Steven at Tempranillo wine blog pointed out last week that Marques de Riscal’s new hotel, restaurant and wine museum is officially open to guests of the hotel or restaurant. Located in El Ciego, a small town in Rioja Alava, this incredibly ornate structure has been profusely talked about for years and now the doors have finally opened to the world. In fact, the city council actually posted a video on their site of the outside of the building. And while you are gazing in astonishment at the outside of the structure, take note that this may be the only way you will see this wonder because the inside can only be viewed by either booking a room or making a reservation at the restaurant! If you look at the Starwood Hotel website (they manage the hotel), from what I can tell, packages start at a measly 450 Euros plus tax! Now I know this is a luxury hotel, and I understand that they want to keep it quiet for the guests, but this seems a little overboard. There needs to be a way for your average Joe to be able to see for what for all practical purposes is the architectural focal point of the region. Wine is made by and for the people, and Marques de Riscal is one of the bigger employers in the area, but come on! The elitism is a bit out of hand if they won’t even let everyday wine lovers, your bread and butter of your bodega, visit without paying!
I remember hearing that this particular hotel was built in part with funds from the EU to help increase the wine industry in areas that needed renovation, if anyone heard otherwise, please let us know. If this is true, than I feel sad that a behemoth winery like Marques de Riscal would use this money for something that only a few can fully enjoy. Yes, yes, I know it will bring tourism and people to the region, but the fact is, is that a bodega this big should be giving back to the community and sharing their wealth, not flaunting it.
The hotel / restaurant / museum offers a long and lengthy list of services including: Bang & Olufsen equiped rooms and wine spa! If you have the dough, it appears to be a nice place to visit in order to watch the peasants mill around outside looking up at the modern design as you sip wine from your personal hot tub!
As for the building, it looks beautiful! Plus, I’m sure the region will enjoy some more (heck it’s Rioja – Spain’s only wine region right?) international prestige. I’m also confident that Marques de Riscal will be inserted into every art history textbook ensuring visits from poor college students from art schools around the world for years to come. But all this prestige and fame does not negate my sadness for an architectural wonder reserved for the rich. What’s even worse is that other wineries are in the process of building their own hotels to house the elite. I just wish that there will come a day when a winery builds a hotel to welcome everyone. Hmmm, I can see it now: The Frank Gehry Youth Hostel – Backpackers Welcome!