There are amenities, and then there are amenities. Peninsula Hotels offers the latter through their upscale Peninsula Academy.
While these so-called “educational opportunities” don’t come cheap (fantasies usually don’t), they certainly offer bragging rights and a chance to do something the average person only dreams about.
At the Chicago Peninsula, for example, guests who enroll in the Exotic Race Car class, one of 8 offerings, are given keys to say, a Lamborghini, and driving lessons (on a real race track) in five different high-powered race cars.
At the Manila Peninsula, enrollees can board a helicopter for a trip to an island pearl farm. Or in Bangkok, they can ride an elephant through a Thai vineyard.
The unique local experiences offered at New York’s Peninsula Academy include foraging for edibles in Central Park to getting a Broadway tour with a Broadway actor to riding a sea plane to the Blue Island Oyster Farm where “students” fish, clam and oyster on Long Island’s Great South Bay.
When given my choice by the hotel company of which “academy” I’d like to experience, I opted for one that took place in the five star New York location’s Clement restaurant. Specifically, a button-popping, six-course dinner with wines from around the globe.
Named after the Hong Kong-based company’s CEO, Clement Kowk, this exquisite restaurant on the hotel’s mezzanine overlooks Fifth Avenue. Beautiful and relaxing (thanks to the design genius of George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg), its mood is the polar opposite of the bustle of the crowded street below.
My wine tour started (like any good wine tour should) in Champagne, France. Champagne Deutz, a company that has been producing champagne for 179 years, makes the Peninsula Cuvee NV exclusively for the ten Peninsulas worldwide. This light, elegant champagne paired perfectly with the olive oil bubbles on the basil mozzarella starter. I’ve had much to celebrate throughout my life and plenty of sparkling wine with which to do it, but this was my first taste of real champagne.
From France, we migrated to Mosel, Germany with a Haart Riesling Kabinett 2014, the perfect playmate for our sushi-like Course # 2. From a wine family dating back to 1337, this particular model was hatched on the south-facing red clay hill just up from the village of Ferres.
We then returned to France, this time to Burgundy where our sea bass with fennel and bouillabaisse reduction hooked up with an Arnaud Baillot Montagny Premier Cru 2014 that, like most of this prestigious wine-maker’s output, is small batched with 300 to 600 bottles—not cases.
By this time, we needed to get home, so Course #4, a deliciously-prepared duck entrée, palled around with a Sonoma Valley Keller Pinot Noir Peninsula label 2013. Yes, another special bottle made exclusively for the Peninsula.
For our 28-day, dry-aged strip loin, the only wine to meet our chaperone’s exacting standards was a deep ruby red Rocca di Frasinello ‘Ornello’ 2012 from, where Tuscany.
Finally, we jetted to Spain’s Canary Islands for a honeyed, rich Los Bermejos Malvasia Dolce to pair with our dessert.
This worldwide wine journey, I’m happy to report, was easily accomplished without so much a minute of jet lag.