Montecito Hangs Tough to Protect Harry & Meghan
The Romance and Wonder of Keswick Hall
Ari Post • February 23, 2011
Coming up the winding driveway, just across the railroad track and beyond a horse pasture, I was greeted by a small vineyard and a grand, three-story resort house. The sun was setting just over the Spanish tile roof and the Southwest Mountains lay stoically in the distance along an endless, green golf course. I walked into the front doors of Keswick Hall and was greeted by the hum of intimate conversations, the crackling of a wood fire and the clinking of glasses in a wide, open parlor. The parlor was warmly lit, elegant and modest, with a tin of warm cider sitting on heated bricks by the entrance. In front of the fire, couples were reading, talking, playing chess, enjoying drinks. It was just before dinnertime. This was the definition of a romantic retreat.
Sitting on 600 acres, this sprawling country estate in the lush foothills of Keswick, Virginia is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets on the East Coast. With the very best of comfort and accommodations, couples spa treatments, exceptional wines both local and international, and world-class cuisine, Keswick Hall brings together all the luxuries of the world’s finest resorts with the distinct character of the Virginia region. Thomas Jefferson called this area of country the “Eden of the United States,” and Keswick Hall holds true to this claim, offering the most sinfully delicious experiences you and your better half will have this side of the Atlantic.
The accommodations are worth the trip itself. The rooms are bright and thoughtfully furnished, the wide, soft beds entice even the well rested, and a pouch of aromatic bath salts sit by the tub. The windows open to pastoral vistas on all sides. A plate of gourmet cheeses and a bottle of house wine await new visitors with a personal note from the staff. These are perhaps small details, but the intricate cares taken by the resort add up. It is this very attention to detail, this individualizing of each guest that makes Keswick stand out. You are not just another guest at Keswick, but a valued member of the family for the duration of your stay.
“There’s a very comfortable beauty about Keswick,” says Patricia Castelli, Keswick Hall’s resident historian. “There’s an incredible sense of elegance, and it’s also so comfortable. It strikes the right balance, which is what makes people so astounded by it.” And Keswick has surely astounded plenty of guests— Condé Nast deemed them the number one small resort in the country in 2010.
Keswick feels so intimate because it’s a very real part of its surrounding community. “The estate has been here for 100 years,” says Castelli, “and its history ads weight to its authenticity. You’re discovering an area rather than just coming to a hotel—and it’s such an outstanding place to discover. A lot of people don’t know we exist, and after they visit they wonder why they didn’t know about us before.”
The grounds offer a wide range of activities, from exploring the vineyards to fishing, to even archery. But the highlight is the Arnold Palmer Signature 18-hole golf course, which compliments the landscape as if it is a natural part of the mountain range.
The course is an Autobon certified sanctuary, maintaining strict standards of resources and limiting pesticides. Keswick wants the course and the estate to be as agreeable to wildlife as possible, and they go well out of their way to make the range as environmentally friendly as it is beautiful.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen of Keswick’s Fossett’s Restaurant, Executive Chef Dean Maupin brings together the bounty of the local farmland with effusive vision and international inspiration to create frighteningly delicious cuisine. The food is delicate and elegant without being fussy. During the harvest months, most of the produce comes from the estate’s garden, run by the Chef himself.
The menu is seasonal and changes frequently, but during the winter months you can expect such offerings as smoked trout with avocado and apple, beet salad with citrus vinaigrette and olives, pear and pecorino ravioli, pappardelle with braised lamb shoulder and tapenade, duck breast with truffle risotto and Madeira jus, or parsnip quiche with sage, fontina and thick, fresh bacon. The food is, quite simply, as good as food gets. Each ingredient is played to its absolute perfection, each dish is perfectly balanced, and the kitchen keeps in touch with its environment, seasonally and locally.
While Keswick certainly offers the best of all general amenities—a fitness center, indoor and outdoor pools, billiards, a library, golf, tennis, horseback riding, personal and couples massage sessions, a world class wine cellar—this is all only the surface of Keswick’s allure.
Keswick Hall shines not because it allows you to escape from the surrounding area, but because it engrosses you in it, reminding you of the beauty and richness of the Virginia homeland. It invites guests to fall in love with its character, through the landscape, the food, the activities, and the memories you will surely create. There is a gentle, serene beauty about the Virginia countryside, one that is perfectly tailored for a couple looking for a quiet and intimate experience. Keswick Hall is a quiet pinnacle of romance and relaxation, and now is the perfect time of year to fall into its warm, generous arms.
