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Posts tagged Wine Tasting
By Luis Lechuga
You may have asked yourself this question, or been asked by friends or relatives…. Can wine tours be enjoyed with children?
Everyone may have his or her own answer about this question, but in my case 2 things make this question especially important. As a matter of fact, I myself have 2 children, aged 3 and 5, who are adorable… but also noisy (you would not expect otherwise being Spanish children) and who love to run and jump, and play fight.
The second thing which makes my case a bit special is that I organize wine tours… My friends have indeed asked me. “Have you ever visited wineries and done one of the tours you propose with Mateo and Miguel? “ (my sons) Well, eh, the answer is no. Better said, the answer was no… I decided I had to try.
On the one hand I feel it is very important for me to transmit to my children passion about the job I do, and I think this can help them chose in the future a job they will like. In my case, it involves visiting the places I recommend and strolling along endless rows of vines amongst many other fascinating activities. On the other hand, there is also the challenge to make out of a wine tour a trip enjoyable for children. Is that feasible?
Spain is a land very rich in history. This results in a myriad of castles and monuments spread all over the country. I also know many wineries near those castles, and wineries which were literally carved in rock, and which welcome the visitor with tunnels hundreds of meters long in a very intriguing manner. With these 2 ideas in mind my wife and I decided we could get the boys ready for the trip a bit in advance… We will tell them stories of knights and warriors, princesses and kings… and also the story of secret places that stored and kept safe treasures or food (what could be more of a treasure than food in days of famines?…) All these things were to be visited during our next trip, and the bed-time stories revolved around castles and secret places…
We had 4 days and we decided to do both Rioja and Ribera del Duero. From Madrid this is a good option. Ribera is one hour and a half drive North of Madrid. The River Douro was for centuries a natural border and the region is full of castles which protected it. We left Madrid a bit later than peak time to avoid any traffic jams and arrived at Aranda de Duero at 11:00 AM. In Aranda we spent some time walking near the Douro river and visiting the town center, which hosts a beautiful Main Square and 2 amazing churches. The children prefer early lunches (by Spanish standards) so we had planned a short visit to Bodegas Portia (Norman Foster was the architect involved in this project) and had lunch at their restaurant, which turned out very convenient. A drive to Peñafiel (http://www.turismocastillayleon.com/cm/setLocale?pgseed=1343401464939&dvRegLocale=en_UK) followed and during the drive a small siesta for the children. Great! Peñafiel literally means the “Loyal Rock”… and if you are there and stand in front of the mountain and its impressive castle you fully grasp why it is named so. Going up to the castle was a great experience for the children. The city hall has installed a replica of the castle in one of the local parks, and our boys spent a good hour climbing and playing knights and dragons… The views from the castle are simply amazing and you can easily, and so did the children, imagine yourself in ancient times, spotting for any troops in the horizon.
We decided not to visit any other winery that same day, but to take a walk in the streets of Peñafiel instead and relax at our hotel. The following morning we visited Protos. This is a classic if you are in Ribera and a winery of a kind… it is built underneath the mountain and has kilometers of tunnels that contrast with Richard Rogers new winery next to the old one. Impressive.
After this visit we drove straight to Rioja (http://www.lariojaturismo.com) . Motorways in Spain are good and from Peñafiel this is a two-and-a-half hour drive to our selected destination in Labastida (http://tourism.euskadi.net/x65-12375/en/contenidos/d_destinos_turisticos/0000006316_d2_rec_turismo/en_6316/6316-ficha2.html)
We opted for a Casa Rural this time. This type of accommodation in Spain is very convenient if travelling with children. Old, typical houses have been restored with charm and equipped with modern facilities in order to guarantee a pleasant and comfortable stay. We selected a House with a 2 bedroom apartment. The house dates back to the XVIth century and it has a maze-type garden… perfect for the kids to play. Labastida is one of those villages in Rioja where a hill hosts a church. Down the hill narrow cobbled streets make you think of the days these streets were full of horses. Labastida is a great location to visit La Rioja. It is a 15 minute drive from Haro (where many wineries are concentrated around the train Station, from which the trains transported wine to the harbours in the north), 20 minute drive from Laguardia -an amazing walled city- and 45 minutes drive from San Millan (in Santiago / St James way) or Logroño.
We visited 4 wineries altogether the following 2 days, in 2 of them we opted for wineries where nice walks in the vineyards are possible… and also visited the wine Museum of Dinastia Vivanco. We could not obviously stay there all the time the place deserves but the children were fascinated by some of the items exhibited. They also loved the “grape train” in Laguardia… boys do always love trains, a kind of adventure for them!
People are very welcoming in this part of Spain, and you can feel that children are always welcome in restaurants… Here are a few tips though if you are travelling with children in this part of Spain (or maybe in any part of the world!): bring along some drawing material and a couple of toys. We had printed before departure from Madrid some colourings (grapes, oak barrels, castles and knights) to keep them entertained… plus also a mighty surprise: 2 warriors and their horses… a prize for good behavior after Day 1. It is amazing to see what sort of imaginative stories the children come up with… and the toys helped us a bit to be able to combine winery visits. My wife and I both drive. We therefore took turns with the driving, although it didn´t prevent the driver from tasting the wine anyway (remember you can, as professionals do, spit the wine in the recipient provided). However I must admit that there is no way I was going to spit out such delicious wines when it wasn´t my turn to drive!!!
A great family trip! Would I include a Tour to enjoy with children in our offer at www.winetourismspain.com? I still need to think about it…