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World’s Great Hotels: Berkshires Bliss at The Blantyre

One of the top 100 hotels on earth, this Relais & Châteaux property has more than 10,000 wines and everything you could wish for from a world-class establishment.

LENOX, Massachusetts – You could easily drive by the two brick columns on either side of the long, winding gravel driveway on a side street off Lee Road, and never know that someplace magical existed at the other end. But once you make the journey up the driveway, your eyes will instantly be drawn to the ivy-covered, brick mansion situated near the top of the rolling hills.

Originally built in 1902 as a summer home in the Berkshires for a wealthy New York City businessman and his wife, the Blantyre has since been transformed into one of the most luxurious hotels in the world; a Relais & Châteaux luxury property with an award-winning wine cellar to match.

“You have to experience it,” said Mark Newsome, Wine Director at The Blantyre. “The Blantyre is the antique furniture, the antique plates, the antique glasses and the staff. And then there’s the music and the aura. You walk through the front door, and it’s like a throwback in time, like no other place in the world. We’re number 70 on Travel + Leisure Magazine for hotels in the world for a reason: The place is amazing.”

Guestbook at The Blantyre
Guestbook at The Blantyre

Step Back Into The Gilded Age

The Blantyre looks like something straight out of a period British mystery. It’s the kind of establishment in which you can imagine wealthy aristocrats in tuxedos sipping martinis on a dark, stormy night, while Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple figure out who dunnit. There’s more than a hint of the Gatsby house about it, too – this is a place you could easily picture the lovelorn character staring out across the water.

In fact, this sumptuous home was initially one of many Gilded Age ‘cottages’  – the folksy nickname given to the palatial, summer estates built in the far western end of Massachusetts. There were roughly 75 cottages built in the Berkshires during the Gilded Age between 1865 and 1901. Wealthy families like the Vanderbilts and novelist Edith Wharton were among those who built these impressive homes. Also among their number was Robert Warden Paterson, a native of Scotland who made his fortune selling turpentine and other ‘naval stores,’ according to a book by Claire Hopley about Paterson’s Blantyre mansion.

The Blantyre Across the Ages

The Blantyre has a long, complicated history. Paterson built the Blantyre because he wanted a summer home that reminded him of his mother’s ancestral home in the Scottish village of Blantyre. (The name is also a reference to a township in Ontario, Canada where Paterson’s father served as the postmaster.)

The Patersons’ years at the Blantyre ran from 1902 until 1917, when Robert Paterson died. They filled the Blantyre with their vast art collection and spent their summers there golfing, fishing and rambling through the woods on the miles of trails right out the backdoor.

Paterson’s widow kept the house for several years after her husband died but reportedly spent little time there after his death. Eventually, the Paterson family sold Blantyre in 1925 to the first of many owners. The house’s first new incarnation was as a clubhouse for the golf course which was built on the grounds. Following this, the Blantyre became the Berkshire Hunt and Country Club, and after that, the Blantyre was purchased in 1938 by Hollywood movie producer D. W. Griffith of Birth of a Nation fame.

In 1946, the Blantyre began to be used as an inn. That phase in the Blantyre’s history lasted for more than 20 years… before it was converted into a tennis club… The house was then vacant for several years before Jack and Jane Fitzpatrick bought the Blantyre in 1980, with the goal of changing the purpose of the building one more time, and turning the house into a luxurious hotel.

Veuve Cliquot vs Taittinger Champagne

An Iconic Establishment

The Fitzpatricks turned out to be the perfect fit for The Blantyre. They had already proven their credentials by running one of the most iconic inns in the Berkshires, the Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge. They were also shrewd business people, founding Country Curtains, one of the largest, home mail order companies in the region. And like the Patersons, the Fitzpatricks collected art and antiques, many of which can be found throughout the gorgeously decorated rooms in The Blantyre.

Such attention to details gives The Blantyre its regal yet lived-in look. And under the Fitzpatrick’s’ leadership, The Blantyre was painstakingly transformed into one of the top hotels in New England (and the world) with a flair for the dramatic and an exquisite attention to detail.

Forbes Magazine gave The Blantyre its highest five-star rating. Travel + Leisure Magazine named The Blantyre one of the World’s Top 100 Hotels. How did this remote hotel two-and-a-half hours from Boston and New York City earn such accolades?

The Blantyre’s beautiful decor and picturesque landscaping certainly play a large part in its allure. But there are many other reasons why The Blantyre became and remains of the leading hotels in the world.

