Hotel and Cellar "Starosel"
“Complex Starosel” is located some 180km from Sofia if you take the E80 way. If you take some other way it will be closer (130km) but not faster. The hotel for the Starosel winery is located 1 km outside of the actual village Starosel. There are like ~20 rooms divided by 3 categories: Double room/Studio/Apartment – all of them are with the same furniture including double bed, a desk with a TV, fridge, wardrobe, Wi-Fi etc. The bathroom does not have a bathtub but when you have Jacuzzi and pool this should not be a problem at all. Still the bathroom is big and made very nice! When I say big you should know that the main difference between the room categories is the space.
The Double room is no where near small – It is a BIG room I must say. The studio is even BIGGER including a small table. When I say bigger to get the idea how BIG it is I need to say that it is a single room but like ~40m²! Same bathroom in the studio as well as it is in the Apartment. The apartment is like the double room at the bedroom but with one additional room (living room) with a table, very nice couch system, 2 balconies – one for each room in the apartment and a fireplace! All of them as I said have the same style – Rustic wood with fur covers on the bed and also fur-like curtains on the BIG windows. AC is available in all rooms. All of this should already point you out that this hotel gives you a lot of space everywhere. The restaurant is BIG as well. 2 floors with tables of all sizes again with the same traditional Stone/Fur/Rustic-wood style. Panoramic picture of the restaurant can be seen below after the post. The prices are very good and include breakfast:
35€ for Double room, 40€ for Studio and 47€ for Apartment. The Hotel also has to offer SPA with Roman/steam bath, Sauna, Jacuzzi, Fitness, Massages and all kind of wine therapies. Room with games like table-tennis, etc. and mini-golf during the summer just beside the pool. Outside of the hotel you have pool which I used on -10ºC because it has mineral water of something between 28ºC and 30ºC. This is new as I have been there before during the summer and the pool was with normal (cold) water. The pool has a child section with 70cm dept as well. During the summer you have chaise-longue for free as a hotel guest and access to the pool 24/7. 2 chaise-longues are also available on each balcony if you choose the apartment. SPA is available until 8PM but this should not be a problem since the restaurant is open until 1AM. The food in the restaurant is very interesting. You can try a lot of traditional Bulgarian meals made from the cook by special recipes which I have not seen elsewhere. A lot of Bulgarian traditional home made desserts and white cheese (goat, cow, sheep or buffalo… or all at once as I did)…. ohh the white cheese is AMAZING! When you get at the entrance (which is the first picture of the post) on the left you have the restaurant and on the right – the reception and the wine store. From the reception you can register for the wine tour around the facility (included in the room fee) and wine testing of 3/5/7 wines where the price for 3 wines is 8€/person. The wine testing is conducted at the end of the tour in the wine cellar .
Apart from the hotel you have a lot to do outside. Different activities are available for you – all of them equally worth it. There are stables nearby where you can get a horse to ride around for like 15€/30min., A very good history monuments like temples and such from 4-5 century B.C., a lake nearby if you are a fan of fishing and also a “safari” can be orginized with SUVs from the hotel staff. Very rich land around with a lot that worth seeing I could conclude. The nearest temple is about 3km. from the hotel and at ~1400m above sea level. When you get there you can also see from there (during the summer is best since during the winter you get a lot of fog which limits the range where your eyes can see) the Starosel winery vineyards, the surrounding mountains, the lake and everything else around you. Everything is so beautiful! A guided tour is also available at the temple for some 2-3€/person who can answer any questions you might have.
Back to the hotel in the inner side between the restaurant, the reception and the hotel part of the complex you have a courtyard where you can see freely walking around ducks and peacocks – have in mind that your dog is not welcome there for this reason. Also there is a small yard with a fence which is populated with snow white rabbits, turkeys and a deer. In the middle of the courtyard you will notice small artificial hill which is actually the dome of the wine cellar under the ground. The wine cellar is like 6m under the ground built as replica to the temple nearby and you can rent space in the cellar for your private collection as well. I can’t tell you what the price is for renting a space because during the weekend there is no representative you can give you answers to any additional questions regarding the wine. Just behind the hotel area there is a construction going on for a new hotel area again part of the same complex with a bigger pool which will also be mineral. Looking forward to it as it seems even more good things will come in the near future. Nevertheless it is best to visit it ones during the winter and once during the summer to fully appreciate Starosel. The wines: Cabernet Sauvignion, Syrah and “Milezim” are very good with the best one being the Cabernet. The Merlot was not so good even the one which they say is a “special selection from an oak barrel, vintage 2006″ with no back or front labels on the bottle.
