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Basque Experiences discover more of La Rioja

New La Rioja Wineries for 2018-19

As a Basque Country DMC and travel agency, we are always on the lookout for new product, people and activities to offer our clients. La Rioja offers a fantastic  variety of different experiences, and we have to keep up to speed on all of them!

It sounds like a really easy job, visiting wineries and driving around wine country, but believe me, we are doing it for you!

Modern and traditional

Developing relationships with all kinds of winemakers is fundamental. It means we can offer the best options to our clients. Small producers like Bodegas Tobelos in Briñas, who make around 200,000 bottles a year, and only crianzas and reservas. To the larger Valdemar or Bodegas Faustino, both famous internationally that produce millions of bottles.

Our visits took us to Bodegas Izadi, who along with fantastic wine give us the opportunity to be able to offer gastronomic experiences as well. Really special, tailor-made basque experiences!! In the village of Cenicero, is situated the historic and truly spectacular Bodegas Riojanas. Their superb installations, and excellent wine make for a fascinating contrast to the smaller, ‘garage’ bodegas.

Basque Wine Tours

At Basque Experiences we  will tailor-make your visit to La Rioja. Be you a small private family group, or an agency looking for a trusted DMC, with personalised attention. Its not all tasting wine you know!!

 

  • Basque Experiences Wine
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Eneko – Michelin Star Restaurant

Eneko Restaurant

Hidden away up in the hills close to Bilbao sits a restaurant that has been gaining international acclaim. The Azurmendi is a Three Michelin Star restaurant that was named as 38th best restaurant in the Worlds’ 50 Best awards in 2017  However, it has a little brother, called Eneko

This off-shoot has been created by the Azurmendi’s main chef and owner, Eneko Atxa with the intention of making the restaurant more accesible. A holder of one Michelin Star by itself, the menu is focused on local provenance.

We at Basque Experiences were delighted to be invited in early March to sample the magnificent dishes…  The visit also included a tour and tastings of txakoli wines produced at their own Bodega!

Menu

Local produce is fundamental here and the principle runs through the Menu. Wines were their own; Gorka Izagirre, G22, 42, and Arima as well as a Campillo from Rioja Alavesa. Seven courses of which some of which you can see n the photos! Can you guess what was used though? The variety of methods, ingredients and presentation was great, and everything was delicious!! I had a couple of favourites but I am not going to give the game away… You will have to come with us and try or let us reserve a table for you and your group…

Pizarro

Talking groups, we have our Pizarro ‘Basque’ Gastronomy Tour in late 2018. For our final day with Jose Pizarro we will be visiting the Azurmendi Restaurant and kitchens, a unique chance to dine and discover this superb restaurant!

  • Basque Hake
  • Egg.... and peppers and corn....
  • Foie or Chestnut
  • Olives
  • Rich beef
  • Eneko's Team
  • Eneko restaurant
  • Dessert

Destination Pamplona and Navarra

Navarra

Nestled between the Pyrenees and the Spanish plains, sits the province of Navarra. Neighbour and family to the Basque Country.

Known to some as the home of the Running of the Bulls and Hemingway’s Pamplona, its a little-known gem.

An ancient kingdom, with its own castles, palaces, cathedrals, fortresses and charming hidden villages. Preserved over time, Navarra is home to many many surprises, and now Basque Experiences is opening its doors for you…

Navarra Tours

The city of Pamplona, ancient, historic and full of surprises. Home to the Running of the Bulls in July, the inspiration to Hemingway’s ‘Fiesta’ is a charming mediaeval walled city.  Its palaces, castles, churches and cathedral are those of an ancient capital. Founded by Romans, invaded by Barbarians, fought over by Spain, history seeps from its stone walls.

Less than 2 hours drive from Bilbao airport and 4 from Madrid, its also well connected by train. Five star hotels, Michelin Starred restaurants, local produce and wine, Pamplona is a real capital. Mountains and hiking, Basque villages and culture to the north. The south sees wine, fields of wheat, orchards and deserts. Used many times as a film location, Game of Thrones being a recent highlight.

A long weekend, or part of a longer multi-day Tour, Navarra and Pamplona are a special destination. Off the route for many visitors outside of the July Running of the Bulls shenanigans, its a warm and dry city, easily visited on foot. And for those who do wish to walk, its the first major stop on the Camino de Santiago, the Way of St James!!

