Luxury resort with 18- hole Championship golf, a spa, winery, and foodie’s paradise
Walking through the raised gardens with countless rows of herbs and vegetables, the distinct smell of fresh basil blends with the sweet scent of mint and the unmistakable essence of lavender. It is a dizzying olfactory experience. Then suddenly I catch a whiff of wood smoke mixed with the heady aroma of fresh dough baking, heightened by the sound of crackling embers. The bakery-like aroma draws you closer to witness Chef Gurdeep Gill using a long wooden paddle to pull a freshly baked pizza out of the wood-fire pizza oven. The irresistible smell has attracted a growing lineup of golfers and resort guests who order from a varied menu of gourmet-style pizzas, which are then delivered picnic-style to the large white, garden-side canopy at the resort near Orangeville.
This is just one of the many unique culinary experiences to be enjoyed at the multi-dimensional resort that is located on a 289-acre property that is nestled in lushly forested hills. The luxury 104-room resort boasts an award-winning spa, an 18-hole championship golf course, 16 ski and snowboarding runs, indoor and outdoor pools and several restaurants and bars.
It’s only about a 45-minute drive north of the GTA, but this wondrous haven looks, sounds and smells like you are a million miles away.
And that pizza! From the first gooey bite, the large (half Calabrese and half Spicy Picante) pizza is a gastronomic sensation. Baked for just four minutes in the blazing hot wood-fire oven, the thin crust has a hint of charring on the bottom which mixes and mingles with soft, melting white cheese, topped with razor-thin slices of prosciutto and fresh herbs. It is no wonder the pizza tastes so darn good—the prosciutto is house-cured for eight months; the herbs and vegetables are hand picked fresh from the garden and the cheese comes from Hockley’s Cheese Cave!
Executive Chef Iniyan Vijay and his culinary team grow 80 percent of the produce used in Cabin restaurant through the summer and fall gardening season. Their first job of the day is to stop by the nearly two-acre sized garden to harvest whatever is in season to be used on the menus at their various restaurants.
“We strongly believe in the farm-to-table concept– in cooking everything from scratch and we cure our own meats for our charcuterie boards at the winery,” says Chef Vijay. “We make our own pasta, make our own preserves. We even make our own honey from the hives located at our Adamo Winery.”
The fruits of their labours are displayed in the Meat Cave and Cheese Caves and on a feature wall of preserves in the main dining room, Cabin. The jams, jellies, relishes, and pickled vegetables are showcased on their signature charcuterie boards. “We are known for our Salumi and Mista Boards,” says Chef Vijay. “The key to a good board is a mixture of flavours and textures. The Salumi Board features a selection of four estate-cured meats, crostini, estate-sourced preserves, and pickles. We source most of our meats locally and many of our cheeses come from Toronto’s Cheese Boutique.”
We sampled the Wellington Country Beef Tenderloin, served on the outdoor patio at the resort’s Babbo Wine Bar & Patio. The thick, juicy, succulent tenderloin was bursting with flavour, paired with delicious fregola and mushrooms, grilled rapini, herb butter and porcini jus. For dessert-the flourless chocolate Torta was two-layers of divine heaven.
“Food is extremely important to us here and we are very proud of our farm-to-table concept,” says Ken Murray, General Manager of Hockley Valley Resort & Spa and Adamo Estate Winery. “Our menus change often to reflect what is fresh and in season in the garden.”
While a casual café on the lower level provides quick meals seasonally for golfers and skiers, the Babbo Wine Bar and Patio offers outdoor poolside dining and the Cabin offers elegant fine dining. The resort has an abundance of meeting and convention rooms including a grand ballroom which can hold weddings and social functions with sit-down dinners for up to 400 people. During the challenging times experienced during COVID-19, the priority became keeping guests and staff safe. Protective measures included installing several hand-sanitizing stations, requiring guests and staff to wear masks, only families or guests travelling together are allowed in the elevator at one time, and more. I must say I felt very safe during my stay in mid-July.
“From the time we closed our facilities we started planning how to re-open safely to ensure the well-being of our guests and staff,” states Murray. “Summer is our peak period when our facilities are in high demand and this year, we are noticing a huge resurgence in golf. We are known as a all-in-one facility with multiple opportunities to enjoy yourself, from golfing or hitting the ski slopes, going to the spa, visiting the winery, hiking the trails or coming with the family and enjoying our indoor and outdoor pools. Our resort caters to three distinctly different but similar markets looking for exceptional experiences; corporate groups for meetings, planning and team building sessions; weddings and social events, as well as family leisure getaways.”
Adamo Estate Winery at Hockley Valley Resort
The next stop was a short drive up the hill to the Adamo Estate Winery. Wine tours can be booked ahead and while the tasting room and bar is normally open, during COVID-19, wine tastings are personalized and done tableside at the gorgeous outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards. There are plenty of Instagram-worthy photo opportunities! We enjoyed the Mista Board with paper-thin prosciutto, full-flavour bacon, two luscious cheese selections and a variety of house-made preserves. Wine can be purchased by the glass or bottle or you can enjoy one of the various wine tasting flights. We tried the recommended 2015 Willms Oaked Chardonnay as well as the 2016 Pinot Noir. Both are utterly delicious.
“There are 1,800 vines on the property and we are known for growing cold-climate grapes and making Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Riesling,” says Simone Ardiel, Associate Wine Maker. “There is always a breeze that runs through Mono. Winters are harsh, but we have frost fans which help protect the wines. GM Ken Murray adds: “Before the cold weather arrives, we cover the entire vineyard in felt blankets!”
The Estate Series Flight is highly recommended and features a two-ounce sampling of each wine, Gamay Rose, Frank’s Corner Vidal, Riesling, Chardonnay, and hybrid Vidal. Curbside wine pickup orders are going gangbusters, according to the GM. The winery produces approximately 10,000 cases of wine a year and attracts thousands of visitors. The gorgeous stone building with its castle-sized bright red front doors offers yet another popular photo opp – irresistible I suspect for the 45 weddings and social events they host annually.
The Adamo family purchased Hockley Valley Resort in 1985 when it had just 28 rooms. They reportedly paid just one million dollars and spent 250 million transforming the property into a 104-room luxury resort. Sunray Group of Hotels purchased the property in April 2019 and continue the legacy of providing the best accommodations, amenities, food, and wine at their destination resort.
“The winery is a destination for quality wines while Hockley Valley Resort is a foodies’ destination,” explains Murray. “Fresh, local and in-season is important to us and we feel that our food should be one of the high points of your visit here.”
The food was a high point but add to that the enjoyment of sitting outside on the balcony of our room, sipping a glass of Adamo Pinot Noir as we enjoyed a bird’s eye view of the golf greens. Then there was the Hot Bamboo Massage at the full-service spa which was so relaxing I could not wipe the smile off my face for hours.
Completely relaxed, rejuvenated and high on the great food experienced during our two-night stay, we decided to take home some Adamo wines, honey and a few more slices of that delicious pizza to continue to savour the essence of spoiled luxury as long as possible.