By Brett Jones
As on so many wine press trips we were behind schedule when we arrived at the Hotel Convento I in Coreses, Zamora, in the Castilla y Leon province of northern Spain. The hotel had the appearance of a robust institution – we checked in, took luggage to our rooms, and could not fail to notice that the decor inside was completely different to the exterior.
In the flamboyant lobby we were met by Beatriz and Sandrine, of Viñas Zamoranas, a bodega which is owned by Augustin Lorenzo who also owns this hotel as well as a grand restaurant in Valladolid and a local discotheque. We were shown the way to the winery behind the hotel, the path illuminated by a parked car’s headlights, passing the Doric columns of a brand new winery under construction.
Normally a winery is spick and span with stainless tanks, oak barrels and presses all waiting for the next vintage to start, and this was no exception. But when we went into the building we certainly weren’t expecting the sight that greeted us.
When we looked up, the ceiling was dark blue and painted with scantily clad women posing as signs of the Zodiac! Apparently this used to be a discotheque – when I used to dance the night away I don’t think I ever glanced up at such a grand ceiling.
Having marvelled at this very unusual winery we returned to the hotel for a tasting of their wines prior to a guided tour of the hotel. Constructed in 1943 it housed a German catholic school until it closed in 2000 when Augustin Lorenzo saw its potential and bought it. A very religious man he is also an avid art collector, which shows throughout the hotel.
As we visited the various rooms and facilities, at every twist and turn the grandiose designs took our breath away: the Egyptian pub, the banqueting cellar, the spa, bars and dining rooms, many of which are used for wedding ceremonies.
As well as art on the walls, religious and antique artefacts placed hither and thither, all the ceilings in the public areas are painted in glorious colour. As there were so many surfaces to cover, specialists in different parts of the anatomy moved around as a team: one painting ears, the next eyes, ears, hands and so on. It took nowhere as long as Michelangelo did decorating the Sistine Chapel…
The bedrooms are spacious with comfortable beds and decent en suite facilities. The ‘normal’ rooms aren’t too exotic; the flamboyance is reserved for the suites, which are very grand. And, hurrah, there was no charge for efficient Wi-Fi.
The handsome coffee bar, complete with an ancient espresso machine used in the Bishop’s Palace in Valladolid, was the breakfast room.
The overall impression of this hotel is of a fantastic, personal statement by a very single minded man who is proud of sharing his enjoyment of beautiful things. It’s an extraordinary overnight stay for a wine lover exploring the up-and-coming Castilla y Leon region of Spain.
But, I think there shoud be another sign on their van: “Make wine in a discotheque”…