Logroño, La Rioja, named Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2012

The Famous Mushrooms from Calle Laurel

Gastronomic Capital of Spain is sponsored by the Federación Española de Hosterlería (FEHR), Spanish Federation of Hospitality, and Federación Española de Periodistas y Escritores de Turismo (FEPET), Spanish Federation of Journalist and Tourism Writers. The FEHR and FEPET created this Capital in order to promote Spanish gastronomy at a national and international level, as an attractive form of tourism in Spain.

According to the Spanish Secretary General of Tourism, in Spain, there are over 59.2 million people who visited the country in 2010, five million of which came solely for gastronomic reasons. So how does it work? Each year a city is nominated as the “Capital Española de la Gastronomía (CEG), Gastronomic Capital of Spain, which lasts from the January 1 to December 31.

La Rioja was chosen due to its leadership in Spain to market its land, wine and active tourism not only nationally but internationally. It was able to take their successful model of ecotourism to gastronomic tourism.Logrono- Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2012

Logroño, the capital, is situated in the heart of La Rioja. Oenologically (in regards to wine) La Rioja is divided into three different regions, Rioja Alta, North West of Logroño; Rioja Alavesa, the Basque wine region, North of Logroño; and Rioja Baja, South East of Logroño. Rioja Alta and Rioja Alavesa are well known in the wine industry, whereas Rioja Baja, which also produces wine, is primarily known for excellent agricultural products that are also under a Designation of Origin – DO similar to the wine which is under a Qualified Designation of Origin—DOCa. These DOs are a regulatory classification system used to control and ensure the quality of products of these regions in wine as well as food. Combining these quality agricultural products along with quality wine and the already established culinary culture of La Rioja, optimally makes La Rioja a prime candidate for being selected as the Gastronomic Capital of Spain.

In La Rioja, there are over 510 restaurants and 2,180 bars (that also serve food-tapas) that all share the drive and desire to continue to make La Rioja a gastronomic destination now and in the future. For these reasons and more, Logrono, La Rioja was selected as Gastronomic Capital of Spain.

Speaking from personal experience, Logroño, the city in which I live, is wonderful. I have never been a place in the world that lives, eats and breathes this concept more. Every day there is an event that demonstrates this, such as tonight, for example, I am attending a tasting that is sponsored by La Rioja, a regional newspaper, called “Lo Mejor del Vino de Rioja Cata,” The best wine of La Rioja wine tasting, which is open not only to people in the industry but also the general public. This event is held every month to highlight one Riojan winery of the region and allow everyone to try their wines with the owner and winemaker. A few weeks ago, there was a Tapas Week as part of this Gastronomic capital initiative where all the bars in Logroño served their special tapa ( small bite) with wine for a special price. There are also two streets dedicated to Tapa hopping, which is the same concept as bar hopping, except you literally go bar to bar in these two streets, Calle San Juan and Calle Laurel, and devour the beautifully tasty tapas that are specific to each bar with a wonderful Riojan wine.

What more can you ask for? If it were up to me, Logroño would be named Gastronomic Capital of the World, and this coming from someone who has lived in a lot of places. Though Peruvian and Thai food would be my next choice!

Working on a Vineyard

Finca La Emperatriz

I work in Rioja Alta for a winery called Bodegas La Emperatriz. Bodegas La Emperatriz is a beautiful winery located in the border of Rioja Alta between Santo Domingo de la Calzada and Haro. As it is outside of Logroño, it takes about 35-45 minutes to drive out there but the drive out there is beautiful and every day I pass two storks that have made their home on the top of an old smoke stack right outside of Najera.

Old Smoke Stack with Storks

As I work in marketing, it is my job to work in Social Media, Media Planning, Market Planning and Analysis, Product Management, Advertising, Public Relations…name it, I do it. Interestingly enough, I was brought on initially to work in Exportation. I work with customers overseas and as the orders come in, I process them and work with our production team and make sure we get the orders out on time and with the appropriate paperwork. Sometimes, the paperwork can be demanding and extremely time consuming, leaving very little time to do any marketing but that is what makes it fun. I really do enjoy the changes in rhythm. I am never doing the same thing every day.

Some days, I go out in the vineyards or to the winery and take pictures that we can later use for our customers or for marketing purposes. I also get a chance to work in the vineyard and in the laboratory with the head winemaker and vigneron. I really enjoy my work and love this region. I couldn’t ask for a more beautiful place to work.

One day, I was out in the vineyard and thought it might be nice to share with you the annual growth cycle of grapevines here at Finca La Emperatriz.  In general, it begins with the pruning at the end of February which leads to the beginning of bud break and culminates with leaf fall in autumn followed by winter dormancy.  I will explain the process as we go and perhaps I can share a thing or two with you.

If you have any questions, please let me know at sacreddropseeker@gmail.com. Thanks for joining me today at the Sacred Drop Channel.

Bodegas Villaricca in La Rioja goes up in flames

Video of the Bodegas Villaricca Fire Aftermath

In considering whether you want to own a vineyard, you may want to reconsider this dream or at least amend the architectural plans it a bit. One main reason would be that should it burn down, you have nothing to show for the years, dollars, sweat and hopes you have put into this dream. Owning a winery is not just a station in your life, it is a full time commitment of not only you but those around you, including future generations.  I bring this topic up because just recently Villaricca winery in Rioja Alta burnt to the ground and there was nothing left. While still under investigation, they believe it started due to a live ember in the fireplace after a dinner event. It burnt the winery to the ground and nothing in the winery is salvageable.  This makes you think about how much you could potentially lose after investing so much.

http://www.larioja.com/v/20111107/rioja-region/fuego-convierte-ruinas-senorio-20111107.html

On a positive note, due to way the agricultural system is set up in La Rioja, most vineyards are not located on the same estate as the winery. Had this happened, the acres around the winery would have also been burnt.  In order to create a vineyeard producing quality grapes, it can take up to 4-6 years until you get the right ripeness and complexity out of the grapes. The first few years of growth commonly can result in bitter tasting wine.  In the 2nd year you get 50% production, in the 3rd year you finally get 100% production. However, this does not take into account the procurement of land, the planning and the planting, adding one year.  Not to mention aging of the wine, which depending on the type of wine you make, can take at least a year in the barrel and another in the bottle, adding another 2 years to the 5-7 previous years. 7-9 years is what you are looking at in order to create your most common wine with barrel aging.

In the case of Villaricca winery, they had over 4,000 liters of wine that was lost. This takes into account the 8,000 m3 of the barrel ageing room that was reserved for the RESERVA and other barrel aged wines which can take over 2 years in barrel and another 3 in bottle.

In summary, should you want to own a winery, place all heating, fire and cooking elements in an entirely separate building to avoid this happening to you. My deepest condolences go out to Bodegas Villaricca and all the people who worked there and were a part of this beautiful winery.