Grape Expectations

TONIGHT, MILLIONS OF PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER will unwind with a glass of wine. One person will choose white, another red. Some will pair it with dinner while others will imbibe socially with friends. Everyone, though, will enjoy the sense of indulgence and relaxation that comes from savoring this ancient alcoholic beverage, this "nectar of the gods." Simply stated, wine provides a little slice of luxury, a bit of decadence, and some fun—three things that almost all spa-goers want as well. For that reason, more than any other, adding wine-inspired treatments to your spa menu should be a no-brainer.

Of course the other reasons lie in the healing and protective properties of grapes. It's been widely reported that a glass of wine a day may help keep the cardiologist and oncologist away. That's because grapes, both fermented and not, contain polyphenols, the most potent antioxidants found in nature. Joseph Vercauteren, a pharmacologist at the University of Bordeaux in France, first made this discovery in 1970. The antioxidants found in wine grapes help protect the body and not just on the inside. "Grapeseed extract and wine derivatives are powerful antioxidants that have well-documented effects on the skin," says Cleveland-based dermatologist Rebecca Tung, M.D. Experts agree that grapeseed extract is better at protecting skin from free radical damage than vitamins C and E. Research has also shown that resveratrol, a polyphenol found in crushed red wine grape skins, may help prevent UV-induced skin cancer and help boost collagen and elastin levels. And the grape is more than just a free radical fighter. Grapeseed oil contains high levels of moisturizing essential fatty acids and is easily absorbed by the skin; pulverized grapeseeds make an excellent exfoliant; and a compound found in grapevine stems may help lighten dark spots and freckles.

 The bountiful vineyards of Sonoma, CA, serve as inspiration for a variety of treatments at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa.
The bountiful vineyards of Sonoma, CA, serve as inspiration for a variety of treatments at The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa.

"Grapeseed oil and extract are perfect skincare ingredients in the spa environment," says Ranella Hirsch, M.D., a dermatologist in Boston. "When they're used in wraps, soaks, and massages, they're applied in a way that gives them the time they need to really penetrate the skin and maximize the benefits they can provide." Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas, founders of the grapeseed-infused skincare line Caudal죬 may have been the first to capitalize on this idea when they opened their flagship vinotherapy spa at the Ch᳥au Smith Haut Laffite vineyard in France in 1999. They now operate four such spas around the world, the newest of which is on the Marques de Riscal vineyard in the Rioja region of Spain.

Here in the U.S., they opened the Caudalíe Spa at Kenwood Inn and Spa in California's Sonoma Valley wine region. The spa's Barrel Bath add-on treatment ($65, 20 minutes)—an oenophile's dream, during which guests soak in a bubbling tub filled with extracts from finely crushed grapeseeds, stalks, and stems—is now recognized as a traditional vinotherapy treatment. Another popular service at Kenwood is the Crushed Cabernet Scrub ($115, 50 minutes), an exfoliating body treatment using a paste made from grapeseeds, honey, and brown sugar to gently slough away dead skin.

Resveratrol in crushed red wine grapes skins may fight forms of skin cancer.
Resveratrol in crushed red wine grapes skins may fight forms of skin cancer.

The success of the Kenwood Inn and Spa has certainly inspired many other spas throughout California, the U.S.'s top wine-producing state, to add similar services to their menus. The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa offers the Couples Wine and Roses experience ($469 per couple, 100 minutes) featuring side-by-side massages with products infused with rose extract and grapeseed oil. And Cal-a-Vie Health Spa (Vista, CA), just north of San Diego, may not be in Napa, but it easily introduced grape-based treatments such as the Chardonnay Hydrotherapy Bubble Bath ($95, 50 minutes) using products made from Chardonnay grape extracts.

In a unique twist on the wine trend, Spa du Soleil at Napa Valley's Auberge du Soleil recently began offering wine tasting and treatment pairings. Its spa sommelier chooses a wine to match certain services based on the dominant ingredients and aromas of the products used. With the Garden Romance Package ($340, 2 hours), for example, couples are given a taste of a 1998 Amethyst Nebbiolo-Sangiovese, which has a rose petal bouquet to complement the floral aroma of this couples' experience. "One of the reasons many of our guests come to Auberge du Soleil is to enjoy the region's wines and vineyards, and these treatments enhance that experience," says spa director Susan O'Bryen, who is quick to mention that guests are only given a small three-ounce taste of the chosen wine before their treatment to avoid dehydration.

While grape- and wine-themed treatments are well suited to spas in the Golden State, they've also been popping up on spa menus in areas where wine is more likely to be consumed than produced. New York City is now home to an all-vinotherapy spa, the Delluva Vinotherapy Day Spa. "A friend explained the concept of vinotherapy at a wedding a few years ago, and I was hooked immediately," says Diane Hanson, owner of the recently opened Tribeca-area spa. "It combines my two favorite things: wine and spas." Hanson says that the day spa draws a decent number of male clients, more than she had anticipated. "I think men are more comfortable coming here on their own, to this type of spa setting, because it's acceptable and manly to love wine," she says. For spa newcomers, a spa that focuses on something with which many people are already familiar, like wine, can also be less threatening.

At another New York City day spa, Euphoria Spa, wine-themed treatments have proven to be popular with guests looking to give gift certificates. Owner Kristen Haines says that the Chardonnay Massage ($125, 60 minutes) has quickly become the most gifted service. "Just reading the name of the treatment is relaxing and luxurious, so I think it makes a more thoughtful gift," says Haines. The spa uses Olavie spa products for all of its wine-inspired treatments and is extremely happy with the brand. To launch the new treatments, Olavie hosted a wine tasting event at the spa. "That drew in a lot of new clients because it was such a fun, social event," says Haines.

From the Vine
From the Vine

Another way to use wine-inspired treatments to draw guests to your spa is by promoting them during local food and wine events. Every October, the village of Kohler, WI, hosts the Kohler Food & Wine Experience, which showcases nationally renowned celebrity chefs, wine experts, and regional restaurateurs with culinary demonstrations, tastings, and food and wine seminars. To join in on the fun, the Kohler Water Spa offers its Le Vin Pedicure ($85, 50 minutes). Attendees can have their feet pampered with a Chardonnay foot soak, grapeseed oil foot massage, and Chardonnay grapeseed-enriched body butter application while indulging in a glass of a wine of their choice. "Our niche is water-based treatments so this type of pedicure doesn't fit on our menu year-round, but we like offering special treatments that are indicative of the season," says Jean Kolb, director of wellness business. Offering grape-based treatments during wine harvesting and producing seasons is another way to promote them at least a few times a year.

It's doubtful, though, that spa-goers will need much of a reason to try these treatments once you've explained their many benefits. After all, who needs an excuse to enjoy a glass of wine? Megan O'Connell

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