Top Six Grape Escape Sleepovers – Taste Travel Guide
You know yourself – the worst thing about visiting vineyards and wineries for a good look-see and some educated tasting is that you can’t really sample more than a glass or two of the stuff before your time is up and your vision is impacted. Which is why the vineyard/sleepover equation is a perfect resolution to a tricky problem. Listed here are mostly European-based destinations that you can easily get to from Ireland (and one US vineyard that is accessed by a direct long-haul flight). All wineries are situated outside urban hubs, and therefore require car hire, so if you’re planning to travel to any of them remember to factor in costs.
CHATEÂU LES CARRESSES, FRANCE
Why you need to visit: Chateâu Les Carrasses was built in 1886 at the peak of the Languedoc region’s wine industry, yet within several decades its glory days were well and truly behind it. Now completely restored and renovated, the chateâu operates as a winery and family holiday combined. The latter aspect features almost 30 self-catering villas and suites, each with a private outdoor area. Add in a heated infinity pool, a brasserie, the Pyrenees as your outdoor wallpaper background, nearby Languedoc villages (Quarante, Capestang, Puisserguier), a very family-friendly atmosphere and the region’s famed 300 days of sunshine, and you have a tailor-made holiday.
Top wine tip: The flagship wines are La Serre. The white blends Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Marsanne and Viognier. The red mixes Syrah and Grenache aged in oak barrels for 11 months. September is when the region’s grape harvest is at its peak.
MARQUÉS DE RISCAL, SPAIN
Why you need to visit: Oh, boys and girls – this is something very special, indeed, a truly spectacular contemporary hotel, designed by no less a starchitect than Frank Gehry (the man behind the design of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum), situated bang in the centre of the internationally-acclaimed Vinos de Los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal vineyard – which is itself located in the medieval village of Elciego. Check-in here for what is one luxurious and very different viticultural experience. If the rooms and suites don’t get you (and if they don’t you might need help and care going forward), then the fusion of wine and food will.
Top wine tip: In what is perhaps an unfair collection of many wines, we will stick our neck out, giraffe-like, and recommend XR by Marqués De Riscal 2015, an inaugural vintage that pays tribute to Spain’s master winemakers. Prepare for notes of liquorice, cinnamon and black pepper, with imperceptible traces of long cask-ageing.
TENUTA LA BADIOLA, ITALY
Why you need to visit: Located in a pocket of land close to west Tuscany’s coast, and at the foot of verdant hills festooned with olive orchards and vineyards, the Tenuta La Badiola is a former hunting estate of Leopold II, Duke of Tuscany. Ideally situated between Rome and Florence, the estate – surrounded by the vibrant beauty of the Natural Park of Maremma – stands extends for 500 hectares, of which 30 are vineyards. A recent development to the estate is the Hotel L’Andana, a refined high-end hotel consultant-designed by Italian designer Ettore Mocchetti. The estate’s Michelin-starred restaurant, La Trattoria Enrico Bartolini, has a wine list that is the envy of the region, with the on-site wines the most requested.
Top wine tip: Speaking of which… Sip a glass or two of Acquagiusta Vermentino, a fragrant and subtle wine with floral notes. Acquagiusta Rosso, meanwhile, enjoys a soft fruit bouquet with shades of spice.
CASA DA CALÇADA, PORTUGAL
Why you need to visit: Casa da Calçada is a 16th-century palace that still provides a royal welcome. The building’s history is part and parcel of the life and times of Portugal, as its rooms became meeting places for political strategies and intellectual discussions. It is also at the very centre of the region of Vinho Verde and has been producing wine for over 100 years. Almost 20 years ago, however, the imposing property was completely renovated; it is now a charm magnet for anyone that wants to experience warm hospitality, divine vineyards, and the unforgettable Restaurant Largo Do Paco, which is overseen by chef Tiago Bonito.
Top wine tip: Why taste one wine when you can sample more? Once booked in advance, every day (4.30pm-6pm) in the hotel there is a guided tour of its wine cellar, as well as tastings at the hotel bar. If you’d prefer to venture outside, you can also visit some of the region’s vineyards.
MERITAGE NAPA RESORT, SAN FRANCISCO
Why you need to visit: Well, we couldn’t not include Napa Valley, could we? With a slogan ‘We Are Napa’, and a destination winery that cosies up to acres of sun-drenched hillside vineyards, here you have the best of several worlds. From luxury accommodation, hidden retreats and a fitness centre (which will come in very handy!) to event space, a world-class spa and a bowling alley, Meritage has it sorted.
Top wine tip: You needn’t have to look very far or wide for any amount of wine tips, but as we’re here it’s no harm to know that this place has its own private vineyard and walking trails. Even better, is The Village, located directly across the street from the Meritage. Something of a one-off destination in its own right, The Village offers – among other treats – wine tasting rooms that feature produce from some of the best boutique wineries and craft brewers in Napa Valley.
LOISIUM HOTEL, LANGENLOIS, AUSTRIA
Why you need to visit: How many ‘wows’ can you fit into a sentence before it starts to be boring? Prepare to be wowed-out by this wine hotel located less than an hour outside Vienna in Kamptal Valley. What will wow you initially is the design: think avant-garde architecture sectioned into three parts that fuse together geometrically. Just in case you think this place is all about the impressive design principles (courtesy of New York’s Steven Holl Architects), let us not forget that the hotel is surrounded by vineyards.
Top wine tip: May we politely suggest that you check out the 900-year-old wine cellars that lay beneath the futuristic building? Also, not too unusually but in this instance beautifully, pay a visit to the expansive on-site Aveda Wine Spa, which is much more ‘wow’ than you think it might be.
Feature By: Tony Clayton-Lea