For more information, visit Keswick.com [gallery ids="99595,105014,105021,105018" nav="thumbs"]
My life on horseback
Debbie French-Nash • October 8, 2010
Sir Winston Churchill once said, “A polo handicap is a passport to the world.” In my opinion, it is a passport to life.
I was born in Stratford upon Avon, which is in the Warwickshire countryside. I sat on my first horse at 18 months old and took my first riding lesson at the age of six. Little did my parents suspect that buying me my first pony at age eight would lead me to what I am now — a polo player.
My pony and I learned to compete together in gymkhana, jumping, and cross country. I even tried a little dressage. But the day I went to watch a polo match with a friend I knew I had to play.
I took one lesson, and I was hooked.
Polo is like life — although it’s a team sport, it’s ultimately down to you. You get up. You compete. You miss shots. You hit great ones. You sometimes fall off, but you rise and go on.
At that time, I was working for a U.K. company as a sales and marketing executive. They wanted me to open their Washington DC office. I first asked if there was a polo club before I said yes. I met my husband playing arena polo on a freezing January night. I knew he was my type of man — a polo addict.
My husband and I now live on a horse farm with our polo ponies, in Virginia. Our team, Los Tigres, plays in local leagues during the summer. In the winter we travel to play polo in places like Zambia, England, Spain, Argentina, Chile, Dubai, and Jamaica. [gallery ids="99200,103424" nav="thumbs"]
Plans Underway for 13th Taste of Rappahannock
Laura Overstreet • September 1, 2010
Plans are underway for Headwaters Foundation’s 13th Annual Taste of Rappahannock, widely considered one of the county’s most popular fundraising events. This year’s event, which will be held at Belle Meade Schoolhouse on Sept.11, beginning at 6 p.m., promises to be an exciting evening.
“We’ve hired Red Apple Auctions of Alexandria to help us with both the silent and live auctions, and they have some great new ideas that we are implementing,” said Toni Egger, executive director for Headwaters.
Nearly 50 one-of-a-kind items will be auctioned. Already on the bidding list and sure to cause competitive bidding are a week at Le Silence, a charming, five-bedroom farmhouse in the scenic countryside of Burgundy, France, a trip to Cancun and a theater weekend in Washington, D.C.
Guests may bid on other experiences, such as a helicopter ride and accompanying gourmet picnic, a cooking workshop and dinner with well known chef and writer Hi Soo Hepinstall, a behind-the-scenes tour and tasting at Copper Fox Distillery, original art from a number of Rappahannock County’s most accomplished artists, and more.
Rappahannock County’s students have always been the primary beneficiaries of the Taste, and this year, more than ever, they will be a part of this time-honored event. Students will be involved in every aspect of the evening, from greeting and chatting with guests to serving hors d’oeuvres to helping prepare and serve a wide selection of dishes of locally sourced foods. A musical ensemble from Rappahannock High School will provide live background music. During the formal dinner program, one student will share how his experience with Headwaters has made a difference in his life.
Funds raised during the annual Taste of Rappahannock are crucial to underwriting the enrichment programs offered to students by Headwaters throughout the year. This year’s “Challenge” will, in fact, be a challenge — thanks to generous donations by Rappahannock resident Mitzi Young and the late Took Crowell — and should generate significant contributions. High level challenge donors will be honored with a champagne reception.
The funds raised this year are more important than ever, as Headwaters looks to expand its outreach efforts. In addition to supporting its robust, long-lived programs, including Farm-to-Table, Starfish Mentoring,, and Next Step, and its supportive teacher mini-grants and complimentary staff development efforts, funds are needed to develop new programs.
“Rappahannock County has a new school administration with new ideas and programs they will want to launch. We want to be ready and able to help,” Egger said. “We would like to create an opportunity fund so that we can respond to developing needs and ideas for programs at all levels of school.”
In the planning stage is an after-school program for elementary school children. Egger said that a survey will be sent in August to elementary school-age children and their parents. “We want to learn from the parents and students what they would like to see in an after-school program before we build it and will incorporate their thoughts and suggestions,” Egger said. “We hope to start such a program in January.” She credits Headwaters volunteer Philip Strange for outlining a proposal for the effort.
Demand for tickets this year will likely be greater than ever, in part because of advertising support in Flavor magazine, which reaches some 50,000 people throughout the region, including D.C., Maryland and northern and central Virginia. Details of this year’s Taste are online at Headwaters Foundation’s Web site, www.headwatersfdn.org.
