Review of the Beechwood Inn

Review of the Beechwood Inn:

The Beechwood Inn:

Georgia Wine Trail Haven

By Jennifer Whitford*©

We have known David and Gayle Darugh, long time AWS members, for 7 years, ever since Gayle founded the Garden City Chapter of the American Wine Society in Augusta, Georgia. Last year we received the following fairy tale notifying us that they had acquired The Beechwood Inn, a 1920’s Lodge-style bed and breakfast inn located in the North Georgia Mountains . . .

Once upon a time, when Gayle McClain was 6 years old her first grade teacher asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Gayle answered that she wanted to be a gracious and gentle hostess in a wonderful and beautiful cottage surrounded by lush gardens filled with wildflowers, herbs and gentle birds. There would be views of mountains, valleys, forests and waterfalls. Her guests would sleep on fine scented linens and be surrounded by rare art and handsome antiques. The dining would be exquisite. Fine meals would be served on beautiful china in a garden-room filled with flowers and gentle breezes. Her guests would all be charming and filled with wonder, manners and grace. She also wished for world peace.

About 12 months later when little David Darugh was 6 years old, his first grade teacher asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. Little David said he wanted to be a champion racquetball player, an accomplished white water kayaker and balding. He also wanted a Yellow Labrador that could catch Frisbees and a job that gave him 6 months of vacation each year. During the 6-month long vacation he would travel the world in search of fine wines and wonderful cuisine’s that he could bring back to share with his family and friends. He said he wanted the best wine, gastronomy, hospitality, and culture from exotic places, and that all of this would be tax deductible. Little David also wished for world peace.

It now appears that both Gayle and David’s wishes for their grown-up future have been granted – with the exception of the world peace thing. You are invited to the Beechwood Inn . . . a luxury bed and breakfast in the North Georgia Mountains.

My husband, Jeff, and I have now had several opportunities to visit the Beechwood Inn and explore the newly designated Georgia Wine Trail. The trail crosses northern Georgia from east to west and the Beechwood Inn is located in Clayton at the very northeast corner of the Trail. The Inn has quickly become our favorite respite.

The Beechwood Inn is a very special place – in large part because of the wonderful ambience and hospitality provided by David and Gayle. The inn is not just a nice place to visit…you WILL want to live there. The southern states are blessed with many fine bed & breakfast inns that don’t elicit this same reaction. You may be awed by their antique appointments, lacey coverlets and elaborate breakfast spreads, but you also feel as if one wrong, clumsy move could destroy an heirloom and draw the scornful looks of your hosts for the remainder of your stay. At the Beechwood Inn you will instantly feel as if you’re staying with family. The Inn is historic yet not fragile. It is filled with wonderful period antiques, but it does not feel formal or stiff. It is altogether homey and comfortable.

The Beechwood Inn was built in 1916-1922 as a summer home for the Buckholz family of Atlanta. It provided a welcome mountain respite from heat and humidity. Known for her wonderful hospitality, Mrs. Buckholz added room after room in order to accommodate a growing list of family and friends who came to stay. Today the fully restored lodge-style inn offers the traditions of the past with the conveniences of a modern luxury inn. While the original heart pine floors and plaster walls reflect its 1920’s lodge charm, it has all new plumbing, wiring, and rich Williamsburg-style painted woodwork, antiques and fine reproductions. Giant stone fireplaces in the public rooms add an air of yesteryear. On chilly mornings Jeff and I enjoy sipping freshly ground piping hot coffee in front of a warm fire and smelling breakfast aromas coming from the nearby kitchen.

The inn sits near the top of Beechwood Hill overlooking Clayton and the Mountains of Tiger, Georgia. Guests are greeted by an enormous wrap-around porch offering tree top views of nearby Black Rock Mountain, one of Georgia’s highest peaks. Comfortable chaises beckon guests to slow down and relax with a glass of wine and enjoy the spectacular view. Acres of gardens and green-space surround the Inn, providing habitat for wildflowers, herbs, birds and other wildlife. The gardens include thousands of daffodils, orange daylilies and purple wild-iris that bloom in the spring and early summer. A ten-minute walk will take you to Clayton’s historic main street with antique and craft shops, art galleries, and several fine restaurants.

The inn features flawless décor that is comfortable and usable. Each spacious guestroom has a private bath, ceiling fan and air conditioning. Our room had a fireplace, private balcony with spectacular view, dressing area, a queen size bed with luxurious 300-count linens and a warm down comforter for the cool mountain evenings that ensured a restorative night’s sleep. Every corner in the Inn is spotlessly clean and filled with eye catching and captivating features.

Despite all the wonderful features, the best thing about the Beechwood Inn is the hospitality of David and Gayle. To Jeff and I they have quickly become Uncle David and Aunt Gayle (no relation, they just adopted us – and we them). They are both evocative of the old story about the difference between 19th-century British Prime Ministers William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. It was said that, when you had dinner with Gladstone, you left feeling he was the wittiest, most brilliant, most charming person on earth. But when you had dinner with Disraeli, you left feeling that you were the wittiest, most brilliant, most charming person on earth. David is witty, generous and a gifted chef, while Gayle is charming, engaging and filled with grace. Together they provide a level of service, warmth and hospitality that is second to none. They will entertain and charm you with wine, fine food and engaging conversation.

Dave and Gayle’s breakfast creations are beautiful to view and scrumptious. For a romantic weekend visit request David’s heart shaped waffles dusted with powdered sugar and drizzled with homemade blueberry syrup, made fresh from the Inn’s own berry patch. Jeff’s favorite is Gayle’s thick-sliced homemade cinnamon bread made into French toast, covered in real maple syrup and Crème Fresh. Each breakfast also includes a fresh fruit course, homemade muffins (I love Gayle’s nutmeg muffins!) or David’s tender biscuits, juice, fresh brewed coffees and herb teas.

