Many of the great wineries of the La Rioja region welcome visitors. (Note: Some require advance reservations, often via their websites, for tours and tastings.) Here are three of my favorites:
This well-respected wine producer has four different wineries: Imperial, Viña Real, CVNE and Contino. All of them receive visitors, but the striking underground modern winery by French architect Philippe Mazières at Viña Real is particularly worth visiting. The estate offers catered picnics at a modern pavilion in its vineyards afterward.
One of the most distinguished wine producers in La Rioja, this winery combines a variety of beautiful art nouveau buildings, plus a striking new visitor center by the late architect Zaha Hadid. Bodegas López de Heredia is one of the few family-run bodegas regulated by the Denominación de Origen Calificada Rioja, or DOC (Appellation).
The single best wine tourism experience in La Rioja is the fascinating wine museum on the estate of the Dinastía Vivanco winery in Briones. Here, you learn that wine production began in La Rioja when Spain was part of the Roman Empire and thrived during the Middle Ages when monasteries were established along the route of Saint James of Compostela. The commentary in the museum doesn’t say as much, but doubtless pilgrims were glad to have a glass or two after walking for hours on end in the heat.