Virtuoso Life September 2018 Best of the Best: 2018 Virtuoso Winners

Best of the Best: 2018 Virtuoso Winners

Virtuoso travel advisors voted on the top wellness program, dining experience, newcomer, and more in our 12th annual hotel awards.

Hotel of the Year — Adare Manor

Set on 840 acres along the River Maigue, the storied castle hotel reopened last fall after an 18-month closure for renovations that left not a nook or cranny untouched. “Inside and out, Adare Manor has maintained her regal self and gracefully moved into the present,” says Julie Smothers, a Virtuoso travel advisor from Montgomery, Alabama. Among the highlights: a new 42-bedroom wing, built with local limestone to mirror the original manor house, bringing the room count to 104; an expansive new ballroom, complete with a gold-leaf ceiling and river views; and The Carriage House, which debuted in May with a cocktail bar, all-weather terrace, and restaurant serving salt-crusted sea bass, dry-aged beef, and Irish classics in an art-deco-inspired setting. In The Oak Room, new head chef Michael Tweedie – who, at just 30, has worked in some of England’s and Ireland’s finest kitchens – brings a welcome verve to the castle’s fine-dining restaurant. Tee up Tom Fazio’s redesign of the estate’s 18-hole golf course and you’ve got a hotel at the top of its game.

Best Achievement in Design — The Silo Hotel 

The wow factor starts at the hotel’s facade, where rows of multifaceted windows bow outward like jewels in concrete settings. Industrial designer Thomas Heatherwick of London’s Heatherwick Studio masterminded the transformation of this former grain silo building into an eye-catching, 28-room hotel, occupying six floors above the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. Inside, guests discover whimsy, glamour, and relaxed elegance through jewel tones, eclectic furnishings, and industrial-chic decor. A well-planned mismatch of patterns and prints assembled by interior designer and Royal Portfolio founder Liz Biden elevates this architectural curiosity to what Manhattan-based Virtuoso agency executive Valerie Wilson aptly describes as “one of the sexiest contemporary buildings in the world.”

Best Dining Experience — The Restaurant at Meadowood, Meadowood Napa Valley 

It might have an ordinary name, but the restaurant at 250-acre Meadowood Napa Valley is anything but average, thanks to chef Christopher Kostow and his three-Michelin-star team. A table at the hillside establishment is a sought-after destination for culinary pilgrims, who come for Kostow’s ever-changing eight- to ten-course tasting menu (20-plus for the Chef’s Counter tasting menu), which he often dreams up the night before. It’s as much of a love letter to cooking as it is to California’s bounty, revealed through the prose of fresh produce, herbs, and flowers plucked from the 85-room hotel’s three-acre garden, alongside locally sourced meat, fish, and game in a firelit dining room with redwood walls.

Best Bar — The Donovan Bar, Brown’s Hotel, a Rocco Forte Hotel

Tucked inside London’s oldest hotel, the intimate Donovan was recently glammed up with a pleasing palette of gold, pale blue, white, and British racing green. “It’s a great mix of contemporary and traditional English,” says Atlanta-based Virtuoso advisor Miriam Geiser (the space also displays black-and-white images by celebrated fashion photographer Terence Donovan, the bar’s namesake). The renovation added a side-street entrance separate from the 115-room hotel and doubled the bar seats from four to eight. Belly up to Salvatore Calabrese’s renowned cocktails; among his tasty tricks are classics such as the negroni and Salvatore’s martini, as well as only-at-The Donovan originals, such as the Humadorita, a cocktail based on tamarind-infused Cenote tequila.  

