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.