Going the Extra Mile

This is a hotel which likes to push the envelope when it comes to drama, beauty, and luxury. The Blantyre has its own in-house pianist. And on many nights, especially during the peak summer season when the Boston Symphony Orchestra takes up residence nearby at Tanglewood, The Blantyre also often features a live harpist – the perfect accompaniment to its Edwardian splendor.

The wine list is part of the mystique of the place.

The Blantyre also features a 20,000-square-foot spa, pool, tennis courts and tournament-rated croquet lawns, making it a popular retreat for those looking for luxury alongside their leisure.

The service and attention to detail of the staff at The Blantyre are also legendary. Guests often rave about staff members who seem to anticipate their every need.

And then there’s the award-winning wine list. Named a Grand Award winner by Wine Spectator Magazine every year since 2009 (the highest award given to only 89 restaurants in the entire world this year), The Blantyre currently keeps more than 10,000 bottles of wine, Newsome said. Housed in three different wine cellars in the labyrinth-like basement, The Blantyre’s wine list would bring tears to the eyes of most wine lovers.

“The wine list is part of the mystique of the place,” Newsome said. It’s certainly a big draw for those seeking out viticultural perfection, and bottles which have their own legendary status. For example, here are several different vintages of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Grand Cru and many other world-class Pinot Noirs from Burgundy.

Many of Bordeaux’s greatest vintages from the region’s five First Growth wineries can be found in the Blantyre’s cellars. Mouton-Rothschild from 1928, 1945, 1961 and 1982. Lafite-Rothschild from 1945, 1953 and 1982. Chateau Latour from 1945, 1961 and 1982. Chateau Margaux from 1961, 1982 and many more vintages. Chateau Haut-Brion from 1982, 1990, 2000 and beyond.

The Blantyre Wine Collection

A World-Beating Wine Collection

If you can imagine an exotic, rare wine, odds are the Blantyre has several bottles from several different vintages in its cellar. And Newsome is the person responsible for making sure those unusual, exotic wines are in the Blantyre’s cellar.

“I love what I do,” Newsome added. “It’s the best job in the world.”

Asked which wines are his favorites, Newsome said, “I love them all. I like Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I like Bordeaux, California Cabs, some Italian wines. I also love Alsatian whites.” – Newsome is clearly a lover of life’s finer things, and has tastes which are as wide-reaching as the cellars he oversees.

As for which wines people often prefer at The Blantyre, Newsome claims it’s about 60 percent French and 40 percent California – except during the peak summer season. That’s when there’s roughly a 50-50 split between French and California wine at The Blantyre. “Californian (wine) definitely picks up in the summer,” Newsome said.

But no matter what people drink, many of the people who come to The Blantyre really know their wine, Newsome said. “I’ve talked to people for hours about wine in such detail, with so many fine points,” he said. “They know their wine and they’re willing to spend a fair amount for a bottle, so I’d better be spot on with my recommendations.”

Fortunately, Newsome is. “I’ve never had a wine sent back,” he says.

The Blantyre's Red & White Wine Collection
The Blantyre’s Red & White Wine Collection

An Impressive Wine Flight

During a recent visit to The Blantyre, Newsome selected eight different wines for our private wine tasting in one of the hotel’s smaller, private dining rooms. Given free rein to select any wine he wished, Newsome’s choices included a crisp, non-vintage Louis Roederer Brut Champagne followed by a full-bodied Sancerre.

Initially, Newsome was thinking of doing an entire French tasting. But after the first two wines, he decided to change things up, and took us on a world tour of the wines in The Blantyre’s cellar. Those two French wines were followed by a California Chardonnay from Kistler Vineyards, a tart South African Rosé from Secateurs winery, a floral Pinot Noir from Oregon and a velvety smooth red wine from France’s Rhône Valley, a 2013 Domaine Saint Amant Les Clapas.

Newsome then finished the tasting with Ice Wine from Canada’s Niagara wine region in Ontario, and a robust 2007 vintage port from Warre in Portugal.

That’s what you can do when you have one of the world’s best wine cellars at your disposal. If you’re the sommelier there, you can decide on the fly which wines to serve. And should you find yourself dining there, if there’s a wine you’ve always dreamed of tasting, odds are they have a bottle or two in the basement of The Blantyre, just waiting to be discovered.

THE BLANTYRE

16 Blantyre Road, Lenox, MA

(413) 637-3556[/vc_column_text][/vc_column_inner]

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Written by Ken Ross

A professional journalist since 1993, Ken Ross writes about cocktails, wine, classical music, dance, art, skiing and anything else that pays the bills. You can read his weekly wine column, Wine Press, at Masslive.com every Monday. Follow Ken Ross on Twitter. He lives in Massachusetts.

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