Rioja Alavesa is the wine region (part of the Rioja appellation) at the
southern tip of Spain's Basque Country.
It's about an hour to an hour-and-a-half drive from the Basque Country's most
populous city, Bilbao.
The town of Laguardia makes an excellent base to explore the Rioja Alavesa wine region. The 13th century walled village is very pedestrian friendly, since cars aren't allowed within the town¹s walls.
The top place to stay near Laguardia is easily the Frank Gehry-designed
Marques de Riscal Hotel in Elciego. It literally looks out of this world,
with its titanium ribbons and avant-garde design. There's something special
about being in an ultra-modern building and looking out at a medieval hill
top village (Laguardia).
The 43 guest rooms (11 of which are suites) are equally modern and sleek.
They're also not cheap, as you might expect. Weekend rates in late April
were starting at $590 a night. Tip: Marques de Riscal is a member of
Starwood Hotel¹s Luxury Collection, so if you've racked up enough
Starpoints, you can redeem them for a free stay.
If you can't afford to stay here, at least have a glass of Marques de Riscal
wine in the high-ceilinged wine bar. But if your bank account can swing a
stay, ask for a room facing the church -- those are the best views by far.
Avoid Room No. 10, where I stayed. In the middle of the night, the ceiling
started leaking onto the hardwood floor. I was told it's a recurring problem
in that particular room.
The hotel has two excellent restaurants, a rooftop lounge and library and
the Vinotherapie Spa by Caudalie (a Paris-based company that also has spas
at the Plaza in New York and several tony properties in Europe). Many of the
treatments use grapes.
Get rates and info at luxurycollection.com/marquesderiscal.
Less expensive lodging can be found at the charming small hotel Antigua
Bodega de Don Cosme Palacio. It doesn¹t have a Web site but you can check
rates/availability at secretplaces.com.
The four-star Villa de Laguardia is another great option;