Wineries: Bodegas Ysios: Calatrava’s Riojan castle is crumbling.


Bodegas Ysios was one of the first wineries to be completed in the Rioja region by the parade of starchitects – designed by Santiago Calatrava in 2000 and opened to the public (by appointment only) in 2003.

Liz and I visited the winery grounds during our first trip to Spain in 2003 when the estate vines were just tiny clusters of leaves on the ground. We actually stumbled upon this stunning structure as we peered across the valley from the hill town of Laguardia and since we were rushing from one town to the next (as always) we didn’t have time to inquire about a tour. We did drive up to the building – drawn in by the contrast of the glittering aluminum roof and the bleached cedar walls with the granite and green mountain range behind.


On this visit we were surprised to see the facade starting to peel and discolor and the once-stunning high-pitch roof tarnishing. The landscaping of the grounds had been neglected and the reflecting pools were no longer reflecting with brown sludge covering the cracked mosaics.





Our schedule on this trip was tight and we could only afford one time for a tour which happened to be en Espanol. Since neither of us speaks Spanish beyond the essentials (check please, wine menu please, and delicious), we knew it was going to be a difficult tour. We just wanted to see the inside of this structure and taste a couple of their best wines.

The main barrel room was just behind the glass of the tasting area and was making use of the highest point of the vaulted ceiling to create a most impressive space. The large whitewashed wall to the back of the barrel room would have been a great place for a mural or an opportunity for something unique.


We went upstairs to the primary stainless steel fermentation tanks that were laying horizontally. This is something you rarely see. I can only guess that this allows for more surface area of the juice to be in contact with the skins. Our guide did explain this at length in Spanish – turned to us and said in English ‘Its better for the wine.” Thanks.


Beyond the remarkable structure we found the overall feeling of the winery to be sterile and impersonal. The combination of very little activity (last year’s wines were already in bottles or snug in their barrels), room after room of concrete and stainless steel and the acrid green lighting left me feeling that I was in a Home Depot plumbing section and not a top tier winery.


We tasted two typical and unexceptional wines – a 2007 Reserva Red (100% Tempranillo) and a NV (no vintage) Reserva White (Viura & Malvasia) – We left with a souvenir bottle of 2002 Limited Edition Reserva Red ($57 US).


I left feeling sad for the place. The tour and wines were uninspiring and the building felt a bit neglected. King Santiago, keep your castle in order!  – J F Grossen, Chief Executive Oenophile (CEO)


Essential Information:

Getting there: The Google maps location is pretty far off when you enter in the address provided by the bodega below. The real location is almost directly across from the hill town of Laguardia on the A-124; look for the small signs for the winery on the left at the crest of a small hill. They are hard to see and don’t look like the other winery signs.

Visits Monday to Friday at 10am, 1pm and 4pm. Saturday and Sunday at 11am and 1pm. Must be pre-booked. 9.50 Euros per person.
Camino de la Hoya, s/n,
01300 Laguardia (Álava) [ Map ]
Tel: +34 945 600 640
E-mail: [email protected]




“I just don’t see Big Wine allowing labels on wine reading something like this: This wine was dealcoholized by reverse osmosis and smoothed out with micro-oxygenation. Ingredients: Water, alcohol, grapes, chestnut tannin, oak extract, oak dust, genetically modified yeast, urea, enzymes, grape juice, tartaric acid, bentonite, and Velcorin.” – Alice Feiring, The Battle for Wine and Love or How I Saved the World from Parkerization

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