We hoped to escape the rain in San Sebastian with a day over the mountains in the Rioja region. Our cute guide picked us up early with supplies in his trunk......proper coffee cups, a thermos of hot water, and the best instant coffee I have ever tasted. As he drove he talked about everything from Rioja wine to the history of the Basque region. The coastal landscape and bright green fields changed quickly to dry vineyards as far as the eye could see.
Our first stop, rising out of the medieval town of Elciego, was the incredibly unconventional Marques de Riscal Winery and Hotel designed by Frank O.Gehry (who also designed the Guggenheim Museum in Bilboa).
You might recognize this particular Rioja from it's bottle wrapped in a gold netting with a silver label wrapped around the neck. The guys made note of the years they preferred! If you look back at the picture of the Hotel you might be able to see Frank O. Gehry's inspiration for the gold, silver, and rose colored building.....or NOT!
While we were touring the winery our cute guide went into the town for a snack. While there, he was approached by the MAYOR who complained that the tour guides take the tourist to the winery but never bring them into his beautiful town. So when we found out we had been invited to have a glass of wine in the local cafe/shop with the mayor we were honored and honestly, it was one of the highlights of the day. As it turned out the mayor was an interesting character, young, enthusiastic, dressed in black, several piercings, and plays the saxophone in a band. (Certainly not our image of a small town Spanish mayor!) The wine, white asparagus, and local chirizo were delicious and of course we bought some to show our appreciation. The town of Elciego was lovely too!