I was recently taken on a surprise weekend away. I didn’t know much ahead of time, in fact the surprise was kept until the gate, the only information I had was that it is about a 2 hour flight and fairly mild summer weather. I boarded the train to North Holland, the super fast intercity that stops in both Schiphol and Amsterdam. Getting out at Schiphol, my travel companion stopped to look at the train times but proceeded to the KLM check-in only to stop half way and pull out an empty duffle bag, meant for me to place my bag in so that it could be checked. We were already checked in for the flight and he already had my boarding pass on his phone, which I could not see. We passed ticket control and up to the KLM lounge for a little over an hour wait. Two glasses of Prosecco later we head for the gate and walk by it twice since boarding hadn’t begun. Finally the suspense was lifted !!!! We are going to Bilboa! As it turns out we take a short hour bus ride from Bilbao to Haro, a tiny town in the heart of Spain’s Rioja wine country. For the next day and a half I spent my time hopping from one wine tasting to the other and spending a bit more money on some wines to take home and share.
The town of Haro is a little town that centers around wine. The wineries and bodegas are mostly concentrated in a single neighborhood close to what used to be a train station, a location quite important for the wine trade at the turn of the century. The train station is no longer used but it is still central to many of the vineyards’ histories. The main grapes grown in this region for red wines are Tempranillo and Grenache.
The wine tour we took was at R. Lopez de Heredia Vina Tondonia, the oldest in Haro. They use traditional methods of wine making and aging, allowing the cave to naturally regulate the temperature. We toured caves covered in mold and spiderwebs. They also have an in-house barrel maker which I understand is quite rare as most vineyards order their oak barrels already made.
Haro only wakes up around 10 am with a long siesta from 2 until 6 pm and will have a lovely sound of chatter and wineglass clinking until about 1am. The main streets are filled with bars and restaurants. A glass of crianza wine cost around 1,60€ and a pintxo’s about the same. We filled our day time with wine tastings and the evenings with bar and restaurant hopping.
Two of my favorite dishes were a crispy parcel filled with morcilla (blood pudding) typically made using pork blood and rice.
I don’t really know the name of the pintxo below but it came down to a soft bread like pastry filled with meaty goodness and spicy sweet chili sauce.