New York and Boston are exciting cities offering a wealth of activities and many gastronomic pleasures. About half way between them is more serene refuge from the fast pace of city life.
Nestled in the unspoiled hills of the Berkshires is the Blantyre castle, a Tudor style mansion. The main building reflects the Scottish heritage of the original owners from Blantyre, Ontario. Proprietor Ann Fitzpatrick Brown’s commitment to excellence has resulted in numerous awards such as “most excellent country house hotel” by Condé Nast, “10 most romantic hotels” by forbes.com, and top 20 food and wine resorts by Zagat.
A respite at the Blantyre is like traveling back in time .The antiques, floral arrangements and dress of the gracious staff is reminiscent of a Merchant Ivory film. Jackets are required for gentlemen at dinner and ladies have an opportunity to wear that special dress and jewelry. The Blantyre is a Relais and Châteaux property, which indicates a high level of gastronomy and luxury for its guests.
Canapes and cocktails are served by the fireplace in the main room before dinner. My wife Jenny sipped a “Gilded Age” cocktail (Champagne poured over a sugar cube with a drizzle of Pimms and an orange peel garnish) while I opted for a glass of Krug Champagne. Luc Chevalier, the very capable and charming Maître d’hôtel/Sommelier, brought us into the dining room where each table is appointed with a floral arrangement, fine china, cutlery and antique glassware.
Guests can order a la carte or have a five course tasting menu ($165/$300 with wine, per person or four courses of food for $145). We chose our foods and left the wine selections up to Christelle Cotar, the wine director. With 2,500 types of wine and 200 half bottles to source, Christelle has many options for classic or playful pairings with her husband, chef Arnaud’s dishes.
For our starters of oysters with caviar (American sturgeon from the Mississippi River) and cucumber a Savennières 2011 by Damien Laurent “Les Genet” was served. This elegant chenin blanc-based dry white wine from the Loire valley had mineral notes that complemented the oysters. The high acidity of the wine was refreshing with both the starters and with our next course, which was scallops with cauliflower and soy citrus for my wife and a pressed pork with salad for me. The Savennières had aromas of quince, kumquat, and white stock flowers that added another dimension to our first two courses. Savennières can be as complex as great Chardonnays yet it is undervalued because it is not as popular as Chardonnay.
A half bottle of 2011 Vosne-Romanée (Pinot Noir) Burgundy by Daniel Rion was chosen for Jenny’s main course of Roasted Artic Char with mushrooms, Savoy cabbage, Genevoise sauce and kamut berries. The wine had a fragrance of roses and red fruits that were a good foil for the flavors of the dish. The soft tannins and medium body of the wine was in balance with the rich fish.
For my rack of lamb with cocoa beans, Taggiasca olives, kale, merguez sausage and Romesco sauce a 2001 Hermitage (Syrah) by Guigal offered lots of black fruit, black pepper, gamy, “goudron” (tar) and “sousbois” (forest undergrowth) flavors. Fourteen years old and it was still a mighty wine to match the flavorful dish.
A chocolate and coffee dessert was paired with a Royal Hungarian Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2008. The apricot flavors and sweetness of the wine complemented the sweetness of the dessert while contrasting the bitter flavors of the chocolate and coffee.
Christelle Cotar deftly paired each or our courses. She seemed to intuitively know not only the right style of wine for the food but also the type of wines we were in the mood for. Our dinner was truly memorable.
The next day we enjoyed breakfast and lunch at the Blantyre. Chef Arnaud Cotar utilizes as much seasonal food as possible for his cuisine. Over the years he has developed special relationships with local farmers and suppliers of artisan products. Home made breads, jams, and smoked salmon are always offered and there are daily specials such as the delicious tilefish with caviar sauce I had for lunch.
A complimentary wine tasting and lecture for patrons is offered every Saturday evening. Aside from the gastronomic offerings there are activities such as ice skating, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing in the winter. Swimming, croquet, and tennis are available in the warmer months. Tourist attractions such as Tanglewood, the Norman Rockwell museum, and state parks are not too far away from this home base in Lenox, Massachusetts. Some guests may prefer to stay put and enjoy the features of the spa building on property. There is an exercise room as well as hot tub, saunas, and services such as facials and massage. The Blantyre can accommodate wedding parties of up to 120 guests for dinner with dancing to follow in the music room. Imagine a “Downton Abbey” setting for a special event such as an anniversary, wedding, reunion, or a romantic tryst.
I think the magical juxtaposition of wine, foods, and ambiance should compel our readers to experience the bliss of Blantyre first hand.
16 Blantyre Road, Lenox, MA 01240