A jetset lifestyle doesn’t have to be all private planes and decadent digs. In Paste Travel’s Jet-Set Bohemian series, we blend the best of high and low for just the right balance … enticing everyone from backpackers to luxury boutique hotel lovers to come along for the ride.
On the hour-and-a-half-long drive from the Bilbao airport to the medieval village of Laguardia, I should’ve been thinking about the Rioja wine I was about to taste in Spain’s oldest wine denomination. Instead, my thoughts were drifting to the plates they’d be pairing with these gorgeous reds at lunch. After a week of wine tastings throughout the country, sampling robust reds in Ribera del Duero with blood sausage and crisp Albariño whites with copious amounts of creamy cow-milk cheese and jamón, I was ready to see what these wines could do with a pairing that’s not so obvious. That’s when I found out about Freixenet’s Solar Viejo winery in Rioja, sitting under the Sierra de Cantabria mountains.
Just a 10-minute drive away from Laguardia, a 13th century walled village surrounded by vineyards, this winery is one of 600 in Rioja. The blend of modern and traditional techniques using some of the finest grapes in the region is one of Solar Viejo’s draws, but the lamb for lunch is reason enough for a visit. Chuletillas de cordero asadas al sarmiento is a Rioja specialty, and the winery roasts these lamb cutlets with vine shoots in an open grill just off the tasting room. In an area that’s been producing wine for over 2,500 years, they don’t play favorites with the grapes; every part of the plant is weaved into a meal that’s matched perfectly with a glass of ruby red Vaza Crianza Tempranillo to bring out the shoot-roasted lamb’s smoky flavor, making it hard to decide which is better: the vino or the vine?
I love a good glass (or bottle) of wine, but trips to wine country can revolve around much more than the tasting room. Case in point: this vine-infused cuisine. Wineries aren’t the only ones using grapes in ways that go beyond wine; you can also sleep or soak amongst the vines in spots that incorporate the fruit into everything from massages to meals.
Photo by Lane Nieset
Last summer, the 12th century Monastery of Santa María de Valbuena was spruced up and transformed into the first five-star spa and hotel in Spain’s Castilla y León region. The 79-room Castilla Termal Monastery of Valbuena sits on private vineyards, but the tempranillo-producing ones in Ribera del Duero’s Golden Mile are just minutes away. When the monastery was built, the Cistercian monks irrigated these vineyards with mineral-medicinal water drawn from a 1,266-foot-deep aquifer that feeds the spa’s seven thermal pools today. After soaking up the stress-relieving benefits from these waters, move on to one of the exfoliating and polishing treatments with sea salt and grapes for the ultimate antioxidant that’s sure to balance out all the wine you tasted throughout the day.
In Bordeaux, Caudalie’s Vinothérapie Spa at Les Sources de Caudalie also weaves warm mineral-rich water into its treatments, drawn from 1,771 feet below the surface. Nestled on the vineyards of Château Smith Haut Lafitte, 20 minutes from the center of town, the 11-room hotel is housed inside an 18th century country home, and the spa is every bit as much French country chic with its blend of light wood and natural stone. This is the spot where the French skincare brand (which happens to be one of my go-tos) launched its line of grape- and vine-based products that have been scientifically proven to help hydrate and protect skin against free radicals. Treatments not only work with these products, they play on the grape theme as well with more in-depth “Caudalie Cures” like crushed Cabernet scrubs, red vine barrel baths and Merlot wraps.
The Vinothérapie Spa also has an outpost in Porto, Portugal at the hillside Yeatman, a hotel that takes its wine theme seriously. The 82-room Yeatman is home to one of the largest collection of Portuguese wines in its cellars, and partners with some of these producers for the décor in its suites, which look out to the vineyards and River Douro. One of the most impressive is the 008 Master Suite done up by the 300-year-old port producer Taylor’s, with the pièce de résistance being the four poster oak barrel bed sitting in the center.
At The Yeatman, you can sleep or bathe in a barrel, but it’s also worth experiencing the wine that’s inside with a guided tasting journey through Portugal’s wine regions at the Michelin-starred gastronomic restaurant. The menu pairs six different wines from around the country with Portuguese fish and produce for a meal that starts with toro tuna belly and mini cuttlefish and wraps up with tangerine cream, meringue and mascarpone ice cream.
Photo courtesy of Calistoga Ranch hotel
On the 157-acre Calistoga Ranch in Napa Valley, meanwhile, detox takes on a two-part form at the secluded canyon resort. Soak in the spa’s healing waters that fill the heated mineral pool, zenning out with a water massage surrounded by woodlands, before sitting back with a glass of vino at The Lakehouse restaurant overlooking Lake Lommel. If you’re making it a romantic retreat, sip on a glass of Napa Valley Cabernet during your soak and then move on to a candlelit massage performed with wine oil. The spa also works with warm grapeseed compresses in a combination deep tissue and stone treatment, relieving tension and tightness so you’ll be as good as new to set out and explore the valley’s vineyards hiking or biking to nearby wine tastings.
Lane Nieset is Paste’s Jet-Set Bohemian columnist and a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.