Best Virtuoso Newcomer — Hôtel de Crillon

As iconic as the city itself, the 124-room Hôtel de Crillon reopened last year after a $300 million renovation – modernized and redecorated, but with all the gilded Frenchness of a landmark originally commissioned by Louis XV. One of the newest additions to Virtuoso’s Parisian portfolio, it features notable suites such as two Karl Lagerfeld-designed Grands Appartements, which can be combined as one three-bedroom suite, complete with an original marble sink from the Palace of Versailles and a high-tech bookcase that reveals a secret dressing room with the push of a button. Marie-Antoinette’s namesake room has a 400-square-foot terrace overlooking the Place de la Concorde (ironically, where the young queen met her demise in 1793). Take a dip in the new subterranean swimming pool, bedecked in gold tiles, and linger in the inviting lobby, where a new cocktail lounge allows visitors to sip and people-watch with ease.

Best Family Program  The Ranch at Rock Creek 

No one, young or old, roughs it at the 6,600-acre, all-inclusive Ranch at Rock Creek. For smaller cowpokes, the 29-room working cattle ranch’s Little Grizzlies Kids Club provides guests ages 4 through 12 with a taste of the Wild West through wildlife viewing, treasure hunts, chaperoned pony rides, and more. Teens and their adult family members can practice their fly-fishing skills in mountain streams with a trained guide, take workshops with professional nature photographers, and tackle adventures on miles of biking, hiking, and horse-riding trails, before mingling with wranglers at the weekly summer rodeo.

Sustainable Tourism Leadership — Six Senses Douro Valley

Located on 19 acrs in Protugal’s Douro Valley, a wine lover’s mosaic of historical vineyards and villages, this Six Senses celebrates the traditional architecture and lifestyle of the region’s quintas, centuries-old family estates. Guests arrive to a restored nineteenth-century manor house overlooking the Douro River, a section of which the resort has adopted, cleaning the riverbank, monitoring water quality, and protecting nearby woodlands. “We believe that a great vacation can go hand in hand with caring about the planet,” says general manager Nick Yarnell. The 57-room property eliminated the use of plastic water bottles on-site and pours proceeds from its own purified bottled water into local community projects. An organic garden and partnerships with nearby farmers mean fresh, local ingredients appear daily on the menu. Activities range from guided hikes paired with winetastings to a treasure hunt that reveals the property’s history, among other options for experiencing the Douro’s cultural and natural draws.

Best Wellness Program — BodyHoliday

Customization is key to BodyHoliday’s regimen of exercise, good diet, restorative beauty treatments, and relaxation, delivered against the backdrop of Saint Lucia’s forested mountains and white-sand beaches. Each traveler crafts a personal wellness plan that includes daily massages, facials, and yoga sessions – or more-active endeavors such as fitness classes, scuba diving, sailing, and snorkeling in the clear Caribbean. Calm imbues the all-inclusive resort’s 155 luxurious, TV-free rooms, while its five restaurants serve fresh organic fare, seasoned with the ethos that nurturing a healthy lifestyle starts with good fuel for the body and mind.

Best Virtuoso Hotel Ambassador — Andrea Filippi, Belmond 

Italian charm, industry knowledge, and strong relationships with Virtuoso advisors have made Andrea Filippi an integral unsung component of travelers’ vacations. In his role as vice president of global sales, Filippi works behind the scenes to ensure that the company’s collection of 47 hotels, trains, and river cruises in 24 countries delivers Virtuoso clients – you – personalized service and the best experience in some of the world’s most fascinating destinations.

Hotelier of the Year — Patrizio Cipollini, Four Seasons Hotel Firenze

Since beginning hotelier school in Hamburg at the age of 15, Patrizio Cipollini’s dream was to open a Fours Seasons in Italy, though he never imaginged he’d have the opportunity to make that dream come true in his birthplace of Tuscany. Cipollini’s career spans 40 years (27 with Four Seasons) and has taken him from humble beginnings as a pot washer to management roles at luxury hotels in Sardinia, London, Switzerland, and Australia. Fun and lighthearted, with a great sense of humor, he has built a legacy as a mentor to many throughout the industry along the way. Back home in Italy, Cipollini brings a hands-on approach to the hotel, welcoming guests with impeccable service and working tirelessly as one of the most active ambassadors for the renaissance city of Florence.

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