One of the most attractive events on the second day of the Haro Train Station District tasting was a train ride from Logroño to Haro and back. I overheard some visitors comment that it was the first time they had ever taken a train. It’s ironic that trains, that made it easy to ship wine from the Ebro valley to Bilbao and from there, all over the world in the 19th century, are now an archaic means of transportation here.
Consumers had two tasting options: a 20 euro ticket allowing a tasting of one wine from each winery and three tapas or a 40 euro VIP ticket with which you could taste two higher end wines from each winery and try seven tapas made by restaurants from around Haro.
Three vintages of Viña Tondonia
The food options were great. One could choose a red bean stew, grilled pork with a caramelized onion marmalade, cornbread stuffed with chorizo cooked in red wine, cream cheese smothered in a pear sauce, red peppers stuffed with meat and wild Riojan mushrooms, grilled mushrooms or a grilled ham and cheese sandwich, called a ‘zapatilla’ or ‘slipper’.
Tasting at Bodegas Gómez Cruzado
I chose the 20 euro option and was glad I did. Towards the end of the day the sidewalks, the winery gardens and the platform at the train station were filled with glassy-eyed VIP ticket holders who had chosen the 14-glass option. There were spittoons everywhere but most people preferred swallowing to spitting. Thank goodness for the train.
Each winery prepared a special event related to winemaking, wine culture or the history of the train station district.
Bodegas Bilbaínas: a visit to the original winery built by the French in the 19th century and the underground ageing cellars;
CVNE: an exhibition of the sculptress Cristina Iglesias, titled “Wells”;
Muga: oak barrel making
Gómez Cruzado: painting a street mural depicting the history of the winery;
La Rioja Alta: racking wine from one barrel to another;
López de Heredia Viña Tondonia: a photographic exhibition of the history of the train station district from the winery’s private collection;
Roda: the underground cellar and the balcony overlooking the Ebro river with a view to the ‘sea of vines’ on the opposite bank.
In addition, a roving Dixieland band walked through the winery gardens. It was a big, happy street party.
One of the ‘Pozos’ sculptures by Cristina Iglesias at Bodegas CVNE seen from above
Part of the train station district and Haro seen from Bodegas Roda
The tower at Bodegas López de Heredia, called the ‘txori toki’ or ‘bird’s perch’ in Basque
Painting a mural at Gómez Cruzado
‘125 vintages’ on a wall at La Rioja Alta
I had already visited every winery except Gómez Cruzado with wine and lifestyle journalists so as I walked around I concentrated on listening to people’s reactions on seeing the inside of a winery, for many, for the first time and having the chance to talk to the owners and managers. It was heartwarming to hear them welcome the visitors “to our home”. For most of these consumers, the brands were already familiar, but seeing where the wines were actually made was an exciting experience.
Visitors comparing tasting notes
Photo call at Bodegas Bilbaínas. ‘Call me classic’
The two-day event was, in my opinion, a huge success. Over 400 journalists, distributors, wine shops and restaurants attended the professional event on Friday while more than 4000 consumers from all over Spain filled the wineries on Saturday. The weather was perfect, the wines showed very well, the local food was delicious and the wineries laid out the red carpet for their guests. It was a unique opportunity to get an inside look at a unique group of one hundred-year old wineries that are among the best ambassadors Rioja shows the world.
I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.
All photos ©Tom Perry.