Hotel review: The Vineyard, Berkshire

The Vineyard exterior
The Vineyard exterior

Located within easy reach of one of our nation’s biggest attractions, Highclere Castle, aptly named hotel The Vineyard offers an unrivalled wine selection amid contemporary comfort…

The Vineyard exterior
Entrance to The Vineyard

Most visitors to this part of Berkshire come for one reason: to make the pilgrimage to the home of everyone’s favourite period TV drama, Downton Abbey, which is filmed just a couple of miles away in the resplendent setting of Highclere Castle. Trust us, it’s worth the visit, if only to peak behind the doors of one of our finest stately homes, built by the revered Sir Charles Barry (the man who built the Houses of Parliament) and to get a taste of ‘how the other half live.’

But when your Downton day comes to an end – as all good things must do – then why not retire to The Vineyard, which offers a little Californian glamour to the Berkshire countryside. This five-star hotel and spa, is lightly decorated to give a sense of understated refinement, and while everything about it is fresh and modern, the level of service and the attention to detail is such that Carson himself would be proud.

The vineyard reception
Inviting reception area

The hotel rightly prides itself on its enormous wine selection – its wine cellar boasts 30,000 bottles, including a number from its flagship home-estate Peter Michael Winery and the helpful sommeliers will assist if it’s all a bit too mind-boggling for you. The hotel’s proudest moment is its Judgement of Paris tasting, based on a very real event that took place in the French capital in 1976 when French wines were given a blind tasting against their Californian counterparts to prove that New World wines could stand up to their rivals.

In the hotel’s version, small but flavoursome French dishes are paired with two wines per course: a Californian one and a French one – we found that Californian wines stood out for strong notes, while the French wines were very easy drinking. But our advice is to take it slowly as there are several courses and therefore many glasses of wine to get through.

The Vineyard Deluxe Suite
The Vineyard Deluxe Suite

The next day, once fully rested in your warm and comfortable suite, simply slip on the dressing gown and slippers provided and take yourself off to the serene spa, which will help soothe the excess of the night before. It’s a relaxing experience that even Dowager Countess of Grantham could find little fault with.

For our full feature on the real Downton Abbey, see the November/December 2014 issue of BRITAIN (January 2015 issue for our overseas readers)

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