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Gastronomic Northern Spain: food & wine tour of Catalonia & Rioja with Basque Country

8 days
SpainRiojaCataloniaBilbaoBasque Country
  • Enjoy Barcelona and Bilbao’s gastronomic delights: taste innovative and playful Catalan and Basque cuisine
  • Explore  the wonderful scenery and bold architecture of Barcelona and Bilbao
  • Enjoy the beautiful and majestic countryside of the Penedès, Priorat and Rioja wine regions – three of Spain’s most attractive wine regions
  • Visit renowned, but very different top wine estates in Penedès, Priorat and Rioja
  • Enjoy tasting great wines in evocative places, as guest of these wine estates
  • Sojourn at exclusive hotels – on a wine estate, and in historic city centers
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About Catalonia: Barcelona, Penedès and Priorat

Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia is a vibrant city. Situated between verdant mountain ranges and the Mediterranean waters, this is surely a very popular destination. It is easy to go beyond the tourist spots however, and to start exploring living and breathing neighborhoods uncolonised by mass tourism. Areas including El Raval, Born, Gràcia, Sant Antoni offer sensitively restored historic buildings, new museums, small squares and lively bars and restaurants which delight the discerning visitor.  The luminous MACBA museum in Raval, designed by the great architect Richard Meier, is one our favorites.

Next to the Basque region, Catalonia may have the most sophisticated cuisine in Spain, reflecting a passion for food & wine and a diverse cultural history of the land. There are many innovative chefs creating dishes at the cutting edge of Catalan cuisine, in and outside Barcelona. That said, inviting rustic-style Mediterranean cooking remains in generous supply. 

Barcelona is surrounded by some of the most prestigious wine regions in Spain. In particular Penedès, Priorat and Monsant are flourishing and alluring Catalan wine regions. The Penedès region southwest of Barcelona is renowned for its Cava, the local sparkling wine, produced from grapes like Xarel-lo, Macabeo and Parellada.  Serious brut Cavas are on a par with the very best French Champagnes. A handful of wine makers produce quality still wines too. The Mediterranean Penedès landscape with its valleys and mountains is beautiful.

The landscape of Priorat, south of Penedès, is decidedly more rugged and really captivating.

The terrain is vertiginous and difficult to cultivate, with old vines giving low yields. Wines tend to be bold and powerful, with plenty of dark fruit. But more gentle wines with a subtle mineral finish are also being made. The main grape varieties here are Garnacha and Carinena.  The area is perhaps reminiscent of the Douro Valley in Portugal, which too has a rough terrain, precarious terraces and slate soils. Priorat wines are highly regarded; they feature on the wine lists of some of the finest restaurant in the world

Priorat and its hinterland offers fine historic towns. One of our favorites in the region is Tarragona, a delightful and handsome mediaeval city where tourists rarely venture. The town had a grand Roman past, which is still on display throughout Tarragona, from the Roman forum and Amphitheatre to the pillars and inscriptions encrusted in various shopfronts. UNESCO gave recognition to the importance of Tarragona’s heritage by classifying the Roman archaeological ensemble as a World Heritage site  

About Rioja

Rioja is Spain’s most famous wine producing area, located in the province of the same name. Rioja has a centuries old tradition of wine making, and is still widely regarded as Spain’s premier wine region, since so many wines continue to earn high ratings from the international wine press.

This beautiful wine region with its beguiling landscapes is divided into 3 vine growing areas, all producing rather different wines. In Rioja Baja, the Granacha grape variety thrives in warm, relatively low altitudes. Then there are the higher, cooler districts of Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, where the Tempranillo and Graciano grapes flourish. The majority of Riojas are red but some white are made too, the main white grape varieties are Viura and Malvasía. There is really a lot of good Rioja wine, but one can argue the most distinctive wines are made by vineyard-designated wine producers.

Rioja offers charming towns and villages abound. Places like Laguardia, Briones and Cenicero are ancient historic hilltop settlements, overlooking the wide expanses of vineyards and forests, with high mountains as a dramatic backdrop. Logroño, around 300 kilometers from Madrid, is Rioja’s capital and economical centre as well as its largest city. It is a pleasant place, with a charming old town, the “casco antiguo”, the epicenter of a busy tapas scene with many tabernas serving perfect local food and wines. Also worth a detour is the wine town of Haro, a lively little place, on the banks of the Ebro River and the main town of Rioja Alta. In the 19th century Haro became one of the most important wine cities in Spain, as many companies established their bodega (winery) in or around the town.

