Winvian in a Nutshell:
Imagine a luxury sleepaway camp surrounded by more than 100 acres of Connecticut countryside. Now imagine it’s a member of the Relais & Chateaux hotel and restaurant group, with gourmet dining and a top-flight spa -- and you have the run of the place with your favorite bunkmate. That’s Winvian, hidden away in the Litchfield Hills, two hours from New York City and Boston. A collection of 18 uniquely designed cottages with evocative and whimsical themes created by 15 architects, Winvian is a fantasy getaway for grownups.
Guest Rooms at Winvian:
Cottages range from the cozy Secret Society (of two, of course) to the funky Treehouse (built 35 feet in the air) to stately Charter Oak. After much deliberation on the website, we chose Woodland, whose interior incorporated massive stripped-smooth tree trunks reaching up to the exposed beam ceiling. There was a sitting area with a double-sided fireplace; a shower made entirely of smooth stones; and a rock waterfall behind the king bed (the gentle trickle can be switched off). Every window framed a sylvan view. Amenities include L’Occitane bath products, a Nespresso machine, wi-fi, cable, and an Aquos flatscreen TV.
Dining at Winvian:
The Restaurant comprises several dining areas in the tastefully restored 1775 Seth Bird House. The three-course menu expands to six or more as the chef sends out plate after plate of tastings, such as finely diced gazpacho and a flaky halibut cake. Appetizers include rabbit tortellini with foie gras, and a greenhouse salad from the organic garden out back. For the main course, we chose duck breast with carrots, and lamb served three ways (chop, filet, and rack). A lemon-verbena granita cleansed the palate mid-meal, and dessert featured sorbet with yogurt sponge.
Destination Weddings at Winvian:
Surrounded by gardens, fields, woodlands, and the distinctive architecture of its buildings, Winvian is a prime destination wedding locale. Depending upon the time of year, weddings can be held in the warm and inviting Gordon Brown House or in an elegant tent on the lawn. The wedding party can incorporate any of Winvian’s facilities — including the spa, cottages, and outdoor patios. Each venue can be a memorable setting for the rehearsal dinner, the ceremony, and the reception, where farm-to-table menus are available.
Honeymoons/Romance Packages at Winvian:
With the possible exception of the hangar-like Helicopter cottage (built around an actual Sikorsky), any of Winvian’s units would serve well as a honeymoon cottage. The Sweetheart Escape package includes a two-night stay with a bottle of Champagne on arrival, in-cottage breakfast, one dinner for two, and rose petals and a wood fire at turndown. The couple is also treated to a tandem 60-minute Swedish massage in the spa’s Forty Winks Suite, where they can relax and sip Champagne in easy chairs before a wood fire. The package is available year-round except October, when leaf-peepers descend.
Activities at Winvian:
The first thing guests notice upon arriving at Winvian reception is a vast lawn spreading out before them. A circle of brightly colored Adirondack chairs is set up to one side — a “bonfire and s’mores roast” in waiting. There’s also a volleyball net, and a small croquet course laid out by the well-tended pond. In addition to an indoor game room, there’s a fully equipped fitness center where guests also practice yoga. A pair of touring bikes is parked outside each cottage; mountain bikes are available on request. Hiking (or snowshoeing in winter) is on site, and kayaking and canoeing nearby.
Winvian is technically located in Morris, Connecticut, just four miles up the road from the center of the historic town of Litchfield, with its Colonial Revival homes, antiques shops, and old-fashioned stores in a Norman Rockwell setting. Also within driving distance from Winvian are a Skip Barber Racing School track, hot air ballooning, horseback riding, golf, and sporting clays and upland game shooting. But the main attraction for many remains the scenery of Connecticut’s northwest hills and valleys, which includes the 4,000-acre White Memorial Foundation preserve, as well as numerous lakes and state forests.
What Could be Better at Winvian:
We got lucky with our choice of cottage; several of the attentive staffers confided that it was their favorite as well. Before checkout, we toured a few of the others and found one or two to be not our style. Among many carefully considered details we appreciated in Woodland, there was just one that could be considered objectionable: the stylish alarm clock placed at the bedside, whose faint ticking was the only sound standing between us and a blissfully quiet night’s sleep. We banished the timekeeper to a far corner of the cottage, sank into the goose-down pillows, and heard not another sound until morning.
As aficionados of the Relais & Chateaux group of properties will expect, everything about Winvian is executed to perfection. Yet despite the meticulous attention to details – such as the beaded-metal curtain in the Spa lounge that provides semi-privacy to one luxuriating couple – the atmosphere is one of fun. But don’t get the wrong impression: while there are several periods throughout the year designated as family friendly, Winvian is not for kids. It’s designed to bring shared smiles to the faces of sophisticated couples who think they’ve seen it all before… until they arrive and realize they hadn’t.
Winvian Info and Reservations:
115 Alain White Road
Morris, CT 06763
Winvian Web site
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with complimentary accommodation and meals for the purpose of reviewing those services. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.