A two-hour drive from Madrid, resting alongside the Douro River in Spain’s north-central Castilla y León region, is the fully restored 12th century Benedictine monastery Abadia Santa Maria de Retuerta. This rare gem is considered a national cultural treasure; the Baroque-Romanesque abbey is one of only two in Spain to have survived the Napoleonic wars over two centuries ago.
The entire 700-hectare estate is comprised of vineyards and forests interspersed with beehives as well as olive and pine nut trees. Abadia Retuerta is also home to a Relais & Chateaux hotel, Abadia Retuerta LeDomaine; a Michelin-star restaurant, Refectario; a spa, Santuario Wellness & Spa; and a neighbouring eponymous winery. It is an enclave of luxury and tranquility.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the winery, while the four-year restoration of the abbey (which houses the restaurant, spa, and hotel) was completed in 2012. No expense was spared; every effort was taken to ensure that the preservation of the original structure was maintained. Its former glory was slowly exposed—like the soaring depiction of The Last Supper in Refectario. The painting was gently freed from generations of soot, offering modern diners a glimpse of a shared ritual from a centuries-old era.
The modern touches to the abbey are a perfect juxtaposition: modern lighting, furnishings, and artwork add warmth to what could essentially be an austere environment of pillars and vaulted arcades of arches. As master architect Marco Serra once noted about the project, “The judicious restraint of my intervention is my homage to those who spoke before me.”
Considering the abbey’s somewhat remote location, it was restored as an extravagant destination based on four pillars: wine, history, gastronomy, and service. The estate’s history was long established, and its award-winning estate wines are internationally recognized; and so, it became about getting the gastronomy and service to the same level. They brought in a consulting chef, Andoni Luis Aduriz, of San Sebastian’s Mugaritz —one of the world’s most venerable restaurants; and now a protégé of Aduriz’s, Marc Segarra, claims the role of executive chef.
Abadia Retuerta has two other dining options within its walls. For tapas, La Vinoteca is a cozy dining room with a prominent bar, dark wood detail, and bottles of estate wines prominently displayed. In the summer months, the courtyard Jardin del Claustro offers a casual seasonal menu.
Three suites and 27 contemporary double rooms are contained within the five-star LeDomaine Hotel; it is the first and only hotel in Spain to offer a full 24-hour butler service. Perhaps LeDomaine’s most impressive undertaking is the construction of its Santuario Wellness & Spa: a sanctuary of incomparable design. Once an ancient stable, it is situated eight meters below ground. Natural light pours into the cavernous space from skylights, illuminating outdoor waterfall showers, a swimming pool, and treatment rooms.
Santuario’s signature is the Spa Sommelier Experience: a personalized wellness treatment inspired by traditional Chinese medicine’s five-element model combined with wine tasting theory. The sommelier pours three wines from Abadia Retuerta and allows the guest to smell and savour each. He then uncorks three essential oil blends, which correlate to each wine: refreshing and stimulating for LeDomaine Blanco (sauvignon blanc, verdejo); grounding for Selección Especial (tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, merlot); strength and vitality for Pago Valdebellión (a single-vineyard cabernet sauvignon). Based on your selection of the three, the sommelier suggests treatments best suited to your individual needs. Wine, history, gastronomy, and service—check, check, check, and check.
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