The Vineyard Hotel’s motto Eat. Sleep. And drink wine leaves you in no doubt as to what is front and centre here. And I fully intended to embrace that sentiment wholeheartedly. Well, it would be churlish not to.
The Vineyard lies amid the lush rolling hills of prime Berkshire countryside a few miles from Newbury; this former hunting lodge turned luxury boutique hotel, has been lovingly cultivated ever since Sir Peter Michael bought the property in 1998. Sir Peter knows a thing or two about wines, his own award-winning vineyard in California testament to that, so this is clearly a match made in wine heaven.
Far from being a haven for wine snobs however, I found it much more a celebration of all things wine. From the giant corkscrew jauntily placed by the entrance, to the impressive glass floor under which, I was reliably informed, lay over 30,000 bottles of very good stuff. The 49 guest rooms and suites are each named after wines and adorning a room off the lobby, lies an impressive fresco depicting the Judgement of Paris in May 1976, when Californian wines beat French wines in a famous blind tasting competition. You could also argue there is as much emphasis on art here as there is on wine, with works from many famous artists on walls everywhere you look.
Turning on to the gravel drive (something every good luxury hotel should have) I felt immediately cocooned within an exclusive enclave. The main road beyond was simply non-existent. I was now in a world of indulgent luxury. Even the hotel grounds were intimately classy; furniture was placed discreetly around a large water feature, pockets of lawn peeped out here and there and wouldn’t you know it, an actual vine snaked its way across a corner.
My deluxe suite (of the 49 rooms, 31 of them are suites) was Spottswoode a legendary Napa valley winery and the suite did the name justice I feel. Two good size soothing pastel rooms, Egyptian cotton sheets on a king bed, some very comfortable regency style furniture, two huge digital televisions, free wifi and a spacious marble bathroom with REN amenities. It overlooked the golf course next door, but with just a Juliette balcony, no chance to sit outside and watch the action.
Feeling the need for a light bite I went down to the bar lounge; a very comfy room with an outside patio deck for sunny days and a fireplace for the colder ones.. They serve proper tea here; teapots with tea leaves and strainers and my red wine glazed ham, tomato and white wine mayo sandwich went down a treat with a cup or two of Assam blend.
Later, after a brief diversion to the room to don a fluffy robe I wandered back downstairs to the spa where a circular indoor pool with twin swan massage jets awaited. It’s not a big facility, but in keeping with the rest of the hotel, satisfyingly bijou, with a Jacuzzi off to one side and steam and sauna cabins one level down.
I’d briefly met a therapist at the spa reception earlier who was quick to point out the merits of her elemental herbology face and body treatments.
” I think my face and body are way past saving” I said.
” Perhaps our red grape blissful back treatment then. Wonderfully relaxing.”
It was tempting, but in the end, a stretch out on a lounger was all the excitement I needed before dinner.
Head Chef Robby Jenks has landed a prime role here after stints with Michelin starred Michael Caines at Gidleigh Park and I was keen to try the tasting menu to see just how talented he was. The 7 course Judgement of Paris Tasting Menu is The Vineyard’s signature offering, cleverly recreating that famous competition with wine flights that put you in the very same spot as the French judges back in 1976. Faced with a pair of wines on each course, you have to decide which is French and which is American.
This was a fun way to enjoy a double dose of fine wines on each course, without taking away any of the enjoyment from the food, which proved to be nothing short of genius. My favourite dish? A close run thing between the Devonshire cod, cauliflower, curry and coconut or the marinated scallops, gazpacho jelly, Chorizo and peach.
It was an epic meal served with the attentive but discreet courtesy you would expect from a hotel with this kind of pedigree.
I suspect it is only a matter of time before a Michelin star comes knocking at The Vineyard’s door.
I slept contentedly in Spottswoode that night, dreaming of being left alone in the cellar and blind wine tasting 30,000 bottles.
Tell me more about The Vineyard Hotel
The Vineyard Hotel
T: 01635 528770
Rooms from £247 including breakfast based on 2 guests.
The 7 course Judgement of Paris Tasting Menu is £89pp Wine pairings £95pp