1. JP's Corner- Wine of the Month: Marques de Riscal Sauvignon, Rueda, Spain
2. Ultra Luxury Weekends: Castles and Cellars in Navarre & Rioja, Spain
3. Food and Wine Day Excursions: Franciacorta Bubbly, Lombardy, Italy
4. Winery Profile: Conrera de Scala Dei, Priorat, Spain
5. City Profile: bidos, Portugal
6. Restaurant Pick: 3 Michelin Starred Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
7. Guest Chef & Recipe: Juan Mari Arzak, Michelin Starred Chef, San Sebastian, Spain
7. Gourmet Honeymoons- Spain's Catalan Wine Country
Wine Tours Newsletter

News this Month:

Cellar Tours launch exclusive new Italian Wine Tours!

Wine Tours Newsletter We are pleased to announce our new chauffeured luxury wine tours in Northern Italy and welcome Simona Piccinelli to our team. Cellar Tours headquarters are in Madrid, and we now have CT Staff in Paris, Phoenix and Brescia. Simona is the latest addition to the International Gourmet Team at Cellar Tours; she was born in Brescia, Italy, in the heart of Franciacorta wine country. Simona is fluent in English and French along with her native Italian. After studying "International Studies" in Trieste, she lived in Paris before returning to Italy to work in marketing for a top winery in Campania, near Naples. She went on to work in key positions in the Italian wine business, PR & communication, and wine export in Franciacorta, Tuscany, Sicily and Piedmont. She is a professional sommelier, member of the AIS (Associazione Italiana Sommelier) and of Critical Wine (an Italian wine professionals group). Simona represents top wineries worldwide, organizes professional wine tastings, etc. Now, she is our "woman on the ground" and liases our new VIP luxury wine tours in Italy.

1. JP's Corner- Wine of the Month: Marques de Riscal Sauvignon, Rueda, Spain

Juan Pedro Vazquez
Riscal Cellars

Rueda is located in northern Spain, northwest from Madrid, close to the red wine producing areas of Ribera del Duero and Toro. The native grape is called the Verdejo and has enjoyed a surprising Renaissance in Spain in the last few years. Whereas before, the Verdejo was used to make Sherry style oxidised wines, vintners realized that the grape was capable of making extremely fruity, tropical and grassy fresh wines. In the 1970's, the prestigious Rioja producer Marques de Riscal invested money in the region and started experimenting with the Sauvignon Blanc grape, both in making single varietal wines and also blends with the Verdejo. At the time, the other wineries viewed Riscal suspiciously, but as these things go, today most Rueda wineries make a Sauvignon Blanc. / Verdejo blend! And they are delicious!

Marques de Riscal Sauvignon Blanc

Our Rating 92/100
Type: Dry White Wine
Appellation: DO Rueda
Region: Central North West Spain
Grape Composition: Sauvignon Blanc, Verdejo
Pairing: Goat's Cheese Salads and Tarts

The appearance is pale straw with green hints and very bright. On the nose, you get plenty of grass and fresh herbs, a bit of asparragus and melon. Very intense nose. On the palate, the wine explodes with flavour. Tropical fruit and a long, long finish. This Marques de Riscal Sauvignon is a fantastic fruity wine and would pair majestically with goat's cheese pasta.

2. Ultra Luxury Weekends: Castles and Cellars in Navarre & Rioja

Olite, Navarra

Looking for a wine tasting weekend in La Rioja Spain, or just a few days visiting wineries as part of a larger wine tour of Spain? We offer luxury wine weekends, starting and finishing in the cutting edge Basque city of Bilbao. The weekend focuses on La Rioja wine and Basque cuisine, and also takes in top art museums and fairy tale castles. You'll sleep in a medieval hilltop village in a vineyard-covered valley, with the dramatic backdrop of the silvery Cantabrian Mountains for 2 nights. Your last night is also a treat, and your hotel is located right on the half moon bay of lovely San Sebastian. In San Sebastian, you'll enjoy the famed "Tapas" and "Pintxos" of the charming old town, and above all the gorgeous coastline. If you love fine wine and dining, architecture and art, then this weekend is for you!.
more info...

