The Grand Resort Bad Ragaz (GRBR), a super luxury Wellbeing & Medical Health Resort in the hot springs village of Bad Ragaz is a dream destination for the health conscious affluent for a relaxed sojourn, where there is also ample opportunity to taste a wide range of Swiss and foreign wines paired with food and to visit local wineries around, writes Subhash Arora who spent a couple of days there and was impressed with the wine offerings at the Resort and also visited a local winery in Fläsch
You know you have arrived at a special wine-focused Spa Resort when you are offered a welcome drink - not a watered down cocktail or a syrupy juice but the whole beverage menu is at your disposal to pick out any of the adequate drink by-the-glass, including wines and champagnes. You don’t see a waiter carrying a tray of glasses carrying the same beverage. You are invited to sit in the bar next to the lobby and order a drink of your choice. For me, Barbara the beautiful blonde bartender brought plenty of nuts and munchies to go with the Laurent Perrier Rose Brut I opted for. (otherwise CHF 22 a glass, according to the beautifully bound Wine List La Cave).
Seven restaurants, a bistro and a café provide a huge range of culinary diversity in food as well as wine. The restaurants specialise in wines- be it the French (Bel-Air), Mediterranean- Italian (Olives-d’Or), or Asian (Namun). A wine paired Menu is also available as I found at Bel-Air on the first day. But the wine variety is diverse and the wines, particularly the higher ended wines, are very well-priced. They find more takers as the clients are fluent, sophisticated and knowledgeable about wines and it’s worth trying different wines, especially the Swiss wines which are plentiful and the most reasonably priced.
Many choices at good prices
There are more than sufficient labels of French wines available, including the top ended wines like Chateau Petrus 2007 (CHF 3,490), 2004 (CHF2,890); Château Cheval-Blanc, 1er Grand Cru Classé A 2005 (CHF1,560), 1982 (CHF 2,080); Château Margaux, 1er Grand Cru Classé 2006 (CHF 945), Chateau Latour 2003 (CHF1,650) are a few of the top offerings from Bordeaux. The Burgundy list is more modest with prices even more reasonable, with a Grand Cru available as low as CHF 205 and a Premier Cru as low as CHF 95! (CHF1=Rs. 68= € 0.92)
In the Italian selection you may order from Angelo Gaia a Costa Russi 2005 (CHF 620), Barbaresco 1997 (CHF 435); or a much cheaper 2009 (CHF 235) or Sperss 2009 (CHF 285); Barolo Monfortino Riserva, Giacomo Conterno (2002) at CHF 685 is the most expensive Italian varietal wine. If you are in a mood for Amarone, there is a much more economical choice of Amarone Classico della Valpolicella Fratelli Tedeschi 2012 (CHF 90). Masseto 2011 (CHF 1,355) is the most expensive Italian wine though Super Tuscans like Sassicaia Tenuta San Guido 2011 (CHF265), Sassicaia 2005 (CHF 565), Ornellaia 2009 (CHF 305), Solaia and Tignanello are also listed.
Pingus Tinto Cosecha, Dominio de Pingus 2005 (CHF 1,570) and Vega Sicilia Unico 2007 (CHF 510) are the top Spanish wines in the portfolio although there are plenty of high quality wines that are available from Spain, Italy or France between CHF 80-120.
Prices are considered so reasonable that even the local residents of Bad Ragaz dine very often in the restaurant,’ says Chefsommelier (Head Sommelier) René Blanco Müller who heads the team of sommeliers for all the restaurants at the Resort (barring IGNIV). He conducted a special tasting for me with around a dozen wines during the second evening of my stay, at Olives-d’Or and due to our common passion for wine, even offered to drive me to a couple of wineries; unfortunately I didn’t have time. He can arrange such conducted tastings for the guests, if they so desire.
Swiss fine wines
Switzerland is known for quality Pinot Noir but it is not as well known that Eastern Switzerland claims to make better quality- and for the area density, the red wine is exported more than from any other region. Bündner Herrschaft is a small region consisting of Fläsch, Jenins, Maienfeld and Malans- the four nearby villages in the Canton of Graubünden, making excellent Pinot Noir. All the Restaurants of Grand Resort Bad Ragaz give you an excellent opportunity to try a host of varieties of their reds for as low as CHF 65-90 from these 4 villages; whites are even slightly cheaper and really delicious, crisp and fruity with a charming personality.
