In a mountain cabin cozied up with a wood-burning fireplace, its every window framing sweeping views of mountains dressed for fall, your own personal chef, whisk and wine in hand, is waiting to greet you.
Rock-n-Creek Cabin is tucked into a crook of the Blue Ridge Mountains, less than two miles off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile post 27 in Montebello, Virginia. Owned by certified executive chef and duck decoy woodcarving artist Richard Christy, the cabin sits 3,220 feet above sea level on one of the highest ridges along the parkway system – off the grid in the thick of fall color. Privacy and camera-worthy photos are guaranteed.
Comfy and casual with a mix-match collection of furnishings and decor, the fully-equipped cabin has an invitingly rumpled ambience; it’s the kind of place where you can drop your bags and put your feet up. And Christy encourages that, even pours the wine for you while you settle at the table to watch and chat with the chef who once cooked for President Gerald Ford.
He cooked for the president; now he cooks for you
Christy has an impressive resume. Raised in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, he was “one of the boys who never left.” Nice for his hometown as Christy leapfrogged up the culinary ladder, honing his skills at area eateries, opening his own restaurants and catering companies and, later, consulting with food companies including Smithfield Foods and Good Life Cuisine.
Today, the retired chef puts his magic to work year-round for those who book a stay at Rock-n-Creek – and a seat at his Chef’s Table for a culinary tour de force.
“It’s a culinary adventure nestled in a remote mountain location with guests dining in the comfort of their cabin on meals created specifically for them,” said Christy.
Families, girlfriends, golfers, wine aficionados – the cabin accommodates gatherings with three bedrooms plus two loft rooms and a double sleeper sofa. A study is stocked with board games, DVDs and books. Guests can enjoy Satellite TV with 500 channels and a Bose stereo system, not to mention a Jacuzzi whirlpool bathtub and those breathtaking views.
Outside, the grounds are dotted by ponds, campfire rings, bocce ball and horseshoe pit. There are woodland walking trails, a natural stream and wildflower paths.
The main event, of course, is supping on Christy’s gourmet meals. Guests can roost at the kitchen counter and watch the chef in action or gather at the dining room table. Roasted horseradish and herb-encrusted pork loin, Beef Tagine, breast of chicken roulade. Christy consults with each guest prior to arrival at the cabin to create a four-course gastronomical experience that concludes with a delicious dessert. Additionally, Christy can prepare picnics, sack lunches to-go and high and afternoon tea. And he teaches your choice of cooking class.
A labyrinth of lovely
Rock-n-Creek and its onsite artisan studio, Christy’s Buck Island Bay Decoys and Mountain Man Basketry, are near the Nelson 151, a ribbon of scenic byway that connects wineries, breweries and a cidery in Virginia’s Rockfish Valley. In the fall, the reds, russets and umbers of the leaves pair beautifully with the clarets, plums and honeys of the wines, beers and meads.
Harry Potter fans will want to sample the Hunter Mead at Hill Top Berry Farm Winery and Meadery, the only farm on the Nelson 151 making what the Greeks called the “nectar of the gods.”
“People liken it to butter beer,” said Kimberly Pugh.
Health fanatics can get their apple a day at Bold Rock Cidery.
“Apples have been growing here for 200 years and early presidents had a history of making cider themselves,” said cidermaster Brian Shanks, noting that Bold Rock’s Crimson Ridge cider is snapping up medals.
Afton Mountain Vineyards wows with its beautiful tasting house, award-winning wines and picturesque setting. Wild Wolf Brewing Company surprises with not only a traditional German Biergarten, but a restaurant tucked into Nelson County’s 105-year-old schoolhouse, an outdoor all-weather pavilion showcasing mountain vistas and an adjacent shopping village.
Each winery, cidery and brewery on the Nelson 151 offers a unique experience, from the 240-year-old carriage house that is today the tasting room for Wintergreen Winery’s wines, including Raven’s Roost Cabernet Franc – what manager Marion Craig calls “cardiovascular wine” – to the estate-grown wine of Pollak Vineyards.
In between are Flying Fox Vineyard’s limited production wines; Cardinal Point Vineyards and Winery, founded in 1985 as a retirement dream based on owner Paul and Ruth Gorman’s passion for Riesling wines; and the classic wines of Veritas Vineyard and Winery. A comfy lodge-style atmosphere prevails at Devils Backbone Brewing Company, where you can hoist traditional German-style brews. At Blue Mountain Brewery, 2,500 barrels of beer are handcrafted onsite, using spring-fed water from a forest watershed.
Besides wine tastings, many of the wineries have concerts and other events scheduled through the year, like the 8th Annual Halloween-themed Opportunity Ball, Oct. 25, at Veritas Vineyard and Winery, and the 10th Annual Oyster Roast, Nov. 9-10, at Cardinal Point.
Rounding out the wineries and breweries along the Nelson 151 are unique shops, local restaurants, community theater, hiking, biking, skiing, golf and those picture postcard views. Some of the wineries are also on the Monticello Wine Trail and, crisscrossing the Nelson 151, is the Monticello Artisan Trail, which highlights the works of juried artisans like Christy.
‘Where the VWs ran out of gas’
An entrepreneurial spirit prevails on the Nelson 151. You can feel it everywhere, from Christy’s woodcarving studio and Chef’s Table enterprise, to the wineries, shops and restaurants that dot the corridor from one end of Rockfish Valley to the other.
“This is where the VWs ran out of gas,” said Beverly Lacey in explanation of the proliferation of mom-and-pop art studios and galleries, pottery shops, antique malls, bookstores, farm shops and assorted other independently owned and operated businesses. Lacey, owner of Basic Necessities, a charming gourmet café, wine and cheese shop founded by French wine and cheese connoisseur Kay Pfaltz, is a flower farmer who stocks the café with fresh bouquets that can be bought right off the linen-draped tables.
That gas shortage proved lucky for us: Virginia's Nelson 151 is a glorious getaway pretty much any time of year but especially when fall colors the landscape.
If You Go
- Monticello Artisan Trail, www.ArtisansCenterofVirginia.org/index.php/artisan_trail_network/artisan_trail_monticello_category/C92
- Monticello Wine Trail, www.MonticelloWineTrail.com
- Nelson 151, www.Nelson151.com
- Nelson County, VA, www.NelsonCounty-VA.gov/departments/tourism
- Rock-n-Creek Cabin, www.RocknCreekCabin.com
While in the area: Visit “John-Boy’s” boyhood home. That’s Earl Hamner, Jr., the creator of the Emmy award-winning TV show, “The Waltons” (1971-1981). Hamner’s home and the shed where he wrote, which was used as the model for the shed featured on the show, are located in nearby Schuyler, Va. The house sits behind the Walton’s Mountain Country Store (the former shed) and may be toured. Visitors may also book a room at the adjacent bed and breakfast inn. www.WaltonsMountainCountryStore.vpweb.com
Also located in Schuyler is Walton’s Mountain Museum (www.WaltonMuseum.org), housing lots of Waltons-related photographs, recreated rooms from the homestead featured in the television show and several original props from the show, including a shaving mug, coffee pot and a dress worn by the character “Erin.”