Spain has an ideal climate for certain grapes, such as Rioja and Rueda. // © 2013 Thinkstock
We’ve been to wineries in Tuscany and Bordeaux, and we know why they get all that merited attention. But what about the rest of Southern Europe and its passed-over cellars? Designers and architects are creating lavish lodging off the established grapevine trail in La Rioja, Spain, and Alentejo, Portugal, giving travelers more reason to check out these wine regions.
Design Between Vines in Spain
What is good Spanish wine? You might say Rioja, not because it’s necessarily the best wine in Spain (a touchy subject), but because it’s more internationally renowned than say, Penedes or Rueda. In northeastern Spain, La Rioja tempts the curious sipper with robust wines, organized cellar tours and avant-garde hotels. Certainly Gehry’s Marques de Riscal — its folding facade like a burst of confetti — is one of the better-known in the region. However, Gehry’s hotel is but one of an ever-swelling group of design hotels in La Rioja. Finca de los Arandinos, opened in 2011, was created by Spanish architect Javier Arizcuren Casado and fashion designer David Delfin. An ultra-modern hotel with traditional Spanish touches, such as a mortero del cal facade typical in whitewashed villages, Arandinos offers 14 rooms that start at about $130 a night.
Sunshine is a Spanish commodity, abundant in most parts of the country. Arizcuren has allowed rays to gush into Arandinos through 26-foot-high window panes in the lobby, a space where the hotel’s rooms, bar and restaurant can be viewed simultaneously on three floors. The lobby is contained within towering cement walls, which border on severe were it not for the intimate spaces created by Delfin with 1970’s antiques, pottery and Piet Hein Eek benches. Original paintings by Rioja artists from owner Roberto Guillen’s collection add a local touch.
Once at Arandinos, you’ll find little reason to leave its grounds. A spa, restaurant and cellar provide the sumptuous staples needed for a divine time among the vines.
Pouring in Portugal
Wishing on a star has never been easier. Alentejo’s minimal light pollution means quiet nights of shooting-star spotting in L’and Vinyards’ Sky Suites. The cosmos are viewed through retractable skylights above king-size beds in spacious suites. The Sky Suites were the brainchild of CEO José De Sousa Cunhal Sendim, a professor turned hotelier with a passion for architecture. José, Promontorio Architects (Portugal), and designer Marcio Kogan (Brazil) worked together to open L’and in May 2011.
The designers created a vineyard integrated with a contemporary version of the traditional Mediterranean patio home. Twenty-two suites contain multiple courtyards built in clusters which are separate from the main building where the restaurant, spa, cellar, bar and reception are held. Elegant, suites are fitted with eucalyptus paneling and natural slate flooring. A colossal slate bathroom tub competes with an outdoor plunge pool, sequestered away in a private patio.
In the restaurant, guests can try Portuguese octopus rice with clams followed by strawberry timbale with lemon-basil sorbet. Meals are better with a bottle of L’and Vineyards 2009 Reserve, a limited edition aged in French oak and hinting at red fruit, mint, spice and toast. Views of hill village Montemor-o-Novo are framed by an almost 14-meter-long window in the restaurant. The village castle twinkles at night in the distance and above it the heavens mimic its shimmer.