WLC recommends: The Vineyard at Stockross

Douglas Blyde pays a visit to The Vineyard at Stockross, which claims to bring “the spirit of California” to the Berkshire countryside. From Joseph Phelps to Plump Jack, he explores how the oenological offerings of the Golden State have made headway in the home counties. Taken from the 2022 Wine List Confidential guide, available to buy now.

Described by Elle magazine as “a destination restaurant with vino-credibility”, and by the Evening Standard as “a temple to Californian wine”, The Vineyard hotel at Stockcross was founded by Sir Peter Michel, whose eponymous winery actually occurs in Calistoga rather than Berkshire. Long a fanatic of Californian wines, entrepreneur Michel, who founded Classic FM, even commissioned a life-sized mural at the hotel’s California Bar depicting the late Steven Spurrier’s 1976 Judgement of Paris, which saw rising Californian wines overall triumph pinnacle French in a blind tasting.

Born in the Moselle near Metz, head sommelier Romain Bourger oversees a list running to 3,000 references drawn from a cellar running to 10 times as many bottles, making stock takes a Herculean duty. These include releases from Peter Michel’s new Au Paradis vineyard in Oakville, amongst other Californian icons including older examples of Arietta, Bryant Family, Colgin, Joseph Phelps Eisrébe and magnums of Plump Jack. Producers taking a less classic approach could include Melville’s Clone 76- Inox unoaked Chardonnay, meanwhile, “which we don’t see much in the UK”, says fan of it, Bourger. “It has a bright, almost salty texture, and dried pineapple aromas from the Californian sunshine.”

Beyond the US, you will find slumbering collections from the likes of Clos Mogador, Ornellaia Tempier, Istvàn Szepsy, Musar and Joh. Jos. Prüm, as well as new shoots from within our shores, English wine being an area which excites Bourger. “I enjoyed a white still Pinot Meunier from Simpsons Wine Estate in Canterbury,” he notes.

Fortunately, being a lockdown project, the board game-like contents page helps guests navigate the vast list, which also includes a genuinely interesting section, “Everyday drinking wines under £30”, featuring entries like Georgian Rkatsiteli.

As seen on 67 Pall Mall TV’s The Perfect Match, Bourger pairs a wine from where he is from with ex-Ritz chef Tom Scade’s guineafowl with peas, capers and new-season potatoes. From half-century old Pinot Noir vines, the single vineyard Domaine Maujard- Weinsberg Moselle, Lacey brings “delicious ripe fruity notes” and “a bit of evolution” which “marries the slight sweetness of the peas”.

Bourger cites previous head sommelier Yohann Jousselin MS as his mentor. “He put me on this fantastic path and enabled me to meet many great people.”
If given the heads-up of his departure from this mortal coil, though, Bourger would liberate a double magnum of Les Pavots 1988, being the flagship of the Peter Michel Winery. “If it’s my last meal, I’m going out in style!”

Best for

  • Fifty wines by the glass
  • US selection
  • Everyday section

Score: 96.6, Value: 93, Size: 98, Range: 98, Originality: 96, Experience: 98

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