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Explore Rioja in a Day: Top Wine Tour from Bilbao

Embarking on a day trip to Rioja from Bilbao is an experience that will linger in your memories like the finest wine. With a perfect blend of scenic drives, charming villages, and exquisite wine tastings, this tour by Local Experts Tours is an ideal way to immerse yourself in the rich culture and flavors of Spain’s most celebrated wine region. 

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Explore Rioja in a Day with Local Experts Tours

Our adventure began at just past 9 AM when Victoria, our friendly guide and driver picked us up from a central point in Bilbao just steps away from our accommodation. As we left the bustling city behind, the landscapes gradually transformed into the rolling vineyards of La Rioja, painting a picturesque scene that hinted at the delights to come. Along the way, Victoria provided fascinating insights into the history of Rioja, highlighting its significance as one of Spain’s premier wine regions.

Discovering Rioja Wine Region

Rioja, Spain’s premier wine region, is renowned for its high-quality red wines, predominantly made from Tempranillo grapes. The region is divided into three sub-regions: Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa, and Rioja Oriental, each offering distinct characteristics influenced by their unique climates and terrains. This diversity is reflected in the wines, making Rioja a paradise for wine enthusiasts.

First Stop: Bodega Hermanos Peciña, a Medium-Sized Winery

After a two-hour drive we arrived at our first destination, the Bodega Hermanos Peciña is a charming medium-sized winery nestled amidst lush vineyards. Here we were greeted by Idoia who took us on an informative tour of the premises, learning about the wine-making process from vine to bottle. The highlight, of course, was the wine tasting session at the end of our guided-tour where we sampled five exquisite wines.

Bodega Hermanos Peciña is a distinguished family-owned winery located in the heart of Rioja Alta, a sub-region known for its high-quality wines and favorable growing conditions. Founded in 1992 by Pedro Peciña Crespo and his three children, the winery has grown from a small operation to a notable producer of a variety of exceptional wines, producing approximately 300,000 bottles per year.

What Makes Bodega Hermanos Peciña Special

Traditional Racking Method: One of the unique aspects of Bodega Hermanos Peciña is its dedication to traditional winemaking techniques. They utilize a method known as “trasiego,” or racking, which involves manually transferring the wine from barrel to barrel using gravity. This method, which is labor-intensive and time-consuming, helps maintain the wine’s purity and enhances its aging potential by naturally clarifying the wine and allowing gentle oxygenation.

Rioja in a day tour from Bilbao

Diverse Wine Offerings: The winery produces a range of wines, including Crianza, Reserva, and Gran Reserva. Each wine undergoes a meticulous aging process. For instance:

  • Crianza wines are aged for at least two years in American oak barrels, with a minimum of one year in the bottle, resulting in vibrant and fruit-forward wines. The wines undergo four transfers, from barrel to barrel. 
  • Reserva wines age for a minimum of three years in American oak barrels, with at least one and a half years in a bottle, offering a balance of fruit and oak with deeper, more complex flavors. These wines are transferred six times.
  • Gran Reserva wines, aged for at least four years in American oak barrels, with three years in bottles, are rich, smooth, and full-bodied, showcasing the winery’s commitment to quality and tradition. These wines are transferred a total of eight times.

Sustainability and Quality: The winery owns 50 hectares of vineyards, allowing for careful selection and control over the grape quality. This dedication to quality is evident in their wines, which are known for their long aging times and exceptional flavors, far exceeding the minimum requirements set by the Rioja DOCa Wine Board​.

En Route to Abalos

As we made our way to the second winery, we stopped at the quaint village of Abalos. This charming locale is renowned for its stunning medieval architecture and serene ambiance. Strolling through its narrow streets felt like stepping back in time, offering a peaceful respite amidst our wine-filled adventure. 

Second Stop: Bodegas Ostatu A Modern Small Winery

Our next stop was a modern small winery that contrasted beautifully with the traditional first one. At Bodegas Ostatu, we enjoyed a tasting session of three innovative wines paired with idiazabal cheese made from unpasteurized sheep milk, each reflecting a contemporary approach to winemaking. Additionally, we had the pleasure of sampling their locally produced olive oil, a delightful complement to the wines.

What Makes Bodegas Ostatu Special

Historical Roots and Family Tradition: Bodegas Ostatu is a family-owned winery located in the Rioja Alavesa region, in the village of Samaniego. The winery operates in an 18th-century building that was originally a country inn. The Sáenz de Samaniego family has been cultivating vineyards in this area since the 16th century, emphasizing a deep connection to the land and tradition. 

Innovative Practices and Sustainability: Ostatu combines traditional winemaking methods with modern innovations. They practice organic farming and aim for carbon-neutral operations. Their vineyards, managed by the family, are divided into micro plots that benefit from the unique microclimate of the Sierra de Cantabria foothills, ideal for growing high-quality grape.

Exceptional Vineyard Management:

The winery owns 36 hectares of vineyards, primarily planted with Tempranillo but also featuring other varieties like Graciano, Mazuelo, Garnacha, Viura, and Malvasia. The vineyards are located at elevations between 450-650 meters, benefiting from the convergence of Atlantic and Mediterranean climatic influences. This unique location and soil composition contribute to the complex aromas and flavors of their wines​. 

Exploring Laguardia

Before heading back to Bilbao, we visited the enchanting town of Laguardia. This medieval gem, established in the 10th century, sits proudly in the Rioja Alavesa region. Laguardia’s well-preserved stone walls and narrow cobblestone streets exude historical charm.

Views of the surrounding vineyards

The town is famous for its underground wine cellars, or “calados,” still in use today. Highlights include the Church of Santa María de los Reyes with its stunning Gothic portal and the Church of San Juan Bautista. Perched atop a hill, Laguardia offers breathtaking views of surrounding vineyards and the Sierra de Cantabria mountains. The town’s medieval streets are lined with charming shops, historic churches, and inviting cafes, making it a delightful place to explore.

Among the various attractions in Laguardia, the bronze statues of shoes and bags, known as “Escultura Viajeros,” are particularly intriguing. These sculptures are located in the main square near the Church of Santa María de los Reyes. The artwork represents the travelers who have passed through Laguardia over the centuries, symbolizing the town’s long history as a stopover for those journeying across the Basque Country. The statues are designed to evoke a sense of travel and exploration, connecting visitors to the town’s rich heritage and the countless journeys that have woven through its streets​.

For lunch, we indulged in a hearty meal at a local restaurant, savoring traditional Riojan dishes paired with more local wines. The combination of good food, excellent wine, and the town’s enchanting atmosphere made for a perfect ending to our day trip.


As we headed back to Bilbao, we reflected on a day well spent, filled with new knowledge, delightful tastes, and unforgettable experiences. This day trip to Rioja is not just about wine tasting; it’s a great introduction to history, culture, and the stunning landscapes of one of Spain’s most beloved regions. Whether you’re a wine connoisseur or simply looking for a memorable day out, Rioja from Bilbao promises an adventure that will captivate your senses.

Tips for Your Trip:

  • Book in Advance: Ensure you reserve your spots for winery tours and tastings. You can book the same tour here. These are small group tours up to 8 persons, and solo travelers are also welcome. The duration of the tour is 8 hours.
  • Comfortable Clothing: Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as the tour involves walking and standing.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, especially during wine tastings.

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