Ribera del Duero is about 70 miles wide along the banks of the Duero River, with the large city of Vallodolid to the west and Burgos to the east. Valladolid is one of the biggest cities in Spain, and an industrial one at that with many highways converging onto it and therefore may not be the best choice to stay while visiting bodegas. Once out of the city, the wine region is a very bucolic and beautiful area with most bodegas within easy access from the central highway of N122. Penafiel is a centrally-located and historic town convenient to most of the great bodegas. The Hotel Ribera del Duero is a longstanding hotel here and one where most visitors stayed in the past. In recent years, new hotels have emerged such as the Hotel Fuente de la Acena, a four-star hotel in Quintailla de Onesimo, inbetween Valladolid and Penafiel. This hotel is very quiet, situated along the bank of the river with spare, modern furnishing and great food. The night we were there, we dined on grilled octopus and crab for a first course, “barnyard rooster” with chocolate-based sauce similar to adobo and “tail bull” with red wine sauce. The bull’s tail was wrapped in caul fat and carmelized to heavenly unctuousness. The strong flavors of the rooster and bull, as well as the richness, complexity and concentration of sauces complemented the dense, powerful and complex tinto fino wines served with the meal. For dessert, a creative fruit and vegetable ‘minestrone’ with rum ice cream.
A classic to eat in Rioja is suckling lamb, lechazo asado, and you will find many asadores in the area. One that we liked especially in the town of Penafiel is Asado Mauro.