“Iconic vineyard hotel in the Rioja built by Frank Gehry, who gave Bilbao the Guggenheim: perfect for style-seekers and gourmands”
The 43 extremely airy rooms are split between the hotel and the spa wing at the back. You will probably want to stay in the main house, but the same style runs throughout as the spa rooms were completely refurbished when the hotel came along. What’s more, the designer was Gehry himself.
Premium Rooms at the front of the hotel overlook the village; those in the spa wing have views over wine fields. For what it’s worth we rather liked the ones in the spa, a couple of which open onto a small courtyard of vines - not a bad spot to enjoy your complimentary bottle of wine. Slightly more expensive are the Grand Deluxe Rooms in the main house, which are more spacious.
The style is deeply attractive throughout - effortlessly contemporary and seemingly simple with materials contributing both form and design. Wavy leather bedheads are cut into walls of blond wood, theatrical red curtains protect your privacy. If you take an Executive Suite you get leather armchairs to loll about in and those with big windows tend to have padded window seats. All rooms have kingsize beds and beautiful linens, then Bang & Olufsen TVs through which you can access the internet. There are DVD players on request (a library of films waits at reception), separate CD players too.
You get Gehry’s cloud lampshades everywhere and doors that slide out from between walls without the slightest hiccup. Rooms at the front of the main house come at odd angles with the titanium roof overhanging dramatically. Bathrooms are utterly fabulous: stunning back marble, vast mirrors, cavernous baths and separate walk-in showers, then robes and slippers and lovely oils. As for the Gehry Suite - the best room in town - it comes with a private balcony that looks across to the village and its church.
Breakfast is taken at the top of the house and it’s delicious. You get jugs of fresh juice, plates of sliced fruit. There are cakes, patisserie, loaves of baguette and homemade jams. You can dig into local cheeses or carve yourself a slice of ham off the bone. There’s chorizo and salami, too, and eggs cooked to order.
For lunch, head to the wine bar, which has walls of wine, lovely views back to the village and a super little terrace on which to soak up the sun. Snacks and sandwiches, hamburgers or a plate of spaghetti are served here during the day.
Bistró 1860 is up on the top floor with sublime views from its terrace and a herb garden for the chefs. The food is deliciously rustic, perhaps toasted goat’s cheese salad, meatballs with truffles, or a stew of monkfish and clams.
The main restaurant is as stylish as the impeccable food it serves: claret walls soar up to high ceilings, windows frame views of the church. There are 2 menus. The 'memory menu' offers 5 courses and might include tomato tartar with langoustine and white garlic sauce, battered hake served with roasted peppers and rice soup, then Cameros cheese with honey ice cream. If you fancy a feast try the 9-course 'Vanguardia tasting menu'. Highlights include foie gras curd with red wine caviar, Cantabrian lobster with a green bean salad, suckling pig, and sautéed pineapple with caramel mousse. The wine list is extensive, with a good selection available by the glass, and some surprisingly affordable bottles.
If you want to eat out, head to pretty Laguardia (a 5-minute drive), a hilltop town with tasty local food. Also close is the winery at Arabarte, where you can eat at weekends; simple Riojan food. You’ll find the first Michelin star awarded in the Rioja 30km southwest at El Portal in Echaurren. It’s a contemporary space in a lovely old village, well worth visiting. Logroño, a 15-minute drive, is the capital of the Rioja. There’s a batch of good restaurants scattered about the Old Town. Some are smart, others simpler serving pintxos (tapas). Cachetero (c. Laurel) is the best in town.