You’d think that the best part of staying at a winery — and by staying, I don’t mean overstaying your welcome in the tasting room, but actually bedding down for the night — would be proximity to the wine. You know, in a stumble-back-to-the-room-instead-of-driving kind of way.
There’s plenty to appreciate about that, true.
But when my boyfriend, Carl, and I stayed at the Farmhouse at Veritas in Afton, Va., this summer, we were so busy taking in all the views and deciding between sweet or savory for breakfast, the porch or the gazebo for dinner, reading or playing billards or strolling, that we almost forgot to make time to walk across the property to the winery itself.
Not that we needed to go even that far to get a wine fix. At the Farmhouse, it’s everywhere you turn.
Take our two-level room, dubbed Derby, with its vaulted ceiling, wide pine floors, rattan couch, blooming orchids and circular staircase leading to a loft bed. Right in front of the TV downstairs, a gratis bottle of chardonnay sat in an empty ice bucket, and we had to decide whether to ask for ice and pop it open that night, or pack it for the ride home. (We chose the latter.) Outside the picture windows, the light was fading, but we could still see row upon row of vines: petit verdot grapes in one direction, merlot and viognier in the other.
And back in the kitchen and parlor, where we headed for pre-dinner socializing, little plates of fruit, cheese and charcuterie tempted us — along with more wine. I sipped on a peachy Veritas viognier as we chatted up fellow guests who’d commandeered the billiards table.
It was one of those breezy, cool August nights that made so many people happy this summer, perfect for sitting on the porch for dinner, a lovely multi-course affair of elegant-but-not-complicated food (think goat-cheese-stuffed Anaheim peppers over corn hash) paired with — do I even need to say? We unwound from the long drive and felt all our citified concerns start to slip away, assisted in no small part by the farmhouse staff’s seamless service. As proof of how relaxed (or was it drunk?) I became, the notes on the dinner’s second course that I typed into my smartphone consisted of this: “vinaigrettenisninceecovlw.”
It wasn’t until the next morning that we walked around the property a little, starting with the substantial kitchen garden, which boasted more tomato varieties than I could count, plus eggplants, peppers and herbs. It all showed up in the cooking, of course, including the “savory” option I chose for breakfast (while Carl went “sweet”): grilled zucchini with tomato coulis and a fried egg over hash browns. I skipped the wine and sipped cup after cup of good, strong French-press coffee. If the meal’s lightness, compared with what you get at so many lesser B&Bs, was my favorite thing about it, the coffee was a close second.
Then, porch-sitting time. The farmhouse has a stunner: wide, wrap-around, with lots of rockers and hanging plants and shade from majestic trees, plus those views again. Rows of grapes. Horses. In the distance, were those sheep?
We couldn’t resist the call of the winery for too long, but we tried to be respectable and waited until after we’d had lunch a few miles away before returning and making the 10-minute walk from farmhouse to tasting room. The stroll took us right past those sheep, chasing one another playfully in a field. Goose, a six-month-old black lab, came charging over to greet us; Chloe, the farmhouse manager, made the introductions. Horses were being set up for riding; we got some nose-patting in just as fellow guests were saddling up for a tour.
At the tasting room, I strode up to the bar, beneath a giant “Love” sign and next to a group of women who were seemingly buying everything they could get their hands on. The tasting room manager moved deftly between groups and gave me her take on each wine as I swirled, sipped and acted like I knew what I was talking about. Carl, meanwhile, was content to occupy one of the cushy leather sofas nearby and catch up on his social media accounts.
Did I mention that he doesn’t drink? That’s right, I took a non-drinker to a winery for the weekend. If anything proves how much a well-run bed-and-breakfast can add to the tourism experience in Virginia wine country, it’s the fact that he enjoyed himself as much as I did. Possibly more.
I know this because on our final morning, he slowed to a crawl, clearly wanting to delay our inevitable departure. He wasn’t the only one. While we waited for breakfast, I nursed another big mug of coffee on the porch as we watched a far-off tractor snake its way through the sloped rows of grapes and time ticked by. The morning light was pure gold, birds chirped, crickets buzzed, farm equipment hummed in the distance. Another couple rocked away around the corner, facing the garden and smiling peaceful smiles.
“Nice spot for coffee, isn’t it?” I said in their direction.
“Yes,” the woman replied. “Or for anything. We just sit on this side a while, and then we go to that side and sit a while, and then we come back here.”
If that’s not the definition of a good vacation, I don’t know what is.
The Farmhouse at Veritas
72 Saddleback Farm
Six rooms starting at $160, breakfast included.