When it comes to local gastronomy, this wine region has simple but delicious treats. Rioja’s distinctive dishes include slow-roasted lamb over vine prunings and conjonudo (chorizo with egg and red pepper served on bread). A staple too is the menestra de verduras, sautéed local spring vegetables mixed with diced serrano ham. Accomplished cooking is on display too, lifted to great heights by refined Rioja wines.

About Basque Country and Bilbao

Basque Country in the northeast of Spain is a strikingly beautiful region, where green, thickly wooded mountains and hills dominate the landscape. A mostly rocky and wild coastline shelters the land from the Atlantic Ocean. The hillsides close to the sea are famous for the Txakoli vineyards, producing a fresh, lightly sparkling white wine low in alcohol but with good acidity. But perhaps the most renowned aspect of Basque Country is its cuisine: a plethora of innovative chefs have been creating imaginative dishes of local ingredients for decades. The high quality of the frequently Michelin starred fine restaurants of this region is one of the pillars of the current international prestige of Spanish cuisine.

Basque Country is well-known too for its elegant and historic cities like Bilbao and San Sebastian. There are also notable lesser known historic towns like Victoria and Tolosa.

The region’s biggest city, Bilbao, is real urban success story. Here one encounters striking contemporary, neo-classical, Beaux-Arts and medieval architecture, agreeably blended. It is also a serious food town with Michelin star restaurants as well as a large number of pinxtos bars (Basque-style tapas bars) serving often extraordinarily innovative finger food.  Like in that other famous Basque city San Sebastian, here traditional bar food is often elevated to a fine art.

What to expect from us?

With our “Food and wine tour Northern Spain:  Catalonia, Rioja and Basque Country “ you will discover some of Spain’s best culinary and cultural delights; you will also taste some of the region’s wonderful wines at marvelous wineries. This 8 days / 7 nights experience is perfect for discerning travelers seeking delectable cuisine, fine wines and wonderfully diverse cultural heritage in an intimate and exclusive manner.

Barcelona
You will be staying 2 nights at a charming 4 star boutique hotel, set within a monumental 19th century building. It has been completely renovated, and is decorated by a prestigious interior Spanish designer who created a modern but warmly elegant décor. All rooms are very comfortable with wooden floors and air conditioning, many with courtyard views and balconies. There is a bar, a restaurant, a large outdoor terrace plus an outdoor swimming pool.

It is conveniently located in the city, with the elegant Eixample shopping and restaurants district an easy walk from the hotel.  Quirky old town areas are close by as well. A subway stop is also just a short walk away.

Priorat
You will be staying 2 nights at an intimate 4 star boutique hotel, set within an enchanting manor house from the 18th century, lovingly restored.  Rooms offer elegant accommodation with contemporary comfort, including air conditioning.  There is an outdoor pool, and a nice beach is just a 15 minutes’ walk away. The hotel has a nice restaurant specializing in Mediterranean Catalan cuisine.

The hotel is situated in a charming Catalan village, very close to Tarragona

From here there is easy access to the grand countryside of the Prioriat wine region

Rioja
You will be staying at an elegant and charming hotel-cum winery set in the middle of the most beautiful countryside of Rioja. Built in a style inspired by early 20th century architecture, the building has an elegant structure that respects its pastoral setting among vineyards, olive trees and pasture land. The interior is spacious and light, both guest rooms and public spaces offer wonderful views to the surrounding landscape.

There are only 15 rooms, which are very comfortable with playful but calm furnishings. All rooms, each of which is air conditioned, have an outdoor terrace or balcony. From the hotel one can walk into the winery, which is seamlessly integrated with the reception area. The winery produces very good red wines. There is a good restaurant as well as a pleasant intimate spa.

The property is situated within a 1000 acre estate, with easy access to walking and mountain bike trails. Logroño, Riojas’ capital is just a short drive way.

Basque Country – Bilbao
In Bilbao you will be staying 1 night at charming, classic 5-star hotel. Rooms are spacious and very comfortable. It is centrally located in the city, in the buzzing and authentic Ensanche district.

It is set in a handsome and atmospheric Beaux-Arts building, extensively restored. An elegant old-world style hotel it is.

Dates 2018:

This gastronomic break is available throughout the year, with the exception of August. The itinerary has been designed to commence on a Saturday. Arrangements can be made to commence any other day of the week, just let us know.  

