A few weeks ago, my husband and I spent the most lovely two days at L’Auberge Provençale, an elegant French country Inn in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Given that I spent most of my vacations in Provence when I lived in Paris, I was intrigued when I received an invitation from the Inn keepers. Could this place really live up to my expectations?
I was amazed by how much the place resembles inns I have visited in Provence, especially the surrounding, lush, garden. We were lucky to be there on a fall day that felt more like the middle of summer, so we took our time lounging around in the outdoor seating area, drinking the most delicious, freshly squeezed lemonade before heading out to explore Middleburg. That trip was much quicker than expected – turns out that Middleburg is quite small. Charming, but petit.We got back just in time to enjoy a glass of rosé in the lovely garden before heading to our room to shower and change for dinner at the inn’s restaurant, La Table Provençale. We were looking forward to that five-course meal, but because we hadn’t really eaten all day, decided to head over to the bar and have a few cocktails and Amuse Bouche (small shared plates) while watching the sun set over the rolling hills that surround the Auberge.
To say that the food we ate was outstanding is an understatement. I’m a bit of a picky eater – particularly when it comes to French food (that’s what happens when you grow up eating the real deal). Details like presentation and portion size, and of course freshness and flavor mean a lot to me. When I say that there was not a SINGLE item that we ate, either as an appetizer or as part of the dinner, that was anything short of perfection, you can trust me. The menu stand outs to me were the Virginia Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes, the Burrata, and the Roasted Beets appetizers, but the main courses and desserts were equally divine. I’m a cheese lover, so we couldn’t skip the Artisan cheese plate that included a tasty selection of local favorites, crostini, seasonal jam, and marinated Niçoise olives. We decided to go with a lovely Pouilly Montrachet from the wine cellar instead of the wine pairing, because I am more of a monochrome gal when it comes to drinks.The next morning we were up bright and early for the excursions planned for us by the innkeepers. First up, (after the lavish breakfast, that is) a horseback riding at Double H Stable. The husband was not too thrilled with this activity choice but was a good sport about it. Actually, his horse, a mare named Dixie, was the good sport – he is, after all a pretty big, muscular guy. I got to ride a spirited horse appropriately named Chief. The hour-long trail ride led by the stable owner was exhilerating and at times, a bit uncomfortable. Apparently there is more to riding horses than meets the eye, as I learned in a discussion with the owner about the relative riding skills of various actors and actresses on Game of Thrones (according to him, Catelyn Stark and Jaimie Lannister are the best riders on the show).When we got back to the inn, we showered and changed, and then set out for a tour of local wineries with a light picnic lunch prepared for us by the restaurant. We particularly enjoyed visiting Arterra Winery, where we picked up a delicious blueberry apple wine that will make a perfect after dinner drink around the holidays.We came back to the inn to unwind with an in-room couple massage. The perfect ending to a perfect weekend was a simple in room repast consisting of chicken, and other light finger food. The husband was particularly happy because he got to watch some football game or another, while I caught up on some very important (fashion magazine) reading.I would have to say that this was one of the more pleasant experiences that I have had locally. The Auberge itself is beautifully decorated, and as I mentioned, the lush grounds are a perfect country setting. The food was outstanding and the staff was highly attentive and welcoming. It’s perfect for a romantic getaway, especially to celebrate a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday. I can’t wait to go back when the leaves change, and maybe even when there is a light layer of show on the ground.