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Virginia Unbridled

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Photo: Baerbel Schmidt

In the same neighborhood is opulent Keswick Hall, whose laird-of-the-manor grandeur carries a hint of fun: among the hunt-club prints and Chippendale chairs in our room was a framed collection of brightly colored Best in Show ribbons that somebody's poodle had won. Keswick Hall's restaurant, Fossett's, has its own surprising charms. Its anterooms, festooned with over-the-top swags, open onto an elegant white dining room with enormous arrangements of calla lilies. Here, we found the best service of the trip, and some of Virginia's most compelling seasonal food—quail with chanterelles, rockfish with mussels and fava beans. The extensive wine list, heavy with the state's best bottles, included some exciting discoveries: King Family Vineyards Michael Shaps Viognier, made by a négociant in Burgundy, and Blenheim Vineyards' Petit Verdot, and Albemarle Rosé from Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard.

Patricia Kluge, an heiress and philanthropist, entered Virginia's wine game in 1999, and the estate was initially dismissed by many critics as a lark until its wines—sparkling ones, in particular—began consistently garnering ratings in the mid-90's from wine writers.

The Kluge Estate has far and away the most elegant tasting room and café in all of Virginia, and it's staffed by what appear to be UVA students. The one who ushered us through our sampling of the Kluge range didn't look old enough to buy cigarettes, but he was a natural wine-talker, with what seemed like a deep knowledge not only of the riddling and time spent on lees of Kluge's vintages but also of all sorts of wines the world over. He attributed his expertise to his father, a doctor, who had always encouraged his wine curiosity.

When he reached to pour us flutes of Kluge's 2002 brut sparkler, a 100 percent Chardonnay cuvée with a yeasty nose and crisp green-apple flavors, we spied the five-barrel monogram on the cuff of his Oxford shirt. We asked him his name, and took our second sips.

"Ernest William Beasley the Fourth," he replied. "But everybody calls me Bubba.

Matt Lee and Ted Lee are Travel + Leisure contributing editors.

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