RAISING OUR GLASS TO EXCEPTIONAL HOLIDAY IDEAS

Mary Gostelow is often called the world authority on luxury hotels. In addition to being global ambassador for International Luxury Travel Market events, http://www.iltm.com, she has a daily travelogue, http://www.girlahead.com. In this report, she takes us on a tour of HER choice of high-end wine tourism destinations.

HOSPITALITY ADDS GREATLY TO ANY WINERY EXPERIENCE.

Hotel Marques de Riscal in Elciego, in Rioja, takes your breath away. The “sculpture” that is the Frank Gehry building looks like an unravelled ball of knitting wool, multi- coloured titanium sheets in pink, for wine, and silver, for a bottle cap, and gold for bottles’ wires. Inside this extraordinary unique structure are 43 bedrooms (most grand is the 72 sq m Gehry Suite, which can connect to an adjacent room). You can dine in the Marques de Riscal Restaurant, with Laguiole designer cutlery, and tour wine cellars that go back to 1858. There are over 1,000 wine books, and a 25-metre indoor pool plus a vinotherapy pool, and of course there are vineyards, over 1,000 hectares, including a Frank Gehry selection. The only miniscule challenge is getting there: drive an hour from Bilbao or, as I did, take a train from Madrid to Logroño, and order a car for the last 20 kms. But, honestly, visiting this unique hotel (GM Stefan Friedl) is a lifetime memory.

Hospitality adds greatly to any winery experience. Six Senses Douro Valley, near Lamego, Portugal, is under an hour’s drive from Porto. The complex has a serious Organic Pharmacy spa with indoor and outdoor pools, integrative wellness assessments, and a 24/7 gym with latest Technogym bits. When it comes to the 57 bedrooms in a building expanded from a 19th century mansion, both #401 and #406 have private terraces. Other distinguishing features include vineyard hiking, and tree climbing – act pre-teen yet again. GM Nick Yarnell.

In Argentina, Estancia Colomé showcases Donald Hess’ art collection. In Chile, Domingo Fernandez Concha’s former house in the Santa Rita Vineyards is now Casa Real Hotel. In USA, Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, in Boyes CA, offers wineries plus day spa: in Charlottesville VA, Albemarle Estate at Trump Winery offers rooms in the 700-ha vineyards. In Italy, Rosewood manages Castiglon del Bosco, in Massimo Ferragamo’s 1,700-ha vineyards. In South Africa, multitude of Cape winery hotels pale beside Babylonstoren, a working farm, garden restaurant and complex of individual Cape- style hotel cottages in 200-ha of Franschhoek vineyards, all owned, to benefit the local community, by Tencent billionaire Koos Bekker. In Australia, for Mudgee and Orange wines, try Emirates One&Only Wolgan Valley, NSW. In New Zealand, Marlborough Vinters Hotel is ideal
for visiting Cloudy Bay winery.

And last, but not least, how about France? The 61-room Les Sources de Caudalie, directed by Alice Cathiard and her husband Jérôme Tourbier, is in the meticulously manicured 78-ha Smith Haut Lafitte vineyards, 12 kms from Bordeaux (best room is the Ile aux Oiseau Suite): walk, admire sculptures, eat, luxuriate at the original Caudalie spa – and enjoy a glass of Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2005 or 2009.