I have loved the wines from La Rioja for years so I wanted to make sure that I spent some time in the area while I was in Bilbao and San Sebastian. It was so nice getting out of the cities and into the countryside with small stone villages, rolling hills, old churches and, by the way, wonderful contemporary architecture by some of the best in the business today.
I also hit the region at the time of year in November when the grape leaves were changing color so the entire countryside and hills were blanketed in reds, oranges and yellows. I focused on the northern area of Rioja which is in the Basque region, Rioja Alavesa, which is centered in the towns around Haro, El Ciego, Laguardia and Logrono.
High on our list of what to do in this Spanish wine country are:
Museo Wurth La Rioja: Pol. Ind. El Sequero, Avda. Cameros pcls. 86-88 26150 Agoncillo-La Rioja. I saw several catalogs from art exhibitions at my hotel for the Museo Wurth. I asked about it and decided that I should see it so I drove past Logrono to see the museum. Reinhold Wurth, Wurth Industries, is a German industrialist who has one of the largest art collections in Europe. There are 12 museums or gallery locations throughout Europe where his collection is displayed. I was somewhat shocked to see that the museum is in the middle of an industrial park and is attached to their building material and plumbing supply warehouse. The grounds are full of sculptures as well. I was let into the complex through the security office; admission was free. Inside the contemporary museum I was so pleased to see a special exhibition from the collection with works by Picasso, Lichtenstein, Warhol and others. I was not aware of this special museum, so I wanted to make sure you are all aware of it. There is a small attractive cafeteria attached. It is well-worth the trip if you have time!
Visit Laguardia: I thought this was a really charming small town within old medieval walls. Not much has changed from the 13th century. I enjoyed the narrow streets, admiring the small plazas and people watching as the older residents added to the entire experience. I found a modern tapas bar for lunch. There are a number of bars and restaurants plus some great stores, selling bread and pastries. I highly recommend stopping in to see it and have lunch or dinner.
Eat in Logrono: Logrono is supposed to have some great tapas or pintxo bars in the old town along Calle Laurel and Calle San Juan. If you have time you should check them out.
Visit Vitoria-Gastriz/Artium: To or from Rioja or as a day trip from Bilbao you might do a side trip to Artium, which is a contemporary art museum in Vitoria-Gastriz. The collection consists of 3,000 works including works by Picasso, Dali and Miro. I was unable to see it but wanted to make sure you knew it was there!