A Hidden Gem in Wine Country

When the winding roads and rolling hills around Crozet, Virginia deposit you on the doorstep of the Inn at Stinson Vineyards, you might not be entirely certain you’ve found the right destination. With its front door painted a cheery turquoise, the modest exterior of this renovated late model home once occupied by a member of the Stinson family belies the real “wow” factor waiting inside, as I learned on a recent visit with my co-worker and friend Lisa Davenport.

From the moment you step in, your gaze and energy are drawn through the building’s main floor—centered on a light-filled, spacious foyer and dining room with vaulted ceilings—to a set of glass doors with transom windows that form a cathedral-style panoramic view of rows of grapevines cascading downhill against a backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In the heart of Virginia wine country and less than 20 miles from Charlottesville, this is a don’t-miss that’s off the beaten path.

That “aaaaaah” feeling of exhaling and drinking in the natural beauty is meant to last throughout your stay at this modern, intimate, four-bedroom mountain getaway— opened in 2018 and accommodating up to nine guests—a bespoke experience from breakfast until bedtime for wine-lovers and foodies and anyone serious about wanting to unwind and unplug. That’s all by design, says innkeeper and general manager Stephanie Campbell.

“It’s a place that allows people to come and truly escape and take a deep breath in a way,” Campbell explains. “It’s not fast-paced. There are not a lot of activities. It’s a time to indulge, to sit around on the screened-in porch and enjoy a glass of sauvignon blanc. It’s a getaway, a little slice of paradise for rejuvenation.”

That glass of sauvignon blanc will likely be the namesake small-batch, family-owned estate winery’s own 2019 vintage, fermented in concrete and stainless steel, and boasting tasting notes of “stone fruit and Meyer lemon zest on the nose” and “fresh boxwood and a wet stone minerality.” Flights of Stinson’s wines are available to taste in the Inn’s cellar or next door at the winery tasting room and bottles can be purchased at either location.

Stinson Vineyards is co-owned by Scott Stinson and his daughter Rachel Stinson Vroonman and takes inspiration from the “garagiste” wineries of the Bordeux region of France, right down to the winery itself, which is built into an old three-car garage. The original vines on the property were planted by Garbiele Rouse, often deemed the father of the Virginia wine industry, but they were replanted in 2009 and produced their first vintage, a cabernet franc, in 2010.

Back at the Inn, guests are greeted each morning by an elegant, full-service, three-course breakfast—served inside or on the deck overlooking the seasonal, heated pool and aforementioned stunning view—incorporating local ingredients and produce right from the Inn’s garden. It almost always includes a guest favorite, their “build-your-own” parfait with house yogurt, homemade granola and fresh fruit. And this is not your mother’s granola—bursting with pistachios, gluten-free oats, coconut flakes, pumpkins seeds, dried cherries, brown sugar and maple syrup. The third course is a chef’s choice, rotating hot breakfast. One morning of our stay it was a lovely tartine with soft-scrambled Japanese-style eggs, house-cured salmon, pickled red onion and fresh dill. On the next, it was a petite crustless quiche with tomatoes, spinach, caramelized onions, and cheddar and a delightfully creamy custard texture.

“Breakfast is a chance to kind of sit down and take your time course by course,” notes innkeeper Stephanie Campbell, who also prepared and served our breakfasts on both days. “The idea is to enjoy these amazing views while you’re enjoying this slow progression of a meal; it’s indulgent and nourishing, and it’s seasonally determined.”

While breakfast is included with your stay, dinners at the Inn are an optional addition. But if you miss the opportunity to indulge in the culinary craft of Virginia-born and raised in-house Chef Tyler Teass—who was part of the team that earned D.C.’s Rose Luxury its Michelin Star rating in 2016 and later helped open Brasserie Saison on Charlottesville’s historic downtown mall—you have missed out indeed.

Their Wine Cellar Dinners are “a deeply luxurious experience,” as Campbell describes, complete with white tablecloths, proper wine service and a seasonally designed menu that can be customized to guests’ needs and desires. “If there is a certain lobster bisque someone wants because that’s what their mom always loved and they are celebrating her birthday,” says Campbell, “Chef Tyler builds menus around that.”

During our visit, we were treated to an exquisite four-course symphony of a meal designed by the chef. It began with the opening notes of an amuse-bouche—crème fraiche with white peaches and purple basil served with light, crispy cheese wafers—and sounded a surprising high note with the most delicate miniature sourdough waffles with local pork fat, sea salt and confectioners’ sugar, a mind-blowing, melt-in-your-mouth sweet-savory combo.

And that was all before the numbered courses, each paired with a Stinson wine. Those included a celery root velouté with caviar, crispy potatoes and herbs (paired with the 2019 sauvignon blanc); a perfectly portioned twist of spaghetti with crab, basil pistou and breadcrumbs (paired with the 2020 Sugar Hollow White); roasted Roseda Farm beef, mushroom croquette, braised beans and herb jus (paired with the 2017 meritage); and, for dessert, popcorn pudding with crème fraiche, lime and sorghum (paired with the 2018 petit manseng).

The Wine Cellar dinners run $150 per person—an incredibly reasonable price point for the quality of food and level of service, but the Inn has also started offering a more casual dinner option called Chef’s Suppers, “featuring an array of seasonally driven plates meant to share” and sample alongside a variety of wines. Whichever you choose, the chef does not disappoint.

The rooms and shared spaces at the Inn are the epitome of clean, cozy minimalism accentuated by touches of rustic charm. No detail is left unthought of for guest convenience and comfort. And whatever you don’t find on hand, just ask, and Campbell or another member of the staff will be happy to accommodate. Room rates start at around $200 per night, and you can rent the entire Inn for yourself and family or friends starting at approximately $1,000 per night.

While you’re in and near Crozet, don’t miss small-town must-stops like Crozet Pizza, Starr Hill Brewery, the Rockfish Gap Country Store (a bit further down the road) and the Claudius Crozet Bridge Tunnel, a historic and engineering landmark recently re-opened to hikers and cyclists. And, of course there is a plethora of other wineries to visit nearby including King Family Vineyards, well-known not only for its pastoral landscape but for its horses and polo matches.

Learn more at InnatStinsonVineyards.com.


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