Eat Sleep And Drink Wine. One may consider such a concept a perfect life motto! A brief google search confirms that these very words are used to describe the luxury home away from home, that is The Vineyard Hotel near Newbury. Indeed the Relais & Chateaux and Pride of Britain hotel and spa boasts five red stars, a 3 AA Rosette Restaurant and an extraordinary 30,000 bottle wine cellar.
Originally owned in the nineteenth century by the Hartley family as their hunting lodge, where the Hartley’s were rather grandly known as ‘Lords of the Manor of Stanford Dingley. The property changed hands many times before the 1980s, which saw the building developed as a small hotel. During this period significant additions were made to the address, such as the conservatory, function rooms and a wing of guest rooms. Sir Peter Michael took full control of what was then named Foley Lodge in 1996. In May 1998 the fully refurbished property was opened as The Vineyard with, at that time, the concept coined of ‘a restaurant with rooms’.
A prolifically successful and astute entrepreneur, Sir Peter Michael backed and/or ran a range of market leading high-tech companies from Cosworth Engineering to Quantel (digital special effects for movies). Sir Peter was knighted in 1989 in recognition of services to British industry. In 1992, Sir Peter founded Classic FM, the UK’s first national commercial radio station with an audience of 6 million listeners.
Sir Peter’s original education and interest in wine came from Bordeaux and Burgundy where he was guided by his father, however, it was at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, where the inspiration for the Peter Michael Winery was born. Legend has it that Sir Peter was enjoying a glass of chardonnay with some colleagues while watching a Peggy Lee concert. The wine that Sir Peter and his colleagues shared later won at the ‘Judgment of Paris’, was like nothing he had ever tasted before. The experience not only shifted his European point of view about great wine, but it ignited a passion in him to create terroir-driven wines of unsurpassed quality, as rich and singular as the California land itself.
A painting commissioned by artist Gary Myatt depicts the aftermath of the “Judgement of Paris” which was a blind-tasting arranged by wine merchant Steven Spurrier in 1976. The leading French wine aficionados of the day favoured Californian wine over the best of France. The floor to ceiling artwork, entitled After the Upset, can be found in The Vineyard’s California Bar, just past the vault. Despite not attending the event, Sir Peter Michael is seen witnessing the aftermath, standing to the far left of the table wearing his trademark white Panama hat.
The Vineyard’s emblem is the Californian poppy, native to the Peter Michael Winery estates in Sonoma Valley. Over its twenty-year journey, The Vineyard has undergone a significant transformation to a luxury hotel destination from a restaurant with rooms. Corporate and private custom is catered to in equal measures: For a pampering weekend break, in 2008 the Spa was completely refurbished to feature a gently heated circular pool with swan massage jets, jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and relaxation area around the pool, as well as a comprehensive list of specialist treatments. In 2003 a new extension was built, providing 18 new rooms plus conference facilities for business’.
In 2013, the reception area was totally refurbished and the trademark glass wine vault was built to showcase the impressive wine collection to guests the moment they enter the hotel. Today, the hotel boasts 49 beautifully appointed bedrooms. The common themes throughout the Michael family tenure, in amongst the gamut of pampered luxury, has been the constant of the highest quality food and the wine. Since its inception, The Good Food Guide, AA Restaurant Guide and Michelin Guides have smiled on the property. Today, Robby Jenks, formerly of two Michelin starred Gidleigh Park (under Michael Caines) and Whatley Manor (under Martin Burge) aspires to join some of his predecessors who have enjoyed Michelin recognition. See Review of Robby Jenks Food Here.
To celebrate their 20 years and the associated rich heritage in food and wine, The Vineyard is delivering a festival for seven days at the end of June 2018 called ‘Back to the Vine’ where seven chefs return to their former employer to showcase and celebrate their work in tandem with The Vineyard.
Shay Cooper, Nathan Outlaw, Matt Gillan, Richard Davies, John Campbell, Daniel Galmiche and Billy Reid are the line up of chefs who will each deliver a service from June 25th, 2018 to July 1st, 2018. To enquire about tickets for the Back to the Vine week, see details here:-
Overall, The Vineyard is an impressive destination hotel in Berkshire, rightly part of any route de bonheur created by a Relais & Chateaux enthusiast as well as a member of the Pride of Britain family. A modern feel but with traditional roots – Bedrooms are named after great wines and that wine meets food, meets luxury feel runs right through the property. The levels of service are impeccable which in turn matches the food, wine and art on display. Sir Peter Michael and family can rightly be proud of one of the jewels in their crown, the gem that is The Vineyard nr Newbury.