There is Tuscany. There is Napa. And there is La Rioja Alavesa; better known as the Basque wine country. A feast for the pallet and for the eyes, the region is an endless vista of rolling vineyards and castle-topped mounds surrounded by two breathtaking mountain ranges. And Hotel Eguren Ugarte gives travelers the chance to lodge in the middle of it all, directly on a winery, at the award winning, 140-year-old family-run bodega considered to be one of the best in the entire region. The upscale modern hotel is an elegant hideaway with sleek, spacious rooms, a refined restaurant, and spectacular views of the surrounding vineyards that never cease to amaze. And with the medieval tourist hub of Laguardia as well as plenty of other renowned bodegas—including the famous architectural wonder of Ysios—all within a 5-minute drive away, it’s a convenient stopover for wine lovers making their way through the area.
An overnight stay here gets you a complimentary tour and tasting of the vineyards, the real highlight of the hotel. The two-kilometers of underground caves, reminiscent of catacombs, serve as private cellars for collectors and are an awe-inspiring experience to be guided through.
Chic rooms with modern designs are airy and light and feature colorful flairs of art and wood floors that feel great against the feet. Flat screens, AC, and up-to-date basics are all here, and deluxe rooms and suites come with the added bonus of a sprawling private balcony to soak in the dry heat and fabulous views. Fun fact: The 21 rooms of the boutique hotel are each uniquely designed to reflect a different chapter from the memoir of the vineyard’s most famous family member, Vitorino Eguren.
The contents of the minibar are complimentary, so take advantage of the refreshments.
Stylish and spacious with oxidized stone tiling, the showers here are particularly pleasing; rainforest showerheads, plenty of room for two, and even adjustable jets pointed towards a stone seating bench.
The downward sloping hillside property means that the reception area is actually on the 4th floor of the playful brick building, which blesses the romantic lounge area behind reception with sweeping panoramic vantage points of the hills and valleys of Rioja. Free glasses of wine from the bodega are also on offer in the lounge.
A traditional regional restaurant, Restaurante Martín Cendoya, can be found down by the bodega, and offers lunch and wine pairings and a specialty for grilled meats. But the big menu provides plenty of options for the less carnivorously inclined.
Dinner is available for hotel guests only, in an excellent and intimate restaurant (and we mean intimate, only 15 seats are available), tucked away past the reception area with panoramic views of the countryside. A more creative and ambitious menu changes daily here and reservations are required. Breakfast, included with the room, is served in the same dining area.
Of course we also highly recommend simply grabbing a bottle of Eguren Ugarte’s reserve along with a cheese plate and walking down to the terrace gardens to snack against the backdrop of the setting sun.
YOU SHOULD KNOW As mentioned, there is very limited seating for dinner and it is the only option in the hotel. Book in advance or be prepared to relegate yourself to LaGuardia for dinner. The good news is that on busy nights, the hotel is aware of this and offers a free shuttle service into town for guests in need of alternative dining options. Who doesn’t love a free designated driver?
The bodega here is simply a sight to behold for wine lovers and novices alike, from the gorgeous vineyards to the cool tunnels to the feats of modern engineering that are the barrel rooms. In one of theses expansive underground barrel rooms is a fifty-meter long painting, depicting the opera Carmen, which was once featured as an exhibit in the Guggenheim before being moved to here. Five tours and tastings a day are offered during the winter months and six during the summer, and are available in Spanish, English, French, Russian, and yes, even Flemish.
For those looking to enjoy the delectable Eguren Ugarte wines without the full tour, glasses can be purchased from a bar in the wine shop that is open during the day.
And at night, though the hotel does not have a proper bar, the always-eager-to-please staff is more than happy to uncork a bottle or make you a drink to enjoy in the mod lounge aside the restaurant.
A walking trail circumnavigates the grounds and at the base of the hotel guests can find an outdoors gardens and shaded gazebo that overlook the rolling hills of grapes beyond. There are plenty of charming barrels-turned-table-tops set up along the crisscrossed paths of the gardens that are enticing invitations for guests to enjoy a drink upon.
A car is the best way to get to Eguren Ugarte, and parking is complimentary in the stay. Those without a car can also arrange a private ride from nearby Laguardia.
One of the more idyllic things to do while staying at the hotel is to walk the winding trail that weaves through the vineyards to connect the property to Laguardia. It’s about a 45-minute hike in each direction.
The hotel offers a few complimentary mountain bikes for guests looking for a nice ride through the rolling vineyards of the region or a day trip into Laguardia.
The nearby town of Laguardia is a well-kept medieval village that acts as a sort of home base for travelers looking to explore the many bodegas of the region. Not surprisingly, there are a few exceptional places to eat in town. Amelibia (5-minute drive) is a local favorite, with plenty of seating and great views of the surrounding area. For something more simple yet equally romantic, have a tapa and a paired glass of wine in the wine bar of Hospederia de los Parajes, an enchanting stone cellar underneath the 16th century façade above.
Laguardia (5-minute drive) is mostly focused on its bodegas (and wine drinkers will find it hard to go wrong with any of them here). La Plaza Mayor (5-minute drive) is the central square of the ancient town and has a number of wine bars along its perimeter. There are also a few good places to grab a drink in the area if you’ve burnt yourself out on wines for the day. Bar Tertulia (5-minute drive) is a typical tapas & cocktail bar that stays open much later than other establishments in town.
You Should Know: The hotel property closes its gates at midnight. Get back in time or your magical carriage of a night will turn into a pumpkin.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Historical character and modern comfort combine at Hotel Eguren Ugarte, giving guests the rare chance to live and breath a classic Spanish winery while still enjoying all the luxuries of an upscale hotel. Guests won’t find any spas, pools, or gyms here, but we found the vineyards and bodega to be the ultimate amenity, especially given the reason most anyone ends up here in wine country.