Best Of Bilbao-Rioja Wine Tourism 2023

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Awards ceremony for sustainability, innovation and talent in new wine tourism services

On 27 October 2022 the Great Wine Capitals (GWC) Global network celebrated the 20th edition of the Best Of Bilbao-Rioja Wine Tourism annual awards ceremony. These awards recognize excellence and innovation in the categories of accommodation, architecture, parks and gardens, art and culture, innovative wine tourism experiences, wine tourism services, and sustainable wine tourism practices.

The event took place at Vinícola Real-200 Monges winery, last year’s winner of the Best Of International Prize. Present at the ceremony were companies that provide innovative wine tourism services in Álava, Bizkaia (two provinces of the Basque Country) and La Rioja; representatives of institutions (Chambers of Commerce; Bilbao City Council; DOCa Rioja Regulatory Council); and the GWC Bilbao-Rioja Committee. 

Romotur, the agency that represents the region within the GWC network, was also present, represented by its director Carmen Romo. Carmen has also been a member of the Best Of jury for many years. The jury is composed of experienced professionals in the wine tourism sector as well as specialized journalists.  

The 2023 Best Of Winners

After evaluating the 28 nominations for this year, the jury decided to award seven Best Of awards and one Special Mention in the following categories:

ARCHITECTURE, PARKS AND GARDENS

BODEGAS MARQUÉS DE MURRIETA (Logroño, Rioja Alta) for their new winery inaugurated in 2022 after six years of construction. The new winery is a complex of buildings of more than 25,000 square meters for the production and aging of wines, but has maintained an admirable harmony with the historical-architectural ensemble of the emblematic Ygay Castle and is surrounded by more than 50,000 square meters of new parks and gardens. 

WINE TOURISM, ART AND CULTURE 

WINERY, HOTEL AND RESTAURANT MAYOR DE MIGUELOA (Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa) for the family’s longstanding winemaking tradition, hotel and restaurant Mayor de Migueloa and its wine tourism offer. The family has rehabilitated and maintained the Viana Palace (1619), a declared heritage site of interest. In addition, they received the award for recovering the traditional harvest of winemaking in the historic center of the medieval town of Laguardia and the transmission of this experience to its visitors.

SUSTAINABLE WINE TOURISM PRACTICES 

BODEGAS BERONIA (Ollauri, Rioja Alta) for the sustainable design and energy efficiency of the new Beronia winery, inaugurated in 2022. It is the first winery in the world to obtain LEED V4 certification (Leadership in Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Design), in addition to LEED GOLD and Wineries for Climate Protection certifications. 

The winery is 100% sustainable, fully integrated into the Riojan landscape, with a revolutionary geothermal energy system to air condition the facilities and achieve lower energy consumption. This holistic conception in the creation of a winery, includes the use of rainwater and natural light, reduction of noise pollution and integral management of resources. It is one of the most efficient and sustainable wineries in Europe.

INNOVATIVE EXPERIENCES IN WINE TOURISM 

BODEGAS JAVIER SAN PEDRO ORTEGA (Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa)

The jury valued the freshness, originality and innovation of the young team of Bodegas Javier San Pedro Ortega. Javier represents the fifth generation of families making their own wines from their own vineyards. Its young team seeks to surprise and differentiate itself, in its wines and in its wine tourism proposal. 

In 2018 they opened a new winery with a very special, fresh and casual wine bar. In addition, every year they create a new wine tourism proposal. The new 2022 experience follows the motto “Think less, feel more”. “It’s an informal, fun, transgressive experience, tasting different wines in different spaces, in different formats, with different pairings, just playing and experimenting,” explains the Best Of jury. The experience is supported by the collaboration of chefs Iñaki Murua and Carolina Sánchez of the Ikaro Restaurant  (Logroño), with a Michelin Star and two Repsol Suns.

WINE TOURISM SERVICES 

ECHAPRESTO EVENTS (Daroca de Rioja, Rioja Alta)

The jury appreciates the ability of Echapresto Eventos to provide wineries with significant gastronomy and wine tourism services. Carlos and Ignacio, the Echapresto brothers, opened Venta Moncalvillo in their hometown, Daroca de Rioja.

