The husband and I just returned from a night away visiting two local gems to celebrate the anniversary of when we began dating (cute, right?). I love when we get to support local businesses, and even more so when we can support local agriculture. And we had a delicious time doing it.
On the way to our ultimate destination, we decided on a whim to stop at (and by this I mean my husband literally stopped short on Virginia’s Route 17 to make the turn into) Delaplane Cellars, located on Ball Mountain, about 20 miles from the West Virginia border. What a treat.
My photo does not do justice to the panoramic views offered by the open floor plan and wall of windows at the winery, so I hope you will visit the website. Overlooking the Rural Historic Crooked Run Valley, with acres of grape vines, the view is truly breathtaking.
Delaplane Cellars is a boutique winery, offering a small selection of carefully perfected wines. For tasting they currently offer two Viogniers (each featuring grapes from a different Virginia grower) and three Bordeaux blends. They grow four of the five Bordeaux varietals on their own property (with their first homegrown vintage in barrels now) but source most of their grapes from other Virginia vineyards. They strive to craft their wines around the particular terroir of each growing site.
One of the most pleasing facets of the winery is the fact that so much about it is eco-minded. The gorgeous tasting bar and impressive front doors are crafted from black walnut trees removed from the site during construction. The lighter wood floors are similarly a combination of fence boards from the site and matching used pieces found at the lumbar yard. I was impressed with the sign in the (very nice) restrooms (I actually took a picture, but it wasn’t readable on the site) explaining that their toilet paper maybe not be the softest but was recycled, the hand-soap is eco-friendly, and the hand-dryers are to reduce their carbon footprint. My husband noticed that the disposable cups at the water station were a corn by-product that would degrade in 3 months!
When we stopped in on the way home (yes, we went there two days in a row), we enjoyed some local cheese with our bottle of the Honah Lee Viognier. It was a firm rosemary goat cheese and it was AWESOME. Incredibly creamy-tasting, and very… un-goaty. (I love goat cheese, but the mildness of this was a delicious surprise.)
The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. (We ask a lot of questions, and they didn’t seem irritated at all.) And on our second visit we even got to enjoy some great live music by Brian Franke.
As a non-native Virginian, I’ve really come to love many things about my now-home state: the flowering trees in spring, the rich history, and the gorgeous, diverse wineries. We are so thrilled to discover a new favorite, which we can happily support because of their local sourcing, environmental stewardship and GREAT wine.
As much as we enjoyed our new discovery, it was not the star of our trip. We were traveling that way because we were headed to the breathtaking Hillbrook Inn in our neighboring state of West Virginia. (Yes, I know I’ve used breathtaking already in this post, but really, breathtaking is the right word.)
It. Is. Gorgeous.
Even the ride there was so beautiful. There was breathtaking lovely natural scenery, picturesque farms (many with very interesting and unique cattle breeds), and historic churches. Charles Town proper is charming and historically interesting. (Did you know that it is named after, and was laid out by, native Virginian Charles Washington, George’s brother?) We saw the courthouse where John Brown was tried for – and convicted of – murder, conspiring with slaves to rebel, and treason against Virginia. (He was hanged just four blocks from there.)
Anyway, back to Hillbrook. We stayed in the Bamford Suite, a room in the main house, an English Tudor inn built down the hillside on land that once belonged to George Washington. Although most of the current structure was built in 1920, construction began in the 1700s.
We loved walking the grounds, with the lush green grass, majestic stands of trees, flowering spring bulbs, pond complete with a nesting goose family, extra-large chess set and walking bridge over the tranquil babbling stream. (And we saw just a tiny fraction of the 18 acres!) The staff is wonderful and warm, especially Bobbi, who greeted us upon our arrival and led our tour of the home. Carrissa Zanella, the owner, is very attentive and makes sure that each guest’s stay is delightful.
We bought a package deal through Living Social, and so there was nice bubbly and yummy strawberries, along with a homemade cookie/ brownie tray, waiting for us in our room. (I’m including this note for my friend, Noelle: The brownies were OUTstanding. I mean really, really good. I ate two.)
Shortly after settling in, we headed down to the tavern for some cocktails. Our timing was perfect because Carissa was just bringing down her husband’s homemade Kahlua. Yes, you read that right, homemade Kahlua. Mixed with cream, it was out of this world: complex, deep and delicious.
For dinner, we chose the early seating, three-course. The excellent main course: pork tenderloin with an apple cider reduction, a unique eco-farmed rice varietal, crisp snap peas and green beans. It was preceded by spring celery soup (yum!) and followed by a very decadent chocolate dessert with a coffee sauce. As we were eating (read: devouring) that, the chef, Christine Hale, came out to greet us. I asked her about her food sourcing and she explained that she buys locally as much as she can. She enjoys creating the fixed menu so she can choose the very best and freshest local produce and meats.
After dinner we hit the nearby Hollywood Casino. It is huge! We had a great time and discovered that I’m really good at Blackjack! My (very wise) husband convinced me to quit while I was ahead (“But I’m on a hot streak!”), and we visited the Final Cut Steakhouse in the casino for fancy cocktails. Norman’s rum, cherry and mint concoction that the bartender crafted just for him was incredible, and my citrusy Mantini was quite good as well. The food menu actually boasted about their corn-fed beef – Boo! – but also had some good options such as free-range chicken and wild-caught salmon. After checking out the appetizer menu, we decided we had to order the Braised Oxtails. I’ve been wanting to try oxtails for some time (I have this recipe in my sights). This was bedded on creamed celery root (yea for spring veggies!) and was just fabulous.
After cashing out our winnings (!), we headed back to the Inn. We both enjoyed a well-needed comfy night’s sleep. You know those times when the bed is the ideal firmness, and the pillows are cool and cushiony, and the weight of the blankets is perfect? It was like that. The early morning rain made our historic room so cozy that I actually went back to sleep after my usual early waking.
We finally headed out to breakfast at about nine. The omelet with fresh veggies, sausage and homemade pumpkin muffin were perfect, as was the pastry with apple, caramel and cream. I topped off our palate-pleasing morning relaxation with a Bloody Mary as we read the paper and lit a fire back in our room. (A few notes here: I realized that I never get to read the paper. And certainly not one actually printed on paper. But I’m glad I don’t; it’s quite frustrating. I also came across a very interesting article that I will be posting on in the next couple of days. Make sure to check back for that. And finally, Hillbrook Inn staff and other guests, we sincerely apologize for setting off the smoke detectors. Twice.)
I was sad to turn in our keys and check-out, but I comforted myself with the thought that we will most assuredly be back. Perhaps next time we will try one of the other room options, or even one of the cottages elsewhere on the grounds. It’s wonderful to have a vacation option that is not only luxurious and fun, but also enables you to nourish your body and support local economies and food producers.
And maybe I’ll do a post on all my Blackjack tips, and you can win enough to cover your stay. (Like we did! )
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