Event Co-Chairs Cheri Woodard, Terri Lehman, and Ashleigh Cannon Sharp said that invitations to the 13th Annual Taste of Rappahannock were sent out in early August. Tickets are $150 for individuals. Patron tables of 10 are $2000. Sponsored tables are $1200 and include two tickets to the event. No doubt, the event will sell out as soon as invitations reach the mailbox.
To participate, e-mail your name and address to Toni Egger at email@example.com or call Toni at 540-987-3322. Tickets are $150 for individuals and tables may be sponsored. Event sponsorships are also available.
The Grand Prize:
One week at Le Silence, a charming five bedroom farm house in central Burgundy’s Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan. The property, originally part of the famous Manoir de Ruères, is situated in the quiet hamlet of that name midway among the historic cities of Avallon, Saulieu and Vézelay. Within easy driving distance, one may find the renowned wine regions of the Côte de Beaune, Côte de Nuits, Côte d’Or and Chablis, and somewhat further afield, Beaujolais and Sancerre. Several of the world’s greatest restaurants are within a half an hour, including Marc Meneau’s L’Espérance and the late Bernard Loiseau’s Côte d’Or; and smaller but superb establishments abound nearby. Though 220km from Paris, Le Silence is connected by a near-by major auto route (circa 3 hours driving time), and for those wishing a long day or two in Paris, by a high speed train from nearby Montbard deposits you at the Gare de Lyon in one hour and one minute. The immediate environs of the house boast many of the poignant monuments to the World War II French Resistance, and the region is dotted with memorials to brave Americans and Britons who perished supporting them. The Musée de la Résistance in nearby Saint-Brisson is especially moving.
The house itself, which has been in the Wimbush family for nearly 30 years, sits on four hectares of wooded farmland. It has been substantially modernized and is fully equipped.
For local color, fine food and wine, history and culture, and the upmost tranquility, Le Silence is hard to match. This is a unique opportunity for one or several couples, or a larger extended family. Bidding starts at $5,000 (for use of the house only; does not include travel).
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Gardens of Hunt Country
Georgetowner • August 25, 2010
Said to be commissioned sometime around 600 B.C. by King Nebuchadnezzar as a gift to his wife Amytis, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon are one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and perhaps one of the earliest botanical works of art. With lush trees and fragrant plants imported from her native Persia and planted in elevated stone terraces to resemble the mountainous terrain where she lived as a child, the gardens were intended to provide a homesick Amytis with a sense of comfort, peace, and familiarity in a place so different from her homeland — emotions that every garden should evoke in its keeper.
Whether it’s the palatial gardens of Versailles, an intimate courtyard retreat in Georgetown, or a smaller-scale balcony garden consisting of containers filled with overflowing greenery and colorful blooms, anyone who has spent time in a garden understands the positive impact such a space has on one’s overall attitude and well-being. If you already have a garden, or have toyed with the idea of creating one, the gardening events on tap this spring in Virginia’s Hunt Country will no doubt inspire your inner gardener.
April 17 through 25 is Historic Garden Week in Virginia — your annual invitation to take an up-close and personal peek behind some of the most exclusive garden gates in the Commonwealth, and in some cases, a glimpse into the magnificent homes that share the landscape with them.
Organized by member clubs of The Garden Club of Virginia and celebrating its 77th season, this statewide celebration is frequently referred to as “America’s Largest Open House” and is the oldest event of its kind in the United States. More than 30 home and garden tours will take place in Virginia during Historic Garden Week, with proceeds going toward the preservation and restoration of historic gardens and grounds throughout the state. Several tours are within close proximity to Washington, D.C., including two in Virginia’s Hunt Country — the Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club tour, and Winchester-Clarke County Garden Club tour.
A mix of old and new awaits you on the Fauquier and Loudoun Garden Club tour, where you’ll have the opportunity to visit five outstanding residences — some constructed prior to the Civil War. Leave the hectic pace of the city behind and travel west through the scenic countryside, where lush green fields and historic stone walls make the journey just as beautiful as the destinations. Properties on the tour include Innisfree, Marly, Waverly, Middleton and Pennygent. Make your way along pea gravel paths and cobblestone walkways as you are treated to exceptional gardens overflowing with annuals, perennials, espaliered fruit trees, and terraces wrapped in wisteria.
The Winchester-Clarke County Garden Club tour showcases five remarkable homes dating from the 18th century to the early part of the 21st century. Erchless, Rosemont on the Shenandoah, Caveland, Apple Hill and Randleston Farm are all extraordinary residences, each unique in their own way. One residence has a circular main floor plan, with no square rooms, while another has a history that dates to the Roaring ’20s. This is an outstanding and eclectic collection of properties that you’re sure to remember long after your visit.
