Wine-y and wonderful, Terra Dominicata is in Spain’s vertiginous, vineyard-covered Priorat region, where the Serra de Montsant mountains loom over near-endless grape terraces. The hotel’s terracotta buildings are lined with lofty cypress trees: its colour scheme is thoughtfully in tune with the local architecture as well as the mountains themselves (and it’s especially effective in the glow of the setting sun). Explore the working winery, be fed and watered like royalty in the restaurant (where high-backed velvet teal chairs basically double as thrones)… and then retreat to your design-den chambers to sleep it off.
Noon, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £165.96 (€194), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast (€25 a person).
The working winery regularly hosts tastings in the terracotta kitchen next-door – the wine may be the star of the show, but the shelves of colourful crockery will encourage some serious ceramics envy.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, valet parking, winery. In rooms: air-conditioning, minibar, free bottled water, Nespresso coffee machine, tablet, hair straighteners, sun hats and L’Occitane bath products.
Our favourite rooms
We loved room 26; it’s in a small courtyard, and has two cosiness-boosting factors (especially good if you visit in winter) – a roll-top bath tub at the end of the bed, and a fireplace. (It also has one of those for-decoration-only ladders that don’t do much but look rather nice.) Stealthy sorts will love the secret underground corridor that links room 22 with the restaurant – it was once an emergency escape route, but now it’s more likely to be used to usher hungry guests to the restaurant more swiftly.
The mountain-flanked pool at the property’s edge was once a watering hole for wild hogs – hence the gate to keep the thirsty porcine bathers out after dark.
Bring a nose for a fine vintage and a refined palate.
The communal areas are accessible for wheelchair users and there’s a specially adapted room on the ground floor. The pool area can be reached via a lift.
Take your seats along the edge of the terrace outside, or by the table inside for more greenery gazing.
Pack something elegant but expandable.
The chef and his team moved in 10 months before the first guests, and it shows: the menu has been planned to perfection. Even the table settings are immaculate. The Italian cook adds a little home-country flair to his Spanish cuisine, but all ingredients are sourced from local markets or the kitchen garden. This creative crack squad aims to surprise, so the dishes are constantly evolving; one majorly memorable recent feast included apricot and mascarpone gazpacho, oysters with hollandaise, langoustine and monkfish courgette cannelloni and duck risotto. The food is designed to match the outstanding natural wines this area produces, which set standards to really high. Come morning, the impressive young pastry chef will have baked a bounty of hot and cold treats; look out for the miniature chocolate muffins and the baked cheesecake.
The bar is attached to the restaurant and has a sommelier, who is also an expert in cocktail curation. Some of the muddles make use of the local wine, as well as herbs plucked straight from the garden. Even the house white is delicious – with a surprising orangey, pinkish glow (as opposed to the regular white or yellow) verifying its all-natural composition.
The restaurant is open from 7am until 10pm. The bar’s hours are noon to 11pm.
The full menu can be served in your room if you prefer.
Terra Dominicata is close to the coastal Catalan city of Tarragona in north-eastern Spain.
Tarragona’s airport is nearest; the drive should take 45 minutes. Otherwise, fly to Barcelona and continue by train or car; the hotel (our Smith24 team) can arrange transfers on request.
There’s a railway station, Camp de Tarragona, an hour’s drive away, which links up the city with Barcelona – most services take just over an hour. The hotel can fetch you from here.
The drive from Barcelona will take around two hours. There’s free valet parking when you reach the estate. A car will come in handy if you’re planning on touring the nearby towns and wineries.
Worth getting out of bed for
Beat the wild hogs to it and cool off at the pool, hike one of the trails in the surrounding national park or enlist the expertise of the winemaker to show you how it’s done.There are several wineries to visit in this abundant region, including Clos de l’Obac, owned by an eccentric friend of Bill Gates, and Trossos del Priorat, set within a mountain, with a prolific output – two people produce around 80,000 bottles a year.
The remote, rural setting (not to mention the amazing onsite restaurant) makes Terra Dominicata a destination in itself, but if you're out and about touring the local towns, try: Brots in Poboleda; La Cooperativa in Porrera; or El Celler de l’Aspic in Falset.
A monk isn’t your classic holiday muse – even if a one-outfit wardrobe would keep packing simple. So when I tell Mr Smith that Spanish boutique hotel Terra Dominicata used to be a monastery, he shoots me a side-eye. We have history with monks, you see. On our honeymoon in Menorca, my choice of bijou, backstreet, by-ourselves love nest had an unexpected roommate: Jesus. Oil portraits with eyes that scorned every towel-drop were nailed like Post-It Notes across the bedroom; not to mention the in-lobby soundtrack of sombre hymns that made Songs of Praise feel like a Taylor Swift concert. Short version: we consummated our marriage back home. So, before he could U-turn the car and retrace the two-hour journey back to Barcelona, I quickly added: ‘And now it’s a working vineyard.’ With that, the accelerator pedal was firmly back in business.
