A Visit to Bernardus Lodge and Winery in Carmel Valley, California

Bernardus Lodge and Winery ~ Carmel Valley, California – Nestled in the heart of sunny Carmel Valley with the Santa Lucia Mountains as a picturesque backdrop, Bernardus Lodge opened in August 1999 as a romantic retreat for couples seeking a relaxing getaway in one of California’s finest wine growing regions. Founded by winemaker and bon-vivant Bernardus Pon, the resort resembles a classic European country inn featuring 57 suites, a luxurious spa, an award-winning signature restaurant and its own Bernardus Winery and Vineyard.

The Lodge is a natural extension of the Bernardus wine experience and Mr. Pon’s dream of a resort that combines the simple elegance of fine country living with the high quality of service and luxury amenities found only in the choicest European hotels. ( Managing Director of Bernardus Lodge)

Clearly Bernardus Lodge has accomplished its objective.  Check out some of the awards they have garnered:

  • Top 100 Hotels in the United States, Conde Nast Traveler, 23rd Annual Readers’ Choice Awards – November 2010.
  • 2010 Readers’ Choice “Top 20 U.S. Hideaways”, Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report, – September 2010.
  • The World’s Best Places to Stay “Gold List”, Conde Nast Traveler, January 2010.
  • Four-Star rated Resort, Spa and Marinus Restaurant, Forbes Mobil Travel Guide – January 2010.
  • AAA Four Diamond Award, AAA Travel Services, January 2010.
  • Top 500 World’s “Best Hotels”, Travel + Leisure, January 2009.

Our Experience

After a long rain and fog filled day of driving up the central California coast, we were excited to reach the Carmel Valley wine country and our home for the next three nights:  Bernardus Lodge and Winery.

Our arrival was perfectly timed as they had just cracked a bottle of Bernardus Marinus (a Bordeaux blend) and were serving their guests a delightful taste in front of the parlor’s large limestone fireplace.  Just what the doctor ordered!

After we enjoyed our wine, the concierge had us all checked in and we were whisked off on a mini-tour of the beautiful property.

We walked by a bocce ball green surrounded by adobe village-style suites nestled into the terrace hillside, rambled past beautiful fountains on our way to tour the Forbes 4-Star Bernardus Spa, and traipsed past the resort’s  large pool on the way to our 625 sq.ft. luxury croquet suite.

As we entered our room, the first thing to grab our attention was a large fireplace, high vaulted beamed ceilings, complimentary bottles of Bernardus wine, a cheese plate, and fresh-cut flowers.

We also noticed high arched windows and French doors that opened onto a spacious deck with spectacular views of the surrounding Santa Lucia Mountains.

Further amenities included an antique English armoire with aviary wire doors for clothing; king beds with high wood headboards, feather beds; down comforters with matelasse? coverlets and Italian linens.

An absolutely perfect place to luxuriate for a few days.

The Restaurant Marinus

A significant part of the magic of Bernardus Lodge is the restaurant Marinus, named after the Bernardus Winery’s signature Bordeaux blend red wine, which is brilliantly lead by Chef Cal Stamenov.

Under “Chef Cal’s” guidance, this jewel in the Carmel Valley has won numerous prestigious awards,  and is famous for Chef Stamenov’s subtle yet elegant uses of local organic produce and seafood, and artisan farmed meats. His menus bring out the pure flavors of each fresh ingredient and seamlessly incorporates the herbs, vegetables and myriad varieties of indigenous tomatoes he grows in his own two-acre garden at Bernardus Lodge.

Chef Cal Stamenov w/ Carol

Under the glow of the restaurant’s mammoth European fireplace,  we started our dinner off with a glass of Brut Premier – Champagne Louis Roederer, Reims, France followed by a wonderful Amuse Bouche – Butternut Squash Soup.

Piping hot, very delicious, and a welcome start to our meal on a cold and rainy day.

Next up was Monterey Bay Abalone & Spot Prawn (maine lobster, diver scallop, bronze fennel, parsnip agnolotti, heirloom apple) accompanied by 2008 Ingrid’s Vineyard Chardonnay – Bernardus Winery, Carmel Valley.

As I write this, I wish I had a magic genie that could whisk me back for more.  Unbelievable!

Continuing our gastronomical adventure we sampled Local White Sea Bass (baby squash, cucumber-yogurt sauce, harissa) again accompanied by a glass of 2008 Ingrid’s Vineyard Chardonnay. Wow!

Beautiful, isn’t it?

Next was Sonoma Duck & Veal Sweetbread (carnaroli risotto, chanterelle, roasted carrot, sauce foie gras) accompanied by 2008 Rosella’s Vineyard Pinot Noir – Bernardus Winery, Santa Lucia Highlands.

This dish was a complete, lean back in your chair, tilt your head back, no-holds-barred mouth-gasm. When you enjoy this dish, people will summon their waiters and say, “I’ll have some of what he’s having”.  Unbelievably, absolutely, out of this world delish!

Pssst.  Don’t tell Carol…but I don’t think she knew she was eating sweetbreads.  Smile

Continuing our journey we greatly enjoyed American Wagyu Beef (roasted shallot, pomme ancienne, béarnaise) accompanied by the winery’s signature 2003 Marinus – Bernardus Winery – Carmel Valley.

This dish was most excellent but the wine took it over the top.  We all loved the Marinus Bordeaux Blend and brought back many bottles to enjoy in the future.

Not willing to be ignored, Pastry Chef Ben Spungin came to visit and announced that he was going to give us his best.  Here are the three samples he brought, with the last dessert featuring hand-painted chocolates.

Bring on the espresso and let’s get at it!

Oh, I forgot to tell you that while we were being dazzled with these desserts, we were also enjoying 2008 Late Harvest Griva Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – Bernardus Winery – Arroyo Seco.

And here comes the plate with the hand-painted chocolates.  Cool!

I must confess, the restaurant Marinus is not for those who might be faint-hearted with their wallet.  But, if you are one who enjoys a fantastic gastronomical journey, then you won’t see this as an expense but an experience worthy of your investment.

I promise you will cherish this experience for years to come.

Well, I didn’t even get to the Bernardus Lodge Forbes 4-Star Spa, but I am pushing 1,000 words and I know that I am pushing the limit of your attention.

Here’s the bottom line:  For the luxury traveler, this place is a must-go for your bucket list.

We had a fantastic three nights at the Bernardus Lodge and Winery and hope to visit again in the future.

Disclosure:  a portion of this experience was provided by the kind folks at Bernardus Lodge.  Thanks a bunch!
One Response to “A Visit to Bernardus Lodge and Winery in Carmel Valley, California”
  1. food looks spetacular, would love to spend some time here one day soon i hope!

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