Travel Writer & Author

Tag: Spain

Wine Travel Irvina Lew

Will Fly For Wine

Thomas Jefferson—who tried in vain for success as a vintner—endured weeks on transatlantic crossings and on horseback to visit wineries just to swirl, sniff and sip. Today, prestigious wine regions are accessible within two hours of major cosmopolitan cities, including New York City with its proximity to wineries on Long Island, in the Hudson Valley and in Coastal Connecticut. But for those looking for a break from New York, there’s no need to buy a horse, of course. Hop on a plane and clink glasses in some of the world’s most famous wine regions.

Mendoza, Argentina (Santiago, Chile)

Mendoza is the world’s fifth biggest wine producing region, in large part because of the weather. Hot dry days and cold nights make it perfect for producing Malbec, Argentina’s best-known grape. Mendoza City is central to 1,500 regional wineries and offers museums, parks and familiar luxury hotels—including The InterContinental Mendoza with its casino. Bodega Familia Zuccardi in Maipú is a 30-minute trip and the prestigious Bodega Catena Zapata, in the desert-like Valle de Uco where the winery rises like a Mayan temple, is only 50 miles away. Algodon Wine Estates, a hacienda-like resort set amidst the rolling foothills of the Sierra Pintada Mountains at the base of the Andes, is three hours away. It’s worth the trip for oenophiles looking for a well-rounded experience. The resort offers its few dozen guests and second home owners barbecue feasts, called Asado, winery visits, horseback riding, golf and a pool. Go.

Sonoma, USA (San Francisco, California)

In the nearby Russian River Valley, La Crema opened a new visitor center on the fabulous Saralee’s Vineyard for tastings, wine education and culinary exploration. Each September, people flock to Kendall Jackson Winery for The Annual Heirloom Tomato Festival. The two-day charity event is complete with chef-staffed booths, a cook-off and a tasting of each of the 150 different heirloom varieties grown on the winery estate’s vegetable garden. Executive Chef Scott Romano reigns at Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen in charming Healdsburg and serves dishes developed by his mentor, the late Long Island chef Gerry Hayden. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn—with its mineral springs and spa—is a comfortable and convenient base for a California Wine Country tour. Go.

Burgundy, France (Paris, France)

Visitors to Burgundy pass wine estates colored in burgundy (grapes), green (vines) and gold (sunlight), which match the region’s famed glazed-tile roofs. The route reads like a famous wine list: Gevrey-Chambertin, Clos de Vougeot, Nuit St. George, Pommard and Meursault. On European Waterway barges, the crew cooks, pours and drives to and, thankfully, from the tasting rooms. In Beaune, the Hotel Le Cep, an affiliate of Small Luxury Hotels, combines two historic mansions separated by a 16th century courtyard. Its Spa Marie de Bourgogne offers massages within a panoramic tower. From here, walk to wine merchants and the historic Hospice de Beaune and bike (40 minutes) to Puligny Montrachet for an al fresco lunch within a 17th century building at the 13-room Hotel Olivier Leflaive. Go.

Douro, Portugal (Porto, Portugal)

Quinta da Roêda (12)

The Douro Wine Region starts up river from Porto, the 2000-year-old UNESCO World Heritage city. Oenophiles drive, ride the rails or cruise on Emerald Waterways to visit its long-established port wine estates. In 2015, the 57-room Six Senses Douro opened within a 19th century turret and arch studded country house, which New York’s Clodagh transformed into a modern, multi-level spa hotel, 90-minutes from Porto. The wine library stocks local wines including Van Zellers Douro DOC wines (Quinta Vale D. Maria 2013, a Douro Red, ranks in the TOP 100 in 2016). And the owners of Croft, Fonseca and Taylor, who constructed The Yeatman, a Relais & Chateaux in Porto, recently launched the 43-room Vintage House, located riverside in Pinhão not far from the visitor center at their Quinta da Roêda estate. As for the view, it’s unbeatable. Guests are known to savor the view of rugged, vine-covered hills as much as they savor the world-class vino. Go.

