At Borgo, the cypresses seem somehow taller, the lavender more heady, the lake – with its exquisite water lilies – more crystal-clear, the sky a deeper shade of cobalt than anywhere else on earth. Rooms and suites, many with their own enchanting gardens, are so seductive… swim, cycle, paint and of course, eat – Michelin=starred suppers on the hotel’s divine terrace or pasta in Borgo’s own trattoria, built around an ancient oak tree. There are cooking classes at the onsite cookery school, spa treatments in Borgo’s top-of-the-line spa, and shiny red Vespas for you to zip, Italian-style, into the village. Or you can do nothing except gaze across Borgo’s organic vineyards to the Tuscan Hills beyond.
“Great love affairs start with Champagne and end with tisane”, pronounced Balzac, and here at this recently opened hotel and spa retreat, his words couldn’t resonate more as you sip a pre-elevenses glass of Ruinart Champagne. The opening of the Royal Champagne is a relatively unexplored area of France, in part due to the lack of stylish places to stay. The opening of the Royal Champagne, with its clubhouse vibe and loft-style rooms, has changed all that. A former coaching inn that hosted all the kings of France en route to their coronations, it has been transformed by architect Giovanni Pace into a pleasure dome in a glass of quartz, slotting so perfectly into the Moët vineyards below. This is very much a place where you can ‘detox to retox’: relax in the spa; cycle through the vineyards of Taittinger and Ruinart; explore the extraordinary cellars; enjoy Michelin-starred chef Jean-Denis Rieubland’s sensational food. But the real gravitational pull is the rooftop bar’s terrace for its uninterrupted views of the Champagne valley, all the way to Reims and beyond.
On a secluded corner of the Great Smoky Mountains in eastern Tennessee, Blackberry Farm is America’s most unlikely wine destination. When the original six-room inn first opened in 1976, rural Blount County was dry, and moonshine was the drink of choice. But owners Kreis and Sam Bell slowly grew the property, adding more land and rooms – from cottages and historic rooms to five-bedroom carriage houses and suites – not to mention a holistic spa, transforming this 4,200-acre working-farm resort into a culinary mecca with an award-winning wine program. Today, Blackberry Farm has one of the deepest restaurant cellars in the world. The 160,000-bottle collection includes cult Napa Cabernets, rare bottlings from Australia, first-growth Bordeaux and an emphasis on small wineries that focus on Burgundy and Rhone Varietals. Eight full-time sommeliers help guests navigate the 200-plus-page wine list at the Barn restaurant, suggesting pairings for its Southern foothill’s cuisine. Here everything you eat is either sourced locally or grown on the farm; there’s even an onsite creamery and bakery.
To sit beneath an 18th-century portico with a Champagne cocktail and gaze on a sun setting over vineyards and turning the glassy waters of an estuary pink is a distinctive if not classically English pleasure. To wallow under the stars in a bathtub in your own private garden, the fire pit aglow, is another exceptional, if un-English treat. There is evidently a whole universe of seduction and distractions at Lympstone Manor, a glamorous hotel and Michelin-starred restaurant on Devon’s historic Jurassic coast, which belies the sedate elegance of the mansion’s Georgian façade, its polite croquet lawns and rose borders straight out of Jane Austen novel. This once dilapidated, aristocratic pile, now reimagined by visionary chef Michael Caines two years since its launch in 2017, stands as proudly as a freshly-iced wedding cake in 28 rapidly maturing acres of parkland and vineyards.