While all the above is true there are few things that you will not find anywhere in the portfolio of the Complex Starosel or on the phone. I will try to explain what could have they done better since – it can always be better no matter how good they think they’ve done it. Almost all of the “bad” experience I had was purely because of poor management on their side. Here is what I have in mind:
If you order a bottle of wine at the pool, at the SPA, in your room or even at the restaurant – you will need to pay more than double the price you would pay if you get it from the store just 5m away of the restaurant?! And this is all because they bring you glasses? I don’t get it…
If you happen to choose the apartment with the fireplace you need to know that using the fireplace will cost you extra 10€! Everything at the SPA is also extra and you need to pay for everything despite the fact that they do not have a clear policy of how much you need to pay. There is a price list where it says: 3€ Jacuzzi, 4€ steam bath, 4.5€ sauna. All of the prices are for each hour per person. Now I said that will not stay 1 hour in the sauna so I asked how I will be charged? After a short discussion we agreed for “some” money to be charged on the bill of my room. What I end up paying was 5€/person for the whole day for everything in the SPA (except massages). Oh… and if you are planning to use something in the SPA apart from the Jacuzzi you need to inform them in advance as follows – 15min in advance for the steam bath/ 1,5 hours in advance for the sauna/1 day in advance for any massage or therapy as the masseur is not available and needs to drive from God knows where to get there for you. As you can imagine the sauna/steam bath if not used are turned off.
The living room in the apartment does not have a TV?! Just bring your laptop so you can have some music/TV when you gather in the evening with your friends. Why it does not have a TV I do NOT know but it looks so shallow, empty and deserted without the TV… Good that you have free Wi-Fi strong enough to even use your smartphone if needed.
The fridge contained some outdated candies so you need to read the expiration date before using anything… looks like.
Pros & Cons:
+ Fridge filled with some small stuff to enjoy if you feel short on candies or beverages at any time.
+ Parking – enough for the whole hotel and not wondering where to park your car.
+ Cable TV – some 21″ TV.
+ Great restaurant design and great food with a lot of space on and around the tables.
+ Environment is designed very stylish.
+ Free Wi-Fi all over the place with strong enough signal.
+ Pool with mineral water available 24/7
+ Space around the hotel – away from the population surrounded with nature.
+ A lot of possible activities – you can have a week there and still not being able to try everything.
+ Very close Bulgarian history monuments away from the cities where you visit in a day like a walk in the park without needing you car (if the weather allows it).
- The web page is very outdated so you better call on the phone for anything you need information about.
- Cable TV – the TV is not a flat/widescreen one (no LCD/plasma/etc) but rather old 4:3 CRT TV which is not even big.
- Overpricing their own wine in their own restaurant just 5 meters from the store.
- All the small additional payments are so annoying.
- The mineral water in the pool is not hot enough. I spoke with some staff there and it seems they know about this problem and they are working on it to be fixed since the water comes from some 5-6 km away from the hotel and gets cooled a lot by the time it enters the pool. (update 2013 – no changes. Water is still cold for the winter.)
- One evening at the restaurant I wanted to order a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon which I already had at the Jacuzzi and they said that it is not available anymore. On the next day it was available again?!
I hope the information above will help someone.
2013 will become the better year at Starosel Winery. Mainly because of the project running for adding internal mineral pool… and it will be HUGE!
As shown on the picture on the left it is still work in progress but it is expected to be completed around March-April. It will have a hot connection from the rooms directly to the pool. As you can see the floor will be heated as well and I can only imagine how good it will look like with these concrete columns which most likely will be covered with stone or something… The glassy roof, the size, the design – can’t wait to get there mid summer or next winter. I just hope the water is with higher temperature – something like 35º-39ºC will be great! Even internal pool will not feel good with 28ºC. Fingers crossed…
Restaurant is still the best one on all the places I have been doing wine tourism. The prices is still the same as in 2012 – you get a bottle of wine for more than double the amount you get it from the store just 5 meters away. It could be OK for the wine that costs 4€ at the store to drink it for 10€ at the restaurant but now they have a wine which costs 13€at the store and for the restaurant you will need to pay ~29€. It is so irritating!!!
Regarding that new wine you can read at my latest post where I attempted to find what is their ”Treasure” and how secretly they keep it. At their store to show how important it is – it is very nicely exhibited in a real tresor with a slighly opened door tickling your curiousity to peak inside.