The small rural town of Leza in the Rioja region of Northern Spain is abuzz with new activity.
Guests are checking into La Posada de Leza, a newly opened country home along the main street of town. After being greeted by owners, Terri and Robert, they find themselves across the street at the local pub, Gaztetxe Leza, for a delicious meal paired with wine from the surrounding vineyards.
Next, it’s off to visit one of those world-renowned vineyards or a pre-historic archeological site for an afternoon of indulgence or exploration, respectively.
Just five kilometers away in the medieval town of Laguardia is El Retiro del Obispo, a sister property offering individual rooms with more flexibility for shorter stays or smaller parties. A meticulous renovation has introduced modern amenities while paying respect to the exquisite space, built within the town’s fortifying wall (circa 1164).
Walking out of their rooms, guests remain immersed in the history of the town as they stroll around. Some might climb to the top of the Torre Abacial for breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside or make their way deep underground to the cellars to learn about the local winemaking industry.
Owners Terri and Robert found themselves in La Rioja at the start of the pandemic in early 2020.
The couple are originally from San Francisco in the United States, where they spent the first part of their lives. Terri has lived in Spain since finishing her graduate studies and has had a successful business career in Madrid over the past thirty years. Robert has spent his life in California, beginning his professional work in technology but transitioning into the wine and hospitality industries. After being neighbours and attending secondary school together in the U.S. many years ago, Terri and Robert reconnected in Madrid five years ago.
At this time, the couple was ready to shift their professional careers and began searching for a place to open a hospitality venture.
After first purchasing a property near Alicante, Terri and Robert discovered the Alavese Rioja—the Denominacion de Origin Rioja winemaking region located in the Basque Country.
They quickly identified two properties that would be perfect for their new venture and, “the conversation moved from not which [property] but both,” said Terri. The couple purchased the two properties, one in Leza and the other in Laguardia.
The newcomers faced a plethora of challenges ahead including integrating themselves into the community. After their intentions to bring business to the area were clear and they became involved with nearby organizations, the locals warmly welcomed Terri and Robert.
A Labour of Love
The two properties that Terri and Robert bought were in a state of disrepair and needed significant renovations before the doors could be opened to guests. This process coincided with the start of the pandemic and had to be pushed back several times.
When construction finally began, the couple had to acclimate to the rural pace. Terri notes that the grape harvest presented an obstacle, “the harvest doesn’t wait—everyone participates in some way.” This includes tradesmen whose primary work is put on hold to assist the wineries with their time-sensitive operation of harvesting, processing, and bottling wine. Although frustrating at first, this emphasis on community is what makes the region so unique and attractive to visitors.
The couple also had to navigate the government regulations regarding historic buildings. It was always their intention to thoughtfully renovate the two properties with an eye towards historic preservation. Grants and subsidies from the local government help business owners get started in hopes of spurring tourism in the rural towns. This, however, does not exempt them from the difficult permitting process.
During the renovation, in order to connect to a utility line, a single paving stone had to be lifted to provide access. Robert explains, “an archeologist had to be on-site to write up a report and make sure that everything was accounted for.” This is one of the many anecdotes that came out of the long and conscientious renovation process.
Terri and Robert provide a personal touch to every guest who stays at their properties. During their time in the region, they’ve foraged relationships with local businesses and are able to provide recommendations to make guests’ experiences special and authentic. Through participation in the Rioja Alavesa Wine Route, they’ve expanded their reach and further partnerships with regional businesses.
Every guest who stays at one of Terri and Robert’s properties leaves with a sense of fulfillment: whether it be by enriching their knowledge of winemaking or by supporting the rural community and their way of life.
Within the accommodations, great care is taken to cater to guests’ comforts and needs. Beautiful antiques compliment the medieval architecture while modern conveniences ensure an enjoyable and carefree stay.
Luxury sheets and mattresses make for a good night’s sleep while individual espresso machines guarantee guests will be ready to seize the day. The five-bedroom La Posada de Leza is a perfect rental house for family vacations or special occasions. El Retiro del Obispo, with individual rooms available to rent by the night, makes for a great option for couples. At both properties, Terri and Robert provide guests with the same above-and- beyond hospitality that will kindle a longing to return to La Rioja.
Reservations can be made on their websites, by email at email@example.com, or by calling +34 648 684 679.
August Currier is a junior at New York University studying International Relations and Documentary Film.
Learn more about his interests and work on his Linkedin profile.