On Sacred Ground

Written by Michelle Lyn

Photos Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine

A converted monastery in the heart of Spain’s wine country offers a relaxing retreat like no other

View of the resort from the vineyards at sunset. 

View of the resort from the vineyards at sunset. 

In the heart of Spain, multiple winemaking appellations abound. On a recent visit to the area, I ventured into Valladolid in search of fine wine on the banks of the Duero River, yet what I found was something so much greater.

The only hotel in Spain to offer full butler service, Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine caught my attention when researching properties in the region. Managed by Relais & Châteaux, I knew that top-notch service was a given, but what I didn’t anticipate was how ethereal the experience would actually be. A converted 12th-century monastery, LeDomaine is now a vineyard estate surrounding the Monastery of Santa Maria de Retuerta, and a historical heritage site that thoughtfully blends antiquated architecture with modern amenities.

Twenty-five minutes outside of Valladolid, the experience begins when we pull off the highway, drive through rows of vineyards and journey to the end of a gravel driveway. More than ready to get out of the car after the trip south from Basque Country, my two children are giddy at the prospect of staying in a “castle,” which is precisely what LeDomaine appears to be.

Before we even exit the car, the managing director and another gentleman carrying a tray of chilled mosto, a grape juice produced on the property, greets us. There are warm welcomes all around, with staff instantly wishing my son a happy birthday, which I mentioned in passing when making my reservation. Quickly ushered inside the air-conditioned foyer, we’re given an overview of the property and a list of trails to explore as the kids sit in front of a two-foot tall candy jar, mouths agape. 

Our personal butler delivers us to our exquisite two-bedroom suite overlooking the vineyards. The children adore their room, complete with a birthday card, balloons and small gifts laid out for my son. Given a mobile phone to use at all times during our stay on the property, we are informed that with the touch of a button, our butler will avail himself to fulfill any need.

After settling in, we head outside for an afternoon walk on paths that run along a canal lining the property. The sound of birds, insects and running water fill the air as we trail deeper into nature, pausing only to lob the occasional pinecone into the river.

Following sunset, we make our way to Refectorio, the Michelin-starred restaurant at LeDomaine. Stunning vaulted ceilings, gothic architecture and original fresco paintings set the tone for a once in a lifetime dinner. A 10-course tasting menu with highlights ranging from Gillardeau oysters with horseradish cream and seaweed to glazed sweetbreads with black truffle and noisette cauliflower cream, paired with a global selection of wines. The sommelier’s obvious standout is the Abadía Retuerta Touriga Nacional, which can’t be poured fast enough. Candelabras light the dining hall, staff outnumber guests three to one and the subtle backbeat of lounge music all combine to create an elegantly relaxed dining experience.

Refectorio restaurant

Refectorio restaurant

The next morning, white-glove service is applied once again during breakfast in the same space. Immediately, staff emerges with personalized paper place mats with each of my children’s names printed on them and a gift wrapped in signature LeDomaine paper, tied in a ribbon. Much to my amusement, my daughter rips the package open and delights in the most thoughtfully gifted set of jumbo crayons she has ever received from a restaurant. Attentive details like these are the hallmark of the Relais & Châteaux brand, making luxury a family affair.

Following breakfast, I descend on Santuario LeDomaine Spa for an appointment with the spa sommelier. The former stables of the monastery were converted into this jaw-dropping, 5,000-square-foot spa that boasts indoor and outdoor pools, a hydrotherapy pool, a relaxation area and scented experience showers. Wrapped in the plushest of robes, my sommelier leads me to a seated area and wheels over a cart laden with three bottles of wine produced by onsite winery Abadía Retuerta, carafes of oil and paper to take notes. She proceeds to explain the unique vinotherapy ritual of tasting wines to determine what profile of oils I might enjoy best during my massage.

Outdoor reflection pool at the spa

Outdoor reflection pool at the spa

Spa Sommelier

Spa Sommelier

The first wine is the white Blanco de Guarda, made from Sauvignon Blanc grapes enriched with a hint of Verdejo. The LeDomaine White Blend oil was created with the nutritious and healing properties of almond oil, combined with the highly restorative benefits of apricot nut oil, perfect for the most delicate and sensitive skins. With the addition of essential Yuzu oil, this blend provides balance, well-being and emotional stimulation.

