When in Virginia

When in Virginia is a resource to help you learn more about the obvious and not-so-obvious opportunities to explore and enjoy Virginia.Casey Higgins, the author, previously wrote for Virginia Tourism Corporation’s Virginia Travel Blog. You can scroll through an archive of her work for more great finds and ideas.Interested in hiring Ms. Higgins to write a travel article? Please contact her at WhatToDo@WhenInVirginia.com.See the latest post here: https://wheninvirginia.com/2016/08/25/blue-ridge-whiskey-wine-loop/

Here are two articles about the Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop Partners.

Virginia’s Sweetest Cabin Escape

Shadow Mountain Escape. Photo by Casey L. Higgins

In Luray, cabins are a dime a dozen. In fact, Page County is known as (and gubernatorially proclaimed in 2009) the “Cabin Capital of Virginia” due to the more than 250 cabins located within its borders. For every size family there is a cabin to match, but for couples, there’s absolutely one destination worth your while: Shadow Mountain Escape.

Pulling into the drive at Shadow Mountain Escape delivers a reaction of “sold!” The grounds are pristine and lovingly manicured by owners and hosts Ralph and Karen Riddle, including a short but serene nature trail through a section of the 15-acre property. A focal point is the stream-fed pond, with handmade benches for sitting and staying awhile. There are several of those benches, in fact, and Ralph made them himself.


Butterfly Cabin: Romantic Delight

Sweet Lola, the Boston Terrier, enjoys greeting guests with Karen, who offers a warm welcome and tour of your accommodation. Ours was the Butterfly Cabin, a romantic reprieve modeled after a salt box barn. The ceiling soars and the kitchenette is well equipped with a stove, refrigerator, and Keurig with a nice variety of k-cups. The bathroom is spacious, and we found that if you happened to forget shampoo (we didn’t, but might’ve), the problem was solved with a full-size bottle beneath the sink.

The main room is arranged into two spaces – a sitting area with a very comfortable leather couch and satellite television, and the “let’s get it on” area with an equally comfortable queen size Argentinian iron bed. There’s even an amber-shaded lamp and fireplace for mood-inducing ambiance.

Double glass doors open to a balcony outfitted with a wrought iron patio table and very comfortable chairs. The striking red umbrella adds a pop of color to the natural surroundings. From that perch, guests are likely to see late evening or early morning wildlife passing through. Ralph said turkey, deer, and bear are common visitors. I enjoyed hearing the frogs sing.

Bumblebee, Dragonfly & Ladybug

After we settled in, Ralph and Karen hosted us for a mini reception. We learned that Ralph’s upbringing in Germany led to the 100% authentic oak timber frame construction of the cabins. He said white oak is the wood of choice, and old German style timber framing dates to the 1300’s. There isn’t a single nail used in framing, rather, you’ll see wooden pegs in the beams. Ralph said the castles (yes, castles!) he grew up around were timber frame, and there was no question that his own endeavor would mimic them.

Karen graciously showed us all of the available cabins, and two things struck me. The furnishings are beautiful, genuine European pieces, and there are wrought iron details everywhere. I noted this aloud, and she said a craftsman in Culpeper, Virginia created every piece of iron. More than that, Ralph designed every piece, delivering a hand-drawn concept that the craftsman turned into reality. About the European furnishings, Karen said she believes they have the largest collection of authentic trunks on the East Coast. She and Ralph collected them while living overseas, then shipped them to Virginia upon their return.

The Ladybug Cabin is the smallest of the collection, but that makes it all the more intimate. A spiral staircase leads from the entrance and sitting area to the bedroom where picture windows bring the outside in. Karen calls it “the bird cage,” but I call it heavenly.

Bear Dance Lodge includes the Dragonfly and Bumblebee cabins, as well as La Cantina and an observation tower. Both “cabins” are two-story, incredibly spacious getaways. In fact, Karen said the most recent guests of Bumblebee stayed several days and never left the property!

The Keys to Shadow Mountain Escape

  • Shadow Mountain Escape is a couples-only destination.
  • The cabins of Shadow Mountain Escape are certified “Virginia Green,” meaning there are numerous environment-first practices in place and practiced, not the least of which is the recycling center. SME was recognized as a Virginia Green Leader in 2011, and awarded Virginia Green Cabin of the Year in 2014, 2015, and 2016.
  • Cabins do not include telephones and there is little to no cell phone service at the property. WiFi can be accessed at Bear Dance Lodge. A telephone is provided there as well.
  • Wine is available in each cabin, making an add-on to your stay readily and easily available. You’ll find red and white choices in a custom-designed, wrought iron hanging bottle display.
  • Shadow Mountain Escape abuts Shenandoah National Park, putting trails and nature just steps away.
  • Saturday night stays include s’mores! Ralph builds a fire in the pit and Karen provides the graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate for the guests.
  • Pizza delivery is a reality! If you don’t want to cook or go out, have dinner brought to you.
  • Ask Karen about the Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop, a fun day trip to surrounding establishments.

