The Perfect Base for your Rioja Wine Adventure
- July 02, 2017
Have you ever been somewhere that your jaw just kept dropping over and over again? We’ve been a few places like this (the Algarve and Achill Island to name a few), but for both of those we expected to be awestruck. We did not, however, have very high expectations for the Basque region and boy were we wrong. If there is any region that should be on your bucket list it’s the Rioja wine region in Spain. Soaring mountains, quaint hilltop towns, rolling vineyards, and amazing blue skies — what more could you want? So now that I’ve (obviously) convinced you that the Rioja region should be on your bucket list — where should you stay?? Read on to learn why we fell in love with the amazing Agroturismo Valdelana.
Small town Spanish charm
The Basque region is known for small town charm. The largest town in the region is Bilbao and has a population of around 350,000. When we were searching for places to stay we relied heavily on the EuskoGuide ran by a local Basque couple who are very passionate about the region. After looking through their hotel options we were intrigued by the little town of Elciego only about a seven minute drive from the beautiful town of Laguardia where most of the wineries that we wanted to visit were housed. After looking at pictures on google we knew we wanted to stay in this tiny little town (if only for the gorgeous sunrise kissed buildings in the morning). Plus, we really wanted to see the famous Hotel Marqués de Riscal by Frank Gehry during our stay!
Per usual we hunted for a locally owned accommodation and immediately fell in love with the beautiful Agroturismo Valdelana which also serves as a working bodega.
Wait, what’s a “bodega”?
If you’ve been to New York City you’ve probably seen the word “bodega” to describe corner stores. In the early 20th-century a large number of Spanish-speaking people arrived in New York and brought the word “bodega” with them to describe small stores selling a variety of items from simple grocery items to beer and wine. In the Basque country a bodega is typically used to describe a cellar, often housing family wine. While Agroturismo Valdelana has wonderful comfy beds and an unbelievable shower (more on that later), it’s main source of pride and business is it’s amazing bodega (wine cellar) and tasty wines.
Why we fell in love with Agroturismo Valdelana
If you’re a long time reader you know that we enjoy smaller, family-run accommodations more than large corporate hotels. The Valdelana family has been growing their vines since the 16th century and the family name is well known throughout the Rioja region. With only a few rooms and a strong family-centric atmosphere we felt as if we were walking into a cozy family home while still having a very private, intimate stay. Add in an amazingly comfy bed, a to-die-for shower, wine flowing at all hours of the day, and a delightful breakfast we absolutely adored our stay with Agroturismo Valdelana.
In our Irish home we have an okay bed at best so when we travel we try to find some of the comfiest beds around the world. The bed at Agroturismo Valdelana won the prize for best sleep in Spain. It was just firm enough and HUGE. What’s the next best thing to an awesome bed? An AMAZING shower. I am really bad at taking bathroom pictures so I won’t hurt your eyes with my poor picture, but let me just tell you that this was the best shower I’ve ever taken. The shower head was huge and it was easy to adjust the water temperature to be “just right”.
The best part of this room though was how quiet the town of Elciego is meaning we slept like babies all night long. In the morning the light slowly spilled into the room and when I crawled out of bed I couldn’t help but take a picture of the town glowing orange in the sunrise. 😀
No stay in the Rioja wine region should happen without a proper breakfast. Trust me when I say that you will want to be drinking wine all day long so a large and hearty breakfast with lots of carbs is just what you need to soak up all that vino. Our breakfast came with our room and was absolutely glorious. Wth plenty of toast, tomatoes, a potato and egg frittata, orange juice, and unlimited coffee we were in heaven. Apologies for the half eaten breakfast picture — we got excited for the food to say the least and had a slight brain-lapse that we were bloggers. 🙂
The Wine and Bodega Tour
If you have the opportunity to stay at Agroturismo Valdelana make sure you have the time to take their bodega tour. By far the most unique winery tour we have ever been on and we are lucky enough that we have been to Tuscany, Napa, and now the Rioja region so that’s saying a lot! As you go through the tour you’ll learn how to predict the age of a wine by examining the color, test your nostrils and see if you can detect what ingredients are in the wines, and see one of the coolest “shrines” surrounded by wine bottles. The bodegas in the Basque region are closely tied with the church in each town and Bodega Valdelana is no different. My favorite part of the tour though was seeing prehistoric animal remains that were found in the area. Bodega Valdelana now houses them as a piece of historic remains similar to a museum. In short, this tour had it all!
Once we were done with the tour we headed upstairs to the lobby to taste some wines. Our tour guide, Maialen, showed us how to examine the color of the wine, how to smell the wine properly, and how to taste the wine to get the full body of the wine in one sip. Throughout our times in Tuscany and Napa never in our lives had we ever received such detailed explanations of the wine we were drinking and learned a TON about the wine-making process. Now we can officially call ourselves wine snobs. 😉
So, what’s the verdict?
Hopefully I’ve convinced you that a visit to the Rioja region should be on your bucket-list and that Agroturismo Valdelana is an affordable, comfy, and inviting option for your stay. We loved our visit and only wished we had more than one night in this beautiful bodega. The family-centric culture and the small town charm made our stay in Elciego all the better and we can’t wait to come back! If you are looking for a fancy room with a lot of space, feature (like a gym, pool, etc.), and a high-ticket price I wouldn’t suggest staying here. But if you are looking for a simple, yet very comfy room at a locally-owned bodega I would highly suggest staying at Agroturismo Valdelana and would easily rate our stay a 10/10.
– Boots not Roots
We were provided a free stay at Agroturismo Valdelana in exchange for our honest review. As always our review and subsequent gushing are all our own. We would never suggest somewhere that we wouldn’t also suggest to our closest friends and family.