Driving into Denbies Wine Estate with the early autumn sunshine on the vines, it is easy to think we are in France or Tuscany, not leafy Surrey just a short distance from our home in London.
This delightful 265-acre vineyard in an area of Outstanding Beauty has been producing wines since 1986 and as English wines finally receive the recognition they deserve, the family owners have this year opened England’s first vineyard hotel.
Overlooking the vineyard, the 17-room boutique hotel has a charm that is both English country house and airy contemporary in style. There is a lovely conservatory restaurant and two pretty cabanas in the grounds. We find ourselves in the cabanas for wine tasting and pairing later that day, sampling some of the estate’s finest as the sun goes down over the Surrey hills. Our appetite for both food and wine had been whetted earlier as we enjoyed a tour of the vineyard with the resident wine expert. Tours can be made of the vineyard and winery as well as visits to the Estate’s Deli and farm shop.
In line with Denbies’ commitment to establish best practice in green-tourism, the new hotel has been designed to achieve carbon neutral status, reducing the impact on the environment and blending the hotel building into the natural surroundings of the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the North Downs. The energy performance of the hotel is published online.
Spacious rooms are simply but stylishly furnished with nothing to distract from fabulous views over the vines and surrounding countryside. The king size bed was comfortable, and all rooms have sofa, hospitality tray offering a selection of Fairtrade teas, coffees, hot chocolate and biscuits, in-room digital safe, TV with Freeview, complimentary Wi-Fi, broadband socket, and USB charger.
The wine theme continues in the elegant bathroom which had Caudalie toiletries made from grape skins in a French vineyard. Accessible rooms are available on request as are interconnecting rooms which make it ideal for families and groups.
This being a vineyard hotel, wine and food are priority and both can be enjoyed in various interesting settings.
We enjoyed a wine tasting and pairing session as the sun went down in one of the comfortable cabanas. All food on the Surrey Hills charcuterie board is locally sourced including Weald cured venison, Tillingbourne smoked salmon and Norbury Blue cheese. The platter was paired with a flight of Denbies fine wines.
The hotel’s fine dining Vineyard restaurant has lovely views and is open for dinner and breakfast. Again, all produce comes from within a 20-mile radius of Denbies. Breakfast dishes included an unusual Cullen Skink with poached egg as well as the more traditional full English. Vegan and vegetarian choices were also available, and we found all the staff to be friendly and obliging.
This is a great spot for walkers and cyclists to take advantage of the many trails and beauty spots in the local area. The Bacchus Marathon and half-marathon takes place here in the autumn where runners stop to sample English wines at five stations en route! Dorking with its pretty pubs and antique shops is a short 15-minute walk away.
Denbies Vineyard Hotel, Denbies Wine Estate, London Road, Dorking, Surrey, RH5 6AA, England.
Tel: +44 (0)1306 876777
If driving from London, follow the A3 and take the exit for Dorking onto the A24. From the M25 exit at Junction 9 and follow the A24 south towards Dorking. At Denbies roundabout take the third exit onto Bradley Lane and follow the road up to Denbies main building (10 minutes from J9). There is also a direct train service from London Waterloo and then a 15-minute walk from Dorking Station.
Type of Hotel: The UK’s first Boutique Vineyard Hotel
Number of Rooms: 17 rooms and suites including complimentary Wi-Fi.
Price Band: Medium, with double rooms starting from £155 per night.
Insider Tip: Book a Secret Vineyard tasting trail with a resident wine expert and meander through the vines learning about the wines and stopping for the odd glass along the way.
Reviewer’s Rating: 9/10
Judith Baker is a London-based freelance travel writer.
Photographs courtesy of Denbies Vineyard Hotel