Check the reservation calendar today. SME books fast (especially weekends)!

This article was sponsored by Shadow Mountain Escape.
Images by Casey L. Higgins. All rights reserved.

Whisky-Wine Excursions from Shenandoah National Park

Shenandoah National Park is Virginia’s crown jewel for outdoor exploration. Here, hiking, biking, birding, wildlife, and relaxation abound in the mountains above the Shenandoah Valley. Trails lead to incomparable summit views as well as breathtaking waterfalls. While there is much to see and much to do within the park, you don’t want to miss out on some the wonderful experiences outside the park, too. Add an extra night to your stay just to see what you might be missing.

Skyland Shuttle Excursions are a new thing at Shenandoah National Park, and the options are growing as demand grows. Just launched in April 2016 is the Whisky-Wine Excursion which visits two nearby wineries and a distillery. The excursions are open to overnight guests of Skyland, Big Meadows Lodge, or Lewis Cabins on select Mondays and Fridays.

Skyland Shuttle Excursions. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.

During my recent visit to Skyland, I had the pleasure of tagging along on a Whisky-Wine Excursion. Our driver, Jerry, was a very knowledgeable gentleman with a passion for the history of Shenandoah National Park and a keen eye for wildlife. We narrowly spared the life of a black snake on Skyline Drive while actively watching for black bears and whitetail deer.

Jerry quizzed me on my SNP knowledge and I think I earned at least a B. I’m told a Park History Excursion could be in the works …

Our first stop was Copper Fox Distillery, a tucked away lab, of sorts, where mastermind distillers work their magic on Northern Neck Virginia-grown barley. Our guide, Tom, gave the room-by-room tour explaining most everything from the malting process to bottling, which is done by hand – labeling, sealing, and all. Tom said everything is done the traditional way at Copper Fox except for the aging. There’s a special process for creating the perfect Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky.

Copper Fox Distillery. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.

Winemaker Bob Claymier with writer Casey L. Higgins and Karen Riddle, owner of Shadow Mountain Escape in Luray.
Winemaker Bob Claymier with writer Casey L. Higgins and Karen Riddle, owner of Shadow Mountain Escape.

Next up was Desert Rose Ranch & Winery, a small vineyard and horse farm that’s big on personality and love. Winemaker Bob Claymier personally offered up his eight wines for tasting, each with a memorable name and a story to go with it. Bob said Ole Moo Moo White, a blend fermented in stainless steel, has been a customer favorite since day one. “Ole Moo Moo” was the name of a moo moo, if you wondered. Tasting options at Desert Rose range from four-for-$5 (red or white) to the Posse (all eight plus two club wines).

Desert Rose’s tasting room is spacious, and outdoor seating gives guests options, too, so we settled in to enjoy our picnic. A fresh Caesar salad as well as cheese, salami, and crackers were more than enough to push us on through the day.

Desert Rose Winery. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.

Our final stop was Rappahannock Cellars, a California style vineyard with a lovely tree-lined walk that makes one linger. The tasting room porch has tables and chairs begging for someone to sit and sip a while. Inside the massive front door is a glass wall giving you a view of the production below. To the right is a glass engraver doing what she does so well, and to the left is what you’ve been looking for: the wine bar.

Sheritage, a Sheri who married her name with Meritage, guided us through our tasting of Rappahannock wines as only she could. Her wit and humor were a sweet cherry on top of a great day, plus she knows her wine and interesting things to do with it. Sheritage makes Ghirardelli brownies and substitutes the prescribed water with their 2014 port, Red Dessert Wine. “It makes them really moist,” she said. Of Solera, a sun-aged Vidal heritage back-blend that has a nutty nose, she recommends basting a turkey or even dashing a bit over your ice cream. #WinningWineIdeas

Sheritage at Rappahannock Cellars. Photo by Casey L. Higgins.
Sheritage of Rappahannock Cellars.

So about that Excursion …

The Details:

  • Add the Whisky-Wine Excursion to your overnight for $70 per person.
  • The shuttle boards at 10:30 a.m. at Skyland. Expect to return by 5 p.m.
  • Destinations include Copper Fox Distillery, Desert Rose Winery, and Rappahannock Cellars.
  • A delicious picnic lunch is included.
  • Tasting fees range from $7 to $10 and are the responsibility of the guest.
  • Guests must be 21 or older to board the shuttle.

Are you ready for your Whisky-Wine Excursion? Book Now

This article was sponsored by Delaware North, authorized concessioner of Shenandoah National Park.