A Festival Blooms in Leesburg
Promising to be bigger and more impressive than ever, the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival celebrates its 20th year the weekend of April 17. Attracting more than 35,000 visitors over the two-day botanical extravaganza, this event is set to fill the streets of downtown historic Leesburg with a garden party you won’t want to miss. There’s something for everyone, so come early, bring the entire family and plan to spend the day.
Over 100 vendors are slated to be on hand to equip you with everything you need to envision, and ultimately cultivate, the outdoor space of your dreams. It’s unlikely you’ll even recognize the streets of this quaint historic town, as they have magically been transformed into elaborate landscaped gardens, flower and plant exhibits and more — all certain to inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. Talk with landscape professionals that can help you design that perfect patio, walkway or garden area. Stock up on supplies or buy that must-have plant with over-the-top blooms that will look just perfect in your garden. Be sure to stop by the Town Green, where experts will be presenting demonstrations on a variety of topics. Learn about composting and pick up other eco-friendly gardening tips and techniques that will ensure your garden is “green.”
When it’s time to take a break, grab a bite to eat from one of several food vendors and enjoy the entertainment on the Loudoun County Courthouse lawn where various artists will treat you to music ranging from classic rock to reggae. New this year is a garden of a different sort — a wine and beer garden — featuring many of your favorite Loudoun County wineries and breweries. Face painting, crafts, and entertainment will be in full swing on the children’s stage, so make sure the “junior gardeners” in your family don’t miss out on any of the fun.
Whether you’re avid gardener, or just beginning to dabble in plants, the Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival is an excellent opportunity to connect with landscape professionals, enhance your gardening knowledge, and enjoy some great springtime weather.
Le Petit Jardin
There’s no doubt you’ll be anxious to take all of those great gardening ideas you picked up at this spring’s events and turn them into reality. If you have never gardened because you thought you didn’t have enough time or space, think again. For many of us, time constraints or limited space just mean that we have to garden on a somewhat smaller scale.
Starla King, owner of Signature Gardenscapes (www.signaturegardenscapes.com) — a company specializing in smaller-scale residential landscape, says sun, space and soil are the keys to any beautiful garden. Once you assess these three important elements, you are ready to begin creating your own personal outdoor oasis. To get you started, King offers these helpful tips for creating and maintaining gardens in small spaces:
• Always consider how much sun or shade the planting area will receive each day. If your garden area is primarily shade, don’t get a plant that needs mostly sun. It will probably still grow, but will be spindly, unhealthy-looking and never mature to its full potential. Likewise, a shade-loving plant will burn to a crisp in a full-sun area.
• Determine how much space you have for your garden before you purchase plants. Plants will try to grow to their intended size even if you don’t give them enough room. Buy plants whose size at maturity matches your available space. For example, if you have a three- to five-foot garden space, don’t buy five plants that will each grow to three feet wide. You will end up with 15 feet of plants in a five-foot space. Instead, consider five plants that grow to one foot wide, or three plants that mature to two feet wide.
• Check the soil condition. New garden beds may require that some topsoil or soil conditioner be mixed with the earth. If in doubt, check with your garden center or plant nursery. For containers, just use a good quality potting soil.
• Visit a garden center and start your search for plants that appeal to you. Check the plant labels or ask for assistance to ensure the plants you select are conducive to your sun, space and soil conditions.
• Consider how your plants will look together before you buy them. Place them in your cart and see if their colors and textures complement each other. Do you think they look good? Buy them! If you’re not pleased with how look together, try different plants to obtain the overall effect you want to achieve.
• At home, plant and care for your new purchases according to instructions on the labels and enjoy!
So now you’re ready — get out there and get gardening. And remember, whatever your source of inspiration, be it a grand garden on a magnificent country estate or container garden tucked humbly in the corner of a balcony, make certain the garden you create is what the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were to Amytis — a place of comfort, contentment, beauty and familiarity.
Coming Up In Country:
Plan now to make sure you don’t miss these annual gardening events happening this spring in Virginia’s hunt country.
Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival
April 17, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
April 18, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Downtown Historic Leesburg
Historic Garden Week: Loudoun and Fauquier Garden Club Tour
April 18, 1 to 5 p.m.
April 19, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Historic Garden Week: Winchester – Clarke County Garden Club Tour
April 24, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
April 25, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Philomont Garden Phair
April 24 and 25, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Featuring plant growers, local artisans, garden-themed retailers and more.