The Greek god Dionysus dances across my line of vision, his stained-glass feet partially obscured by mounds of grapes. I’m not wearing my contact lenses, so the effect is a bit dreamy and nicely blurred around the edges. In a horizontal state of what can only be described as spectacular contentment, it’s not much of a leap to imagine Dionysus slipping around the pillared corner of the spa’s relaxation area to join me for a glass of sparkling cava. There’s a half-full glass already positioned close at hand, standing guard over a small bowl of grapes. The spa attendants appear to be fully aware that forcing me to reach too far might spoil the mood.
Though the Hotel Peralada Wine Spa & Golf is set within the northeastern Costa Brava area of Spain’s Catalonia region, coveted by jet-setters for its namesake wild coastline and sapphire waters, there’s nothing here suggestive of dash or dazzle. Harmony is the reigning theme, from the vineyards overlooking the golf course to the serenely elegant guestrooms — and most definitely in the spa, where the selection of treatments and therapies was created specifically to capitalize on the healing botanical ingredients found in grapes. There’s even a line of bespoke antioxidant-rich hair and body products infused with grape extracts, ranging from Muscat Grape Body Gel and Merlot Grape Shampoo to rich face creams formulated with the powerful antioxidants found in the small, clustered fruits.
Every aspect of the spa reflects the property’s connection to wine. Deep mauves, soft plums and shades of violet color the upholstery; a line of tall windows spanning the length of the pool is filled with images of grapes, and stone urns line the pool’s edge, tilted to release a steady stream of water. The entire space is suggestive of a wine cellar, and it seems wise to offer up my absolute surrender.
The past hour and a quarter were spent solo, participating in the Divinum ritual, really intended for couples or small groups of up to six people. My private circuit commenced with a shower of tepid water, then progressed to a slightly warmer rain bath. This was followed by an extremely brief shower beneath cold water and a beeline to the sauna, an extraordinary space shaped like an immense wine cask. Relaxing in the penetrating heat, I tried to work out the construction logistics involved in creating the space and could only imagine a giant cooper calmly shaping wooden staves into a barrel shape, strapping it with iron rings while pausing occasionally to refresh himself from an enormous flask.
After the sauna, I cupped handfuls of ice from the ice fountain to my legs and feet in preparation for entering the steamy hammam, always one of my favorite moments of an aqua circuit. Afterward, I began my cool-down phase with a walk through a path of cold water lined with small, grape-shaped glass balls that provided a pretty thorough foot massage. After another 10 minutes or so in the Jacuzzi bath and a full-body rinse beneath the cold waterfall shower, I found myself in my private relaxation space gazing up, as noted, at the stained-glass Dionysus.
Mid-morning the next day, I enjoy the Essence of the Empordà, a half-hour soak in a deep, swirling bath of Peralada Merlot. Later, having formed a strong emotional attachment to the local wines, I take advantage of the hotel’s connection with Castillo Peralada a short drive away to learn more about the region’s winemaking traditions.
The medieval castle, built during the 14th century, is next to a crumbling Carmelite monastery. The art and craft of turning grapes into wines and cavas dates back to the castle’s beginnings, when ancient Greeks came ashore at the Gulf of Roses on the Iberian Peninsula and introduced viticulture to the region. Early winemaking endeavors by long-ago Carmelite monks were carefully documented, and ancient parchments detailing their efforts are on display in the castle library. Since the 1950s, the castle’s cellars have produced the much-lauded Cava Gran Claustro, aged in the monastery and rivaling the finest French Champagnes.
Wandering the halls, I learn that until 1960, cava was called Spanish champagne — until the ire of French wine producers was piqued and “Champagne” became a protected designation. The result of this monumental new law was not only an encompassing industry examination of provenance but also the introduction of Spain’s official Denominación de Origen, or Designation of Origin. To attain the D.O. classification today, only traditional champenoise methods can be used in cava production.
The estates where the castle’s grapes are grown spread across the hillsides between the towers and the hotel, each bearing an intriguing name: Finca Espolla, Finca Malaveïna and the renowned Finca Garbet, where tidy rows of vines curl down slopes toward the sea coast.
The next day, I follow the path from my room back to the spa for a final bit of relaxation: a four-handed exfoliating massage with wine sediments, made up of a blend of grape skins, leaves and seeds ground into a paste. Smoothed, limpid and carefree, I allow my therapists to lead me to a tub filled with water that glows with a gold sheen. I’m told it’s been laced with silk extracts that will moisturize me from head to toe. Once out of the water, a golden-hued antioxidant cream is massaged into my skin, and I slip away to the refuge of the lounge area, wrapped in a robe and ready for a nap.
As I’d hoped, the hotel has not run out of cava while I was being pampered. Sipping slowly from a glass that glitters in the subdued light, I try — and fail — to sympathize with Dionysus’ various responsibilities in retaining Greek god status: As it turns out, in the right setting, feeling completely divine is really rather easy.
Hotel Peralada Wine Spa & Golf
tel 34 972 53 88 30
I had just taken off my sandals, stepping onto the white-sand beach for a late-morning walk to a secluded spot I heard about from a front desk clerk, when I glanced down and saw the time on my phone. It had just turned 11 a.m., which meant it was only 7 am back home, the perfect time to call and say good morning to by husband before he left for work. Not quite ready to head back to my room, I decided I’d test the WiFi signal and made the call as I continued walking toward the shoreline.
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