First published in The Montauk Sun, July issue 2018.
As some of my readers might remember, I am the widow of a Montauk fireman who passed away almost 8 years ago after a ferocious battle with cancer. Montauk grieved with me, and cradled me for a long time. But time goes on and time heals wounds—to make a long story short, I eventually met a handsome widower and 2 years ago we got married…
While I love Montauk, and the ocean (I founded the “I LOVE MONTAUK” Facebook page years ago), my husband loves the mountains—and Golf. I am more the adventurous spa type. But since we are practically still newlyweds, and “Virginia is for Lovers”, we settled for a nice spa in the mountains with lots of golf. With 45 holes and two courses, one on top of the mountain and one in the valley, featuring “Devils Knob”, Virginia’s highest golf course, a place for both of us to enjoy.
“Wintergreen” is a year round “Mountain Top” resort, a golf and winter sport lovers dream. All the amenities are built on the peaks and ridges, rather than at the traditional base. Located almost 4000 feet up high on the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia is a place like no other. Winding trails, cascading streams, lush forests and a rich history surround this 11,000-acre resort.
We checked into “The Cliff”, and our 1-bedroom, 2 bath condo lived up to its name, lying on a ridge with sweeping views of mountains and valleys. The floor plan with a fully equipped kitchen, open to living and dining areas with a cozy wood-burning fireplace, was delightful.
We were tired but had a quick bite at “The Edge”, a casual bar style restaurant with a rustic flare (located by the ski lift). I was a little surprised to find Chicken Schnitzel on the menu, with a side dish of golden lentils that I thoroughly enjoyed, while my Mountain Man added the “Blue Ridge” to his list of ‘Best Burgers’. -- Wintergreen offers several dining options, for example there is the elegant Devils Grill, situated at the Devils Knob Golf Course with a new chef that I would have loved to experience, but couldn’t, due to time restraints.
The next morning we enjoyed a sumptuous breakfast at “The Copper Mine Bistro”, located by the main resort, in the heart of the mountain’s Blackrock Village. I thoroughly enjoyed the innovative Crab Cakes Benedict, topped with poached eggs, (I skipped the Old Bay hollandaise) served with home fries and a pot of TAZO Tea.
We took time to talk with the friendly staff about the hype of the busy ski-season, their award-winning tennis program, the 30 miles of marked hiking trails, and Lake Monocan in the valley. We discovered the 20-acre lake a bit later, with a beautiful sandy beach, lifeguards, canoes, kayaks, stand up paddle boards and fishing equipment. The temperatures in the valley are considerably higher then on the mountain and in general, the weather at Wintergreen Resort is a major factor in the resort’s popularity as a true, four-season destination.
The resort’s 11,000 acres encompass land in the Rockfish River Valley where visitors will find Wintergreen’s Stoney Creek Golf Course, Tennis, and Lake Monocan. Atop the mountain (altitude just under 3,900 feet) is where the resort’s overnight accommodations, Wintergarden Spa, Devils Knob Golf Course, Devils Knob Tennis, Discovery Ridge Adventure Center and ski area can all be found. Here, summer visitors can expect temperatures significantly lower than the region’s major metropolitan areas. These same patterns enable the resort’s staff to create enough snow (when Mother Nature doesn’t fully cooperate with natural snowfall) to rank the destination as one of the finest winter sports destination in the Mid-Atlantic region.
On the way back up to our accommodations to get mountain man ready for his first golf game on Devils Knob, and me for my afternoon at the Spa, we stopped at “The Market” to pick up a sandwich for his 18-hole game. Of course he chose the “Golf Club”, a wide selection of Boar’s Head’s finest on a toasted Ciabatta.
When Ellis Maples designed this 18-hole gem, btw the highest golf course in Virginia, his challenge was to enhance its stunning Blue Ridge Mountain setting. Typically 12-18 degrees cooler even than its sister golf course, Stoney Creek, in the valley, Devils Knob provides Virginia’s coolest playing conditions throughout the summer and as we hear the most dramatic mountain foliage backdrop throughout the fall.
Here is my husband’s take: “If you are up for challenging but rewarding fairways, then Devils Knob, with its stunning views of the Shenandoah and Rockfish valleys, is a must.”
