When friends invited me to lunch at the new Southwest Mountain Vineyard yesterday, I gladly accepted. It was a glorious Indian Summer afternoon with the colored leaves brighter than I’ve ever seen in my 24 years in Virginia.
The tasting room is nestled along the foothills of the southwest mountains off majestic highway 231. The fully restored tasting room has been converted from a historic barn that dates to the early 1900s. When I entered the huge barn, I felt like I was walking into a multimillion-dollar movie set.
We sat outside on the upstairs deck overlooking the countryside and the owner’s estate. Greg Lewis is the chef and hails from Maya Restaurant. He and the general manager, Ryan Mitchell, were delightful! I was in no mood for a salad when I eyed a BLT with pesto on the menu. Delicious! Such a treat. The oysters and the warm apple and brie panini with fig spread didn’t disappoint either!
This is a great place to visit when it’s cold and rainy, too. There is so much indoor space to kick back and relax!
I had the good fortune of being invited to the opening of Forked on Main in the historic town of Orange just a ½ hour drive from Clifton. It is filled with charm and the owners, Stephanie and Chef Will, are so welcoming. Our cocktails and bites were delicious, so I couldn’t wait to get back for a full-blown dinner. I wasn’t disappointed. Although I am not a wine snob, I do like a good glass of house chardonnay and that’s what I got. Our server offered our group a pretzel to start. Hmm, I wasn’t so sure about that but boy, a large crusty pretzel that was perfectly soft on the inside with dipping sauce arrived. It didn’t last long! I like to order healthy meals, so I went with the Ahi Tuna Tartar with scallions and jalapeno peppers. Excellent! All the while I was eyeing everyone else’s pasta. Finally, I couldn’t resist and asked for a bite (which ended up being two). The mushroom pesto campanelle was creamy and made with house-made pesto and fresh parmesan. Grilled shrimp was added to one dish. Out of this world!! When I went back to the gourmet kitchen to thank Will for the perfect meal, I eyed the burgers and salads ready to go out. That was the icing on the cake. It’s the food, the vibe, the wine, and cocktails. I can’t wait to go back!
P.S. Just in - $5 Margaritas on Wednesday nights and live music on Thursday nights.
Last weekend I did something that I’d never done before. I took a Bateau River cruise. Owners Will and Will (yes, same name, friends since high school) took us up the James from Scottsville while filling us in on the bygone era of batteaumen, which our group found fascinating! I’m terrified of water, so this was a big stretch for me. I never let on, but Will and Will would have never noticed because the ride was so smooth, and I never felt frightened. If anything, I felt the most relaxed that I have felt in a very long time. It’s so peaceful out there with the views of the riverbank and wildlife. If you go, be sure to ask the guys about the funny bobcat story (I was horrified)! Halfway through our ride they pulled us into a cove and brought out two gorgeous platters of cheese and charcuterie that we all enjoyed with ice water that they provided. It was quite elegant. As we slowly made our way back to the dock, I could only imagine how nice the sunset cruise would be. I could picture the sun setting over the river, Will playing his guitar and all of us sipping wine (they provide pretty ice buckets and cups for libations). And just relaxing again!! I’m looking forward to that and seeing Will and Will again as their passion for the batteau is infectious.
I’m just back from a weekend in southern Vermont where the adorable small towns are nestled in the green mountains with charm in every direction. I’m from New England originally, so being there just filled my heart. However, it’s never sad for me to leave a place to come home to Charlottesville!
Last week, two of my colleagues and myself were invited to Mount Ida Tasting Room & Taphouse for lunch to try out their new menu. The Tasting Room and Taphouse are situated atop Mount Ida’s 5,000-acre reserve, which has expanded in recent years. The structure itself is enormous and feels like you’ve entered a fabulous ski lodge in Montana. Like many of the vineyards in the area, the views of the Blue Ridge Mountains are spectacular. There is a sprawling area for children to run and play, outdoor firepits and plenty of comfortable seats inside and outside to stretch out and relax on. Oh, and it’s pet friendly!
