Formerly of Spain's El Bulli and now beverage director for José Andrés's US restaurants, sommelier Lucas Paya knows where to find Rioja's best tapas. Plus, amazing wineries by the sea.

In this article:

Places to Eat in Spain

El Portal de Echaurren

Lucas's Pick Sommelier Lucas Paya loves the hallmark restaurants of the Rioja region, including avant-garde cuisine at El Portal de Echaurren.—Megan Krigbaum


Lucas's Pick Sommelier Lucas Paya visits Terete for the traditional suckling pig.—MK

Tapas Crawl Along Rioja's Calle del Laurel

Lucas's Pick Sommelier Lucas Paya is happiest walking down the famed Calle del Laurel in old Logroño and stopping for wine and pinchos (tapas). "It's all about wandering into the local places," Paya says. Each bar has a specialty: Go to Bar Sebas for tortilla de patata (potato omelet) and a great wine list. El Soriano is the spot for pinchos de champiñónes (mushrooms), and Bar Jubera for patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy aioli).—MK

El Rompeolas

This is one of winemaker Telmo Rodriguez's favorite post-surf lunch spots. He orders local spider crab and fried anglerfish called pixín.—Jen Murphy

Places to Stay in Spain

Atalaya Hotel

It has 13 rooms and a top location near Mundaka's surf and Urdaibai nature reserve.—JM

Places to Visit in Spain

Enoteca Arburi

Lucas's Pick Enoteca Arburi is a small, unpretentious wine shop in Laguardia with a deep selection of wines from Rioja's top producers, like Bodegas Artadi, as well as great international bottlings."—MK

Marqués de Riscal

Its winery in the Frank Gehry-designed wine-tourism center produces an excellent Rioja Riserva. Francis Paniego, Rioja's great chef, has a restaurant on-site.—JM


This winery is owned by the family of the prolific Basque winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. It is believed to be the highest-elevation vineyard in Rioja and is known for its Remelluri Blanco, a complex blend of seven white grapes.—JM

Txomin Etxaniz

This small winery is a top Basque producer of Txakoli, the region's dry, slightly sparkling white wine, which is made from the native grapes Hondarrabi Zuri and Hondarrabi Beltza.—JM


Less than two hours from Rioja, Mundaka beach has the longest left-breaking wave in Europe. "This is the Montrachet of surf: powerful, elegant, fine, consistent," says winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. The world's best surfers compete here October 5-17 in the Billabong Pro (—JM