Today we transferred to Pamplona, or Iruña as it’s called in Basque, home of the world-famous running of the bulls in July in honor of San Fermin, patron saint of the city. On our way we visited an exceptional winery, Bodega Otazu, that impressed everyone with its collection of art and wine.

Ariadne, sculpture Otazu

Ariadne, sculpture Otazu

The winery is located on 350 hectares and is a señorio, a feudal concept with a chapel, palace and workers’ houses. The elegant palace was built in stages from the 12th through the 16th century. We are in the upper most limits of red wine production in Navarra. They cultivate 4 grape varieties:chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and tempranillo.

The current owners bought the estate in 1990 and spent millions updating the buildings and constructing a state of the art underground wine facility. Production is currently 350,000 bottles and they export 60%. They are also only one of 15 wineries in all of Spain entitled to use the new D.O.P regulation of Pago, or place name designated for areas with specific terroir qualities.

The owners’ love of art is evidenced throughout the winery with sculptures and paintings on the grounds and everywhere in the winery and museum. The barrel room, called the ‘cathedral,’ is the most

barrel room Otazu

barrel room Otazu

impressive part of a very impressive winery. It was comparable to the barrel rooms of Chateau Margaux and Opus, very good company indeed!

Our lunch consisted of a pairing of 6 wines with 6 tapas, prepared under the direction of the chef of a one star Michelin restaurant. It was the general consensus as being the most impressive of meals so far; not as copious as previous meals but the high quality of the tapas paired with wines was impressive.

Here was the menu: chardonnay 2014 (no oak) paired with spoonfuls of salmon and tuna; chardonnay 2007 barrel fermented and aged, paired with foie gras; (I personally preferred the unoaked version since I thought the oak was a bit strong-handed) rosado made from 100% merlot, a deep hued wine with strong aromas and flavors of red fruits, paired with lobster consommé; premium cuvée Otazu 2012, a blend of 55% cabernet,30% tempranillo and 15% merlot with 12 months’ oak aging, paired with lentils and steak tartare served in a miniature ice cream cone; Pago de Otazu 2008, a blend of 85% cabernet, 10% tempranillo and 5% merlot with 16 months barrel aging and an additional 36 months’ bottle aging; the wine had a deep red color with high acidity, a serious wine that needs aging, paired with pork cheeks stuffed with Parmentier; Altar, a blend of 95% cabernet sauvignon and 5% merlot (my personal favorite) paired with steak wrapped in bacon and peppers.

After checking into our fine hotel, Los Tres Reyes, we had a guided walking tour of the old town where we followed the path used in the running of the bulls and visited Hemingway’s favorite hangout, Cafe Iruña. It was truly a memorable introduction to Navarra.


You can read all about our Basque food and wine tour in the articles below:

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