Last weekend we were blessed to spend time in Ashland Oregon with some of our dear friends. This experience highlights the many facets of Christmas and the spirit in which the best part of this holiday continues to thrive.
We were met at the airport by Lisa and Marty and followed "the locals" to our destination, the Winchester Inn. We were to share a joint suite with them and were excited to catch up as we hadn't seen them in what seems an eternity. What we didn't know is that Lisa had taken some of her most precious Christmas decorations originating from her mom and other family members and decorated our joint suite.
This was such a precious gift to behold as that gesture set the stage for an amazing weekend. That night we went to Dancin Vineyards for a wine tasting, which was fantastic. The pinot noir and chardonnay were exceptional but this was just the prelude to the much anticipated dinner at the Jacksonville Inn.
Jacksonville is a quaint town highlighted by old but well maintained brick buildings, victorians, restaurants, tasting rooms, antique and gift shops, all decorated elaborately for Christmas and promoted with hand-crafted signs. This is quaint with a capital "Q".
"Housed in one of gold-rush Jacksonville's early permanent structures, the Jacksonville Inn perpetuates the nostalgic romances of the era."
What's interesting is that this town was the first town in America to be named a National Historic Landmark. Its beautiful to enter a town and feel like your stepping back in time.
The dinner was wonderful and the conversations even better. The dinning room exhibited the flavor of the past with victorian lamps, crafted tables and chairs, and of course the old brick fireplace. The food was sourced from local farms with the very special feeling you get when the product is fresh and perfectly prepared.
The next morning we began with a complimentary breakfast at the Winchester Inn located in another beautiful town, Ashland Oregon. Nancy and I have found that most complimentary breakfasts are an afterthought giving no perceived value to the experience. Wow, were we wrong on this one.
The breakfast began with a hand-made pastry with fresh fruit. Then we were offered a choice of four different main course selections. Creme brulee french toast, an omelet filled with artisanal cheeses, a frittata with wild mushrooms and goat cheese, and finally a simple but excellent representation of the classic American breakfast with chicken apple sausage or maple smoked bacon. In addition to these fantastic selections the service was exceptional.
Next we visited our friends home on the Rogue River, the Doc's office and then it was off for more wine tasting. We also visited a local bee farm, Wild Bee Honey Farms. The proprietor captured a video with her inside a swarm of bees. I've never seen anything like the complete trust she had for these bees she loved so much as they almost covered her from head to toe.
After tasting we were quite hungry and so we found a lunch place in Jacksonville called "The Back Porch Bar and Grill". The reason I mention this place is because they have the best burger I've ever tasted. Meat accessed from the local butcher, home-made buns delivered from a bakery in Ashland daily, local cheese and organic produce... AMAZING!!!!
The final tasting of the day turned out to be at the most beautiful winery I've ever seen. Belle Fiore Winery is a French Chateau located outside the main town of Ashland.
Crafted inlayed tile, black wrought iron staircases enhanced by mahogany and elaborate chandeliers paint a picture of opulence balanced by taste and fortified by expertly crafted wines. This winery is a must see when your visiting southern Oregon.
The main reason we booked this trip was not only to see our dear friends but to experience the "Charles Dickens" dinner (a once a year event) at the Winchester Inn. Prior to our arrival we were asked for our entree selection and what hobbies we enjoyed.
Upon arrival for our much anticipated dinner the dinning room was decorated in a charming display of Dickens Christmas with the servers dressed in period clothing. Not only was the food elegant and tasteful but the over all experience can not be fully communicated.
In between courses appeared a quartet of singers dressed in period clothing singing fanciful carols outside the parameters of your established standard Christmas carols. Funny, serious, and classic carols all performed at the highest artistic level. Needless to say this added a dimension of sensory experience elevating everything around the Dickens dinner.
The coup de gras was Santa... of course. Santa went to each person at each table giving a personalized gift with a funny message that had the entire room engaged and captured within the best part of all of us... the spirit of Christmas.
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