Food & Wine Themes Capture the Essence of the Mediterranean

Hotel Marques de Riscal amid vineyards

What more authentic way to entertain those meeting in the Mediterranean region than a visit to one of the top wine regions of the world? From food and wine pairings to culinary classes, opportunities abound to immerse groups in the local gastronomy and wine culture.

In Elciego, Spain, the breathtaking Hotel Marqués de Riscal beckons with its Frank O. Gehry design. The 45-room property, a member of Starwood’s Luxury Collection, includes a Michelin–starred restaurant. Its setting amidst older stone buildings and countless vineyards is ripe for exploration. Guided winery tours can introduce guests to the art of wine-making—finishing, of course, with a tasting of a Marqués de Riscal Rueda Verdejo white or a Marqués de Riscal Reserva red. There are full-day tours to wineries located deeper in the countryside that can be complemented by a traditional Spanish lunch at a local restaurant. Another day-long excursion takes attendees to La Rioja, a region of quaint medieval villages and world-renowned vineyards.

Creative Group Vice President Chuck Czaplewski took 300 top-tier incentive winners from a financial services company to Lisbon, which he calls one of his “favorite go-to destinations” because of its value. “It’s the westernmost point of continental Europe so the flights are shorter. And it’s known for its tremendous wine and seafood.”

But it was the venues that captured attendees’ imaginations: One dinner was held at Colares Winery in Sintra, with 350 people seated at a single long Imperial table among 2,000 lit candles.

Groups visiting Tuscany can have an authentic experience at the 41-room Castello di Casole, a 4,200-acre estate with 28 restored farmhouses set among vineyards and olive groves. Activities focus on the region’s wealth of gastronomic treasures. Groups can take culinary workshops in everything from charcuterie to gelato making, tour the local vineyards on bikes or horseback, or, in the fall, try their hand at truffle hunting, with the end result being a truffle cooking class.

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Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.