I’m positive I’m not alone in being a fan of consuming scrumptious wine, enjoyable in spas, and taking the odd mini break to a boutique lodge. This can be a relatively customary trio of predilections, to be truthful. So once I heard about The Winery Lodge & Spa – a 5 star institution simply an hour outdoors of London that fulfilled all three of those likings – then it wasn’t lengthy till I used to be making a reserving for an evening’s keep.
What I hadn’t realised – however that was quickly evident upon moving into the lobby – was that that is an oenophiles dream. The Winery Lodge has a 30,000 bottle wine cellar, 2,500 differing types, and 300 varieties by the glass alone. There’s even an enormous mural referred to as ‘After the Upset’, devoted to the aftermath of The Judgement Of Paris (extra on that later). It’s not shocking that the standard grape is held in such reverence right here – the proprietor is Sir Peter Michael, who based the The Peter Michael Vineyard in 1982 in Sonoma County. You’re capable of style his wine within the lodge – and I can affirm, it is rather good certainly.
The lodge itself is a sprawling construction of that spreads outwards fairly than upwards, surrounded by a pleasing backyard and situated out there city of Newbury, Berkshire. We arrived on a moist and windy afternoon in early winter – truly the perfect event, for my part, to go to a lodge the place ones solely plan is to ensconce oneself in a comfortable armchair, or wrap up in a fluffy dressing robe. The lobby is all stylish cream and fawn tones, full with pine-cone chandelier and the occasional vibrant splash of color from numerous work. Look out for these framed beauties – the proprietor is one thing of a collector, and the lodge boasts over 500 items of unique artwork, together with items by Doris Zinkeisen.
Because the festive season was underway, we might gaze in admiration at their ‘Christmas Tree’ – made from 321 empty bottles of wine. We instantly started our personal endeavour so as to add to those empties by accepting a scrumptious glass of Californian Chardonnay at reception. If all lodge check-ins begun like this, I’d be a cheerful woman.
Though the flickering hearth and squishy sofas have been undoubtedly interesting on such an inclement day, our eyes have been instantly drawn to the glass-fronted, two storey wine cellar – a walk-through construction which showcases simply a few of these 30,000 bottles the lodge is famed for. And in case your love of wine far surpasses simply consuming the stuff, then guide in for a our with one of many sommeliers.
Bed room sensible, The Winery has a variety of choices starting from Luxurious Doubles to Grand Suites. We have been staying in an Atrium Suite – a big, cut up degree room with a king-sized mattress, open plan lounge, and marbled loos. There was even a little balcony searching onto the gardens – the right spot for a morning espresso (made utilizing the in-room espresso machine, naturally). There are additionally wines from the house owners winery within the minibar, which we naturally needed to attempt, whereas cosied up on the sofa.
Should you can tear your self out of your room, then a pre-dinner drink is all the time suggested, especailly when staying in an institution so devoted to the artwork of wine and hospitality. The lounge bar at The Winery lodge couldn’t be extra conducive to a soothing tipple. Gleaming fittings, the golden flicker from an open hearth, and loads of soft-lit lamps create a soothing environment. We settled into plump armchair and loved a glass of Blanc de Blancs from Napa Valley. Oh, and the accompanying snacks are somewhat tasty too. Is there something they haven’t although of?
After you’ve loved your welcome glass of wine and settled into your room, it’s possible that your subsequent mission might be to robe-up and pull in your white dressing robe, don your slippers, and make your strategy to the spa. This temple to rest is a brief wander from the rooms, and consists of a giant turquoise pool, round that are positioned loads of loungers to get cozy. The addition of potted palms, with their spiky, verdant fronds, creates an unique contact that undoubtedly added to the vacation temper. And we beloved the very fact the curve of the room consisted of excessive home windows that permit mild to flood in in the course of the day – when night time hit, candles have been lit and an intimate amber glow unfold across the room.
Should you’re not a fan of swimming, then take a dip within the jacuzzi, or head to the steam room and sauna to unwind. I additionally advocate reserving in for a spa remedy. Restore stability and vitality to your physique with their signature Balinese Journey or, if it’s the morning after your keep and you could rid your self of some, ahem, toxins (in different phrases, eliminate a potential hangover), then go for a Detoxifying Algae Wrap. Decided to maintain issues grape-focused in your go to? Their Purple Grape Pampering Physique Wrap consists of a light-weight physique brushing to exfoliate the pores and skin earlier than their unique purple grape masks is utilized, which is full of anti-oxidants.
