3 of a kind
Wine country hotels
AQUAPURA DUORO VALLEY, PORTUGAL
Aquapura Douro Valley, Samodães, Lamego, Douro Valley, Portugal, tel: 0044-208987 4312 mrandmrssmith.com/aquapura
This spa retreat is in a former, 19th century quinta (farmhouse) in the wine region of Douro in north Portugal about an hour from Porto (or Oporto). The surrounding area was designated a wine region in 1756 and its ancient vines climb up the sides of the valley from the River Douro. The hotel is on the south bank of the river, amid vines and woods, and has a swimming pool and tennis court from which to enjoy it all.
Wine tours include a trip down the river on a boat from which you can take in the lines of vines running down to the water, visit local quintas and taste the hooch. The hotel also runs a harvesting package in which you get to pick, crush and quaff grapes. It runs until October 14th and includes food, wine, a spa treatments and two nights accommodation from €460 each.
Rooms: 50 standard rooms and nine suites in the manor house plus 21 villas. Ex-bed views include cloisters of the manor house, the river, woodlands, valley and/or vineyards. Doubles from €190.
CHATEAU DE MERCUES, FRANCE
Château de Mercuès, Mercues, France, tel: 0033-565 2000 01, chateaudemercues.com
Like all good castles, Château de Mercuès, which began life in the 13th century, comes with a lot of history. General De Gaull reflected when he stayed here in 1950: “From the Château de Mercuès, history comes to you.”
Much pillaging and burning went on here during the Hundred Years War but later the Bishops of Cahors sojourned here, until the separation of church and state in 1904 saw them off and the castle became a hotel.
Cahors winemaker Georges Vigouroux bought it in 1983, and turned it into a wine estate comprising a 32-hectare vineyard, underground winery and vaulted cellar where wine is aged beneath the castle terrace. His son, Bertrand-Gabriel, runs the estate now.
Château de Mercuès wine – made from the Malbec grape – is a Grands Vins Seigneurs and known worldwide. There are wine tours for hotel guests among the vineyards of Cahors and taking in views down the Lot valley and then underground for tastings in the cellar.
As well as planting vineyards and creating wonderful oenological facilities, Vigouroux also restored the castle in consultation with France’s historical monuments society. The result is a grand, listed residence decked in authentic, noble natural materials such as marble, timber and stone, including restored originals.
Rooms: 24 bedrooms and six suites, each with its own character, including The Bishop Room which has a bronzed sun-dial in its floor and a vast bed, and The Tower at the top of the highest pinnacle. Doubles from €250, breakfast extra.
TIMBER COVE INN, CALIFORNIA
Timber Cove Inn, 21780 North Coast Highway 1, Jenner, California, US tel: 001-707-847 3231 timbercoveinn.com
Up on a cliff overlooking the seascape beloved by photographer Ansel Adams, this revamped hotel is in California’s Sonoma wine region. More than 250 vineyards ride across this land of coastal hills and valleys, with varied microclimates, that yields 13 appellations.
The closest grape-growing area to the hotel is the Russian River Valley, with more than 180 vineyards and wineries, many of which offer tours and tastings. These include the Fort Ross Vineyards, Annapolis Winery and the Hirsch Winery which describes the Sonoma vineyards as rolling “across the hills like waves at the edge of the world. An intense relationship between geology and climate has created sites perfectly in tune to the cultivation of pinot noir and chardonnay grapes.
The hotel addresses its location beautifully with decks, exterior fire-pits and even croquet lawns from which to take in the sea air and appreciate why one of Adams’ most famous photographs of a huge wave smashing on a rock is called Storm Surf (Tiber Cove). And there’s plenty of wine tasting and information evenings within the walls of this hotel, only two-and-a-half hours north of San Francisco.
Rooms: 50 rooms and a suite, many with fireplaces and ocean-front decks. Others have forest views (with sea sounds). Doubles from $219 (€174.20).