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Our History


Celebrating 20 Years of The Vineyard

 

At The Vineyard, our motto is Eat. Sleep. And drink wine. Privately owned by Sir Peter Michael and family, we are a 5 red star hotel and spa, renowned for impeccable service, our 3 AA Rosette restaurant and our award winning 30,000 bottle wine cellar.

Inspired by Sir Peter Michael’s own award-winning winery in California, The Vineyard was conceived as a way to pay homage to the beloved wine that the Michael family have devoted much of their lives to. It is a monument to the highly personal passions of Sir Peter Michael, representing his zest for fine food and wine, combined with his desires to promote the role of music and the arts.

The building we now know as The Vineyard started life as a 19th Century hunting lodge. Originally owned by the Hartley family who were “Lords of the Manor of Stanford Dingley”, it served as their country retreat before changing ownership several times throughout the generations. It was developed as a country house hotel in the 1980’s.  This is the period when all the additions were made to the building – the conservatory, function rooms and the additional hotel wing.  It was then known as Foley Lodge.  Sir Peter Michael took full control of the company in 1996 and closed it down for a year and a half to refurbish.  He re-opened The Vineyard in May 1998 and it was originally marketed as “a restaurant with rooms to stay”.

In the proceeding twenty years, The Vineyard has undergone significant transformation to make it the unique and luxurious destination that it is today. A year after the hotel opened, the oasis of calm that is our spa also opened its doors for the first time. It was later completely refurbished in 2008 and now features a gently heated circular pool with swan massage jets, a Jacuzzi, sauna, steam room and relaxation area around the pool, as well as a comprehensive list of tranquil treatments. It remains the only 5 star property in Berkshire that has been awarded the prestigious 5 luxury bubbles rating by the Good Spa Guide. In 2003, a new extension was built onto The Vineyard. Boasting 18 new rooms and brand new conference facilities, the spacious and atmospheric Atrium wing is a quiet, peaceful space filled with natural daylight. It houses one of our most popular room types; the stylish, open planned Atrium suites. Perhaps the most striking and iconic change however, came as recently as 2013, when the reception area was totally refurbished and the trademark glass wine vault was built to showcase our impressive wine collection to guests the moment they enter the hotel.

The Vineyard’s emblem is the Californian poppy, chosen in honour of the wild flower that grows on the Peter Michael Winery estates in Sonoma Valley. It is proudly emblazoned throughout the hotel, on custom made carpets, crockery, glassware and staff uniforms.

A true patron of the arts, it is only fitting that the hotel should feature works that Sir Peter Michael is passionate about.  The Vineyard houses approximately 1,000 pieces from his personal collection, including Bucolique by Henri Martin, and the largest single exhibition of art from St Trinian’s creator, the late Ronald Searle. One of the grandest pieces, a commission by artist Gary Myatt, depicts the infamous aftermath of the Judgement of Paris – a revolutionary blind-tasting arranged by wine merchant Steven Spurrier in 1976. On that fateful day, the leading French wine aficionados of the day unanimously favoured Californian wine over France’s very best and changed the wine landscape forever. The floor to ceiling artwork, appropriately entitled After the Upset, can be found in The Vineyard’s California Bar, just past the vault. Despite not attending the event himself, Sir Peter was immortalised in the iconic painting and can be seen bearing witness to the start of the new era of appreciation for Californian wine that would eventually lead him to create the Peter Michael Winery and The Vineyard.

Each of The Vineyard’s 49 rooms are designed to tell a story and are individually named after an iconic wine, including six from the Peter Michael Winery. The décor and design of the rooms are masterminded by interior designer Emily Todhunter. They feature colour palettes based on red and white wine and even wallpaper made from recycled wine corks.

We have several long serving members of staff, which is a testament to the supportive, understanding and respectful culture of excellence at The Vineyard. Andrew McKenzie started as Managing Director 20 years ago in 1998 and is still at the helm today! He is closely followed by our Wine Director, James Hocking who has been with us for 17 years.

Today, we are renowned as the UK’s wine hotel and are passionate about delivering impeccable and immaculate service to our guests every day. We have been a proud member of Relais & Châteaux since 2003 and consider ourselves to be a temple to Californian wine – a luxurious haven where perfect will have to do.

 


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