What’s it like? Located in the middle of the Marqués de Riscal winery, the building was originally meant to be the company headquarters, but the owners quickly realised that it could be better employed as a hotel with a difference. Designed by Frank Gehry, architect of the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, the hotel rises from the Spanish countryside on waves of multicoloured metal, one colour for each component of the maker’s wine bottles (pink being the wine itself, silver for the foil at the top of the bottle, and gold for its protective criss-cross sleeve). As I arrived at sunset its fiery glow could be seen from the appropriately-named neighbouring village of Cenicero (“Ashtray”). The hotel is managed under Starwood’s Luxury Collection brand.
Where is it? Situated at the foot of the hillside village of Elciego (“The blind man”), the hotel is in the northern province of La Rioja, famous for its wineries, and just over the Basque border. It is also close to the medieval walled city of Laguardia, with its cobbled streets, cafés and backdrop of the Cantabrian mountains. Most overseas travellers will arrive by road via Vitoria airport, around 40 minutes’ drive away, which is served by four flights weekly from Stansted with Ryanair.
How many rooms? 43 rooms and suites, some within the main building and the rest accessible by the first-floor covered walkway.
Room facilities The extraordinary exterior of the Marqués de Riscal belies the minimalist, airy suites within. There are several typically Gehry touches, such as walls and windows at unusual angles, and bags of natural daylight, as well as some intriguing lampshades in the shape of clouds.
The facilities are what you would expect from a modern luxury hotel – Bang & Olufsen flatscreen TVs and CD players, wired and wifi internet access, minibar, large work desks and Ligne Roset designer furniture. Views vary from the beautiful backdrop of Elciego to vistas of the surrounding wineries and the hotel itself. The marble bathrooms are huge, with separate bath and shower and the large array of amenities Luxury Collection regulars will be accustomed to.
Restaurants and bars The hotel’s restaurant serves Riojan and Basque cuisine under the direction of Francis Paniego, the first Riojan chef to receive a Michelin star, in 2004. Dishes include Riojan lamb’s feet (€15), Galician lobster salad with vanilla potatoes and foie-gras (€21), and a tasting menu from €80. There is also a wine bar with an inevitable emphasis on Marqués de Riscal wines, although others are available, and a rooftop lounge-cum-library where guests can sit back in front of the fireplace or admire the panoramic views.
Business and meeting facilities The centrepiece of the hotel’s meeting facilities is a 1,200 sqm converted wine cellar, capable of holding up to 400 delegates. There is also an auditorium with a fixed setup for 100 delegates and an additional meeting room – both have natural daylight. In addition several of the hotel rooms can be converted into function spaces for informal meetings.
Leisure facilities Apart from sampling the owner’s wines in the bar or cycling around the vineyards (the hotel provides bicycles), visitors can take tours of the cellars, including the “cathedral of wine”, a musty, moss-covered cellar containing some of the winery’s oldest and finest bottles. There is also a shop, and the hotel’s Caudalie Vinotherapie Spa offers grape-based treatments such as a “sauvignon massage” and a “crushed cabernet scrub”. The spa also has an indoor swimming pool, gym, Turkish and spa baths, hydrotherapy pool, douche Vichy and a relaxation area.
Verdict As with many of the Luxury Collection hotels (see review Hotel Pulitzer, Business Traveller September 2006), the hotel’s uniqueness is its main pulling power. Worth visiting just for the building and surroundings, you’ll be tempted to stay and soak up both the wine and the atmosphere.
Prices Fully flexible internet rates for a midweek stay in early March started at €535 for a grand deluxe room, including breakfast.
Contact Marqués de Riscal Hotel, Calle Torrea 1, 01340, Elciego (Alava), Spain; +34 945 180 880; luxurycollection.com/marquesderiscal.