Vineyard is a truly immersive and indulgent experience where you learn the true meaning of their tagline “Eat. Sleep. And drink wine”.
Located in West Berkshire, within easy reach of Oxford, London and Reading, is Vineyard hotel, spa and sommelier, the only five-star hotel in Newbury and one of only a handful in Berkshire. Once an 18th Century hunting lodge, the Vineyard hotel has more recently been described as a temple to California wines, and it doesn’t take long after arriving to understand why.
The experience at Vineyard has been inspired by the Judgement of Paris, a blind wine tasting competition held in Paris in 1976 which was organised by a British wine merchant. Top quality Chardonnays from both regions were compared along with red wine comparisons between Bordeaux wines from France and top Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California. At a time where France was considered to produce the best wine in the World, there was quite a stir of surprise when it was revealed that the Californian wine ranked superior in every category.
The Judgement of Paris concept runs deep into the design and atmosphere of Vineyard. Consistent attention to detail makes all the difference; From the decorations and artwork lining the halls to the 37 suites and 17 bedrooms which have all been named after iconic wines around the world.
We were shown up to our suite, Stag’s Leap, which is named after a winery in the Napa Valley in California. It was spacious and relaxed, yet thoughtfully furnished and decorated. A thoughtful welcome letter had been left, and we were soon brought up a welcome plate of goodies; Some macaroons and two wine glasses. The macaroons were laid with tags saying “Eat me” and the glasses were sat on a tag that read “Drink me”, it was a quirky and lovely touch. Better still, the macaroons were absolutely delicious. We were told a welcome glass of wine would be brought up by the sommelier, so we decided to explore the hotel and grounds in the meantime.
We were out front of the hotel when the Sommelier, Mike, found us. Rather than pour the wine and leave the glasses in the room for our return, he’d made the effort of finding us, bringing new glasses and pouring us a glass of Californian Chardonnay, explaining the heritage and tasting notes of the wine.
Our first taste of wine at Vineyard was an impressive one. Not usually one for Chardonnay, I found myself reconsidering my position; I certainly liked this Chardonnay.
We walked with our glasses back to our room where we relaxed until it was time for dinner. The sitting room in the suite was comfortable, and the bathroom was large with a lovely bath and the added bonus of clean, organic skin and hair care products provided.
Prior to being seated for dinner we were treated with a glass of champagne with accompanying bar snacks.
Amazing wine deserves to be paired with amazing food, and we were about to find out just how complimentary the relationship between the two could be. The Vineyard is known for its contemporary French cooking, prepared by Executive Chef Daniel Galmiche. The menu is altered to reflect seasonality, with many dishes being locally sourced from sustainable stocks.
We enjoyed the chef’s seven-course tasting menu, matched with a Judgement of Paris flight of accompanying wines. This was a recreation of the 1976 tasting competition. With each dish we were brought out two small glasses of wine; one French, and one Californian, and we got to judge our preference. As an added catch, two of the wines were brought out in black glasses, and we weren’t told what wine it was, nor where it came from – we were left with only two senses; our sense of smell and our sense of taste. This tasting concept added a fun element to dinner and was wonderfully executed.
The menu we enjoyed consisted of:
- Sweet onion velouté, foie gras, pickled red onion
- Pressed rabbit and parsley terrine, confit carrot, mustard
- Cornish cod, peas, broad beans, pecorino fondue
- Line caught halibut, tomato, shallots, aioli
- Rack of spring lamb, asparagus, celeriac, morels
- Granny Smith apple, cinnamon crumble; Chocolate, salted caramel, cacao nibs, fromage blanc sorbet
The flavours were absolutely exquisite, and the portion sizes were thoughtfully planned to be big enough to satisfy, whilst always leaving enough room to be excited for the next one.
The service at Vineyard was consistently exceptional, with the staff being relaxed and friendly, whilst very professional and knowledgeable about the food, and the accompanying wine. The service was organised so as the same waiter always brought out and cleared your food, and the same sommelier brought out and introduced each wine pairing.
We felt absolutely at ease in the restaurant and were always served with consideration and a smile. A pianist performed throughout the evening, creating a relaxed and romantic atmosphere.
Well and truly wined and dined, we returned to our room ready to sleep off an amazing night.
The hotel has considerately given a check-out time for all guests of midday, an appreciative extra hour on the norm after an evening of wine tasting. The breakfast options are extensive, with a full continental spread, and cooked breakfast options available as well. We passed on the hot breakfast option and made the most of the amazing display of cured meats, fresh fruit, and homemade French pastries instead.
Finishing breakfast we made the most of the extra time before checkout and made our way down to the spa. The Vineyard Spa holds up to the high standards of the rest of the hotel, being one of the highest rated luxury spa hotels in the UK. Guests are free to enjoy the spacious spa area, with jacuzzi, swimming pool, sauna and steam rooms. A spa menu is available, with many wines being on offer as well as spa snacks. Treatments are also available to book for guests looking for that extra indulgence.
The Vineyard hotel was a truly unique experience. Whether you’re a budding wine connoisseur, or just enjoy the odd tipple, Vineyard hotel will open your mind to the world of Californian wine and will offer you an experience which will be hard to forget.