A Wine And Food Tour In Andalusia

Sometimes a wine-themed vacation doesn’t include visits to wineries.  Especially if your travels are to regions not known for their exquisite wines.  Instead, it becomes more of a wine and food tour, and you go to places with delicious local foods that are paired with the country’s best wines.  Even if they weren’t produced in that region.

That’s what we decided with Harmony Cellars when we planned the itinerary for their second wine club trip.  In 2022, we visited Croatia and it was all about going to wineries, sometimes 3 a day, plus more wine paired with our meals.  For 2023, the owners asked for a trip to the Andalusia region of Spain, in the warmer south of Spain where wine production isn’t the main reason to visit.

During the week of our journey, we spent time in Seville and Cordoba, stayed within the walls of the Alhambra just outside Granada and enjoyed the beach and museums of coastal Malaga.  Along the way, we ate very well, trying many local specialties, all of which were accompanied by Spanish wine.  The trip was a huge success and one that Wine Lovers Travel plans to offer again, always with a twist since we never offer identical trips twice.

Savoring the Culinary Delights of Seville

This wine vacation began in Seville, the capital of Andalusia on the River Guadalquivir, in the southwest of the Iberian Peninsula.  While known for its architecture combining the styles from its Roman, Moorish and Jewish history, our reason for making this our starting point was more about food and music.

This leads us to an interesting factoid. While the Spanish city of Valencia is considered the birthplace of paella, the saffron-infused rice dish studded with spices and any assortment of meat, seafood and poultry, Seville prides itself on its own version of the popular dish.  Except that the dish isn’t called paella at all!  A paella is a large round pan in which you cook the rice and its accompaniments.  What you cook is simply called rice or yellow rice!  

The first morning we went to a cooking school near the city’s market, where we donned aprons and enjoyed a hands-on experience cooking yellow rice, as well as gazpacho and a delicious stew of fresh spinach, lots of garlic and chickpeas, thickened with toasted croutons.  As we prepared the food, our hosts made us authentic sangria, with lots of cut-up fruits and red wine, made fizzy with the addition of a liter bottle each of “Casera” orange and lemon soda, which is made without sugar.  Keeps the sangria refreshing and not too sweet, which is exactly how it tasted.  

Paella - Andalusia Food and Wine


Our instructor told us that typically, the Sevilla version of yellow rice includes chicken, snails and rabbit, but in a concession to American tastes, ours only included chicken (though I would have been game for the other ingredients.)  The steps to cooking the rice were very specific.  You don’t just add everything to the paella pan all at once.  You add in a sequence, even to the point of placing the rice in a line across the diameter of the pan before stirring it into the other ingredients.  Very pleased with our cooking acumen, we enjoyed this thoroughly authentic version of Seville yellow rice!  And since no meal is complete without a sweet, we were treated to a flute of a local favorite, a smoothie made with lemon ice cream (not sorbet because you need the creaminess of ice cream) and Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine.

Following this food extravaganza, we departed Seville for the countryside to Basilippo, one of the region’s most beloved olive oil producers.  Here, we walked the vineyards and learned about various olive varieties and harvesting.  Then we toured the production facility and got the definitive word on what all the different descriptions mean on the bottles and tins containing this liquid gold.  Last was a guided tasting, showing us how to experience the way different oils smell and taste…and how the orange-infused oil is a sensual topping for chocolate ice cream.

Olive Oil Farm

The Allure of Flamenco in Andalusia

The other reason we included Seville in our wine and culture vacation is that it is famous for its flamenco performances, and we were treated to a wonderful one at a local venue in the heart of town.  Flamenco is a folkloric combination of dance, music (usually guitar) and song that was developed by Andalusian gitanos (non-Roma gypsies).  The performance we saw was intensely sensual, and even though we could not understand the words of the singing, the story of unrequited love and subsequent tragedy needed no translation.  What was so impressive about the performers was the energy and precision of their dance as they pounded on the wooden stage, which is specially designed with a hollow space on top of a lower floor to make the flamenco steps exceptionally loud.

