In Virginia's Rappahannock County, residents say, there are more cows than people, more apple trees than cows, and not one traffic light.
Rappahannock County, approximately 110 miles from Baltimore, comes complete with the iridescent outline of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and hillsides dappled with autumn's country colors. When the morning is as crisp as the apples in the orchards, and the landscape the proverbial palette of reds and yellows, a getaway of fine food and expansive views is available only a few hours' drive from the Baltimore area.
Bleu Rock Inn
The vineyards lacing the hillsides catch your eye as soon as you come up the drive at the Bleu Rock Inn, located between Sperryville and Washington (known in the county as Little Washington, to distinguish the town from the nation's capital). Just beyond, the mountaintops shimmer to teal blue in the Indian summer haze, their slopes popping with fall colors. A stay at Bleu Rock Inn, opened just over a year ago, offers a rare combination: fine food and wine in a farm setting.
These 80 rolling acres have been transformed by Bernard and Jean Campagne, restaurateurs who operate La Bergerie in Alexandria, Va., into the sort of auberge you might happen upon in the French countryside. That's one of the reasons the Campagne brothers purchased the property seven years ago. With its rolling fields, peach orchards and Blue Ridge vistas, the land reminded them of home in the Basque countryside. Naturally, the Campagnes began planting vines on the property.
Sip a glass of Bleu Rock's own cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay as you savor the September evenings on the terrace with its view of the vineyards, and the sunsets behind the Blue Ridge. Chef Eric Stamer, who had previously sojourned at the Inn at Little Washington, labels his cuisine "American with French influences. Simple interpretation and tasty."
These are meals to linger over. Some featured dishes include the cassoulet (lamb, duck, beans in a garlic sauce), salmon with salsa, and tuna. For dessert, try the almond biscuit roulade with black raspberry cloud cream, or the chocolate torte. With each of the three dining rooms seating about 30 to 40 people, this inn keeps busy serving meals.
Bleu Rock Inn: Route 1, Box 555, Washington, Va. 22747; telephone (703) 987-3190. Five guest rooms, each with private bath. Midweek $125; $150 on weekends, includes full breakfast. Dinner Thursdays-Tuesdays; main courses range from about $13.50 to $18.50. Sunday brunch.
Caledonia Farm, just a country holler from Bleu Rock Inn in Washington, offers simple country pleasures: home cooking, open fields and picturesque views. This Federal-style stone manor house, completed in 1812 by Capt. John Dearing, a Revolutionary War officer, stands on 52 acres in the heart of the Blue Ridge. When you drive past the stone fence and turn up the long drive, you share in the unhurried life of Virginia's country gentry. This historic home, furnished with a mix of country antiques and reproductions, offers a quiet respite and expansive Blue Ridge views.
Retired broadcaster Phil Irwin researched bed-and-breakfast inns by staying in scores of them and traveling 13,000 miles from here to Homer, Alaska, before opening his home to guests in September 1985. Among the special touches: breakfast to order. Upon arrival, claim a morning slot at 8, 9 or 10 a.m. That arrangement not only alleviates any line for the shared bath, but allows Mr. Irwin to chat with guests individually and to treat them to his house specialties: eggs Benedict or a Caledonia omelet.
The two rooms in the main house, and the suite with living room in the old summer kitchen, are furnished with country comfortable pieces and a few antiques. With the Captain John Room, you wake to a view of Skyline Drive. The suite, which looks out to the fields and the ridge tops, includes a mini-refrigerator, open-hearth fireplace and vintage spinning wheel.
Relax on the front porch or in the parlor with its mantel, which was crafted by Hessian soldiers who remained in the area after the Revolutionary War. In fall and winter, Mr. Irwin invites guests into the 1812 winter kitchen for complimentary wine before a roaring fire. Captain Dearing's musket graces the mantel.
Take advantage of the Indian summer weather by biking country roads or joining in an impromptu game of volleyball. You can hike nearby hills or enjoy an old-fashioned hayride (by reservation) into Shenandoah National Park.
Caledonia Farm Bed and Breakfast: Route 1, Box 2080, Flint Hill, Va. 22627; (703) 675-3693. Suite with private bath and two rooms with semi-private bath. All rooms have working fireplaces, air conditioning and individual heat controls. Full breakfast. $70- $100; for a Saturday only-stay, add 50 percent. Children over 12 are welcome.
The Conyers House