3. Food and Wine Day Excursions: Franciacorta Bubbly, Italy

Franciacorta Bottles resting during 2nd Fermentation

Only an hour and a half away from bustling Milan, hides the beautiful wine region of Franciacorta, tucked in the hills around the pretty Lake Iseo. Franciacorta is most famous for its chic sparkling wines, considered to be the absolute best in Italy and the only domestic sparklers realistically on a par with champagne. The wine villages are idyllic with vine covered rolling hills crowned with ancient churches and villas. With lovely Lake Iseo to the west and Lake Garda to the east, not to mention the medieval towns of Bergamo and Brescia nearby, there are a multitude of cultural and gourmet excursions we pair with the wine tasting tours. The wineries where we organize VIP visits and tastings at in Franciacorta are absolutely gorgeous with luxurious tasting rooms lined with art, and views over the vineyards. You'll be received like royalty and taste the best wines the cellars have to offer, along with tasty local cheeses and cured hams. This excursion is for those visiting Milan who are looking for a unique food and wine experience without having to travel far, a great day out!
more info...

4. Winery Profile: Conrera de Scala Dei, Priorat, Spain

Jordi Vidal, Winemaker at this Boutique Priorat Winery

La Conrera de Scala Dei has to be one of the most beautifully located wineries in the Iberian Peninsula. Nestled in the ancient village of Scala Dei, right under the beautiful Montsant ("holy mountain") and just next to the 12th century Cartoixa d' Scala-Dei, a stunning monastery in ruins, today the symbol of the chic Priorat wine region. This top end winery, run by three partners (one of whom is a priest), is particularly well-known for making exciting white wines with the native Garnacha Blanca grape (Grenache Blanc). Priorat is not the most famous of Spanish wine regions for whites; one usually thinks of the blockbuster, high alcohol reds (which La Conrera d' Scala Dei also make) adored by American, French and British wine critics. But wines such as "Nona" and "Les Brugueres" stand out in the sea of wines, as unusual, interesting and deliciously memorable. They are both creamy, oily even, and need food.
more info...

5. City Profile: bidos, Portugal

Obidos, Portugal

bidos is one of Portugal's loveliest villages, located in the center of the country in the Ribatejo region. It is a "must see", if visiting central Portugal, along with the nearby beautiful villages of Batalha, Santarem and Tomar. bidos is extremely picturesque with an enormous preserved castle crowing the village, and narrow cobblestoned streets lined with bougainvillea filled balconies leading up to it. Like many Iberian cities, it was founded by the Celts and later occupied by Romans, Visigoths and Moors. Finally, the warrior King Alfonso Henriques captured the town from the Moors back in the 12th century. An unusual tradition was born a century later: in 1282 King Denis gave the village of bidos as an extravagant wedding gift to his queen, Isabel. From then on, until the 19th century, the actual town of bidos was part of the dowry of all Portuguese queens! Today, bidos is called "The Wedding City" and indeed attracts plenty of lovers and honeymooners to its charming and very romantic old town.
more info...

6. Restaurant Pick: Gourmet Mecca- Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain

5* Mas de Torrent Chefs
Elena Arzak and Head Sommelier in Arzak's Cellar

Avda. Alcalde Jose Elosegui,
No. 273
20015 Donostia,
San Sebastian,

Tel : +34 943 278 465
Fax : +34 943 272 753
[email protected]

Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adri are without a doubt, Spain's two best chefs, indeed two of the best chefs on the planet. A visit to Arzak is an absolute must for gourmet pilgrims visiting Basque Country. Arzak, located in the aristocratic city San Sebastian, is simply one of the best restaurants in Europe. Juan Mari Arzak runs the restaurant with his very charming daughter Elena, who is 2nd in command in the kitchen. The restaurant lies slightly out of the center of the city and is actually the Arzak family house, dating back to 1897. Before it became a mythical Michelin starred eatery, it was the family wine inn and became famous locally for its superb cooking. Juan Mari says his main inspiration to chef was his parents, and he was raised essentially in the restaurant. His mother taught him to cook and gave him a solid foundation in Basque cuisine. Juan Mari would in later years take that foundation and fuse it with wild, creative new ideas, becoming the founder of the Basque Nouvelle Cuisine revolution.

