Upper Saranac Lake, NY
Imagine having a wealthy friend who purchases one of the great camps in the Adirondacks, decorates it exquisitely, hires a world class chef, outfits it with every possible recreational amenity and then invites you and some other interesting people for the weekend. That only begins to describe the experience that is The Point.
Once the retreat of William Avery Rockefeller, The Point was constructed on a 10 acre peninsula on the Upper Saranac Lake. Its remote location is reached via special directions which arrive upon payment of your stay. Instructions suggest you arrive in time for lunch at 1pm. Adding to the mystique of The Point, there are no signs, so you must follow the directions carefully to reach your destination (like set your odometer to 11.6 miles from the blinking light) when you must punch in a special code to open the gate and drive down the main road to reception.
As you arrive staffers appear to welcome you and to take your car and luggage. Champagne is offered, lunch plans are announced and you are introduced to other guests who have gathered around the huge stone fireplace in the Great Hall for a cocktail before lunch.
Guests are seated “en famille” or family style at two large circular tables surrounding another fireplace. Lively conversation ensues as a delicious beef tenderloin and shrimp lunch with a light horseradish sauce is served and complimented with a wonderful red Bordeaux. Guests linger over coffee and a decadent apple crumb crisp.
You can also opt for the kitchen to make you a box lunch to take on a hike or out onto the lake in one of the boats. We heard a great story about a guest request for homemade lemonade for a lake picnic. She was dismayed when she opened the picnic hamper to find no lemonade. Suddenly a staffer arrives in another boat holding the lemonade, and declares, “we didn’t want the ice to melt.”
After lunch our host, John, offered to show us around the property. We began with the kitchen, where we were introduced to each staff member, shown where the daily menus were posted and told we could come into the kitchen at any time to get a snack, request something different from the menu or even don kitchen whites and help cook! Amazing.
As we left the main building, John showed us a complete pantry bar, just off the entrance, and told us we could help ourselves at any time. We then visited the Pub, steps from the main building where there is another full bar, a pool table, board games, darts, puzzles and a plasma screen for watching movies from their vast selection of DVD’s.
Next up was the Boathouse, along the lake, that housed a collection of electric and outboard boats available for guest use, a magnificently restored launch used for cocktail cruises and an antique Hack Craft used for staff operated tours of the lake. Oh, yes, another full bar was available in the Boathouse.
The last stop was at “the point” the highest elevation overlooking the lake. Here is where barbeques are staged for lunch and where there is a wonderful lean-to the likes of which you have never seen before. Set next to a large fire pit and outfitted with pillows and blankets, this is a favorite after dinner spot. Did I mention there was a full bar here as well?
Dinner at The Point is an event whether you enjoy it with the other guests or in the privacy of your room. It begins with a note slipped under your door inviting you to 7pm cocktails and hors d’ouevres at a specified location on the property; on the launch on the lake, in the Pub or in the dining room. Black tie is requested for Wednesdays and Saturdays. It all just seems so civilized.
At lunch we enjoyed the company of a couple who were making their 17th annual visit (he develops shopping centers) and a “Sir” and “Lady” from London. Our dinner companions included a TV personality and her new husband (son of a famed attorney) who had just been married at The Point that day, a young writer who was honeymooning with her European husband and a delightful couple from Connecticut celebrating a milestone anniversary.
Dinner was a marvelous 7-course affair paired with wonderful wines. It began with a shitake and egg custard and a 1998 Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin followed by a lump crab salad in a citrus sauce. A delicate fillet of turbot with a sauce Noilly Prat was paired with a 2003 Kitstler “Les Noisetiers.” A watermelon sorbet cleansed the palette and prepared us for the roast rack and loin of lamb, served with 2001 Paradigm Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon. A wonderful Crème Vanille and a selection of cheeses was joined with a 1999 Chateau Rieussec sauternes.
Breakfast begins with a soft knock on your door and the arrival of coffee at a time you pre-determine. You may enjoy a full breakfast in bed, on the patio or in the Great Hall. The choices are limitless, from Eggs Benedict, to the poached eggs and homemade hash we enjoyed to smoked salmon to kippers. One guest told us of requesting shrimp grits on a previous stay. The kitchen apologized that they had no grits, but it was on the menu the next day and remains there today.
There are 11 rooms at The Point, all individually decorated in a rustic, but very elegant, Adirondack style. Our room, the Adirondack, was Rockefeller’s library. The walls are lined with bookshelves, there’s a plump reading chair and ottoman next to a massive stone fireplace, a couch with a fur throw under the iron paned picture window, a walk-in closet and a featherbed you never want to leave. The two room bathroom suite has a rainforest shower that belongs in our “Shower Hall of Fame”, a wonderfully powerful and invigorating soak.
On property you can hike, snowshoe, boat, swim, ice skate, cross country ski, play croquet, horseshoes, volleyball or mountain bike. Off-site you can play golf (complimentary) at the Saranac Inn, downhill ski at Whiteface Mountain or enjoy some of the other local attractions of the area.
I must admit to some trepidation before my arrival. I had read so much about The Point, I feared it could never live up to the hype. And, I wondered, could any place be worth this nightly tariff? Well, it did live up to the hype and it was worth every penny. Staying here is an experience not to be missed…at least once, but one stay will have you hooked.
RATES: $1375-$2500 per night per couple. Includes lunch upon arrival, dinner, breakfast and either lunch in the dining room or a box lunch for your trip on the day of departure. All liquor, wine and snacks are included. Boats, fishing equipment, ice skates, snow shoes, hiking boots and golf are all included.
WHAT OTHERS SAY…
AAA Five Diamond
Forbes Five Star
It’s “one of the musts before you die” sigh sojourners of the “once-in-a-lifetime experience” to be had at this Relais & Chateau “escape from daily stress” on Saranac Lake in the Adirondacks; “play robber baron” and indulge in the “fabulous service”, “top notch” dining and “amazing rooms” featuring lake views, custom made beds and eclectic antiques; it’ll “cost a fortune”, but it’s “pure class” ZAGAT