I am wine tasting in the Ribera del Duero, one of Spain’s most accomplished wine regions. Though vineyards surround me, I’m not sitting in a bodega. In fact, wrapped in a bathrobe, I tipple at Santuario, a subterranean spa at Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine, a Relais & Châteaux hotel set in a restored 12th-century monastery.
Undeterred by the fact that the clock has not yet struck noon, I swirl, sniff and sip, spa attendants gathered around me. As I comment, they take notes, and with each glass I sample, they offer a vial of essential oil, handcrafted at the spa to match the specific elements of each of the three wines proffered. Part of the recently opened Santuario’s innovative vinotherapy concept, the ritual known as spa sommelier digs deeply into the roots of this hotel’s bucolic terroir. It’s meant to embody the spirit of the property and to honor its history as a place where monks gardened, tended the vineyards and made wine centuries ago. It also celebrates the acclaimed wines produced today in the hotel’s own expansive vineyards.
Not a gimmick, the blind tasting procedure allows the spa therapists to assess the client’s mood and desires. When the client shows a preference for a certain wine or its corresponding oil, it may reveal what the client needs most from the impending treatment. Opting for a robust Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, might signal the need for a heavier touch on the massage table. Or choosing an aromatic citrus-infused oil could herald the need for mental clarity. Of course, everything gets discussed. But the theory is clients don’t always consciously know what they want or need. And the wine they select or the oil they favor allows the senses to respond. Savvy and intuitive therapists interpret the meaning and then turn the chosen spa treatment into an even more bespoke adventure.
It takes several quaffs of the wine and inhalations of the wafted oils before I choose the ones I like the most — at least for my first spa treatment of the week. In truth, I find each one compelling. Complementing the bold, bright, Sauvignon Blanc, an apricot pit-based oil, enlivened by exotic yuzu and lemon, promises balance and alertness. A potent potion of almond oil and thyme produces energizing effects (it pairs with a hearty red), and a macadamia nut and calendula oil infusion, awash with local cedar, mirrors the characteristics of a jovial Tempranillo — and purportedly reduces stress.
With some guidance from the staff, I realize I want to feel peppy after the massage rather than deeply relaxed, so I choose both the white wine (touted as Spain’s most popular white vintage) and the citrus-imbued oil inspired by it, in the hope it will vanquish my jet lag. It works, and after back-to-back treatments which utilize a form of cryotherapy (cold-temperature cures) augmented by the yuzu-lemon oil, I depart the spa renewed and ready to explore the hotel and its wine lands.
Inspiringly refurbished and re-envisioned by Swiss master architect Marco Serra, LeDomaine opened in 2012. With Spain’s first butler program, the 30-room monastery hotel, located in the heart of Castile-León just 20 minutes from Valladolid, cleverly marries the past with the present. Its rural setting reinforces its mission of serenity and repose. Fields of sunflowers, crisscrossing vineyards, rolling blond-hued hills and timeless Don Quixote-evoking villages surround LeDomaine. Extant Romanesque and Baroque architectural components house contemporary details, and ancient frescoes, columns and ceilings with belt-like vaults showcase the light cast from modern fixtures. Panoramic windows and a flower-filled inner courtyard roll the vineyards and Duero Valley terrain indoors as nature’s carpet. Refectory, a Michelin-starred restaurant, serves stylish Spanish cuisine in the room where the monks once gathered for their meals. Vinoteca, a more casual bistro, turns out tapas and small plates which can be tailored to spa vacationers in pursuit of detox or healthier fare. With just the perfect amount of pomp, flawless service ensures every wish comes true, though all the mollycoddling happens with a discretely delivered savoir faire.
Certainly, Santuario, LeDomaine’s newly opened spa, is the refitted medieval friary’s crowning glory. Also designed by Marco Serra, ensconced in the monastery’s former stables, the spa occupies 10,000 sleek square feet underground. A plethora of windows illuminate its treatment rooms, interior pool and hallways. The atmosphere mimics a cozy cocoon, and walking through it elicits a dream-like state, mesmerized by the sound of falling water.
After my spa sommelier ritual, I am led to spend time in Santuario’s pristine spa suite, a room ideal for couples with two massage tables, a Goliath-sized soaking tub, lounging sofas, a sauna and steam room. Here I receive my first treatments and while away almost an entire day.
As the week progresses, I relish my opportunity to be enveloped in wellness. I walk through the vineyards with the spa’s conceptual designer, Sonal Uberoi. Bringing Eastern and Western techniques into play, she created a spa vibrant with healing and well-versed in the ancient art of transformation. “There’s a feeling to this land and to this place,” she says on our walk, her arms sweeping through the air like gentle wind. “It exudes a therapeutic, natural energy.”
Indeed, I feel it as the next few days immerse me in a salutary journey of discovery. One highlight, The Grand Cru, a two-and-a-half-hour ritual, begins with a foot bath (in homage to how the monks greeted visitors), then continues with an exfoliation, an anti-aging body wrap and a massage, utilizing each of Santuario’s dedicated oenotherapy treatments in one session. Another day, I pedal a bike along the Duero River’s bank, then indulge in The Diamond Rose Ritual, an exquisite retreat that transports with Damask rose oil and diamond dust.
When my trip ends, I feel renewed and rested, and my skin shimmers. I’ve awakened with the roosters, eaten from the garden and imbibed wine made minutes away. A violin quartet has serenaded my meal in the monastery’s ancient church. And the hotel’s own bees have worked hard to make my honey. I can barely stand to return to urbanity. But bravely I pack my bags, neatly folding the restored version of me to take home in my suitcase.
Santuario LeDomaine Wellness & Spa
Sardón de Duero
tel 34 983 680 368
Welcome to Rhodes, a medieval treasure beautifully preserved throughout the centuries. Rhodes is the capital of the Dodecanese, an island ideal not only for those who want to relax, but also for those looking for an action-packed holiday! With its bright green hills, rich green valleys and uninterrupted line of golden beaches, Rhodes is truly a blessed place. “The sun island” has more sunshiny days and milder temperatures throughout the year than any other location in Greece. It is, after all, one of the country’s easternmost places and among the first to welcome summer on its impressive beaches. Add in the excellent facilities for tourism, the island’s special blend of cosmopolitan and traditional, and numerous cultural and archaeological sites, the most important being the Medieval (Old) Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and you’ve got the perfect holiday destination. While on Rhodes, don’t miss a daytrip to nearby Sými. An island of sponge divers and seamen, Sými used to have 30,000 inhabitants before the Second World War and was the richest island in the Dodecanese, despite its small size. Today, Sými attracts many visitors thanks to its beautifully preserved Neo-Classical buildings and the famous Archangel Michael monastery at Panormitis.
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