By CJ Juntereal
It’s a bit of a surprise to come across a luxury resort hidden deep within the pineapple fields of Tagaytay. It’s even more of a surprise to be greeted by the loud, ringing tones of a gong as you step out of your car at the entrance. But Anya Resort in Tagaytay is listed in Small Luxury Hotels of the World (one of only three properties in the Philippines), and I suppose they don’t do anything halfway. That gong though, the only flamboyant thing about our stay. Everything else was discreet, luxurious, but with the feeling that we were actually home.
The resort has 88 suites spread out in 11 two-story buildings, the largest at 108 square meters and the smallest at 47 square meters. It isn’t the size that matters though, so much as the feeling that everything you need for a relaxing stay is inside your room. There’s a comfy day bed for napping or reading, thick bathrobes hanging in the bathroom with hand over heart as if to say “welcome home,” an oil burner hidden under the sink in case you need a little aromatherapy, a hairdryer that isn’t shy about drying your hair, and bath essentials in big ceramic containers instead of tiny plastic bottles. At night, our bedroom slippers were arranged beside the bed facing out so we could slip into them easily, and a glass and carafe of water were placed on our bedside table—just like at home. It felt like the owners thought of Anya Resort as their giant house and made sure that everything was the way they would have done it in their own homes—the owners being the Roxaco Land Corporation.
We had been invited to attend a wine dinner and stay the night—so that we could eat and drink with abandon, and not worry about driving. Eating and drinking, it seems, is something else that Anya Resort doesn’t do halfway. It has three restaurants: Anila Café, Samira Restaurant, and Amra Deli. Breads, jams and preserves, salad dressings are all made in the resort’s kitchens. There’s a large brick oven in Anila Café that is used for pizzas, meats, and other goodies. The resort takes its cue from its surroundings, and uses a lot of fresh, local produce from the area and its own gardens. The food is family friendly, and leans towards the Mediterranean style with lots of fresh salads and vegetables, pastas, pizzas, seafood, and grilled meats.
The wine dinner, with wines from AWC, was held at Samira Restaurant. Singapore-based chef Emmanuel Stroobant, who is a celebrity chef here in Asia, developed the restaurant’s daily menu. That night, to pair with Spanish wines from Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and Penedes, executive chef Jonathan Bouthiaux prepared a five-course meal. Appetizers were served with Gramona III Lustro Cava. AWC’s gregarious area manager for Asia Pacific, Jean Claude, told us that the cava—creamy and buttery, with notes of baked apple and yeasty baguette—was the house cava of the famed El Cellar de Can Roca and El Bulli. Gramona is one of the last family-owned cava houses in the Penedes region of Spain, and its cavas are considered amongst the finest in the world.
Gramona Gessami, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, and Gewurtztraminer grapes, had hints of peach and lychee on the tongue, balanced by the minerality and citrus fruit freshness of the Sauvignon Blanc grape. It paired well with a light zucchini cannelloni stuffed with wild mushroom cream. I’m always looking for summer wines, and these two from Bodegas Gramona are good choices.
The first red wine served was a Tempranillo/Graciano blend; Bodegas Roda Sela 2013, had jammy, lush fruit flavors and a velvety mouth feel that mirrored the richness of the foie gras dumplings floating in our beef consommé. Our next wines were pure Tempranillo. With Lamb Wellington encased in flaky puff pastry, we drank a 2010 Bodegas La Horra Corimbo 1, which had won a Platinum-Best in Show medal at the 2016 Decanter Awards. The wine was complex with spicy, smoky flavors melded with sweet vanilla and cloves, and the freshness of orange peel. It had a long, elegant finish. Bodegas La Horra produced its first vintage only in 2008, and is part of the larger Bodegas Roda. Our last red wine was Bodegas Roda 1 paired with a classic pan seared duck breast with caramelized pears. In contrast with the Corimbo 1, this wine was earthier with hints of leather and the funk of truffles, but still lots of smooth tannins and finesse.
Bodegas Rodas wines are not quite the traditional Tempranillos that are medium-bodied and elegant. Instead, they are a more modern style—concentrated and dense, jam-packed with fruit and spice in a style that is more new world than old world.
At Sunday Brunch in Anila Café the next day, we drank Gramona Imperial Cava, a crisp and balanced cava that went with just about everything on the buffet—big leafy salads and lots of cold vegetable dishes, fresh breads and pastries, over-stuffed omelets and Filipino breakfast meats. The stars of brunch were a whole salmon baked in salt, and classic Beef Wellington. The day before, we had eaten a late lunch of light dishes. Among the stand-outs was a salad that combined bitter arugula with the sweetness of roasted squash, slivers of almond, and salty cheese; the restaurant’s version of carbonara made with curls of prosciutto ham and a poached egg; an excellent hummus that highlighted the nutty flavor of tahini and garbanzos rather than the pungency of raw garlic; and thin, crisp ovals of brick oven pizza.
Throughout our stay the lifestyle was laid-back, almost effortless. Even the wine dinner, beautifully set up and elegant, was like a happy dinner amongst friends instead of serious and intimidating. Each room is assigned a lifestyle assistant who is supposed to take care of the guest’s every need, request, or interest—but we didn’t bother. Anya has a heated pool, the Niyama Spa, a library, and lots of breezy areas for walking or just sitting. We didn’t do anything except savor the tranquility that is so rare if you stay along the ridge, and nap. And eat. Like the resort, we didn’t do anything halfway either. All the other activities will have to wait until we come home for another visit.
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Anya Resort. Buenavista Hills Road, Brgy. Mag-AsawangIlat, Tagaytay City.For more information visit, http://anyaresorts.com/
Bodegas Gramona, Bodegas Roda, and Bodegas La Horra Wines are available at AWC. 2/F Alegria Alta Building, 2294 Chino Roces Avenue, Makati City. 02 817 1417.
Tags: A trip to Tagaytay for wine, Anya Resort, Bodegas Gramona, Bodegas Gramona Cava Imperial, Bodegas La Horra, Bodegas Roda, Eat Girl!, Emmanuel Stroobant, Gramona Imperial Cava, Jonathan Bouthiaux, Lamb Wellington, Samira Restaurant