Next comes the Selección Especial, a red wine produced from the best grapes from each of the property’s vineyards, combining the richness of a Tempranillo with the elegance of a Cabernet Sauvignon and the strength of a Syrah. To pair, the Selección Especial Blend oil was created entirely from the vegetable oils of almond, macadamia nut, calendula and the essential oil of cedar, resulting in a nutritious oil rich in vitamins to regenerate and soothe the skin, perfect for those who suffer from high stress.

And finally, my third wine is the Pago Valdebellón, a Cabernet Sauvignon. An intense dark red, this wine is surprisingly delicate with an air of spices, exotic fruit and mineral aromas. The invigorating Valdebellón Blend oil was created from almond oil and essential oil of thyme, ideal for those suffering from exhaustion and fatigue.

Once I select my preferred oil, my treatment begins with soaking my feet in copper bowls, where they are hand washed, just as the feet of the monks who visited before me had been washed. I’m then offered a crystal to hold in my palm during the massage, with the intention of activating its natural healing properties throughout my treatment, which is so tranquil it nearly puts me to sleep.

Whether you have two or five days, it’s easy to pamper yourself at this medieval gem: either with five-star spa treatments, leisurely lunches at Vinoteca (the casual restaurant serving traditional tapas), private tours through the vineyards, meditation and yoga in the candlelit yoga studio, nature strolls and lounging poolside. It is, after all, a place where time stands still.

LeDomaine.es

Season's Readings

Curated by Jenn Thornton

A bibliophile's lit picks for your library

Photo courtesy of Rizzoli New York

Photo courtesy of Rizzoli New York

Cooking School: Mastering Classic and Modern French Cuisine by Alain Ducasse

A chef with more Michelin stars than most, celebrated Alain Ducasse opens his kitchen with nearly 200 recipes from classic French cuisine and other traditions in his new cookbook as classroom. Arranged in order of difficulty, the book lays out the basics then gradually calls for more chops. Recipes—from risotto to rack of lamb—are arrayed in the order a student is likely to encounter them in culinary school. With 600-plus pages and a whopping 6,000 color photographs illustrating Ducasse’s step-by-step approach, this compendium is a case study in the culinary arts. $55, RizzoliUSA.com

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar

Raised in the Alsace region of France, chef Yvon Goetz brings a classic French sensibility to The Winery kitchen. His emphasis—quality ingredients and making everything from scratch—was brought on by his early years, which taught him that fresh and homemade is always better. bask caught up with Goetz to chat about his favorite after-school snack turned standout menu item and his go-to wine for celebrations.

Chef Yvon Goetz. Photo by Tony Florez

Chef Yvon Goetz. Photo by Tony Florez

How is The Winery’s menu influenced by your upbringing in France? 

From an early age, I was taught to respect fruits and vegetables, and to grow my own at home. Today, I use the best possible quality ingredients, especially fruits and vegetables. I also learned to make everything from scratch—jams, canned fruits, Cornichons, crème fraiche, fromage blanc, homemade schnapps, charcuterie, breads, pastries, the list goes on and on and on. Today, I take great pride in running a scratch kitchen that focuses on making those ingredients that are unique to The Winery.

Talk a little more about how your early years cooking with your grandmother in Alsace influenced your cooking style. 

My style is classically French, which is a direct result of my early ‘apprenticeship’ with my grandmother! She made everything from scratch the classic way, from sauces and stews, to homemade pastas! And everything was always so delicious. That’s where the love of cooking started. 

What is the most popular item on the menu, and why do you think diners are drawn to it? 

Guests love the Zinfandel-braised bone-in Short Ribs on our menu! I think it’s the type of gourmet ‘comfort food’ diners are drawn to because of how rich and warming it can be. It has been on our menu since day one and I don’t think it will ever come off!

What is your personal favorite menu item? 