Arzak received its 3rd Michelin star back in 1989 and has kept it ever since. Perhaps the thing that strikes you most when dining in Arzak is that compared to other restaurants in its category, there is a total lack of pretension at Arzak. It is so comfortable, the staff so friendly, and the place so cozy. The food is amazing without being gimmicky, sophisticated without being snobby. Of all the Michelin starred eateries in Spain, of which there are an increasing number every year, Arzak is without a doubt, the best in our opinion. Star dishes include the "Foaming Strawberry" and the "Elliptic Egg". The wine cellar is top class, with all the usual Spanish suspects and interesting wines from California, South Africa, France of course and even Israel. If you love food and you plan to visit San Sebastian, Arzak is not to be missed!

7. Guest Chef & Recipe: Juan Mari Arzak, Michelin Starred Chef, San Sebastian, Spain

El Arte de Arzak

Sea Bass with Scallops and Leeks:

Ingredients: (serves 4)

  • Marinade of rose-hip: 1 berry of rose hip, 2 raspberries, 40 gr olive oil, pinch of ginger, pinch of powdered, liquorice, c.c. clear millet, c.s. toasted almonds, c.c. vinegar of Jerez
  • "Leek's ash: 3 leeks (green part only), 100 gr olive oil
  • Marinade of Pistachios: 3 c.s. rose hip marinade, 20 gr pistachios, minced, 6 leaves of spinach, blanched.
  • Sea Bass: 4 sea bass fillets (150 gr each), 1 tbsp oil, pinch of salt.
  • Scallops: 8 scallops, clove of garlic, chopped, 1 c.c. sesame oil, 1 c.c. olive oil, 1 c.c. powdered, hazelnut, c.c. sweet paprika, pinch of chive, minced, pinch of lemon verbena, minced, pinch of salt.
  • Garnish: 4 sprigs of fennel
  • Preparation:

  • For the rose-hip marinade: Sweat the shallot until tender with little oil. Add the rest of the ingredients. Saut all over heat and when cold add the rest of the olive oil.
  • For the leek's ash: Wash the leeks and place them on a grill until completely burnt. Blend and whip in the oil, strain with a fine mesh.
  • For the pistachios marinade: Mix the rose hip marinade with the rest of the ingredients and whisk all until it emulsifies a bit.
  • For the sea bass: Cook the seasoned sea bass for 180 grades for 5 to 8 minutes (depending on their thickness), tossing it previously in the rose-hip marinade.
  • For the scallops: Brown the garlic and saut the scallops with the two oils and the rest of the ingredients.
  • Presentation
    Draw on the dish some black spots with the greased leek. Set two scallops on one side and on the other side the sea bass fillet, the skin side up. Ladle a line of marinade along it.

    8. Gourmet Honeymoons- Spain's Catalan Wine Country

    Medieval Barcelona

    This honeymoon tour is perfect for food and wine lovers. The highlights of this unforgettable honeymoon package include VIP wine tastings at prestigious Penedes cellars, a private Cooking Class with top chef in the gorgeous Costa Brava, a gastronomic walking tour of Barcelona's medieval "Barri Gotic", Spa Treatments (relaxing massage, Turkish bath, the latest beauty treatments from Natura Biss, etc) touring through the stunning mountains of the Pyrenees, Michelin starred dining, Hot Air Ballooning with a champagne toast in the air, and ultra luxury and pampering- exactly what you deserve on your honeymoon! From Barcelona airport, you will be collected by luxury Mercedes and swept away to your romantic, luxurious hideaway hotel in Barcelona's chic Tibidabo Hills neighborhood. Spa therapy awaits, along with champagne and exquisite roses in your junior suite, overlooking the bright lights if Barcelona and the sparkling sea beyond. Over the next week, you'll see the best that Mediterranean Catalonia has to offer including wine country, the sea and the mountains.

    more info...

    9. Customized Food and Wine Tours- Spain, Portugal and Italy

    Customized Food and Wine Tours

    If you would like us to customize a luxury wine tour for you (in Spain, Portugal or Italy), contact us with your requirements, and we can send you a free itinerary and quote with no obligations. We organize chauffeured wine tours and cooking packages starting from 1 day, to weekends to longer food and wine discoveries.

    Let us show you our favorite corners in Gourmet Europe!

    Contact us today at [email protected]