Villabuena de Alava
Bijoux and luxe: a guest room at the Viura, the new Small Luxury Hotel in the heart of Rioja country
Nobody, apparently, was more surprised than the villagers of Villabuena de Alava in Spain's Rioja winemaking region when an extraordinary building started taking shape right next door to their 17th-century church.
But oddly, the small but eclectic Hotel Viura, named for one of the important white wine grapes of the region, now blends into the landscape, despite its ultra-modern concrete cubist architecture.
Now part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, the Viura is the perfect base from which to explore wine country. It's a good 90-minute drive from Bilbao airport, but once there the 33-room hotel (26 deluxe rooms, seven suites), dressed in natural stone and woods, has everything the picky traveller could need.
Emilio Jose Contreras, the youthful chef, presides over the Viura restaurant, whose ceiling is made of gold-painted wine barrels. Trust me, it's not as tacky as it sounds. The hotel's USP is the resident sommelier, Jose Gonzalez Godoy (known, for some reason, only by his surname.) When Chef Contreras produces his mouthwatering tasting menu - think bite-sized portions of sweet-as-a-nut roasted asparagus, or sublimely creamy shirred eggs with shaved truffle mushrooms - Godoy is on hand to recommend the right wines to go with each course.
To recover from all this excess, there is a gym and, in summer, use of the village swimming pool.
RATES: Special opening rate from €125 (£104.50) for a double with breakfast
TEL: 0034 945 609000