Vinha Boutique Hotel by night
Courtesy of the hotel
In a nation that’s not particularly label-obsessed, Portugal’s year-old Vinha Boutique Hotel stands out for its affection for haute couture. It’s an uncommon style option, however it’s one that works.
The hotel occupies an estate next to the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia, a suburban area across the river from Porto that’s understood for its Port red wine storehouses, tasting rooms and red wine hotels. Refreshingly– and surprisingly for a hotel whose name indicates “vineyard” in English– Vinha is none of those things. Rather, it’s a place for visitors who value peace, quiet– and French and Italian haute couture.
The concept originated from the child of the regional family that developed and owns the hotel, part of which occupies a historic manor house– now painted vibrant pink– and part of which is new building and construction. Nineteen of the 38 rooms have a minimalist aesthetic, and the other half are “where we go crazy,” in the words of the hotel’s business director, João Francisco Silva.
A designer-themed space at Vinha
Courtesy of the hotel
He implies that each of the staying 19 signature suites admires among the daughter-designer’s favorite style houses. These are totally realized ideas. One has the pastel zigzag stripes of Missoni, another has the all-American nation house vibe of Ralph Lauren. The Etro room is hippie-chic, and the Manuel Canovas conjures up a sundown in the land of the Maharajahs. There’s an overriding spirit of play.
Impressively, there’s not a knock-off in sight. Vinha’s owners bought all the furnishings and decors from the style homes themselves (the one welcome exception: the Jo Malone bath amenities in every room). Silva discretely decreases to define the constructions costs, but nods in agreement when it’s suggested that they were high.
The designer suites are a calling card, however Silva doesn’t like to harp on them. He explains that the hotel slogan– something it requires, given its rather awkward location far from the center of Porto and the red wine district of Gaia– is “a journey for the senses.”
Vinha Dining establishment
Courtesy of the hotel
There’s the journey of convenience: In addition to those name-brand materials, tufted leather headboards and gilded mirror, the spaces have really comfortable beds, spacious bathrooms, excellent espresso pill devices and relaxing views over the Douro river, the hotel gardens or private, plant-filled interior gardens.
The journey of taste refers to food and white wine, of course (though a case could be made for the good taste of the style). Respected chef Henrique Sá Pessoa, of Lisbon’s two-Michelin-star restaurant Alma, oversaw the menus at the casual all-day dining establishment (where lunch is best enjoyed on the terrace) and the great dining Vinha restaurant.
For anyone playing fashion brand name bingo, the dining-room was developed by Moooi, in dark, opulent tones with uplighting, burnished mirrors, a statement chandelier and accents of chinoiserie. The six-course tasting menu has a similar sense of elaboration, with meals like tuna belly tartare with crispy seaweed and purple cabbage cream, and Alentejo pork cheeks with turnip, plum chutney and dry Port jus.
Although the red wine service seems to be an operate in progress– although I purchased the wine pairing, no red wine got here till after the 2nd “moment,” when I asked when the pairing may start– the options were motivated and largely successful, with a focus on little producers and out-there regions, such as Pico island in the Azores.
The setup for a picnic
Thanks to the hotel
There are still two more journeys. Indulgence refers to the first Sisley spa in northern Portugal, a generously sized underground sanctuary with a heated indoor pool, and experiences is exactly what it sounds like.
In the meantime those experiences describe picnics and expeditions in the hotel’s landscaped gardens, walks or bike trips along the long local paths beside the Douro River. Silva likes to call it an urban retreat, which is not wrong– Porto’s resort is just about 20 minutes by car, though the roads can be a bit difficult for those not used to driving in Portugal (though Uber is simple).
Soon that will be even much easier. The hotel’s private pier is already finished– a great feature for guests who want the experience of traveling into the Douro Valley white wine country by private charter boat– and there are plans in the works to launch a hotel boat with complimentary transfers to the UNESCO-recognized area of Ribeira– a neighborhood that is not especially high-fashion, but is one of the most lovely in Portugal.