we rented a car to take us from bilbao to barcelona. it may not sound simple, but it was actually the only way as we intended to make at least one stop on the way over.

our first destination was the marques de riscal bodega, in the rioja region. the city of wine is a world-class business owned by 4 local families and its ambitions are admirable: just check their website to see how up to date they are on all levels. as a little detail, i’d mention the fact that the content is available in spanish and english, but also in simplified chinese, french, german and japanese. aiming to reach a very wide audience. good work!

what attracted me there was the frank gehry building on the premises, which houses a 5-star hotel, a caudalie vinotherapy spa and two restaurants: the gastronomic marques de riscal (one michelin star) and bistro 1860. click here for pictures from inside!

on arrival, we found out that we could only get to see the building up close if we took the 90-minute tour of the bodega. we did so with a 20-strong party of mainly spaniards and a knowledgeable tour guide.

she took us to see the modernized production line, the halls full of oak barrels and the wine cellar – the cathedral – storing bottles of wine from each and every consecha/vintage ever since its inception, in 1858.

the botelleria has a constant temperature of 14-15 degrees and 90% of the time the bottles are kept in pitch darkness. it is estimated that in 90% of the bottles stored the wine is still alive and drinkable.

60% of the total output of 5 million bottles per year is exported to 100 countries.

the tour guide told us a little anecdote: frank gehry still hadn’t accepted the project when they brought him to the wine cave, opened a bottle from 1929, the year of his birth, and he was finally convinced.

the wine tasting included a wonderful white from 2011 and a wholesome, complex tinto from 2006.

on our way out, in a hurry to leave, we got a bottle of the white we’d just tasted. the gift shop also had a wine salt and a wine fleur de sel at a very reasonable price. i’m beating myself for not getting any for my foodie friends…maybe next time!

if you want to virtually visit what the city of wine has to offer, click here.

when we left, we passed by the darien bodegas. in a perfect world, we’d have had a wine tasting tour of the rioja region. here’s to dreaming!

the delay made possible something i had given up on: a warhol exhibition in zaragoza that was only open 18-23, in the evening. held by the ibercaja and called 25 anniversary from the death of andy warhol, it included a selection of portraits as well as a side-show: three visions of warhol featuring three local comic artists: jose antonio avila, carlos bribian and victor g. romano.

we arrived in barcelona and checked in the hotel late at night, tired but pleased. stay tuned for my bcn highlights!

photo credits: lilaesthete, google search

video credits: marques de riscal/youtube