Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vintage Virginia; the US May Have Won the Revolution, but Links with the Old Country Endure

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Vintage Virginia; the US May Have Won the Revolution, but Links with the Old Country Endure

Article excerpt

Byline: MARCUS SCRIVEN

AT 3.45pm, with light rain falling on Staunton (" Stanton", in American), 10 miles west of the Blue Ridge Mountains, only one other customer had succumbed to the attractions of The Heavenly Bake Shop and Cafe. The loner turned out to be proprietor James van Orden, who decided, in Tom Lehrer's imperishable words, that "death would brighten an otherwise dull afternoon". "My father was the best sniper in the US army," he said, eyes locked into a thousand-yard stare, contemplating the gooks daddy did for.

The Heavenly Cafe's $6.50 pastrami sandwich weighed in at about 150lb.

James garnished it with a discussion of his grandmother's espionage career.

Documents were produced, including an obituary of granny, an interview with Major van Orden, and the crest of their English forebears.

Virginia's links with the old country are as inescapable as its eccentricities. There are counties, like Rockingham and Albemarle, named after 18th century aristocrats; there is the anglophilic glory of Charlottesville's Court Square - all sash windows and weathered brick - and the 19th century dignity of downtown Staunton, Woodrow Wilson's birthplace, which at first glance might be a Home Counties market town; and there is, of course, the stimulating Patricia Kluge.

Beautifully qualified to straddle today's geopolitical divide (papa was English, mother Iraqi), Patricia used, when married to billionaire John Kluge, to do wonderful things at the Windsor Horse Show.

These days, though, she is making wine on her estate (named Kluge), just outside Charlottesville. It's here, away from gladiatorial combat on the interstate highways, that driving is most pleasurable. Virginia looks like Dorset, with black or white post-and-rail fencing chasing across country and disappearing into hilltop woodland.

Unless you can afford Patricia's prices, though ($495 a bottle for her debut vintage), you might prefer another of Virginia's vineyards, Barboursville, where, as the sun mellows into dusk, you can imagine that the Civil War is not long over - an illusion nourished by the sight of the torched husk of an old plantation house. …

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