California tumbles into the sea
That'll be the day I go
After the valiant attempt by DH to eat Calle Laurel we were a little, shall we say, delicate the following morning. It was somewhat compounded by the half a mile walk to Logrono’s estación de autobuses (HS was a particularly brave soldier in lugging his 30kg backpack for the duration).
In common with many parts of Spain, if you don’t drive you take the bus. No hardship when they are this cheap, frequent and in our experience, very reliable. A 2.70 Euro ticket gave us a very comfortable hour-long journey from Logroño to Haro. As a bonus we got a front row seat for the incredibly beautiful countryside that is La Rioja.
Haro, the capital of the Rioja Alta (and not the Northwest burb of London), is a small town of about ten thousand people. While thinking about our trip I thought it might prove a nice stop to break up the journey between Logroño and Vitoria.
Haro is also the home of the López de Heredia Bodega where Viña Tondonia wines, amongst others, are produced. I’d tried a few bottles of the white before and had been very taken by their very individual taste. I contacted them earlier in the year and they’d very kindly organized a tour for us. Unlike more commercial wineries there’s no charge because as our host, Lidia, said “you are our guests”. They’re still family-run, don’t have any shareholders and apart from their bottling operation still use traditional techniques in making their wine, even down to having their own cooperage. It’s a thoroughly delightful tour which I can heartily recommend. At the end we spent a very pleasant hour or so sampling some of the wines and eating a few snacks in their visitor centre which was designed by the British architect Zaha Hadid.
Afterwards we walked back into the town and had a wander around the Herradura (horseshoe) a famous tapas zone in the town. Unfortunately, most places were closing up for the afternoon break, a very common occurrence in places outside Madrid. We did pop into particularly grim bodega called Beethoven I where we had a decent tinto crianza but where the pinchos were given a pretty short blast in the microwave and which subsequently gave us upset stomachs (a first for DH after sampling what must be several thousand bar tapas over the years). Anyway, following the locals lead we went for our siesta at the hotel and ex-monastery: the remarkably good value Los Agustinos.
We ventured out in the evening with the intention of watching Chelski stuff Manure in the Champions League but owing to gross stupidity we went out too early and ended up walking from one closed bar to another. We eventually ended up at Café Suiza in the main old town square where amazingly (although we really shouldn’t be surprised) we had some superior Jamón Ibérico: really well cut, fantastic quality and at seven euros for a media, top value. The weather had turned by now so we nipped round the corner to Mesón Atamauri where we had a couple of copas and decent pinchos and caught the end of the first half.
One of the by-products of the wine industry are vine branches which are used to filter the wine. Once these are dried they can be used to cook Chuletillas de cordero al sarmiento, a speciality of the region. Lidia had told us that Casa Terete in the old town was one of the few places that still cooked this dish but when we arrived they were off (bad weather ?) so we forced to eat the excellent Lechazo. It is a hard life sometimes.
Before that some decent Morcilla which was more Leon-like in its consistency and some simple grilled peppers. With Larry we had some lettuce and a side order of chips. The crianza, Viña Cubillo (made by López de Heredia) was the perfect stuff to wash it all down with. We were too full for postres and even though we had promised ourselves we would take it easy we soon found ourselves back in Suiza knocking back orujos. I think you can say that we slept well that night.