  • Olite Castle
  • Pamplona Bulls
  • Bardenas Desert Navarra
  • Pamplona Town Hall
  • Pamplona Cathedral
  • Olite

 

Basque Country Food. Where is it from ? pt. 2

Food…thats it!

Where does our amazing produce come from and how do we use this great resource. Part 2 of our quick look at Basque Country food, produce and gastronomy with the chef José Pizarro, owner of 4 restaurants in London.

Alava, Inland Basque Country

Sometimes overlooked by visitors keen to see Bilbao and San Sebastian, Alava is the 3rd province of Euskadi, Basque Country and is completely landlocked. This is wine country, and many visitors come to learn and sample our famous Rioja Alavesa wine However, it holds many surprises as Jose found out!

Salt Cheese and Txakoli

Hidden in the green valleys lies a geological gem, millions of years old but very relevant today. The Salt Pans of Añana are marvellous. A fountain (or 3) of saline liquid, used over millenia to cure, store and flavour the Basque peoples food. Today we can visit and learn about this amazing place but also taste it in our own Denominacion de Origen Idiazabal Cheese. We visited our good friend Leire who is the only producer of this most Basque of Basque cheeses who uses this salt in the production of her award winning cheeses. The surprise here though is its not only Idiazabal that one tries… 🙂

Close by and another good friend sees us visit BarraskiBide, a farm producing organic snails, a popular dish all over Spain and especially those who are fond of Biscayan Sauce…. Nestled under the Sierra Salvada mountain range, the snails are well guarded so they don’t escape….

And what would one choose to wash these delicious products down with? Well our own Txakoli Arabako. The third region with the D.O. to produce Txakoli wine in the Basque Country. Our friends at Astobiza and Beldui are perfect hosts and enable Jose to learn taste and discuss the amazing advances this wine has experienced since it became regulated in the 1980’s.

Sleeping it off….

After all these foodie gastronomic exertions, sometimes there is nothing better than a siesta… However, when staying with us here at Basque Experiences we have our own favourite places, and top of the list in Bilbao is the great Hotel Miro. Opposite the iconic Guggenheim Bilbao, the service is what you would expect from a small privately -run hotel. It never fails!!

Just a short blog extolling some of our food highlights here in the Basque Country with Basque Experiences. But keep your eyes open for a foodie surprise in the coming weeks…..

 

    Basque Country Food. Where is it from? pt. 1

    Basque Country Food…

    Food… Hopefully you will have heard about some of the great dishes we prepare here in the Basque Country (there are a few pointers on this blog…) But have you ever wondered where the produce comes from? Accompanied by our friend Jose Pizarro, a restaurant owner from Caceres in Spain, but who lives and owns 3 restaurants in London, we set out over 2 days to discover some hidden gems…

    Food research

    Spring is in the the air and everything is coming back to life… In the green hills of Gipuzkoa, magic is at work. Txakoli vines are beginning to sprout and the anchovies are arriving in our waters, but some plants are already flowering and bearing fruit and in some cases vegetables.

    The tear-shaped pea is an unknown quantity pretty much everywhere. However here, and in the best restaurants in Spain, it commands a seat at the head table. On a sunny day like today, seeing them on the vines and growing in their tiny pods, well, its a luxury!

    Its not only the green things either, Further up in the hills is  a little family-run farm that breeds Euskal Txarri, a rare- breed of Basque Pig. Here the father and daughter team produce award winning sausages, hams, black puddings and bacon. A visit to them is an insight into this tasty world!

    Basque Culinary Center

    The Basque Culinary  Center was  next on our list as THE place to see when talking about food research here, indeed anywhere in the world. The BCC is a unique faculty and part of the University of the Basque Country, the only such faculty in the world. Dedicated to research and development for all things Culinary….

    Dining

    No visit to the Basque Country is complete without dining in a Txoko or Sociedad Gastronomika. A private dining club if you like where only members are allowed to cook….  Tales of the dinners and diners are legendary here in the Basque Country. So visiting one on Saturday afternoon was the perfect finale to a bust day discovering and learning about our produce.

    Have a look at our fotos and a short video

    Basque Experiences. Private Basque Country Tours

     

    Sociedad Gastronomika 

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