Ignacio “has elevated the traditional cuisine of La Rioja” to get a Michelin Star and Carlos “has created one of the most valued restaurant wineries in Spain”, with more than 1,800 references, and has received the National Gastronomy Award to the Sommelier Doctor. 

They use the facilities of the wineries or equip portable kitchens. Its logistics are complete, with capacity to create gastronomic experiences in any space of the wineries. 

RESTAURANTS

AITOR ESNAL (Logroño, Rioja Alta)

The magnificent gastronomic proposal of Aitor Esnal and his young team has been highlighted by the Best Of jury, “with special attention to what is possibly the best wine pairing proposal at the moment in Rioja”. 

The wine list has about 150 references selected by sommelier Beatriz Martínez. The glass cellar is visible from the living room, like the open kitchen itself, creating a space where wine and gastronomy are inseparable. The care in the choice of glasses stands out, with seven or eight types depending on the pairing. This is the new gastronomic planet of Aitor Esnal, the restaurant is complemented by activities (themed dinners, talks, forums …), a cooking school and gastronomic products store.  

RESTAURANTE EL PUNTIDO (VIÑEDOS DE PÁGANOS) 
(Páganos-Laguardia, Rioja Alavesa)

Exceptionally, the jury has also decided to award the Best Of prize in the category of Restaurants to another candidate: El Puntido Restaurant, located in the Viñedos de Páganos winery, owned by the Eguren family. 

The group of experts considers that it is “the best restaurant located in a winery in Rioja”. The gastronomic proposal led by Alejandra Carvajal consists of two tasting menu options, five courses or eight courses. “It’s honest, precise and meticulous cuisine, based on the product of the highest quality.” 

“The dining room is elegant and comfortable, with its magnificent views of the vineyard and the Sierra de Cantabria, in a privileged enclave that invites long after-dinner meals and pure contact with the landscape of the Rioja Alavesa vineyard. And the wine pairing is exceptional, wide, diversified and with the highest quality of the prestigious wines of the Eguren family. 

ACCOMMODATION 

HOTEL SANTA MARÍA BRIONES (Briones, Rioja Alta)

The jury has valued “the quality, charm and value” that the Hotel Santa María Briones brings to the offer of accommodation in the Rioja destination. The rooms have been conceived with enormous spaciousness and with all the comforts. A truely charming hotel that also represents a vital project, a family that returns to its Riojan origins after a long journey through Spain and the United States.  

The boutique hotel is located in an old civil house of the sixteenth century cataloged for its high historical value, located next to the tower and the walls of the medieval town. The medieval wall and part of the natural rock foundations have been integrated into the interior design of the hotel, both in the inner courtyard and in some interior rooms, creating very natural and welcoming spaces. The original draft has been recovered for the production and conservation of the wine, as well as the old stone press. 

SPECIAL MENTION

VINTAE WINE FEST (San Vicente de la Sonsierra, Rioja Alta)

After two years of forced pause due to the pandemic, this year marked the return of the Vintae Wine Fest 2022, held during the weekend of September 30 to October 2. “Three days of music, gastronomy, revelry, good vibes and lots of wine.” Friday was the day of the “bienbebida” (bienbebida – literally “well drunk” – is a play on words with bienvenida – welcome in Spanish): a tapas and wine route through San Vicente de la Sonsierra. Saturday is always the big day: games, brass bands, fireworks and performances in the square following parties in the bars and clubs of the town. On Sunday the festival moved to the Hacienda López de Haro Winery to experience a typical Riojan Sunday, with chops washed down with wine and live music. 

Every year the theme is different. This year they gave life to the Wine Circus, “the craziest and most dancing circus ever known”. And when they say circus they mean it. “Mounting a circus bigger than the castle of San Vicente, with a great show of trapeze artists, clowns, acrobats, jugglers, strongmen and bearded women.” The Wine Fest has received the special mention for the “freshness, youth, flirtation and fun” it brings to the world of wine, the jury underlined.

International Award

The Best Of Wine Tourism International award will be presented during the Annual Conference of the World Great Wine Capitals, which will take place in Mendoza (Argentina), between October 30 and November 3, 2022.