I’ve felt like Spain’s most reputable wine region has been beckoning us to visit for years and now, we finally made the journey. Ribera del Duero wine is a distinguished drink and the land that produces it is both scenic and dramatic. Our roadtrip through wine country brought us new discoveries from the world of wine and epicenters of culture in places like Valladolid, Penafiel, Burgos and Soria.
Driving from Madrid to Duero
We began our journey from the Madrid Airport where renting a car is relatively easy and the fastest way to move about in Spain. There are several offices in each terminal, but terminal one has the most options for cars, so we decided to pick up our rental from there.
Penafiel: a town that rises from the vineyards
Upon receiving the car we set out on the road towards Duero. Within an hour and a half of driving on excellent roads we already began seeing wineries from the highway. We moved along a half hour more to a very scenic town known as Penafiel.
The arrival to Penafiel is unmistakable. Its highest point is a rocky promontory on which sits a magnificent castle. Our first order of business was finding parking (of which there are large lots outside the city and inside anywhere it is free after 5pm) and going to hike around it. There are trails leading up and it is steeper than it looks, but seeing the walls and views from above all around is so worthwhile.
On our way back into the city we saw the famous chimneys which jut out of the ground everywhere. These are ancient wine cellars built underground all over the hills outside the city where cooler temperatures and ventilation were historically used to preserve them. In town itself we found beautiful Mozarabic architecture, friendly local people and a corner wine shop that offered a range of the simplest to the best Ribera del Duero wines, ranging from ten to nine hundred euros respectively.
Burgos: a city of pleasant walks and architecture
About an hour and a half drive Northward from Penafiel, we set up our base to continue exploring the area in Burgos. It’s a city with over a thousand years of history and it immediately feels historic and intimate. The AC Hotel where we stayed was an excellent spot just steps from the famous university and cathedral which is one of the finest representations of gothic architecture in the world. The city is incredibly walkable, clean and it feels really authentic. Parking is free at night if one can find a spot and there are many underground garages that offer good rates. We made the fifteen-minute walk outside the city which brought us to the famous Miraflores monastery, where monks have lived in seclusion for nearly a millennia. It’s a gorgeous walk.
Lerma: a city of historic splendor
This town was a treasure hidden in a field. It was a perfect excursion from Burgos being only forty minutes away and it rises from the rural plains around it like an expression of Baroque power. The city has a central palace of the Asturian dukes which now hosts many artistic and cultural exhibitions. The houses and shops look unchanged by the centuries and after we’d explored the town, a walk around it revealed the most pleasant countryside decked with wheat, sunflowers and wildflowers. This hidden gem really made having a rental car worthwhile.