Catie Ardito and Jackie Callo, who are in sales there, hosted our delicious lunch. They couldn’t have been more gracious. We decided to share plates since the menu looked so good. I love homemade hummus and pita and ate almost all of it before anyone else could. Delish! The citrus salad, chicken sandwich and chili were also very appetizing, but the chef’s rigatoni was out of this world!! I already knew their home-made pizzas and burgers were a mainstay. I didn’t indulge in any of their wine or beer (there are lots of both) because I was the designated driver, but my colleagues certainly approved!
Chef Adam Jankowski hails from the Inn at Little Washington, a Three-Michelin Star rating. No surprise there! The good news is the restaurant stays open on Friday and Saturday nights until 8:00 pm. Perfect for a sunset dinner. All and all, it was a lovely afternoon laughing and getting to know one another. Catie and Jackie are both knowledgeable and charming. We are looking forward to doing lots of events with them in the future.
Please stop by the front desk to pick up a voucher for a complimentary wine or beer flight.
Well, winter is here! As the air starts to chill, it’s time to turn things indoors. I had the pleasure of visiting a new vineyard just outside of the charming town of Orange just north of us near historic James Madison’s Montpelier.
Woodbrook Farm and Vineyard has been family-owned since the 1950’s, with lots of history, hundreds of acres, an old race track and beautiful barns. I had a chance to meet the owners (Vaughan, Robert, Noel and Carey), who exude enthusiasm and for good reason. With their own hands they restored the old horse barn into a masterpiece! You will find huge ceilings, wooden beams everywhere and fabulous views of their farm and the Blue Ridge Mountains (sunsets are amazing). Grab a flight and order a cheese or charcuterie board and take it all in.
They will be featuring barn parties in the near future with music and food trucks. Check out the website for more information (and for a clearer view of the property, as my phone just doesn’t do it justice)! http://woodbrookfarmvineyard.com/
I’ve been a regular at our Clifton bar for years. Hands down it has the best burger and pear salad in town and Chris, our bartender, is very entertaining! However, I revisited our 1799 Restaurant recently and WOW is all I can say. The flavors were nothing I had experienced. My salmon, mussels and bone marrow were absolutely delicious. Everything is fresh and cooked just right. I especially enjoyed the intimate atmosphere with the fireplace aglow and our server was impeccable. I can’t wait to go back and try more!
Carter Mountain Orchard
Fall is in full swing and visiting Carter Mountain Orchard and Vineyard is about as nostalgic as it gets. Once you arrive at the top of the mountain, you experience breathtaking views of Charlottesville below and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance, while sipping a glass of wine or a Bold Rock Cider. Soft serve ice cream, homemade apple cinnamon doughnuts (often just out of the oven), homemade apple pies (take one home to freeze for the holidays) are just a few of the highlights. Pick your own or purchase a satchel of apples and grab some pumpkins before you head out!
Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar
If you like Mediterranean food as much as I do, try Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar on West Main Street downtown. It had been a while since I dined there and was pleasantly surprised when visiting with friends last week! The ambiance is always important to me and this place nails it. Plenty of exposed brick, fine art on the walls with a nice, hip warehouse vibe. However, the food is the best part! The hummus with fresh baked pita was some of the best I’ve ever had with so much flavor! The Caesar Salad is always delicious (I get it every time), but I thought I’d go out on a limb and try the Fennel Salad and it was perfection! Light and tasty. Everyone at my table had nothing but rave reviews. Try the Passport Menu which is a special collection of new dishes exploring a different region of the Mediterranean each month. The wine and specialty cocktails are not to be missed! Cheers to the new chef!
While the summer season is beginning to wind down, the best weather for playing golf is fast approaching.
Many of Clifton’s guests are avid golfers and ask me about the best courses to play in our area. While there are many great options in the area, four stand out.
