Bernardus Lodge, Carmel CA

OVERVIEW of Bernardus Lodge

With vineyards in the foreground and the Santa Lucia Mountains as the backdrop, Bernardus Lodge is the quintessential “Relaxing Retreat”, a property so special it raises the bar for all others.

The setting could not be more idyllic, but it is the care that went into the design, both inside and out, the attention to detail, the impeccable service and the marvelous food and wine that make this property a standard for others to emulate.

The Main Lodge which houses reception and the restaurants feels more like an elegant home, but one that is not just a showplace, but a warm and inviting oasis from the world. Rich fabrics, beautiful area rugs, bookcases, comfortable sofas and chairs and a limestone fireplace make these public rooms ideal for quiet conversation, an afternoon cocktail or just to curl up with a book.

Outside there is a wonderful patio, set with tables and chairs and umbrellas which is great for lunch or a casual dinner. At one end is a stone fireplace surrounded by Adirondack chairs and is a favorite spot for an after dinner drink.

Spring through Fall, the property is ablaze in color, the lush green countryside, gardens brimming with herbs and vegetable, vines thick with grapes and lavender everywhere. In fact, there is even a lavender festival in July when the plant is harvested and finds its way into drinks and menus and cooking demonstrations.

THE ROOMS at Bernardus Lodge

The 73 beautifully decorated rooms are oversized by any standard, beginning at 525 square feet. My luxury room had 625 square feet of space and vaulted ceilings which made it seem even larger. It overlooked the croquet lawn and had two sets of French doors onto two patios. The open floor plan had a sitting area with a couch, coffee table and two chairs. Nearby was a writing desk and across the room a small dining table with two chairs. A large limestone fireplace centered the room. The color palette was soothing beiges and grays, the décor a French country. The wonderful feather bed was dressed in Italian linens with goose down pillows and comforter.

The large bath had tile floors, a double vanity, two person soaking tub, a killer shower, oversized, soft towels and Spa Blend toiletries.

A copper-top complimentary “wine grotto” mini-bar was stocked with Bernardus wines, fruit and cheese and other refreshments. There was a coffee pot and coffee and tea for the morning and a newspaper was delivered before 7am. Fresh roses in vases around the room was an elegant touch.

DINING at Bernardus Lodge

Bedrnardus is a chef’s dream; your own vineyard, gardens brimming with fresh herbs and vegetables, strong relationships with local purveyors and the freedom to create innovative menus. Chef Cal Stamenov has cooked with some of the greats of the culinary world; Alain Ducasse, Pierre Gagnaire, Masa Koboiashi, Jean-Louis Palladin and Michel Richard. Before Bernardus he was the Executive Chef at Highland Inn’s Pacific Edge and before that the Chef de Cuisine at Domaine Chandon in Napa.

Lucia Restaurant & Bar is the signature restaurant serving all meals and the food, presentation and service at any meal is so good you won’t feel the need to venture beyond the grounds. At dinner an amazing Monterey Bay Red Abalone was served with potato hash, bacon, leeks and cauliflower cream. I would travel across the country just for this dish. Sonoma Duck Breast came with English peas, spring onion, fava beans and a red wine jus. Dessert was a wonderful Lemon Olive Oil with strawberry rhubarb compote, meringue, strawberry mousse and vanilla ice cream.

This is a wonderful wine list with an extensive selection from the best regions in the world and it is very fairly priced. A lengthy wine-by-the glass menu and lots of ½ bottles offer opportunities to sample. Since we were at a winery, we opted for a bottle of  Bernardus Chardonnay, Rosella’s Vineyard for our appetizer and the Marinus Cabernet Sauvignon for our entree. Both were excellent.

THE SERVICE at Bernardus Lodge

From the glass of their own Sauvignon Blanc I was offered upon arrival to the copy of the menu I requested and they walked all the way to my room, to the complimentary wine and cheese in the room, a high level of service was evident throughout my stay. How they train people to remember guest’s names is still a mystery to me, but it is one of many ways that Bernardus is special. Another was our dinner server, a delightful chap who got us to order way more than we intended, but his enthusiasm for the menu was just so infectious.

THE RATES at Bernardus Lodge

Winter from $415, balance of the year from $535.

WHAT OTHERS SAY About Bernardus Lodge

Forbes Four Star Award – Lodging
Forbes Four Star Award – Dining
Forbes Four Star Award – Spa
AAA Four Diamond Award – Lodging
Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence

Lodge
“You’re welcomed with a glass of wine” (poured like water) by an “attentive staff” “as you enter the lobby” of this “amazing sanctuary” “tucked into the Carmel Valley”; “superb rooms with terraces, fireplaces and Jacuzzis” “situated in the middle of a vineyard” along with an “outstanding spa” and “unreal” fare at “culinary genius” Cal Stamenov’s restaurant make it the “ultimate” spot for “pampering, indulgence and relaxation.” ZAGAT

Restaurant
This “fabulous treat from beginning to end” starts with Cal Stamenov’s “phenomenal” New French menu (prix fixe only), which is backed up by “the best wine list in the area” and a “top-notch sommelier”; a “staff that can’t do enough for you” presides over an “exquisite dining room” with a “fabulous fireplace”, all of which leads romantics to rave “life doesn’t get much better” than here at the Bernardus Lodge “in sunny Carmel Valley”; P.S. the bistro next door “is also fantastic if you don’t want to splurge” for the full experience. ZAGAT

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