Traveling wine country in La Rioja is not all slick bodegas with svelte young women doling out superficial info about wine. Our expert, Robin Graham, invites us to dinner with the Puelles family in a village in La Rioja. Dog, Mom, Dad and son are part of the party. You will be too in a six room wine hotel.
By Robin Graham
Nobody’s sure how long the Puelles family has lived in Ábalos, and that’s a long time. Not even the family knows, although they can tell you that they bought their old mill from the town council in 1844. It’s still there, covered in thick ivy and these days stands beside the newer house and the spanking new bodega they’ve built and continue to add to.
Jesús Puelles is, in diplomatic parlance, a bit of a character. Since there is no restaurant in the village, he welcomes guests to his six room wine hotel by showing them around the cutlery drawers and cupboards of the kitchen and telling them where the little village shop is, providing the telephone number because the lady who runs it is more often out than in.
The Puelles get on with family life on the terrace where guests are made to feel so at home, eating their own meals there. His wife, Mila, takes my fiancée, K, under her wing like an old friend, showing her round the vegetable patch and talking of life and love as if they’d known each other forever.
Jesus’ son is pleased to learn that we speak Spanish because he likes to talk to the visitors. The mother-in-law insists that we have bread with our self-cooked meals and goes to get some if she thinks we’re trying to get away without any. A shaggy, one-eyed dog rolls over for belly tickles.
I float around in the upstairs pool while K reads a book between the rows of vines out back.
We saunter into the village for a glass of sixty-five cent wine in one of the three bars. Population three hundred, we see no other tourists in the baking heat, amidst the old stone houses.
What is it about wine country? It is always so ‘suave’ as the Spanish might say, so gently welcoming, so ‘genial’, and this little corner of La Rioja is wine country at its best.
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Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found, with accompanying photography, at alotofwind
He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: @robinjgraham or liked: alotofwind
Photography at 500px