Bedroom at Donnington Valley

Meet the Team

Chris NeevesChris Neeves – Head Sommelier

When did you know you wanted to work in wine for a living?

Well, I have always enjoyed wine. It all started with my father giving me wine to try when we used to have dinner parties at home. I still remember the first wine, which got me really interested in wine; it was white Rioja – Marqués de Murrieta. It was not until much later that I knew I wanted to work with wine, I just knew I liked wine.

How did your career begin and how has it developed?

After I left college, I started as a waiter at Tylney Hall. Then after about a year of working there the Sommelier’s Assistant role became available so I went for the interview and got the job. I knew as soon as I started the role, this is what I wanted to do in catering.

What interested you most about working for Donnington Valley?

I started with the The Vineyard Group back in 2001 at The Vineyard hotel. After four years there I was given the opportunity to oversee the wine operation over at Donnington Valley Hotel. It was exciting times at Donnington when I joined the team as the new extension was just being completed, and I was able to create my very own list for the restaurant, including wines that interested me, and I felt our customers would enjoy tasting.

What do you love most about your role as Head Sommelier?

What I enjoy the most is trying new wines from unusual places from all over the world, putting them on the list and seeing guests enjoy them. An achievement I am really proud of is all the awards we have won for the list. The best being the "Condé Nast Johansens Taittinger Wine List of The Year” in 2013.

Do you have any exciting plans for the year ahead?

I have a few annual wine tastings coming up soon, so I hope to find some new interesting wines to add to the list. I have also sent the list in for "The Wine Spectator” wine awards and "AA wine list of the Year”. So fingers crossed we’ll be successful.

Helen WhiteHelen White – Head Housekeeper

When did you know you wanted to work in housekeeping for a hotel?

I have always worked in housekeeping in some form or another, but I started hotel housekeeping over 18 years ago in 1997.

How did your career begin and how has it developed?

My career began when I worked for the military as my husband was in the RAF. It was the easiest occupation to pick up when you travel around so much. In 1995, we left the military and came back to Newbury (my home town), but it was two years more before I decided to give hotel work a try. I started at Donnington as a Room Maid to learn about the hotel way of doing things and three weeks later I was made the Deputy Housekeeper and worked in this role for just over a year. I left Donnington to work in other local hotels and then returned in 2004.

What interested you most about working for Donnington Valley?

When I returned, I was really excited about the refurbishment at the hotel and the new extension. Donnington Valley was my first love of hotel work, and having been away and gained more experience I came back with a wealth of knowledge befitting a great hotel. It’s a fantastic place to work and no matter which window you look out of, its a wonderful view.

What do you love most about our your role as Head Housekeeper?

My role as a Head Housekeeper brings me satisfaction in seeing a completed job each day. I have always said housekeeping is black and white. You can't have a nearly clean room! I'm a practical person and so the structure of housekeeping suits my personality in the working environment.


Adam AinsworthAdam Ainsworth – Assistant Manager

When did you know you wanted to work in hospitality for a living?

In 2008 I started working at The Vineyard as a concierge and really enjoyed it as I developed lots of knowledge about the hotel. I was awarded employee of the year in 2009 and then decided to leave to pursue a career outside of hospitality. It was only really then that I realised how passionate I was working for a hotel so I applied for a role at The Vineyard’s sister property, Donnington Valley in 2010, and have been here ever since.

How did your career begin and how has it developed?

Whilst working at Donnington I have studied with HIT training in Hospitality Supervision and Leadership, together with internal training. I have been able to complete these courses and positions have become available to me, from junior to senior management.

What interested you most about working for Donnington Valley?

There is room for progression here and you receive lots of opportunities for training.

Now that you have been promoted by Bar Manager to Assistant Manager, what will your role involve?

I plan to take everything I have learned and pass it on in areas that need it most. Hopefully improving customer service and enhancing the product we deliver. This will range from how we employ people and the skills set we look for to the training that is given to staff and receiving and acting upon both positive and negative guest feedback.

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