Rioja is a beautiful place to visit. Located in Spain's northeast, it is a large appellation but one of the country's smallest provinces, a long valley that stretches from the wet Atlantic climate of the Basque country's green mountains to the more-Mediterranean, dusty plains of Aragon to the southeast. Rioja is a year-round destination, with a pleasant climate, but the best months to visit are April, May, September and October.
Note: When calling the following establishments from North America, dial 011, then the telephone number. Prices have been converted to U.S. dollars using the exchange rate at press time ($1 = 0.82 euros) and rounded to the nearest dollar.
HOTEL LOS AGUSTINOS
Calle de San Agustín, 2, Haro
Telephone: (34) 941-31-13-08
Built as a convent in 1372, Los Agustinos is an ideal choice for those who want to be close to Haro's wineries, lying in the heart of town and a two-minute drive from the many wineries of the Barrio de la Estación. In the center of the Gothic building there's a soaring common room in the former cloister, updated with modern furniture and lighting. It's also where guests can enjoy breakfast or evening drinks. Upstairs, the rooms are spacious and comfortable, if a bit dated.
Calle Mayor, Villabuena de Álava
Telephone: (34) 945-60-90-00
It's hard to imagine what the residents of the sleepy town of Villabuena de Álava must think of this modern hotel that sprouted up next to their town square and church in 2010. Hotel Viura, named for Rioja's main white grape variety, looks like a child's precarious pile of blocks. It is also one of the best options for visitors who want to be in the heart of Rioja's top bodegas. Logroño, Haro and most of the top wineries are within a 30-minute drive. Rooms are modern and open, maximizing their space, and have plenty of comfort, with rainforest showers, plasma-screen TVs and a nice wine selection. The staff is very friendly and courteous. The restaurant is a solid dining option, offering 200 local wines, and various outside seating areas and terraces grant a spectacular view of the old town.
MARQUÉS DE RISCAL
Calle Torrea, 1, Elciego
Telephone: (34) 945-18-08-80
Since the Frank Gehry-designed hotel opened in 2006, it has set the standard for luxury in Rioja. Guests enjoy spacious rooms that look out from Gehry's sculptural facade onto Riscal's vineyards and the old stone buildings of Elciego. Almost every possible amenity is on hand, from large flat-screen TVs to Bang & Olufsen sound systems to marble bathrooms.
Guests have easy access to one of the region's better winery tours, Riscal's City of Wine, a behind-the-scenes look at the huge fermentation cellars, barrel rooms and archives lined with bottles dating back almost 150 years. The Caudalíe Vinothérapie Spa offers grape-based treatments, massages and a heated pool. The Vinoteca wine bar is lined with more than 2,000 bottles to sample. And the hotel restaurant is helmed by Francis Paniego, who adapts highlights from his menu at El Portal de Echaurren. (The restaurant sets aside a certain number of tables for hotel guests.)