I watched the film “Sideways” several times during the last few years. The story of two friends on a week long holiday trip develops on the backdrop of the wine growing region of Santa Barbara County, California. While the story unfolds the two pals and their temporary girlfriends move through stunning landscapes of wine growing districts, visiting wineries, wine tastings, hotels and restaurants. Experiencing the touristy and commercial, as well as the cultural side of wine growing.
We got a taste of that experience when this summer we visited the “Marques de Riscal” winery, with its cool Spa Hotel designed by the American architect Frank Gehry, located in the village of “Elciego”, amidst the Spanish “Rioja” region. When we arrived at the parking lot there were already some busses. I expected a crowded tour through the wine production facilities and wine cellars, ending up in the inevitable shop. In the end it turned out there were only a few people which made the whole visit an almost private event. The tour of the “bodega” was overall very impressive, instructive and the wine tasting was a worthwhile experience.
Later on we moved to the city of Logroño, capital of the province “La Rioja” with an amazing array of bars and restaurants around “Calle Laurel” street. During the late evening and the early hours of the night, the street is over-crowded with tourists and locals alike, nevertheless providing an original insight into the local wine and tapas specialities. It was, like in the film, overall a mixed bag of touristy and commercial places and events that went hand in hand with cultural and authentic, often breathtaking and beautiful experiences at the same time.