Fläsch is the closest village from the Grand Resort-at less than a 10-minute drive one can visit some of these wineries or check with the Resort about various options and offers available. I was fortunate to be driven to a small family winery Fam. Hanspeter Kunz Weinbau with my charming hostess Andrea Fandiño. I visited the vineyards on the foothills of the mountainous terrain with the owner of the winery who sells a majority of his wines from the cellar door.
Visiting wineries around GRBR
Representative of this region, 80% of the wines Hanspeter Kunz produces, are red- mostly Pinot Noir and Spaetburgunder. Diolinoir is a local red variety, a cross between Pinot Noir and another old local variety, which grows only in Switzerland and he also produces small quantities of it. Whites include Riesling-Sylvaner and Pinot Gris, Mueller- Thurgau. It was interesting to see he is using screwcaps as the closures. I was quite impressed by the low alcohol levels of the wines, being in a cool area –similar to Burgundy, between 11-13.5%. He also makes SUAVIS- a delicious sweet wine from Welschriesling-with almost 40 gm/L res. sugar. However, the alcohol level in the 2013 was rather high at 14.6%.
Once a year, the village holds an open house, a sort of a festival where one can taste wines from all the participating producers and buy bottles. People from other villages also take part- a very popular day indeed. If you plan to be in Grand Resort of Bad Ragaz, it’s worth checking with the hotel that can get this information from Somm Blanco or any of the sommelier or the concierges at the two Resort Hotels.
Wines at Restaurant IGNIV by Andreas Caminada
Chef Andreas Caminada is a 3-Michelin star chef and a local celebrity and has been running Schauenstein Schloss Restaurant in a nearby village for the last 12 years. His restaurant is the only Swiss restaurant chosen consistently in the To 50 Restaurants of the World List. In November 2015, he came on board and collaborating with the owners of GRBR opened IGNIV, his second restaurant in this area. Naturally, it draws crowds not only from the hotel and the village but also several other nearby towns. Silvio Germann, the Head chef, was kind enough to give me the heads up on the cuisine where the dishes are on a community-sharing basis (like we have for Indian food or Chinese food and not pre-plated like European dishes). Francesco Benvenuto, Restaurant manager & Sommelier, also looks after the wine list which is bigger and bolder than even the Resort’s List-common to all the Restaurants and bars. It is thicker than many wine books, though with not so many pages. A DRC bottle can set you back by as much as CHF 18,000!
The Restaurant has a separate programme whereby you ‘Discover the hidden treasures of Graubünden’ and its wine producers with ‘Wine Tours Switzerland’. During the journey through the Graubünden countryside, you can learn all about the winemaking culture and history of this unique region along the young Rhine. At the vineyard, you are introduced to the variety of jobs that the vineyard manager carries out. A winegrower from a selected vineyard introduces you to the secrets of wine production. To accompany the wine tasting you are served a selection of Graubünden dried-meat specialities, cheese from the surrounding valleys and spiced-pear chutney.
On arrival back at the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz you have a 4-course sharing Dinner at IGNIV by Andreas Caminada with selected exclusive wines from Graubünden.
Wine Tasting with the Sommelier
I was fortunate to taste over a dozen wines with the Chefsommelier Blanco who planned to taste the usual 3-4 wines but was kind enough to have me taste around a dozen! Very passionate about his job, he says, ‘The wines chosen for our clients are no mass products. There are wines from Vintners and winemakers, who carefully deal with their products and the nature and with their names behind the results. We seek out wines from the region, as well as from around the world for you, which correspond to our standards of quality and philosophy to provide a memorable wine experience to our clients at Grand Resort Bad Ragaz.’ I concur with him.
Special wine packages
The Resort offers special packages that include visits to these vineyards and /or special wine and dine packages at the restaurant and the Resort on various occasions. Currently, they are offering: www.resortragaz.ch/
Grand Resort of Bad Ragaz is one of the premiere super-luxury Spa Resorts of Europe, competing with the best in the world. It has facilities that cannot be explored fully even during a stay of a week. But it is gratifying to see that wine gets its due share in their offerings-so much so that even if wine is central to your lifestyle, you will not be disappointed- be it the variety, prices or excellent Sommeliers to help you make the right choice in ordering your wines or arranging a visit to the nearby areas of Eastern Switzerland appellations.
For an earlier Article based on my visit, please read Bad Ragaz: Grand Swiss Spa Resort for Wine and Health