Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The road to Haro (Rioja, Spain) -- #DWCC13

One of the key aspects of the annual Digital Wine Communications (formerly European Wine Bloggers) Conference is the press trip (formerly pre- and post-conference trips) and the announcement of locales and details are eagerly anticipated by conference attendees. There were three press trips in 2013 (Rioja (Spain); Porto, Vinho Verde, and Douro Valley (Portugal); and Priorat and Montsant (Spain)) and, due to the fact that it was focused specifically on Haro, the heart of Rioja, I opted for the Rioja trip.


As initially detailed, the trip would commence with a vineyard and winery tour and dinner at Bodegas Ramon Bilbao on October 22nd; continue with visits to CVNE and RODA on the 23rd; and conclude with a vineyard and winery visit, inclusive of lunch, to Bodegas Muga on the 24th. After lunch at Muga, we would travel to Bodegas Dinastia Vivanco where we would link up with the larger conference group for a winery and museum tour. In addition to the foregoing, DWCC was also able to secure a winery tour and late lunch at Bodegas Gomez Cruzado on the day of our arrival in Haro.

The team participating in the Haro trip was 13-persons strong and would be led by Robert McIntosh, DWCC co-founder and himself a former Dinastia Vivanco employee. We were initially supposed to meet at 10:30 am on Tuesday morning at Logrono airport but, after some back and forth, the decision was made to meet at 11:30 am at the Guggenheim Museum coach parking lot instead. This arrangement did not include those who had come in earlier and made their way to Haro on their own or Doug Frost MS/MW, who was coming in later that day and for whom alternative arrangements were being made.

I took a taxi from my hotel to the Guggenheim and arrived approximately 10 minutes before our scheduled departure. I located the bus and was welcomed with a warm smile by the driver -- warm that is, until he saw the size of my suitcase. He shook his head, mumbled something under his breath, and muscled that monstrosity into the rear cargo area. I had not made a friend that day.

I left and went to take a few pictures and by the time I returned, a number of people were already seated. A lively conversation was ongoing as I entered. It seemed that a few of these people had met at previous conferences. Or maybe wine bloggers are just naturally garrulous. It was now about 11:40 am and the bus driver had a querulous look on his face. He was short two people. Did we know them? Did we know where they were? We took a roll call but that only told us who was on the bus. We could not determine who was missing because we did not know who had traveled to Haro on their own.

After a series of walks around the bus and the parking lot, and some hurried phone calls to god knows whom, the driver stepped onto the bus, took his seat, closed the door, cranked the engine, and eased slowly out of his parking space. We were on our way. Sans two members of the team. Time would reveal their identities. The emailed directions had been clear so anyone not on the bus had only themselves to blame.

We wended our way out of Bilbao and were cruising pleasantly along the motorway -- which ran along narrow valleys framed by conifer-robed mountains -- when the driver suddenly pulled into a park just off the roadway. What was the matter? Did the Riojans decide that harvesting their grapes really was the most important thing at that moment and withdrawn their invitation? What could I do in San Sebastian with two whole days on my hands? Nope. Our missing team members had been located and they were going to take a taxi and catch up with us. If we were going to wait, we would do so outside the bus so we all disembarked and began taking pictures.

Suddenly the driver began beckoning us back onto the bus. From what I understood, some other arrangements had been made to get the laggards to Haro. We could continue on.

With the banter on the bus, the trip went quickly and very soon we pulled off the highway and into a a town where images on a page suddenly came to "life" for me: Muga, Roda, Tondonia, and La Rioja Alta lay close to each other and dominated the environment (Can you locate Gomez Cruzado in the pictures below?).


We had arrived. We made our way to the hotel (Hotel Arrope), connected with Robert and the team members who were already there, and checked in. We were ready to embark on our adventure.

©Wine -- Mise en abyme

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