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Wine Tasting & Culture Chasing

Joanna Renwick, Executive PA to SLH’s CEO, savours two of Spain’s most tempting spots for the perfect pairing of city break and country escape…

Wine lovers: a taste of Madrid

For my boyfriend’s birthday this year I decided to treat him to the things we love the most: wine, food and travel.

The trip started on a Thursday in Madrid where we stayed at the seriously stylish Urso Hotel & Spa. After a stroll around the city (the architecture of the city is incredible and rose garden in El Retiro park is divine), we decided to check out the spa to rest and unwind. The pool is so great, with four different sections of various bubbles, jets and temperatures.

Soaking up the culture…

Suitably relaxed, we began the evening at the hotel restaurant Media Ración, setting the tone for the long weekend with a bottle of wine and some incredible dishes. Afterwards, we discovered an amazing craft cocktail bar just around the corner, Macera Taller Bar, which was so much fun and they make the best drinks!

The next morning’s slightly hazy heads were quickly cured with a rather large and delicious breakfast and a couple of strong coffees in the stunning conservatory. Fully restored, we packed up and checked out to continue our journey.

Escape to the (wine) country

One car rental and a very quick and easy drive (2.5 hours) later, we arrived at Hacienda Zorita Wine Hotel & Spa. The entrance itself is enchanting, and really was only just the beginning of a 48 hour dream.

Hacienda Zorita is a fairy tale – a 700 year old restored monastery with some of the buildings dating back to the 14th century and previous visitors including Christopher Columbus – but it’s hard to put my finger on exactly what made the experience so magical.

From villa to vineyard

It started with wine tasting in the HUGE wine cellar where we sampled the enjoyable wines and rum. We then relaxed by the riverside playing backgammon, drinking more wine and chatting with our new friends. I think this is perhaps part of the magic – the guests are all so different and from all over the world (Hong Kong, San Francisco, Canada, and Surrey to name a few) yet all had the same feeling of total joy and peace in the surroundings.

For dinner we decided to try the wine pairing menu – as if we hadn’t had enough wine already – it was such a treat and the food was delicious.

After a very healthy four-course breakfast (I was on holiday, OK?) the next morning, we very excitedly headed out to the meeting point for the Fiesta de la Vendimia, Hacienda Zorita’s own annual harvest festival which takes places in mid-October. Known throughout the region, we were two of the approximately 900 participants this year.

A barrel of laughs

It starts with a harvest where groups of families, friends and colleagues compete to pick the most grapes, whilst kind Spanish ladies came through the vineyards with bota bags full of red wine to keep you hydrated (firing this into your mouth is a skill not to be underestimated), or water for the children and more responsible members of the crowd. All the grapes are collected by a horse-drawn cart and put into a ginormous tub for the traditional grape-stomping.

Harvest fiesta to sundown siesta

After a hard couple of hour’s work of laughing, drinking, picking and stomping grapes, we went back to the main square for the biggest feast I have ever laid my eyes on. Really. Enormous barbeques, every cheese and meat under the sun and limitless amounts of wine and beer. A few siestas in the gardens were followed by a late afternoon party with live music and some seriously fun dancing. I can’t say when the party ended… but I can say that the Spaniards definitely are professionals when it comes to having fun!

Time to wine down

The following morning called for yet another breakfast feast and a stroll around the beautiful grounds before we heart-breakingly checked out and started our journey back to Madrid and on to London.

Special credit must be given to the incredible Hacienda Zorita family (staff just doesn’t seem like the right word here) who manage to make a weekend hotel visit the most heartfelt and enjoyable journey for all who are lucky enough to experience it.

P.S. Did I mention the incredible view from our room? In 48 hours, I probably took close to 100 pictures of it and they are all different and equally stunning.