I’d read various rave reviews and write-ups about people’s experiences at Llanerch Vineyard, so I had high expectations as I packed my bags – ready to see for myself what the fuss was all about. Their website promised to deliver a ‘unique, luxurious, unforgettable experience in the heart of the Vale of Glamorgan’ and I sincerely hoped they were going to keep that promise.
A couple of minutes away from Junction 34 of the M4, I followed the clearly marked signs and drove to the village of Hensol. As I turned into the vineyard, I could already feel the stress and rigours of the day melting away. Number-crunching with the accountant, cleaning up after my dog ahead of a group of visitors arriving for the weekend and driving girlchild to and from gym-nastics classes, all in the space of 10 minutes (yes, dear reader, I sometimes think I live in a time warp and everything only takes 10 minutes)! All of these worries simply melted away as I let the calm, laid-back atmosphere of the vineyard take over, and my heart rate slowed right down.
Laura’s cheerful nature at reception as we checked in was infectious and we began to feel at home right away. Nothing was too much trouble as we were shown to our room – the stunning Cariad Suite, where we took in the views across the beautiful Welsh countryside. A five-minute spruce and we were ready to head down to the cosy bar for a drink before dinner in the Cariad restaurant.
The menu choices were excellent with some old favourites such as pan seared scallops sitting very comfortably alongside the more unusual dishes like Eccentric Gin cured salmon or sorrel crumbed monk-fish scampi. There were also some good, inventive vegetarian options on offer – something that not all restaurants take into account.
Juan, our maitre d’ was delightful and his recom-mendations were perfect. We sampled some of the excellent Cariad dry white wine as we looked over the acres of vines. We had to remind ourselves that we were in Wales and not Provence!
Adam, the manager was incredibly knowledgeable and took time out of his busy evening to explain to us that 12,000 bottles are produced every year and all the staff help with the grape harvest. Indeed, a call also goes out to village locals and their families to help pick the grapes once the head gardener gives the green light. I can see why everybody would help out – the staff appear to be one big family and their love of working at Llanerch came across in their help-ful and attentive manner. Everybody who works there seems to feel a sense of pride that they are part of something unique and magical which they want to share with all their visitors.
Of course, no visit to a vineyard would be complete without a wine-tasting and Ryan Davies, the current owner gives an excellent, informative talk about Llanerch’s history and the wines it produces while inviting his guests to taste each one and then teaching them to appreciate the colour, smell, and the delicate tastes as they dance across the palate. Between April and October, you can also go on a guided tour of the vineyard to learn how they are grown and nurtured to produce the best-quality grapes.
My partner and I went to bed replete that night, filled with a lovely sense of well-being – and some amazing food and wine. Our suite was sumptuously decorated and I felt like a queen for the night. The hotel cur-rently has 11 rooms but another 26 are being built.
Breakfast the next morning, again overlooking the beautiful countryside, was delicious, with all the ingre-dients being locally sourced. Before checking out, we wandered through to have a look at the cookery school where Angela Gray runs relaxed and informal cookery classes.
As we were leaving, we browsed the goodies on sale at the shop and brought a bottle of Cariad wine to take home with us so that when the car has a flat tyre or work stress gets too much, we can sit back with a glass of Cariad, close our eyes and relive the wonderful experience of our time at the vineyard and all it has to offer. Llanerch you definitely kept your promise!
Llanerch Vineyard is situated just off Junction 34 of the M4 with easy access and suitable parking for coaches. For further information, please telephone 01443 222716 or see the website: www.llanerch-vineyard.co.uk
If you like the sound of a visit to Llanerch Vineyard and want to experience the magic for yourself, then why not take advantage of the Bay Travel Club’s exclusive reader offer, see our offer in the lifestyle and leisure section.
Tip of the month: After a short period of closure for re-presentation works, an expanded version of the popular Victoria Revealed exhibition will open at Kensington Palace from Spring 2018. Following on from this, Victoria’s rooms will undergo a permanent re-presentation in early 2019, to tell the story of the young Princess Victoria and her fascinating life at the palace, to celebrate the 200th anniversary of her birth at the palace. www.hrp.org.uk or 020 3166 6000 (9am – 5pm) for more information
Tina Price is managing director of TP Tourism Consultants, a company that provides a range of services which are tailor-made to the specific needs of businesses and organisations that are actively involved in the tourism sector. For more information or to ask a question please contact Tina by email: email@example.com or visit www.tptourism.co.uk