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3 Great Wineries in Rioja Alta

Updated: Aug 23, 2023

3 Great Wineries in Rioja Alta

Rioja, in North Central Spain, is one of the most prestigious wine regions in that country. With more than 500 wineries, it has become a popular destination for wine tourism. Some of the more well-known grape varietals grown in Rioja include Tempranillo, Garnacha tinta, Garnacha blanc, Viura, Malvasia, and Mazuelo (Carignan).

Rioja is actually comprised of three subregions. Rioja Alta is the furthest west and is held by some as the most esteemed subregion, but Rioja Alavesa to the north is also celebrated for its wine and is technically in Basque Country, so it’s a little unique. Rioja Oriental, formerly known as Rioja Baja, has a reputation for making cheaper, more mass-produced wine.

There are four classifications of Rioja wine, depending on its age. The older the wine, the more expensive:

· Cosecha (also known as Joven, or “young”): only a year old

· Crianza: minimum two years of aging

· Reserva: minimum three years of aging

· Gran Reserva: minimum five years of aging

To get to Rioja, it helps to have access to a car. There are plenty of tours offered, but choose carefully. Some either tend to focus on wineries with great architecture, not the wine itself, or crisscross into both Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa, which is more time consuming and cuts into the wine experience.

Since we planned on visiting Rioja for two days, and wanted to concentrate on the best wine experiences, we opted to devote one day to exploring Rioja Alta and the other to Rioja Alavesa. We created two private day trips with Northern Spain Gastronomy and were thrilled with the result. All of the company’s tour guides have at least WSET II wine certification. Our tour guide for both days, Jon, was fantastic.

Here are three great wineries in Rioja Alta that not only produce excellent wine but also provide fun wine tasting experiences. I'll share our trip to Rioja Alavesa in an upcoming article.

Conde de los Andes

Our first stop was Conde de los Andes, just outside the town of Haro, sometimes called the wine capital of Rioja. One of the largest wineries in Rioja, its cellars have been making wine since 1705. The winery is unusual in that it is housed in several centuries-old buildings connected by a spectacular network of underground cellars that date to the 15th century. The winery was also a favorite of Ernest Hemingway, who liked to drink in an area of the cellars called the “Sistine Chapel.”

3 Great Wineries in Rioja Alta
Ernest Hemingway’s Lair

We enjoyed a full tour of the winery and its cellars. Our first tasting was by candlelight in the cellars, a signature Tempranillo 2013 😊😊

We then moved to a tasting room area in the cellars, where we sampled several wines, accompanied by Spanish payota ham, almonds, and crackers:

Tempranillo 2016; the same wine as tasted in the cellars but a different vintage 😊😊

A Tempranillo blend 2003 😊😊

A semi-sweet white drunk as an aperitive 2003 😊 😊

Gomez Cruzado

The second winery we visited was Gomez Cruzado, in Haro itself, near the former train station which the region’s wineries used many years ago to send their grapes to France for processing. A number of wineries are clustered in this neighborhood.

This boutique winery, founded in 1886, is located in a century-old house, and our private, guided tasting, along with bread and the winery’s olive oil, was nestled among wine barrels.

3 Great Wineries in Rioja Alta

We sampled:

Blanco, a white blend 😊😊

Cosecha 2021, a young red blend 😊😊

Vina Dorana Reserva 2017 😊++

Honorable 😊😊

El Predelicto 😊😊

Cerro la Cuevas 2018, which also qualifies as a Reserva 😊😊

Montos Obarenes, another white blend 😊😊

Vina Motulleri Gran Reserva 2011 😊😊++


We were originally slated to enjoy a leisurely lunch in a Michelin-starred restaurant, but we were so enamored with the wine in Rioja Alta that we pivoted, and Jon quickly arranged for us to visit a third winery, Roda, a family-owned winery within walking distance to Gomez Cruzado.

Roda is one of the classic wineries in Haro. It only produces red wine. The local river is located at the end of its cellar, which explains the 100 percent humidity in the cellar and seaweed on the walls.

The wine from this winery also happens to be the wine Jon’s uncle served at his wedding, a fun fact.

After a tour of its cellars, we returned to the tasting room for a private tasting. We sampled:

Bodegas Roda Sela 2020 😊😊

Roda Reserva 2019 😊😊

Corimbo 2018 😊😊

Roda I Reserva 2018 😊😊

Corimbo I Reserva 2016 😊😊

3 Great Wineries in Rioja Alta

We hope this information on three great wineries in Rioja Alta helps you plan your itinerary to the region. If you have additional recommendations, please share. We’re at Un brindis por nosotros! (A toast to us)!

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