Minimum number of guests is two. To check availability for specific dates, please get in touch.

The price for a 8 days (7 nights) gastronomic break

  • Euro 1875,- per person sharing a double room

What is included?

  • 2 nights’ accommodation 4 star boutique hotel central Barcelona
  • 2 nights’ accommodation 4 star boutique hotel Priorat region
  • 2 nights’ accommodation hotel-cum winery Rioja region
  • 1 night accommodation elegant 5 star hotel central Bilbao
  • 7 breakfasts
  • A lunchtime food and wine tour Barcelona
  • One extensive dinner in one of Barcelona’s best restaurants– including selected wines, soft drinks, coffee and tea
  • 1 exclusive tour & tasting at winery Penedes with lunch – including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 restaurant dinner Priorat – with wines & soft-drinks
  • 2 exclusive tours & tasting at Priorat wineries
  • 1 restaurant dinner hotel-cum winery Rioja – including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 excusive tour & tasting at Rioja winery, followed by tapas-style lunch – including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 restaurant dinner Rioja – chef’s market menu including wines & soft drinks
  • 1 restaurant dinner Bilbao – tasting menu including wine & soft drinks (Michelin star)

 

It may be easiest to fly into Barcelona airport, since this airport offers the most varied international connections.  There are many direct flights to Barcelona from cities in Europe, the Americas and Asia.

For your return flight, Bilbao airport is a convenient hub. There are many direct flights to Bilbao from cities in Europe. For trans-Atlantic flights, it may be easiest to connect in London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Madrid or Barcelona. Booking early can be very advantageous. Paladares Travel does not offer flights. We suggest that you book these directly with one of the many companies offering such services.

In order to get to the various wineries taking part in the tour, you may wish to rent a car or arrange for a private car service. Kindly note the pricing on our website does not include transportation, since  the cost is largely dependent on the number of people requiring such service. But of course we would be happy to organize a bespoke car service or rent a car on your behalf. If you would like Paladares Travel to assist you, please let us know.

Please find below an outline of the proposed gastronomic tour. Kindly note that the itinerary is available all year round for a minimum of 2 people, with the exception of the month of August.

One of the best ways to explore the wine regions of Northern Spain is to self-drive. In larger cities like Barcelona and Bilbao a car is not necessary, these places are best explored by walking or using public transport. Of course we would be happy rent a car on your behalf, or to organize a bespoke car service for local transfers and other transport needs. If you wish you can also have the program fully escorted by an English, as well as Spanish speaking guide.

Our itinerary can be altered to suit your flight schedule and duration desired.