One thing we could both worship about Terra Dominicata’s monastic past, however, was its location. It’s rural. And not rural in the sense that Deliveroo only offers 10 restaurant choices. This is rural-rural. Deep inside the spectacular rocky crags of the Serra de Montsant Natural Park, the road in is an armrest-clutching series of hairpin bends that make the car passenger feel like Steve Irwin wrestling a crocodile and the driver feel like Lewis Hamilton. You wonder where on Earth Terra Dominicata could be, if Google Maps has led you up the mountain path, and then it appears: a rose-gold collection of low-lying stone buildings that look resplendent. Holy, even.
We were greeted by the offer of a valet service, but the only thing that could prise the steering wheel away from Mr Smith – by now, plotting how to break into Formula 1 on the cusp of turning 40 – was a vinous welcome cocktail. Sangria, we thought – but swirling the ice in the dusk-coloured liquid unleashed a refreshing peach purée that sang of summer. My shoulders, stiff from co-pilot duties, unclenched with the taste of wine country.
While your mouth navigates the punchy grenaches of the Priorat – the only Spanish wine region besides La Rioja to be awarded the top DOQ quality classification (and, with it, much international acclaim) – your eyes start drinking in the decor. Externally, no part of the pastel-coloured structure could be altered from the original, built in 1118; however, the interior has all the hallmarks of a design team who stayed off the local sauce until they got the styling to perfection. Communal areas, such as the light-drenched restaurant, mix pillow-plump grey sofas with roaring fireplaces and artfully positioned animal skulls. There are bamboo chairs, gallery walls with typographic prints (just the right amount, positioned exquisitely), trailing plants and, naturally, a lot of wine bottles. The old-meets-new styling is so thoughtfully done that each space feels like an expertly curated spread in an interiors magazine.
Particularly of note is the bedroom. Ours, number 24, was cocooned in a pink courtyard; indeed, it was so private that we had to pry our way through a weave of growth-spurting plant vines to reach the front door. The Narnia inside is full of smart, quirky touches: an upside-down basket in place of the predictable lightshade, linen so thick and tactile that your home bed-sheets suddenly feel like loo roll, and the absence of a TV was compensated with a stuffed bookshelf that – spoiler alert – heaves to the right to reveal a secret bathroom with a freestanding tub.
Everything at Terra Dominicata is crafted with ‘enjoying wine’ in mind. I speak from experience: those soft furnishings have ‘post-sipping siesta’ written all over them. Then there’s the rectangular pool outside, which is ensconced in vines like a drunken domino that’s tumbled over for its nap. It’s best enjoyed from the sunlounger-lined side, sipping something cool while you gaze at the hills and olive groves that roll out 360 degrees around you. The hotel’s also adults-only, so there’s no one below drinking age to ruin your cork-popping fun.
The pièce de résistance – or, in English, ‘place of zero resistance’ – is the on-site bodega. Guided tours take place twice a day (in Spanish at noon, English at 5pm), detailing the wine-sloshed history of both the region and the winery itself. Unlike your school teachers, tutors here believe that theory is best proved with alcohol, and the post-tour tasting is a true highlight. For one, the measures – four, in total – are generous, and the leftovers of the bottles are offered up to whoever can glug the fastest. It’s also free. Then there’s the tasting room itself, on the bodega’s top floor, whose sweeping panoramic vine-scape really puts your drink into context.
The only logical next step – or sway, depending on how thirsty you were – is to soak up your excesses with something carb-y. Cue, Alma Mater, Terra Dominicata’s excellent restaurant. It’s open to guests and the public, so expect to hear more locally spoken Catalan than a chorus of expats. Though we can report that the sound of a wine-induced Uno match getting out of hand sounds the same whatever your mother tongue. And, while we’re on the subject of cursing, the courgette cannelloni stuffed with garlicky king prawns was bloody good – ditto the sashimi-soft steak.
Eating and drinking is the new religion at Terra Dominicata, and we’re willing converts. Our one tiny criticism, it’s that the lunch and dinner menus are the same, meaning that extended stays could lead to some meal repetition. But, there are worse sins – just ask those monks. For now, we’ll start praying that tomorrow doesn’t start with a hangover.