It nicely complemented Leonard's pancetta-garnished leek and potato soup.
From Culpeper I moved on to Charlottesville and a night at the white-painted, Colonial-style Clifton Inn (), which has a croquet lawn, a lake, and hiking trails on 100 acres—and offered easy access to other places. Late that first afternoon I headed for Monticello, less than six miles away.
Another overnight option is Keswick Hall ( The 46-mile drive from Culpeper to Charlottesville set the tone for my trip, for it took me past the greenest fields and most opulent rural scenery imaginable.
(He wasn't our only penniless president, just the smartest one to end up that way.) Nevertheless, Monticello was worth all the money spent to construct it, so exquisite are the details.
(Okay, the staircases are a little narrow.) If you love Jefferson, as we all do, you will try to forget that much of the work was done by slaves; it's hard to understand why he never found that unacceptable.
(I hadn't tried a Virginia wine in a decade, and I wasn't fond of what I had sampled back then.) At King Family Vineyards (), which has so much unplanted land it occasionally hosts polo matches, my favorites were the 2014 merlot, fragrant and bracing, and a lip-smacking port-style wine called Seven 2013, made from petit verdot.
At Veritas Vineyard ( The Skyline Drive, my glorious (if slow-moving) road to the north, winds along ridges through Shenandoah National Park. At one gift shop I bought a keychain that incorporated a compass, a thermometer, and a photo of a black bear—everything the fretful traveler needs.) The exit at the northern gateway, Front Royal, brought me within a half-hour of my base in the north, Salamander Resort & Spa (), which is nicely set on 340 acres in the town of Middleburg (pop. I stayed two nights, particularly pleased with the view.DAY 3 ), which has a remarkable modern winery building, is open by appointment only and makes just two wines, both Bordeauxstyle, both expensive, and both promising.The weekend I was there the 2010 Rendezvous was being poured at a White House state dinner.Dinner on my first night was at the Shack () in Staunton, an easy 45-minute drive from the Clifton Inn along Route 64.This tiny place is unprepossessing—a shack not in name only, modeled on the home of the grandmother of chef Ian Boden's wife—yet culinarily brilliant.Fences should be the state symbol of Virginia, because almost every field is lined with them—low, lovely fences of every sort, mostly wood, some stone, even the occasional wooden Civil War–style fence that resembles barbed wire.We don't see unspoiled land like that up north, unless we drive past sod farms. He called it "an essay in architecture," possibly because he kept rethinking and rebuilding it and finally bankrupting himself in the process.My table was at treetop level, by a window, and there I had my first sip of a charming Virginia viognier.I had been told viognier was the state's best grape, but this bottling from Three Fox Vineyards was the first I liked.Less than a hundred years later, with nearly a third of its population in slavery, Virginia left the Union and Richmond became the capital of the Confederacy. In beauty, significance, and even tragedy—about a third of the Civil War's battles were fought there—Virginia is unrivaled.With a crucial national election coming up, and one of its sitting senators, Tim Kaine, running for vice president, it is the perfect destination for an American road trip.