If your summer holiday feels like a distant memory, now’s the perfect time to treat yourself to an indulgent weekend away.
Located just an hour and a half outside of London in Stockcross, Newbury, The Vineyard is a 5* hotel (part of the Relais & Château group) which combines two of our greatest loves – wine and food.
Owned by wine fanatic Peter Michael, the hotel boasts over 30,000 bottles in the cellar, 5,000 bins and 100 wines available by the glass. You’ll notice some of that impressive collection as soon as you enter, with a glass fronted wine vault taking centre stage in the foyer. Not to feel left out, we’re offered a glass of bubbles whilst we get checked in.
With formalities out of the way we are shown to our room which is HUGE. The door opens out onto a massive living space, complete with separate toilet, sofa, desk and a bar area with fresh fruit, Nespresso machine and minibar. Double doors then lead through to the bedroom where our comfy bed awaits with views over the garden. Carry on and you’ll arrive in the spacious bathroom which is stocked with fragrant miniature Ren products. Classical music had been left playing on the radio for us (the hotel’s owner also founded Classic FM, natch).
Not wanting to waste anytime we dumped our bags and ran back to reception for the start of our complimentary wine tour (available at either 11am or 4.30pm each day). We’re taken below ground and left to nose in every nook and cranny where we find magnums dating back to the twenties. Pretty impressive. You can’t miss the California Bar with its depiction of the iconic ‘Judgement of Paris’. The huge painting pokes fun at a blind tasting that took place in Paris in 1976 with leading wine experts of the time. As you might have guessed, Californian wine came out on top, much to the disgust of the French. Peter Michael wasn’t actually there but he’s had himself painted into the scene regardless. Michael also owns a Californian vineyard, and as such this hotel has become quite the temple to Cali wines (although they cover all regions). Just one piece from the extensive private art collection that adorns every wall throughout the hotel.
Situated next to a golf course and not much else, The Vineyard is the sort of hotel you relax into and need to be prised out of upon check-out. There’s little to do until the main event (dinner!) but luckily there’s a spa to explore so don’t forget your swimsuit. We had the place practically to ourselves on the Friday afternoon we visited so made full use of the Jacuzzi, wine glass in hand. There’s also a pool if you’re feeling more energetic, as well as a steam room and sauna if you’re not.
After a quick freshen up we were ready for an aperitif in the bar. With a piano tinkling in the background, the vibe was old school glamour and we loved it – get dressed up accordingly. ‘The Lost Garden of Cornwall’ was this month’s special cocktail and was almost too pretty to drink. If you want to get straight into the wine list, we’d recommend a glass of English sparkling wine or a classic champagne cocktail.
Led by Head Chef Robby Jenks, menus are inspired by fresh seasonal ingredients, beautifully presented . There’s a trillion different options for all budgets, but we went for the five course ‘Discovery’ menu – with paired wine of course!
After an exciting frozen amuse-bouche we began with braised octopus and barbecued sweetcorn which had a Peruvian influence to it. Interestingly it was paired with a cloudy orange wine which reminded me of some of the pairings we’d had in Lima. Beef sirloin tartare was not what we expected and as such was paired with white wine – which was of course perfect – proving that you are in very good hands. Halibut came a in decadent creamy sauce with mussels, sea herbs and more tiny mushrooms. Our last savoury course was the Pork tenderloin with lovage and crispy fried onion. This was playfully paired with an unknown wine in a blacked out glass – leaving you to decide if it’s French or Californian. We’re embarrassed to say we got it wrong – it’s harder than you’d think! Dessert was a beautifully constructed little masterpiece – fragrant thyme parfait came doused in strawberry sauce with a crisp latticed biscuit balanced on top.
After a heavenly night’s sleep in the softest sheets we woke up with the papers and a coffee in bed, all wrapped up in a fluffy gown. It’s a wonder we’re not still there but breakfast was calling.
Back in the dining room there’s a really good quality buffet to help yourself too, featuring pastries, fruit, yoghurts, cured meats, smoked salmon, cheese, fruit juices and smoothies as well as a choice from the kitchen. We opted for smoked salmon on scrambled eggs which was one of the most decadent meals we had during our stay – the buttery egg had pieces of salmon mixed through it, as well as on top. And of COURSE you’re encouraged to add a glass of bubbles – any excuse for wine at The Vineyard.
Service throughout our stay was superb – friendly, knowledgeable and exceptionally polite, we were thoroughly looked after. After just one night’s stay, and just over an hour out of London, we left feeling like we’d had a properly relaxing mini-break.
The hotel also offers the internationally recognised WSET Courses and has regular wine and food events, so there’s plenty to return for.