Penedes, Spain (Barcelona, Spain)


The picturesque Catalan wine region of Penedes, which is best known for its Cava sparkling wines, is an hour from Barcelona. As an idyllic home base, there’s the luxurious Mandarin Oriental Barcelona with its spa, the high-rise Melia Barcelona SKY with its new YHI Wellness Spa or Hotel Bagues, a small luxury hotel in a historic palace on Las Ramblas. This is the pedestrian street boasting the bustling Boqueria market and the Liceu Theater, which connects Gaudi’s gorgeous modernist achievements with the waterfront statue to Columbus. Vilafranca del Penedès—reached by car, train or on a Viator wine tour—is the place to experience the wine and architectural artistry at the extraordinary Waltraud Cellar for Bodegas Torres. This wine estate was established by the Torres family in 1870. Designed by Javier Barba of BC Estudio Architects in Barcelona, the GREEN tri-level structure has an underground cellar, cloister-like meditative space, a museum and tasting room with the spot’s finest wines. Go. 

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Madrid, Paseo Del Arte

In Madrid, Paseo del Arte, the art district, refers to both the culturally rich neighborhood bordering the Paseo del Prado and the broad boulevard itself, which links the city’s three prestigious art museums: the Reina Sofia, the Prado and the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza.

Irvina Lew Travel Writer SpainThe “Art Walk” dates to the Age of Enlightenment, when Charles III (1716–1788) enhanced north-south carriage access through the prado (meadow) of the pastoral 17th-century monastery (now Retiro Park). The king embellished the route with monumental fountains, a tree-shaded pedestrian promenade and major educational institutions: the Royal Observatory, the Royal Botanical Garden and what he planned to be a natural history museum. When the massive building ultimately opened in 1810 as the art-filled Prado, the city’s cultural hub was firmly established.

At the southernmost point of the “Golden Triangle,” crowds flock to Reina Sofia to admire Guernica, Picasso’s antiwar reaction to the aerial bombing of the Basque town in 1937, and works by Dalí, Gris and Miró. Nearby, the CaixaForum, with its impressive exterior wall of greenery, houses an exhibition space within a former power station.


Heading north to the Neptune Fountain, the Museo Nacional del Prado, with its Neoclassical façade studded with columns and statues, lies on the right. Inside, walls display classics from the Flemish, Italian and Spanish schools, including world-famous paintings by El Greco, Goya and Velázquez. Across the Paseo, Villahermosa Palace became home to the Thyssen-Bornemisza in 1992. Artwork from the 13th century to the present includes paintings by Gauguin, Kandinsky, Matisse and some prominent American artists.

Two grande dames hotels — and others — lie within footsteps of these museums. The legendary Hotel Ritz, Madrid maintained its prestigious appeal since its debut in 1910, and its elegant Goya Terrace faces the Prado. At The Westin Palace Hotel, which introduced the first private bathrooms and telephones in 1912, a spectacular stained-glass dome tops La Rotonda restaurant. Facing the nearby park, the AC Palacio del Retiro, a contemporary boutique hotel within a restored townhouse, boasts the original curved, wrought iron staircase and high ceilings.

Paseo del Arte ends just beyond the 19th-century Naval Museum at the opulent Cibeles Palace, which faces Cibeles Fountain. The white Gothic former post office houses Madrid’s City Hall and a tourist information center, an exhibition space and dining options including the gastronomic Palacio de Cibeles Restaurant. From its rooftop observation deck, views extend over Madrid’s magical skyline.

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Barcelona Art & Architecture Guide and Barcelona Hotels

Irvina Lew first visited Barcelona, Spain, during the 1992 Summer Olympics, and returned on another sporting mission: the announcement of an international sailing race between New York and Spain. In between interviewing skippers, she explored the city’s art, culture and hotel scene.

I’m in Barcelona, a chic, cosmopolitan port city that I first visited in 1992, during the Juegos Olimpiados.

I’m reminded of those games the week that the Winter Olympics 2010 are attracting attention to Vancouver and Whistler. Read Full Article

By Irvina Lew

Beer Reaches New, Gastronomic Heights

I wasn’t familiar with Estrella Damm, Barcelona’s best beer, until I heard about the New York to Barcelona Transoceanic Sailing Record. One of the two, 60-foot open sailing yachts racing the 3750 mile course during the second week of April, 2010, is called Estrella Damm, for its sponsor. (
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By Irvina Lew

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