E-mail from Peter Som

To: Departures

From: La Rioja, Spain

Re: Wine Meets Design

I love modern architecture—it goes back to both my parents being architects. I always thought "Corbu" was their best friend, not Le Corbusier. So when I heard about the Frank Gehry–designed Hotel Marqués de Riscal (starwoodhotels.com) in Spain's Rioja region and how it was just an hour from his Guggenheim in Bilbao, I knew I had to go. In the medieval town of Elciego, it rises up like a very chic UFO. Even the rooms, also done in part by Gehry, undulate like the outside of the building. I got a Merlot wrap at the hotel's Caudalie Vinothérapie Spa, took a dip in the pool that overlooks the vineyards, and had a glass of wine and a plate of buttery ibérico ham at the Vinoteca wine bar. We bought a case of the fantastic 2000 vintage from the Marqués de Riscal's vineyard.

Gehry isn't the only one who has made his mark on the area. Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava designed the nearby Ysios winery (domecq bodegas.com), a massive wavelike structure that makes a major statement against the Cantabrian Mountains. In Bilbao we stopped by Abaroa (34-944/249-107) for a lunch of ham croquetas and the Gernika bean soup. We sampled Basque cuisine for dinner at Restaurante Guria (34-944/415-780), where the tasting menu features local signatures such as squid in black-ink sauce and bacalao. Zortziko (34-944/239-743) serves a more modern take on the region's dishes, and the sleek, contemporary space satisfied my search for another architectural highlight.