Eager on facials? We will affirm they’re not solely completely enjoyable, but in addition did wonders for our pores and skin. Utilizing Elemental Herbology and harnessing the facility of the 5 parts (wooden, hearth, earth, metallic and water), then you definitely’ll depart feeling revitalised, refreshed, and with pores and skin as plumped up as a ripe grape.
So, what is that this Judgement of Paris I’ve referenced? For these not immersed within the wine world, it refers to a blind tasting that occurred on Might 24th 1976, the place French judges and esteemed wine specialists carried out two blind tasting comparisons: one in every of top-quality Chardonnays and one other of pink wines (Bordeaux wines from France and Cabernet Sauvignon wines from California). A Californian wine rated greatest in every class. The following feelings ranged from bafflement, exuberance (on the a part of the US wine followers) and outrage from the French, a few of who claimed it was a repair.
As an enormous fan of Californian wines, especailly after having accomplished a tour of Sonoma County earlier this yr that took in most of the unimaginable vineyards, I used to be eager to check my tastebuds when it got here to those once-warring wine areas. And nowhere is this chance extra good that the elegant three AA Rosette restaurant at The Winery Lodge & Spa.
Eating right here is an event in itself, and also you’ll discover many individuals visiting the lodge for this high quality gastronomic expertise alone. Naturally, a tasting menu with complementing wines is the dream – and right here is the place that Judgement of Paris crops up once more. In truth, there’s a entire menu devoted to it.
The meal consists of seven programs, every accompanied by two wines (aside from a pair that are served within the mysterious ‘black glass’, meant to befuddle the senses). The thought is to blind style every wine and attempt to guess whether or not you assume it’s from France or California – after which, very similar to the unique judgment, say which one you favor. Wine buffs may even take a punt at which grape selection they assume they’re consuming. After every course, your resident sommelier and wine skilled (ours being the marvellous Lucas) will come and reveal the reality to you. It’s illuminating, aggressive, and an absolute hoot.
We began with a gorgeously coral-pink wedge of oak-smoked Loch Duart salmon, adorned with wafer skinny discs of beetroot and the nobbled pellets of candied walnuts. There’s additionally a quenelle of wasabi cream so as to add that faint horseradish warmth and pep up the candy smokiness that makes the dish so tasty. It was virtually too fairly to destroy with cutlery, however we have been quickly tucking in – nevertheless, not earlier than rigorously contemplating the straw-hued white wines in entrance of us. One revealed tropical, honeyed notes with a ripe melon aftertaste… the opposite was extra delicate and floral, with an plain peachiness.
Channeling our internal Jancis Robinson, we swirled, sniffed, sipped, and eventually settled on our determination. Then it was time to understand simply how properly the chosen wine matched the meals, enlivening the salmon and making for a scrumptious mixture. Once we’d cleared our plate, Lucas returned to ask our opinion concerning the wine – after which revealed the reality, asking us to show over the labels resting on the base of our glass. On one hand – success! We’d appropriately guessed which nation every hailed from. We’d been mistaken on the grape although, and Lucas have us a quick however fascinating rationalization of what we’d simply drunk.
After that the programs – and the wines – simply stored coming. A curl of garnet-coloured tuna, marinated in soy and treacle to provide it a sticky glaze; luxurious foie gras wobbling on our plate; aromatic Devonshire cod speckled with cauliflower, curry and coconut… every dish appeared to outdo the final. It wasn’t shocking once we learnt that the Government Chef, Robby Jenks, likes to play with individuals’s preconceptions of elements. Typically there’s one aspect of the dish (often regionally sourced) which is introduced in quite a lot of alternative ways. Issues like the standard blackberry is then elevated to new heights, and the palate is given a singular deal with.
I can truthfully say, it one of the enjoyable, instructional and scrumptious meals we’d ever skilled.
After this, we retired our rooms. Is there something extra satisfying than having fun with distinctive meals alongside fantastic wine after which, full and tipsy, merely wobbling upstairs to the consolation of crisp sheets and a ridiculously snug mattress? I discover it exhausting to think about many events. We slept like infants, waking refreshed regardless of the varied glasses of wine we’d loved (thank goodness for refilled water glasses), and loved a breakfast of smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagels delivered to the bed room with morning papers. Absolute bliss.
The Winery Lodge & Spa lives as much as be the whole lot you hope it is going to – a spot to unwind, imbibe, and usually be slightly indulgent. Whether or not you’re an oenophile trying to affirm your information, a newbie in your journey of all issues vino-related, or just a fan of the finer issues in life, then you definitely gained’t fail to be enamoured with the place. All of us deserve somewhat luxurious now and again – in any case, wine not?