YG’s Alsatian Pizza, by far. It’s a dish I grew up with in Alsace—my grandparents made it for me as a snack after school. It’s unique in flavor and my guests will agree, it’s a must-try dish at The Winery.

What do you think is the most exciting new culinary trend? 

I really like that chefs are growing their own vegetables, fruits, and herbs. It’s nice to be able to source hyper-locally and foods just taste better with fresh ingredients.

What distinguishes the Newport and Tustin restaurants, and how do you decide which menu items are best suited to each? 

The menus are very similar at each location, but with our Newport Beach location on the waterfront, I put a little more emphasis on seafood. We take our guests’ lead when making decisions on menu offerings and it seems that the location influences tastes.

How does the restaurant industry differ from Europe in the states? 

I believe the main difference is the professionalism, the passion, and respect for the industry. It comes from years of tradition in the kitchen and front of the house. Not only in a restaurant, but also at home. When attending Culinary School in Strasbourg, the rules were very strict—similar to being in the military!

What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your cooking career? 

Make it nice, or make it twice!

What do you look for when going out to eat? 

Eating out is part of my job. I love to try different places and see what’s new and where the trends are headed.

What ingredient can you not live without? 

It’s hard to pick one. Of course, salt and pepper, but as a fresh ingredient I would say mushrooms. When I was younger, I would pick my own Chanterelle, morels, black trumpets, and oyster mushroom in the forests of Alsace. 

What is your favorite wine for special occasions? 

I am a Champagne guy! Bubbles go with everything and at any time. Veuve Clicquot Rose is one of my favorites.

What do you have planned for your future with The Winery? 

We are always looking to expand our footprint and enter into new markets that make sense for our brand. I am confident that we have built a brand that is exciting and appealing to a wide variety of tastes, so don’t be surprised if you hear about plans for The Winery number three soon!

 

The Winery Restaurant & Wine Bar

The District 2647 Park Ave., Tustin, CA 92782 ~ 949.258.7600|  3131 W. Pacific Coast Hwy., Newport Beach, CA 92663 ~ 949.999.6622 | TheWineryRestaurant.net

 

 

Classic, Elegant Comfort Cuisine

Selanne Steak Tavern elevates the traditional steakhouse and neighborhood bar

Written by Susan Irby

Brick pathways, wooden doors and the timeless well that sits on the property of the former 1934 home that now hosts Selanne Steak Tavern evokes the feeling of an Old-World watering hole. Yet, beyond the front door, is light and alluring décor befitting a modern-day steakhouse named for its co-owner and former Anaheim Ducks hockey legend, Teemu Selanne.

Selanne Steak Tavern co-owner Teemu Selanne. Photo courtesy of Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio

Selanne Steak Tavern co-owner Teemu Selanne. Photo courtesy of Gina Cioli/I-5 Studio

Spearheading the award-winning restaurant is Executive Chef Joshua Severson, formerly of both the St. Regis Monarch Beach and Tom Colicchio’s Craftsteak Las Vegas. Of his approach to cuisine, chef Severson says, “Keep it simple and flavorful.” Showcasing the finest in simplicity and flavor, menu highlights include the 38-ounce Lord Stanley Cut, a tomahawk steak for two heralding hockey’s Lord Stanley (namesake of the Stanley Cup); the delectable Wagyu Steak Tartare, Pacific Diver Scallops, and Skuna Bay Salmon; the pasta-less Scarlet Beet Ravioli; and the Selanne Mac and Cheese made with a five-cheese fondue and brioche crumb. Dessert selections feature the famed Apple Cinnamon Monkey Bread, along with the Chef’s Daily Feature based on seasonal ingredients. There’s also a full bar with artisanal cocktails such as the Smoked Old Fashioned, craft beer and an extensive wine list. 

Executive Chef Joshua Severson. Photo courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern

Executive Chef Joshua Severson. Photo courtesy of Selanne Steak Tavern

Selanne Steak Tavern  1464 South Coast Highway, Laguna Beach, CA92651 ~ (949) 715-9881  |  SelanneSteakTavern.com