Cordoba: A Tapestry of History and Wine

The next phase of the trip was a day in Cordoba, a beautiful city known for its historic merging of multiple cultures—the Islamic Moors, the Jews and the Christians.  Most interesting, and a must-see, is the La Mezquita, which was originally a mosque, but was converted to a Catholic church in 1236, and today is used by both religions.  Besides its enormous size, what makes this building so unique is that when the Christians conquered Cordoba, they were so awed by the beauty of its architecture—its marble columns and its Moorish mosaics—that they let it stand and incorporated the new church into the existing Mosque.  During this same time period, Cordoba was the home to a vibrant Jewish community, mostly from North Africa.  Although the Jewish section is preserved, there is no Jewish community remaining today.  Sites we visited include the plaza dedicated to Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher and astronomer born in Cordoba, as well as the synagogue.

Mosque Church in Cordoba

Here in Cordoba, we did visit a wine cellar, part of El Churrasco, the restaurant where we also had lunch. We started with a glass of fino, their non-sweet sherry which is produced locally.  Following an assortment of tapas, another specialty of Andalusia, almost everyone in the Harmony Cellars group chose the restaurant’s signature dish, grilled short ribs, which was paired with a robust Tempranillo from the Rioja region.  

Staying within History’s Embrace: Granada and the Alhambra

While Cordoba deserved a longer visit, we had to move on to Granada, where we stayed at the famous parador, the former convent for the Alhambra, now a historic lodge which is now owned by the Spanish government.  Staying inside the Alhambra is a special experience few get to sample.  The rooms are fairly simple, but sleeping inside of history is incomparable.  In order to sleep there, you must also have dinner and the kitchen did a wonderful job of preparing local, authentic foods with lovely wines from both Rioja and Priorat.

Palace at the Alhambra - Wine Lovers Travel

Chuck and Kim - Harmony Cellars


Our guide for the Alhambra was Enrique, who I knew from past visits, and he made the Alhambra come to life with his stories of what life was like, both during its Moorish beginnings and after Andalusia was conquered by Queen Isabella in 1492.  The mosaics and tiles which remain from the early days are particularly interesting because they incorporate symbols of both Islam and the Jews who also lived in Granada before they were exiled. 

Enrique - Our Guide - Wine Lovers Travel

Malaga: Picasso’s Hometown and Coastal Gem

Following our time at the Alhambra, the last section of the trip was in seaside Malaga, the birthplace of Picasso.  A beautiful city on the Mediterranean and a popular summer resort, Malaga is also a city of museums, and of course, we visited one of only three in the world dedicated to native son Pablo Picasso (the others are in Barcelona and Paris.)  

Gail and Picasso -Wine Lovers Travel

Picasso museum Malaga   

Before getting our culture fix, we went first to Vegeverde, a biodynamic citrus farm located just outside of town.  Primarily a major citrus grower for all of Europe, owner Francisco and two of his sons Miguel and Mario have created a unique foraging-cooking experience for special guests like our group.  During prior visits, I did have the experience of walking the farm, and picking fruits and vegetables we’d use later in preparing lunch.  This time, the weather wasn’t so cooperative, so instead of walking, we visited their small production facility where one of Francisco’s daughters is developing a line of body oils and soaps.

On to lunch, once again we were put to work chopping and slicing the freshest ingredients to prepare an exquisite salad and another paella pan of yellow rice.  Also using chicken, this rice was prepared very differently from the one we’d cooked in Seville, but equally delicious.  Making our lunch truly unique, Wine Lovers Travel had arranged in advance for us to pair our meal with wines from Harmony Cellars!  Winemaker/owner Chuck Mulligan, who had the secret menu in advance, brought his rose to pair with the salad, his 2018 Sangiovese with the rice and his white Riesling to sip while eating an amazing dessert concoction of meringue, sponge cake and lemon curd filling.

Cooking Experience - Malaga

Group cooking class - Malaga - Wine Lovers Travel

Harmony Cellars Wine At Lunch - Wine Lovers Travel

The last day of our journey was a guided tour of Malaga, a city that also deserves more time. With its gardens, its Roman history (you can see the subterranean ruins discovered under the University of Malaga and the Roman amphitheater still used for performances today), its museums, parks and beaches, not to mention the freshest seafood, it is a place which has an appeal for everyone.

Uniting Food, Wine, and Friendship: The Harmony Cellars Experience

The best part of our wine experiences and travel with Harmony Cellars and the intimate group from their wine club is how we all got to share Spain’s Andalusia region, discovering its food, culture and people.  New friendships were made, discussions of future trips abounded, and everyone agreed this trip created for Harmony Cellars by Wine Lovers Travel was one of the best wine travel experiences ever.