Day 1
  • Arrival at Barcelona hotel.
  • In the evening you are invited to experience Barcelona like a local to discover a genuine and soulful neighborhood, and one of the city’s most charming we feel. Here with a local guide, you will taste the best top-drawer classic Catalan tapas, visiting at least three local venues, paired with excellent and typical local wines. There are enough food tastings during this outing to serve as dinner, with plenty of drinks.
Day 2
  • Breakfast at leisure.
  • After breakfast there is free time to explore endlessly fascinating Barcelona on your own. The old-town rather bohemian El Raval area, with its own, distinct Rambla, and underexplored but authentic Gracia, are some of our favorites.
  • Dinner takes place in a top modern Barcelona restaurant cum wine bar cum vinous cultural centre, with a central location. It is acclaimed for its modern and innovative cuisine, as well as its extensive wine list. The ambiance is elegant, refined but understated. The chef‘s cuisine is rooted in Catalonia’s culinary traditions. He utilizes contemporary techniques and the freshest, highest quality ingredients. It is a great place to sample some of the region’s finest produce, in both food and drink.
Day 3
  • Breakfast at leisure.
  • Check out of your hotel, and then a beautiful and easy drive to the Penedes and Priorat wine regions
  • First a tour, tasting and lunch at one of the most respected Penedes wineries. A tour of the beautiful, historic winery will be followed by a tasting of their sparkling Cava wines, made from grapes from organic vineyards. Wines are superb, on a par with the very best French Champagnes. Here the family only makes vintage brut nature Cavas, with a distinctive and enticing character marked by long ageing. A tasting of the main wines will be accompanied by local tapas, serving as a light lunch.
  • Check in at hotel, an elegant and intimate 4 star hotel set in an 18th century manor house, in the centre of a charming historic town, close to Tarragona and Priorat.
  • Time to relax, and to enjoy the beautiful surroundings.
  • Dinner at the restaurant of the hotel – it has one of the best restaurants of the area. Cooking is contemporary, dishes may include delicate lamb cutlets gilled over vine wood, tender squid with sweet broad beans, or roasted iberico pork with Piquillo peppers. The food will be paired with local wines from the Catalan wine regions.
Day 4
  • Breakfast at leisure.
  • In the morning a visit to a former medieval Monastery and it winery. It is fascinating and evocative place dating back to the 12th century, with a stunning mountain location. It goes a long way explaining why Priorat is perhaps one of the most heavenly wine regions to visit.
  • After the guided visit of the remains of the monastery, a tour and tasting at the bodega which used to be part of the monastery. Wines are highly rated, whereby they reveal a real sense of place.
  • Lunch on your own – there are very nice eating houses in the villages nearby.
  • After lunch more time to relax and enjoy the splendid surroundings. There is time to explore splendid Tarragona, with its medieval streets punctuated by lovely squares. Strolling the town you may note Casa Castellarnau, a small museum and a hidden gem at the same time. It has a striking courtyard with its arches built over Roman vaults. After Tarragona, return to your charming hotel to enjoy the surroundings. 
  • Dinner on your own – the village where your hotel resides has some nice eateries in walking distance. And Tarragona, just a short taxi ride away, has many good restaurants.
Day 5
  • Breakfast at leisure.
  • Check out of your hotel, then a beautiful drive through Priorat and Aragon, towards Rioja. Your first stop is at a classy modern Priorat winery set in spectacular natural surroundings. The new buildings of the estate combine very well with the magnificent nature around it. Wines are superb, with complexity and depth; they are made of grapes of very old vines. A favorite of many professional wine writers
  • The tour of the winery will be followed by a tasting of the signature wines of this family owned bodega.
  • Lunch on your own – we recommend the nearby town of Falset, where there are many places to choose from for a good local lunch –  or on the way to Rioja
  • Drive though Navarra into Rioja. It is an easy ride though lovely agricultural countryside, dotted with historical towns.
  • Check in at hotel cum winery Rioja, lying in glorious rioja countryside. Time to unwind, to enjoy the calm but quietly spectacular surroundings.
  • Dinner will be served in the hotel’s restaurant; here you will taste classic Rioja dishes but with a modern touch. All dishes will be paired with the wines from the estate.
Day 6
  • Buffet breakfast.
  • Late morning visit to one of the Riojas’ best modern wineries on the border between Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa. Relatively rare for Rioja, this is a single-estate vineyard, with all vineyards owned or controlled by the “estate” winery.
  • The finca (estate) has a wonderful location, on a ridge above the meandering Ebro river. Walking around the main winery building allows for spectacular views of the river and vineyard landscape. The elegant winery itself is relatively new, tastefully at one with the landscape. The use of traditional Rioja colours and material gives the building a timeless feel. Wines are excellent, which has been acknowledged by leading international wine magazines.
  • After a comparative wine tasting, a light lunch will be served indoors or outdoors, weather permitting and depending on your choice. For an outdoors lunch you will be given a generously filled picnic basket. This will allow you to enjoy the bucolic landscape surrounding the winery on your own, whilst having an alfresco lunch.
  • After lunch, time to explore the charming hilltop towns of Rioja. Or return to the hotel, where there will be some time for relaxation.
  • Dinner at a charming and elegant local restaurant, were you will taste good, contemporary Rioja food, with an emphasis on regional and seasonal ingredients. Dishes may include succulent grilled meats from the Parrilla (large indoor barbeque), roasted kid, ham & egg croquettes, and grilled piquillo peppers. The meal will be paired with good Rioja wines. The restaurant is an easy taxi ride from your hotel.
Day 7
  • Buffet breakfast.
  • Check out of your hotel, depart for Bilbao.
  • Check-in at your Bilbao hotel. Free time to discover buzzing and unspoiled Bilbao on your own. From the elegant, tree lined Gran Via in 19th century Ensanche area, where you can stroll, eat, drink and shop with the locals, to the compact medieval old town and then on to the contemporary areas, Bilbao has no shortage of interesting sights.
  • Your farewell dinner will be at an atmospheric yet unstuffy Michelin-starred restaurant in the center of town. Here modern, ingenious Basque cuisine is prepared with local products. Dishes are refined, served in very small portions and features seafood, like lobster with mushrooms and pork belly. The tasting menu will be paired with equally outstanding wines.
Day 8

After breakfast the program ends.

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