We had 1 week to spend in La Rioja Spain and there was one Must Do while we were there. We needed to visit Marques de Riscal! I have seen photos of this winery over the years and I just had to see it in person. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.
For several years, I was a food and beverage manager at a 5 star hotel in San Francisco. I loved being wined and dined by the wineries of Napa Valley and was fortunate enough to visit several of them. I loved pairing wines with the courses and enjoyed learning all about the winemaking process. Once I moved away from the area and changed careers, the food and beverage part of me slowly drifted away.
Now years later, I am not as much of a foodie and wine-goer as I once was, but I do still love a good glass of wine. Of course living in Spain, we have some of the best wine available to us, for a very low-cost. Knowing we were going to be visiting one of the major wine regions of Spain, we just had to schedule some time to taste wine!
The plan was hatched
Lars was off volunteering all week, so I had a special treat planned for the rest of us. Many years ago, I saw a photo of a winery in La Rioja, Marques de Riscal. I fell in love with the building and knew I just had to see it. We were staying in Navarrete, but I had no idea where Marques de Riscal was located. I did a quick google search and it was just 20 minutes away! Woo hoo, we were going to visit.
I had arranged a unique and special day for us, as I didn’t just want to do a wine tour. I reached out and also requested a tour of the hotel. Yes, coming from my hotel background, I just had to see the hotel too. Oh and while I was at it, we scheduled a day using the spa services as well.
Marques de Riscal Wine Tour & Tasting
We learned so much about the history and wine making process on our tour. It was about 90 minutes long and we walked out in the vineyards, through the winemaking and bottling area, and into the cellars. There was a nice mix of old and new, as you could see the buildings which were added as the winery grew into The City of Wine. You see a virtual tour of each area on the property.
Marques de Riscal has one of the oldest cellars in the area, dating from 1858, as well as its later 1883 extension. The photo above is known as The Cathedral. They have bottles of wine here from each year of harvest and winemaking. When special people come to visit, like the King, they have a private wine tasting here. They pull the bottle from the special guests birth year and enjoy it.
The bottle tops are all sealed with wax, so you don’t use a corkscrew to open them. Instead they heat a device with circular-shaped tongs and then place it around the bottle neck. They then immediately apply cold water, and this breaks the glass neck of the bottle cleanly, giving a completely smooth finish. They then pour the wine and enjoy. Of course they were going to open a bottle up for us, but our guide didn’t happen to have the key to the cellar handy.
There is always something to learn
We learned all about the way in which the grapes are grown and harvested and even a little trick they have to spot disease on the vines. Apparently they have a rose bush at the end of each row of vines. The roses are weaker than the vines and thus will show signs of disease first. This will give the growers time to react and prevent the spread to the vines.
Clankity Clank Clank
It was also very exciting to see the bottling and labeling process. We could hear the bottles clanking away as they zipped around the assembly line. It was fascinating to see how fast and efficient it was to go from an empty bottle to a sealed, labeled and packed case of wine.
As much as I enjoyed all of the tour. We of course really love the wine tasting portion! They even offer the kids non-alcoholic drinks of their choice.
If you would like to visit the winery, click here for reservation information.
Marques de Riscal Spa
This is truly a unique experience. Contact the hotel and see if you can just obtain a day pass to the spa. It is a perfect complement to your winery tour. We took the morning wine tour and followed it up with a couple of hours experiencing the spa. Let’s just say Anya was a little excited!
We started with a change into our suits and being pampered with slippers and a big bath robe. Then out to the main swimming pool and terrace. The pool was just the perfect temperature and it also had jets along the side with different levels of pressure. We then stepped into the steam room, followed by a little cool down time on the terrace. Then we went exploring in the spa and found two jacuzzi tubs and a beverage cart. We really allowed ourselves to be indulged, and enjoyed every minute of it.
Vinothérapie® – Wine Therapy?
I was thinking this just meant drink loads of wine and all of your worries will melt away, but nope that isn’t it. Marqués de Riscal Caudalie invented Vinothérapie® Spas. They combine the use of water from a hot spring and vine/grape extracts. They offer many exclusive treatments, which we didn’t take advantage of this time. Here are a few to entice you: the Crushed Cabernet Scrub, the Pulp Friction Massage, the Honey and Wine Wrap, the Barrel Bath, Caudalie’s fresh grape facial treatments.
Marques de Riscal Hotel
This is the iconic building we have all seen and been amazed with. From what we hear people either love it or hate it. We happened to be in the “We love it!” group. This is the entire reason we ended up on a tour here, because I fell in love with the building and needed to see it in person. Of course it doesn’t hurt that there was wine involved too.
The building was designed by Frank Gehry, who also created the beautiful design for the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. The contemporary style was meant to highlight the rolling hillsides, grapes and other characteristics of the wine. It was revealed in 2006, and at first the nearby town wasn’t too pleased. Now years later, they realize it brings them tourism and thus helps their businesses flourish.
Coming from a hotel background, I was very excited about the private hotel tour. There are only 14 rooms in the main hotel and another 29 above the spa. Each room has a spectacular view, as it is completely surrounded by the vineyards and winery. There are several terraces and options for you to eat a full meal, have a snack or just enjoy the wine.
The private Library
We really enjoyed seeing the private rooftop library-lounge, terrace, and a wine bar for guests only. While we didn’t stay on the property overnight, I think it is well worth it for a romantic couple’s getaway. I am not sure it would have been worth the price with the kids along.
When you book a room at the hotel, your winery tour and full access to the spa are included with your room price. Wanna stay in a little luxury? Check here for Marques de Riscal Hotel pricing and availability.
Please feel free to click on any image below and enjoy our photo gallery of our day of luxury at Marqués de Riscal.
So what do you think? Do you love the building or hate it? Would you want to stay here?
Our experience was provided by Marques de Riscal. All opinions are our own.