We remember when someone at Starwood first showed us the architect’s model for the Hotel Marques de Riscal. With its hallucinatory reflective titanium folds, wrapping around a group of central blocks, we thought it was one of the most fantastic, insane things we had ever seen. We couldn’t wait for it to be built.
While Frank Gehry’s Bilbao building gets all the press in the world, and has been splashed all over every conceivable object a museum gift shop can sell, we actually prefer his hotel in Rioja.
To date the only hotel Gehry has designed, it’s smaller that the Guggenheim, has a more interesting and colourful form, and its setting – amidst the lush green leaves of the Vinos de los Herederos de Marqués De Riscal’s vineyard, close to the winery’s 19th century cellars – gives it infinite impact.
While it’s thrilling to see the edge of a Gehry fold from your bedroom, the best rooms are actually in the spa block, accessed across a glass bridge. These Executive Suites are huge and bright, with primary red Christian Werner chairs and stools and Porsche kettles, and terraces that let you wander out into the vines. Sexy is the only way to describe it.
You could spend a whole weekend simply enjoying the architecture of the Hotel Marques de Riscal, but the F&B is where the real pleasure kicks in. Take a winery tour and enjoy a tasting (the Reserva is a thing of wonder), snarfle up umpteen croquettes on the hotel’s terrace and then check out the Basque-Riojan cuisine of Francis Paniego, the first Riojan chef to be awarded a Michelin star, back in 2004.
While the restaurant’s interior makes for one of the only design low points in the whole place, looking more like a posh coffee shop in a Vegas casino than a fine dining restaurant, the cooking is inspired. It’s a great starting point for a foodie expedition – head north to San Sebastián, and then along the coast to Getaria.
But before that – and after dinner – go outside and circle the building one more time before bed. The genius of Gehry’s architecture is that it changes minute by minute, according to the light. From morning to afternoon, to after dark, it’s a wondrous inhabitable sculpture. C
Hotel Marques de Riscal , Calle Torrea 1, 01340 Elciego, Álava, Spain
+34 945 180 880; hotel-marquesderiscal.com