The Beechwood Inn is perfectly situated for experiencing a wide variety of activities. A favorite of cycling, hiking and whitewater enthusiasts, the Inn is equally convenient for the pursuit of history, antiques, art, folklore, or those seeking the perfect wine from the many wineries flourishing on the newly established Georgia Wine Trail. When you’ve satisfied your thirst for adventure, retire to the Beechwood for an afternoon snack, a glass of wine, a good book and the sweeping views of the southern Blue Ridge Mountains. But, if you want a truly wonderful experience, you need to coax David into providing you a wine and gourmet cuisine experience from the Beechwood kitchen.

David and Gayle have each trained in Dijon, France; Sonoma, California and in Santa Fe, New Mexico. To help celebrate the return from our honeymoon David and Gayle treated us to the following wine dinner: a warm-up sample of Tiger Mountain Winery 2000 Viognier disguised in a brown paper bag (we guessed it was from Santa Barbara, California); Appetizer of Tort de Pesto, a rich blend of cream cheese, Olorosa Sherry, fresh basil and fresh garlic on crustini paired with Ken Wright 1995 Canary Vineyard Pinto Noir (Oregon); Salad en Verte, an exotic green salad of Bibb lettuce, field greens, edible flowers and aged balsamic vinaigrette; Shrimp Piccata, an entrée of pan seared fresh jumbo shrimp with whole roasted garlic cloves, grated Pecorino Regiano fresh basil, roasted red peppers, lemon wine sauce and capers, served over fresh angel hair pasta paired with a 1997 Puligny Montrache and a 1997 Rombaur Reserve Chardonnay; and finally Gayle’s Stilton Cheesecake served with an aged Banyul. The wine-food pairings were superb. The Inn’s breakfast parlor is an enclosed porch with views of mountains and conifers, and when filled with soft candlelight it is as romantic as you would find in Provence or Tuscany.

Gayle designed and David recently constructed a romantic hide-a-way cellar for their 2000 bottles of collectible wines. The temperature-controlled cellar features faux leather walls, antique gold-leaf floor and David’s collection of antique corkscrews and wine cellar collectibles. Be sure to wear a sweater and carry a wineglass with you for the cellar tour. David also makes wine, so ask for a sample of his latest effort made from Georgia grapes.

Beechwood Inn sponsored special events and packages focus on wine education activities such as wine dinners at local restaurants, tours and small wine conferences. The Inn recently secured a retail wine license and it offers a selection of Georgia and other fine wines. David and Gayle also arrange wine tours to local wineries. They scheduled a number of wine tours for us to local wineries. The clear highlight was a tour and private tasting at Tiger Mountain Winery hosted by co-owner/winemaker Bill Stack. This small winery was founded 4 years ago by urologist John Ezzard and attorney Bill Stack. .Most of the grapes are on grown on John’s family farm (he is the fifth generation farmer). Bill has a nearby apple orchard and vineyard. Together their families choose to produce quality Vinifera grapes; wines from grapes suited to Northern Georgia’s cool Mountain Viticultural region. They have experimented with Touriga Nationale, Tannat, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, Malbec and several other lesser known Varietals and native Cynthiana-Norton. Their success was recently recognized at the 2001 AWS Commercial Competition where Tiger Mountain Winery collected an unheard of 5 medals including Gold for their 1999 Cabernet Franc, competing against a crowded field of French and California entries.

Bill offered us a barrel tasting of their latest vintage wines and provided an informative discussion on their viticulture and winemaking techniques. Tiger Mountain is clearly a winery that will secure a national reputation for its wines. Ask David or Gayle to arrange a visit to this small winery. You will not regret the experience. Other local wineries that you should include on your itinerary include Three Sisters Vineyards and Frogtowne Vineyards in Dahlonega, Habersham Winery in Helen, Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris and the very large and tourist oriented Chateau Elan. New wineries expected to open in the next year include Wolf Creek in Tiger, Persimmon Creek in and Chota in Clayton.

We award the Beechwood Inn the five Pineapples Award for hospitality. The pineapple has been the symbol of hospitality since the mid-1600s, when sea captains would place pineapples brought back from the West Indies outside their doors as a sign that they had returned from their seagoing voyages and were welcoming visitors. Fromtheir warm, genuine greeting on our arrival, to the wine and hors d’oeuvres that were set in front of the common living room’s cozy fireplace, it took no time at all for us to feel asif we were staying with family or old friends.

If you had friends or family who lived along the Georgia Wine Trail that were kind enough to invite you to come and stay, you’d want them to own a place just like this. The Historic Beechwood Inn is a delight. David and Gayle offer guests a variety of seasonal packages that include wine dinners at local restaurants, wine tastings, tours, and tickets to local events. Best of all, unlike friends and family who might invite you to stay with them once a year if you’re lucky and bring good gifts, you’re literally welcome at the Beechwood Inn any time you fancy an escape to a vibrant North Georgia Mountain Retreat. From spring’s blossoms, to the booming summer mountain festivals, to fall’s colorful shadings and Foxfire events, to the holiday season when the mountains are decked out for Christmas, the northeast Georgia Mountains offer an ever-changing swirl of activities. If you plan just right, you might even be able to participate in an event of the newly formed Foxfire Chapter of AWS (yes, she’s at it again!). This comfortable B&B is the perfect place to put up your feet after a day of embracing it all.

© Ms Jennifer Whitford Stoddard is the new Chair of the Garden City Chapter of the AWS in Augusta, GA. She and her husband Jeff are avid Bicyclists and students of fine wine. Jennifer is also a doctoral candidate of psychology at the University of Georgia.

Review of the Beechwood Inn