Spain is known for big-city destinations like Barcelona, Madrid, and Valencia. And while those cities are all amazing in their own right, there's another region that's often overlooked. Head two hours north of Madrid and you'll find the Spanish wine regions of Ribera del Duero and Rueda, home to more than 300 wineries and some seriously stunning views.
Ribera del Duero is known for red, Tempranillo wines and Rueda for white, Verdejo wines, so you really get the best of both worlds here. Both areas make it easy to visit many wineries back-to-back, whether by car (with a D.D.!) or by biking along the gorgeous Douro River.
These are some of the can't-miss wineries in the region, as well as a few non-boozy activities to check out in between.
One of Ribera del Duero's most iconic wineries, Vega Sicilia, has an 150 year-history. Visitors can see the wine process from start to finish: where it's made, the laboratory and control room where it's tested, the barrels where it's aged, and where wine goes to be bottled and stored.
There's also a mansion on the grounds that used to be the winery owners' home. Now, it's used for VIP guests and to host lunches or other formal occasions. Wedding reception, anyone?
This "bodegas," Spanish for winery, is located on Ribera del Duero's "Golden Mile." It's been around since the 13th century (!!), when the first vines were planted on the property.
Master Sommelier Brahm Callahan says this is one of his favorite wineries in the region. "Finca Villacreces is on a restored estate tucked in next to the Duero river with expansive grounds, walking trails, [and] biking trails. The setting is amazing and the wines are even more compelling."
Run by a husband and wife team, this two-person operation does things old school...
... including stomping grapes by foot! Located in Ribera del Duero, Callahan describes it as a compact winery with an ancient cellar. "The focus and experience is entirely on the wines, these wines are so compelling that I almost don't want to share."
Over in Rueda, white wine is the name of the game. At this fifth-generation, family-owned winery, Verdejo grapes are the main focus.
There are even underground cellars to explore, featuring labyrinths and barrel vaults. Casual.
Another Rueda-based winery, Bodega Menade has a stunning backdrop, plus homemade cheese to snack on while you taste wine or craft beers.
Menade also has underground wine caves to explore, some of which have been around for thousands of years.
Once you're all wined out, take a ride in a hot air balloon 500 feet above the Golden Mile in Ribera. Callahan calls it "an absolute must." He also recommends trying pinchos (bar snacks) and tapas in the city of Valladolid and a trip to the Alcazar de Segovia castle in Segovia.
Speaking of castles, the Peñafiel Castle looks like it came straight out of a fairytale, and houses its own wine museum. Time to hop on Google Flights.