) tour followed by an amazing 4 course lunch with a sampling of their finest wines. It was awesome. Thankfully, Bernard and Aude had introduced me to many of the courses we ate beforehand, so I knew that I would like everything. If I hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have touched some of it (ex. the pate and fish eggs). It was all great and the wine paired with the courses unbelievably well. I hope the pictures don’t make everyone too jealous.
This was the lineup for the meal:
Natural truffle pate
Leeks in vinaigrette with tuna
Warm partridge salad
Riojan bean casserole
Beef mille feuille with a red Piquillo pepper and bean vinaigrette
Creamy creme caramel served with yoghurt, red fruits and crunchy ice cream.
After a quick night in the Basque capital of Vitoria, we returned home to Barcelona in the morning to get settled into our apartments. T’was a great first trip.