Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Home Away From Home

The Rockhill Vineyard Cabin, in Ararat, NC — our New Year's home away from home
Monday, December 30, 2013: After some excellent food and wine at Old North State Winery in Mt. Airy and stopping to claim a couple of geocaches — including a virtual at the grave site of Chang and Eng Bunker, the famous Siamese twins — Kimberly and I arrived at the Rockhill Vineyard Cabin near Ararat, NC. It was right at sunset, and after a long drive through open pasture land, we crossed a little bridge over a scenic stream and entered a shadowy, wooded passage. Within the trees, we saw glowing lamps lining the driveway, leading us up a steep, winding hillside to the cabin. A star-like array of solar lights surrounded the house and highlighted the walkway, and from the front porch, we could hear the mellow strains of soft, smooth jazz playing. When we walked inside to escape the biting wind, we found found ourselves in the warmest, coziest living room I think I have ever seen, Christmas tree blazing cheerfully, the rest of the room adorned with tasteful wine-themed decorations. An unopened bottle of the proprietor's own vintage awaited us in the kitchen. The bedroom was an upstairs loft that overlooked the living room fireplace.

I damn near fell over. I had expected a pretty nice place, not a perfect little slice of heaven.

We made ourselves quite at home and sampled the wine, which was a very pleasant dry red. A bit later in the evening, though it was quite cold, Ms. B. and I settled ourselves in the rocking chairs on the front porch to enjoy the wine and the absolute serenity of the location. After this, we returned indoors and watched Paranormal Activity 4, which we had brought with us, just to get in the proper spirit for spending a couple of nights in a remote, wooded setting. I've enjoyed the Paranormal Activity series, and though this one was unquestionably the least of them, it still set an enjoyably creepy tone for the evening. Before bedtime, the Jacuzzi got rid of any lingering chill.

You might have guessed by now that The Rockhill Vineyard Cabin immediately earned Damned Rodan's highest stamp of approval.
The living room of the Rockhill Vineyard cabin
If you ask me, Ms. B. warms up whatever room she enters.
Tuesday, December 31, 2013: We weren't exactly up with the sun — in fact, some might call Brugger a lazy bones (not that I ever would) — but we did spend a leisurely morning drinking coffee (or at least one of us adult-types did) and enjoying the sweet rolls our proprietor had left for us. Then we took off for Pilot Mountain, just a short distance to the south, to get in a spot of hiking and geocaching. Ms. B. had been to the park before, but though I've passed by it countless times, I've never gone up to the mountain itself. Pilot Mountain is a quartzite monadnock, rising 2,421 feet above sea level, and about 1,400 feet above the surrounding hills. The park features many miles of hiking trails, horseback riding, rock climbing, and a wealth of amazing views. And when the winter wind comes blasting in along its western face, it's all kinds of cold.

Afterward, I set about claiming several nearby geocaches. My favorite was one called "Haunted House" (GC24XG4), which — believe it or not — took us to a haunted house. Yes, you bet your ass it was haunted; or, if it wasn't before, it probably is now, as we surely gave the local spirits something to think about. We also ended up at an ancient dam on a prong of the Little Yadkin River that offered us a glimpse of numerous antiquated structures that at one time no doubt boasted great wealth.
For New Year's Eve dinner, we had made reservations at the Harvest Grill, at Shelton Vineyards, in Dobson, NC, about 20 minutes west of the cabin. We arrived a bit early so we could sample their wine before dinner, and we were pretty well taken with it, though for such an expansive operation as Shelton, we can't say we were any more enthused with those we tried than we have been with the fare at many of the nearby smaller wineries. Dinner was one of those budget strainers for which you sometimes just have to bite the bullet, but in the end, we decided it was worth it. The service was impeccable, the food very good to excellent. The portions appeared rather small, yet, at the end of it all, I have rarely walked out of a place feeling so satisfied. I ordered a petit filet mignon and lobster tail (their New Year's Eve special), and Ms. B. had a charred romaine salad with chicken, onion confit, roasted tomato jam, crumbled bleu cheese, and apple wood smoked bacon. We tried their Cabernet Franc, Tannat, Petit Verdot, and their vintage Claret, the latter of which was easily the best. The Petit Verdot was also decent; I might have taken it for a fair Pinot Noir. (Yes, go right ahead and smack me now. Go ahead, but I'm talking wine here!) I'm pretty sure Harvest Grill has earned a decent Yelp review from old Rodan.

About midnight, we put on the television to watch one or another New Year's festivities for a bit, and about this time, we heard a nearby "Boof! Boof!" Ah, the telltale sound of a dog outside the house. I opened the door to take a look, and — hello! — before I could even react, a large black and white mixed breed fellow tromped right on inside and made himself at home. I knew it was the owner's dog, as we had seen him at the main house the day before, so we weren't particularly concerned. But it appeared we had made a lifelong friend here, as Dog really, really wanted to stay and party with us. He hung out for a bit, ate a cinnamon roll, and finally ambled out on his merry way. An entertaining visitor, to say the least.
Wednesday, January 1, 2014: And a big ol' Happy New Year to you, whoever might be giving ye old blog a gander. I tell you, this morning, we took our time packing up to head back to Greensboro because... yeah... we pretty much didn't want to. For any of you local folks who read my ramblings: if you've any interest in getting away for an evening or a few, in rustic but extremely comfortable surroundings at, above all things, very reasonable prices, the Rockhill Vineyard Cabin is likely for you. I don't know when I've ever felt as unburdened and outright content in the moment as these past couple of days. The setting is gorgeous, the accommodations are anything but spartan, and the owners — Gray and Pam Draughn — are hospitable and personable. Mr. Draughn built the house himself, and it is obviously a labor of love.

This past year has had its extreme ups and downs, and quite frankly, I wouldn't even try to predict what 2014 might hold in store. To me personally, some indicators are anything but positive; however, for all that, I can at least say that this past year ended on as high a note as a year can end, and I'm grateful for that. In my ancient, ancient age, I am never one to take good fortune, small or large, for granted, and this holiday season has been one I will honor in memory as one of those moments of fortune that truly meant the world to me.

Bless you.

1 comment:

James Robert Smith said...

Looks like a great time!

I haven't been to Pilot Mountain in a long time. Once upon a time (when it was a private park) there was a staircase to the very stop. Now it's illegal to go to the top because of raven rookeries (or something like that).

That is one extremely cool haunted house. Looks like it's more vines these days than lumber.