Plan a long, luxurious weekend at The Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynold's Plantation.

By Jan Walsh

The Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynold's Plantation is s synthesis of The Ritz Carlton's legend for luxury and superior service coupled with authentic southern charm. Conveniently located on Lake Oconee, approximately 225 miles from Birmingham and 75 miles from Atlanta, this is the first Ritz-Carlton located on a lake, rather than a large city or seaside. In addition to The Ritz-Carlton Lodge's 35 picturesque acres, the lake provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and picnicking on a pontoon boat. It is also surrounded by the upscale, gated community of Reynolds Plantation and 99 holes of championship golf, designed by legendary professional golfers.

Yet I did not come here for the convenience or golf. I came here for the AAA-5 Diamond accommodations, food, wine and award winning spa. Southern hospitality greets me upon arrival and remains throughout my stay. The wood paneled lobby boasts a stacked stone fireplace—wrapped by scenic views of the lake. This gathering place offers light dinner fare at fireside tables with lake views and live music Friday and Saturday evenings.

You will want to linger longer, so plan a three-night weekend escape. Accommodations include 251-guest rooms and suites, six two and three bedroom golf cottages and a 5,400 square-foot Presidential House—boasting four master suites and an outdoor pool that is popular with golfing groups and wedding families. All of the lodge’s guest rooms and suites have spacious balconies. My club level accommodations include elevator turnkey access to the floor and access to the club lounge where another stacked stone fireplace welcomes. Here five food and beverage services are offered each day: breakfast, mid-day snacks, afternoon tea, cocktails and hors d’ oeuvres, and chocolates and cordials. The all-inclusive lounge also has a dedicated concierge, music and fresh flowers.
Beyond the club level dining options range from casual to fine dining and from lakeside to fireside. During my April visit Gaby’s by the Lake was undergoing a 3.2 million dollar renovation and expansion—due to its popularity—to be completed during the summer of 2008. This lunch and dinner eatery is a favorite for those coming from the infinity pool, lake and golf course. Other outdoor dining options include a lakefront dinner in Adirondack chairs with your own personal Chiminea. All dishes are designed for two to share and paired with a Champagne toast and choice of a red or white house wine. And weather permitting, there is a bonfire every evening in the stacked stone fire pit where guests enjoy roasting both traditional and sophisticated s’mores. 

Classic steakhouse cuisine meets southern cooking at Linger Longer Steakhouse. The 2005 Turley Zinfandel is ordered along with a starter of tender and delicate pan seared scallops. The scallops are served with scrumptious creamy corn “grits” in a small, black iron skillet. No milled grits here, chef Kirk White created this flavorful creamed corn of fresh off the cob Trucker’s Delight and Silver Queen. Also highly recommended is the Lobster Bisque. Tempting aromas rise from the steam as the server pours the bisque around the body of the tender, buttery lobster. Wanting more of this lobster, an entrée of surf and turf is ordered. The tender, juicy and cooked to order filet mignon is grilled over Georgia hardwood. The luscious lobster tail is artfully topped with its claw. And a side of Yukon Gold smashed potatoes is presented in a gleaming copper pot. Delightful desserts of a Peach Soufflé with Peach Ice Cream and a taste of three ice creams—Godiva Chocolate, Grand Mariner, and Peach—top off the night.

Dinner at Georgia’s—the resort’s signature fine dining restaurant—is a must. Regional fare with a gourmet flair is served before a stacked stone fireplace and beneath exposed timber ceilings. Chef Jaco Smith and sommelier Frankie Saunders are fiancées—also making quite a match of the tasting menu and wine pairings. Before the first of eight courses is served Smith sends a tender and delicious Teriyaki Beef Bite with celery root as a surprise starter. I enjoy ordering a tasting menu when dining at a chef driven restaurant, such as Georgia’s, as it provides the opportunity to taste a cross section of the menu in one meal. A standout pairing is the third course of  Foie Gras and Carpaccio with Beaujolais Pinot Chalone. Yet from the Lobster with flutes of Mumm cuvee to the eighth course of chocolate crunch cake with Taylor 10 Port and all in between, every delectable dish of Smith’s is thoughtfully prepared, beautifully presented and further enhanced by Saunders’ wine selections. These two have quite a future to look forward to together.

The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation Spa is a 26,000 square foot, award-winning spa and fitness center. The Spa Café serves smoothies, fruit and healthy sandwiches and salads to spa goers and indoor lap pool guests. Holistic healing and modern enhancement treatments are inspired by the restorative powers of the earth’s bounty as well as Prada beauty skin treatments and the PAYOT product line. My choice of the Prada Exfoliant Visage Facial leaves my skin silky and glowing.
The Ritz Carlton Lodge at Reynold’s Plantation is the perfect destination for a long weekend—any time of year. Swim, golf, and boat in warmer months. Relax by the fireside when the leaves turn golden. And 12 months a year, enjoy the culinary delights, spa and luxurious accommodations. But no matter the time of year or duration of your stay, you will want to… linger longer.

Categories: Culinary Travels