Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Escaping to Virginia's Cool Rolling Hills

Scottsville, VA
This July, I enjoyed a few days away from the summer heat of the Chesapeake Bay by heading south, ironically. We headed west to an area just east of the Shenandoah Valley to a little town called Scottsville. A few months earlier, I made reservations with a Bed and Breakfast called the High Meadows Vineyard Inn. The reviews looked good and I was hoping to combine a pleasure trip along with a work day for my husband as he often had to drive down there for business. My plan worked and that Friday, after he finished his appointments in Fredericksburg, we continued southwest to our destination. 

Kickshaws Downtown Market
But let me back up for just a second. If you like antiquing, Fredericksburg has more antique stores than I have ever seen. I browsed through many but didn't find anything that I needed so they didn't get my money. I did stop in a little shop, Kickshaws Downtown Market for a drink and ended up buying a basket of little beautiful red plums. They have a nice assortment of fresh produce and grains, coffee, and I think they are worth your time to check out. We did find a little place to get lunch close by that is worth mentioning, the Happy Clam.

The Happy Clam
We drove by the place and there was a big open sign and with a name like that, we took the bait. The food was simple, but so delicious; huge portions of fried flounder, very lightly breaded with cornmeal and served as fresh as if it came out of the water. The price was low and the sides were fun, but it was the fish that shone. We saw that they served soft shelled crabs as well as a nice assortment of seafood. Plenty of customers were ordering food to go while we ate our lunch.

The High Meadows Vineyard Inn
Check in was around four, but we didn't make it until closer to five. Thankfully, we had GPS for directions as the Inn was in a little town, on a little road, on a little driveway. The Inn is eclectic at fist sight. Bright colors adorn every surface of the exterior and bright pink doors accepted our entrance. The hostess, Nancy greeted us as we entered and proceeded to explain the home, the history and her passion for the place. Our room was large with high ceilings, a handsome king-sized bed that was almost too high for me to jump up on and a large jacuzzi tub. After wandering around the place and the well gardened grounds, we headed out to check out the James River and the downtown of Scottsville. A large levee held back potential flood waters and kept the tiny town safe but blocked off the view of the river. The river made a deep bend at the town and a tall bridge crosses at the site. A train track runs between the town and the river and plenty of history is obvious in the older homes and buildings. Heavy rain made the water brown and filled the banks. 

The Smokehouse Grille
There were a few restaurants in town and we chose the Smokehouse Grille. There was a decent crowd inside and we had to wait a few minutes at the bar. We didn't even notice the wait when their bartender served us a perfectly poured mint mojito. The restaurant interior was a nicely decorated mix of wood walls and floors and artwork. Since it was summertime and still a decent temperature outside, we chose to sit on their outside patio overlooking the smoker. Writing a good review of our dinner was not hard as the brisket was so well flavored and incredibly tender. The ribs were full of smoky flavor and we had three of their house-made sauces to dip them in. A shout-out also goes to the baked beans - some of the best we have ever eaten. We assumed we ordered enough to take back with us for a midnight snack, but we finished every bite.  Apparently they also had some amazing desserts but we were too full to try any. Our sweet tooth was satisfied with a delicious locally brewed stout beer.

Inside the High Meadows Vineyard Inn
That night, we situated ourselves in our room and watched a movie on my laptop as none of the other guests of the Inn were around and it was too buggy to go outside. As morning greeted us with a rather gray face and with the sound of rain on the windows, we were dubious about rafting on the rain-swollen river. We decided on a change of plans that involved checking out the local wineries - but after breakfast. 

Bed and breakfasts are always a risk as you never know what kind of accommodations or food you might get - but we are not too worried about the risk as we enjoy the newness of each one. Our breakfast was served on the back porch and included tender crepes, plenty of fresh fruit and great coffee. We left for the day with our appetites satisfied.

The James River Brewery

  If you ever have the time, you should check out the vineyards of Virginia. The rolling hills patterned with the rows of vines make you think you are visiting Italy. We checked out several wineries and got the impression that the wine industry is still evolving in Virginia, even though commercial.grapevines were planted as early as 1970. The humidity and rain are not friendly to grapevines. Lots of the wineries are experimenting with fruit flavored wines. By the end of the day, we were ready for a change and found a brewpub (The James River Brewery) to listen to some live music in their beer garden and enjoy some of their stout. Since they did not serve food, we ordered pizza from a restaurant across the street and relaxed until the sun set and the mosquitoes took over. 

The view from Carter Mountain Orchard
We found the area perfect for a weekend visit and were ready to hit the road again (after another delicious breakfast of eggs benedict and multi-colored melon wedges.) On the way out of town, we found the most amazing  apple orchard on the top of a mountain overlooking the whole area - The Carter Mountain Orchard. Fresh peach doughnuts perfumed the orchard store and if you are ever looking for an amazing place to enjoy lunch, they have plenty of picnic tables overlooking the panorama below.

So that was our escape to  the cool rolling hills of Virginia. Check it out for yourself if you have a weekend free.