Located just steps from our accommodations, I walked across a winding mountain road and right into the Wintergarden Spa. Running late as usual, I found out that my first spa appointment was scheduled with a half hour relax period, allowing me to take a long shower, slip into a spa robe and then launch with a cup of organic chai until Ms. Valerie got me for my 80-minute Wintergreen Signature Facial. In my travels around the world I have been fortunate to experience treatments in some of the best spas, including Gurney’s SeaWater Spa in Montauk, and I may say that my esthetician expertly matched my facial with my skin type.
Using an exquisite line of organic products by “Eminence”, I received a well-executed facial with a deep penetrating eye, lip, and décolletage treatment. My feet and hands were wrapped in hot herbal infused towels for added relaxation. My second treatment was a relaxing 50-minute massage (a combination of Swedish, reflexology and stone) by the lovely Ms. Sharon, a veteran therapist at the resort.
For dinner that evening we drove down to the valley; the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, was our destination. This place, and the history behind it, is so unique that we can only advise to hang on an extra night to experience a dinner here as well, of course accompanied by a flight of crafted beers. After a huge plate of ribs with some side dishes, we talked to a group of hikers and a few of the locals, playing corn hole, and found out that the name “Devils Backbone” had been chosen to incorporate this region’s history into modern culture.
In 1746, eight years before the French and Indian War, a party of forty had set out from Bear Fence Mountain in the Blue Ridge on one of the most legendary land surveys in American history. Don’t forget your cameras to take a photo of the big black bear by the entrance of the restaurant and some other interesting species gracing the walls. Founders, Steve and Heidi Crandall were on a ski trip and were introduced to a German craft beer called “Weihenstephan”, planting the seed that slowly grew into an idea, and then bloomed to become the Devils Backbone Brewing Company. www.dbbrewingcompany.com
Another German influence that is now enormously felt at Wintergreen is Master Chef Edwin M. Scholly, the new executive at Devils Grill Restaurant at Devils Knob and we would meet him over breakfast the next morning. Scholly received the James Beard Award in 2011 in N.Y., he was named German Master Chef of the Year in 1996, and was a guest chef at the White House for 24 years. Master Chef Scholly’s clientele has included Madonna, Donald Trump, Bruce Springsteen, Sir Paul McCartney, Neil Diamond, and Garth Brooks.
Chef Scholly has worked for four past Presidents of the United States, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. He served Her Majesty, the Queen of England, as well as The Dali Lama and other Dignitaries, Heads of State and Ambassadors worldwide –- and is now year-round at Wintergreen.
My husband was scheduled for one more game of golf at Stoney Creek in the valley before our departure. Conde Nast Traveler magazine selected Wintergreen as one of the “Top 50 Golf Resorts in the World.” Winter golf in Virginia? It’s true. Few other places on earth provide the opportunity to snow ski in the morning and play championship-caliber golf later in the day. Because of a dramatic 3,300 foot change in elevation, it happens at Wintergreen. Ski and tee! However we were really strapped for time and because Marcus was so impressed by the golf staff in general, he decided to try a golf lesson at the Wintergreen Golf Academy instead.
He feels very fortunate that he was able to get the lesson from an accomplished golf pro, like Golf Director Geoff Redgrave, PGA Director of Golf & Instruction at the Wintergreen Resort himself. The former Director of Instruction at PGA National Resort & Spa located in Palm Beach Gardens, FL, Geoff also worked at the Tam-O-Shanter Club located on Long Island, NY. My husband feels that Mr. Redgrave helped to improve his game greatly.
Location: in the heart of central Virginia, adjacent to the Blue Ridge Parkway, just 90 minutes from Richmond, Va. and a 3-hour drive from Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. www.WintergreenResort.com
Until next month from another interesting location!
As featured in The Montauk Sun
Edited by John Lomitola
Escape From Paradise, Blogger www.EscapeFromParadise.net
Award-winning TV Host, Publisher, Travel Writer www.MontaukSun.com
Ambassador for www.Seven-Stars.com & 15 Emmy awards www.aTasteofHistory.org