Birdwood Golf Course at the Boar’s Head Resort just west of downtown is a beautiful public course and home to the University of Virginia men’s and women’s golf teams. Partnering with PGA Professional Davis Love III and Love Gold Design, they redesigned their 18 holes and added a new six-hole par-3 course and an extensive putting course. Enjoy a cold beer at the Birdwood Bar & Grill after your game!
Birdwood Golf at Boar's Head Resort
Golf Magazine voted Spring Creek as one of the best 100 public golf courses in 2020 and our guests will attest to that. It’s challenging for all levels of play and has exceptional views. Tavern on the Green is a nice pub to enjoy lunch!
Old Trail Golf Course is a privately owned public course and is nestled right up against the Blue Ridge Mountains so the views are spectacular (you’ll also get a view of an alpaca farm run by retired all-star pitcher, Billy Wagner)! It includes 4 sets of tees to appeal to golfers of all playing abilities.
Old Trail Golf Course
The Club at Glenmore provides a fun and adventurous 18-hole course. Your round will consist of unique layouts and scenic views throughout one of Central Virginia’s most prominent neighborhoods. In general, Glenmore is a private club, but Clifton has a special partnership with them, due to the fact that we are neighbors!
The Club at Glenmore
Fee and Tee times vary so feel free to call me for reservations.
My Saturday morning go-to is always Charlottesville’s open-air Farmer’s Market. It’s known as one of the best on the East Coast and for good reason! There are two locations, IX Park and the Water Street parking lot. Both are bustling with dogs on leashes, strollers, UVA students and everyone in town gathers here for the abundant produce, flowers, authentic cultural foods (too many to name), artisan breads, and fresh coffee. The Farmer's Market provides the opportunity to enjoy a special Charlottesville tradition, while also supporting local business!
It truly is a Charlottesville event not to be missed April thru September 8:00 am – 12:00 pm and October thru November 8:00 am – 1:00 pm.
Spring has sprung here in Charlottesville, and it’s gorgeous! Hundreds of peonies are beginning to blossom here on our property, along with the dozens of other flowers and trees that make Clifton so magical this time of year. There is so much to do in-and-around here on beautiful days like this one.
However nice the weather - and even (or, rather, especially) when it's raining, Charlottesville's Dairy Market is a must do! Dating back to 1912, this former Monticello Ice Cream Company building, located at 946 Grady Ave, Charlottesville, VA 22903, has a unique, rustic-industrial charm. Its high ceilings and exposed brick are complemented by more modern flourishes, such as white tile walls and bright lighting.
THE DAIRY MARKET
Decor aside, the food selections are plentiful. Ranging from Latin to Filipino to Soul Food, there's something for everyone. From delicious burgers to UVA favorite Take It Away's sandwiches, you can't go wrong. Living up to its name, the market has one of the best ice-cream options in town - Moo Thru is known throughout the area for its “real ice cream from real dairy farmers” ethos. If you're dairy-free, like me, the scrumptious dairy-free chocolate chip cookies at the sweet little bakery Bee Conscious are sure to keep you happy!
TAKE It away sandwich shop & angelica's kitchen
If thirst is on your mind, the Milkman bar is a classic option for a great cocktail. A favorite local bastion, Starr Hill Brewery, sits at the end of the building - you can take your food of choice here and order a cold beer while you watch your favorite sports team (Go Hoos!) or listen to live music when available.
Moving beyond food, the market also features two high-end boutique shops that are an absolute joy to poke around in as well.
Overall, the Dairy Market is a fun, lively experience, showcasing some of what makes Charlottesville so special. You won’t leave hungry!!
Until next time. Happy Spring!
Hailing originally from Connecticut, Ann has lived in Charlottesville for 22 years. She's been passionately working as concierge at the Clifton since 2006 and knows the property like a second home. Stop by anytime to get your insider info on the Clifton and the surrounding area!
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