Two hours from Madrid in Valladolid along the Duero River sits Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine, a 12th century former Romanesque baroque abbey turned hotel. Down the road is its own vineyard and winery, or bodega as it’s known in Spain, growing mainly the tempranillo grape. This is the heart of Spain’s north-west wine region and I’m here to try out a spa concept, integrating wine and relaxation. Sounds like heaven.
I am in need of self-nurturing when I arrive, so spending time in Santuario LeDomaine, the hotel’s spa, is extremely welcome. The spa only opened in July 2015 so everything is still pretty shiny and new; there’s no reception area (no computers or retail space) and guests are encouraged to just breeze on through and treat it like a familiar room at home. If only! The atmosphere is cocooning and, because of the natural materials used, the sense of space mainly comes from the skylight in the pool that opens up to Spain’s hot climate in the summer (the spa is built three floors underground). Everything is designed to maintain the integrity of the abbey. A soothing sanctuary is the right way to describe it.
Wine on the menu
LeDomaine’s unique spa vision is the fusion of wine and treatments and the woman who put the concept into action is spa expert Sonal Uberoi, who recognised the need to come away from anything gimmicky. ‘The majority of our guests are wine enthusiasts, coming to visit this Rioja region,’ she explains. ‘We wanted to introduce wine into the treatments without bringing the typical grapes aspect to it. The result is an amalgamation of knowledge between the bodega, the sommelier and the spa, the common link is scent, so it made sense for it to be aroma driven.’
I am introduced to the ‘spa sommelier’ concept inspired by the five things you do as part of the wine-tasting ritual; seeing, swirling, sniffing and sipping before finally savouring. There are wines to taste and aromatherapy blends to smell and, basically, you pick one that most appeals to you and, normally, it’s related to the mood you’re in. There are three blends of yuzu, cedar, and a thyme and rosemary blend, each inspired from the wine from their bodega.
One treatment is enticingly called Le Grand Cru and, as with fine wine, is considered the best. The two-hour treatment is heavenly, although you do have to undergo a rigorous scrubbing using grape seeds which are quite coarse as they don’t melt in the same way salt does. The wrap that follows uses the flesh of the grape so I am encased in a sticky syrup; the cooling effect helps increase elasticity in the skin.
Food for the soul
Tearing yourself away from the spa is hard but you have to eat at some point. The Vinoteca restaurant serves a casual lunch and dinner in a room above the wine cellar, with plates of Iberico ham from Salamanca and other regional tapas dishes. At the hotel’s Michelin-starred Refectorio, guests can try an 11-course tasting menu devised by Marc Segarra Saune with matching wines. Delicacies such as glazed sweetbreads, Gillardeau oysters and partridge breasts are part of the menu. The small portions pack a rich punch and are a real treat, served in such beautiful surroundings.
A 20-minute drive away is Entre Brasas y Sarmiento, a rustic homely restaurant, well-known for its young lamb called lechazo, meaning ‘milk-fed’, cooked the traditional way in a fire pit. The lamb is simply put on long skewers with a little salt and cooked over a subtle heat coming from old vines used as kindling. It’s an acquired taste and rather strong, as the lambs haven’t grazed on grass which totally changes the flavour. Because the bones are yet to form, you can crunch into them too, if the idea appeals to you. Portions are large so go with an empty stomach.
Although Abadia’s abbey originally included the surrounding land, and monks traditionally liked to make their own wine, the winery wasn’t built until 1996. At the time, the winemaker identified 54 different microclimates within the 700-hectare area and the wine-tasting tour I take reveals some incredible wine, especially the Seleccion Especial from 2012. Le Domaine is a fabulous escape for wine lovers and the fact that you can switch off to the soothing feel of its abbey environment makes this the perfect, restorative getaway.