On the Road Again It's Tuesday. We left Barcelona yesterday and now find ourselves in Marqués de Riscal, near the small town of El Ciego. For those of you who have not heard, Frank Gehry designed a small hotel here. Even if you aren't an architecture fan, you may have seen it if you followed On the Road Again, on PBS. So this is somewhat of a 'station of the cross' on our way to the Guggeheim in Bilbao. For me it's a definite Pilgrimage having been a Frank Gehry fan for some time.
The initial part of the drive out of Barcelona on AP2 - is fairly boring. You hit the A68 and then head for Zaragoza, Logrono. Lunch time happened in a roadside cafe service station. Delicious. We kept it simple, bocadillos of chorizo and spanish potato omelette, tortilla. Mmh, mmh good! In Spain, even fast food, is good food.
The countryside changes as you come into Navarra and La Rioja and becomes very lush and green, rolling wine country. El Ciego is just inside the border of Pais Vasco aka Euskadi to the Basques.
Marques de Riscal
There is no point in me describing the marvel that awaits you when you arrive at Marques de Riscal.
Actually - I do want to talk more about this...but I need to get organized with pictures etc to do it justice so expect a follow up but suffice it to say...I LOVE!
Wine Tour There was tour of the winery starting right away so we jumped on board. The hotel was described as having been designed by the 'Canadian Architect Frank Gehry' which of course he is, but it isn't always mentioned so we puffed up our chests a little bit with pride! We toured both the modern winery and the two older ones which are used only for storage and some aging. The older wineries were really impressive, beautiful buildings. It was really what you expect an old world winery to be. They only make Reds in El Ciego - no Crianza - just Reserva and Gran Reserva. This is of course, Rioja appellation. Marques de Riscal do have another winery in Rueda where they make a Verdejo and some other lighter whites. Of course we tasted both.
Tapear Having had our palates whet with a lovely Rioja 2005 Reserva (a very good year apparently), we headed up to the terrace to gaze out on the view and try to assimilate the information hitting us via every sense and of course sample some more wine. We settled on a beautiful rose which was just perfect in the heat of the day. The view from the terraza is stunning, overlooking the town of El Ciego, with its sandstone Church set on a backdrop of the Pyrenees. This is a situation where you literally do not know where to look. Architectural marvel on one side, picturesque village and vines on the other. Getting a bit peckish I think…so more tapas….these were 'posh' ones…Sardine terrine & fried idiazabal cheese stuffed with quince paste. The sardine was tasty although not my favourite…as for the cheese. Divine. Words cannot explain. Sorry.
Regroup Having barely spent anytime in the room, we headed up to refresh and just enjoy the space. It feels less like a hotel room and more like you are staying in your very cool friend Frank's house. He just happens to have left you a bottle of wine and some complimentary water. We are staying in the Gehry wing and our room looks out over the vines and the winery as opposed to the town of El Ciego. (view mentioned earlier). Super G says it's the kind of place you could write a novel in.
The Futbol Spain and Portugal fought it out with Spain emerging victorious after a goal in the second half. We watched this from the comfort of the hotel bar which again, is much more like your cool friend Frank's living room than a hotel bar. There were only a handful of fans, but everyone was fully committed which is what matters most. So Spain hang on and we can continue our journey as well.
Dinner By this time it is 10:30 so we go light and opt for the traditional restaurant (as opposed to the Nueva Cocina version). For the first course we share a gorgeous salad with tuna and red peppers - always a delicious combination - and the house croquettes, creamy béchamel chicken and ham. These may be the best I've ever tasted. For second course, we all have fish - merluza - aka hake except for Super G who opts for patitas de cordero. Lamb's feet which were explained to us as lamb shank with some feet as well. Here's the thing. No shank. Just feet, mostly knuckle grisly bits. But the sauce was delicious. Bad ordering not bad food. Dessert - I have Flan, described on the English language menu as 'egg yolk pudding' which I suppose technically, it is. As a Spanish speaker, I insist on getting the Spanish language menu whenever I am in Spain, because I find the English translations often either confuse me or do nothing to whet my appetite. Case in point - 'Clean pig's foot', 'lukewarm shrimp'….they just don't fly in English. The highlight of the dinner was definitely the wine - 150 Anniversary Edition of Marques De Riscal Rioja. Super velvety and yummy. The crowning glory on a magnificent day.