Hampton Inn, conveniently located amidst a busy shopping and dining locale of Charlotte’s suburban town Matthews, offered a great deal of comfort and normalcy to us who were relocating from the East Coast to the West with a two-week transit stop in Charlotte, NC.
In fact, as we got ourselves familiarized with the hotel’s friendly personnel and many complimentary perks, like, a hot continental-style breakfast buffet, 24/7 coffee and tea bar complemented by fresh-baked gourmet cookies, and weekday wine and appetizer tastings catered by the local restaurants and diners, it started to feel like a cozy bed & breakfast, and my little one even went on to call it “home”.
I was okay with it. Under the circumstances, home was where there was food at our fingertips.
Matthews is stunningly green. And that alone may be one of its major attractions. Trees everywhere! Tall, full, graceful! Pine, maple, oak, juniper, birch, ash trees! I was glad to point out the species to Nicole on our daily walks to a Chick-fil-A for lunch.
I felt like I was back home in Russia . . . I have a fondness for forests. For their tranquility. Mystique. Majesty.
If you love nature, you can’t pass up a visit to Squirrel Lake Park that’s nestled in one of the many wooded areas of the town. Besides a kiddie playground, picnic shelters, and a fishing pond, it offers Four Mile Creek Greenway—an asphalted trail intermittent with boardwalk. As you stroll, jog, or bike along there, you might spot a wild rabbit as it hops away into the thick of the trees frightened by the noise of your shoes or a water snake basking in the sun on the rocks of the creek or a patch of wild strawberries on the side of the trail hidden in the tall grass.
Perfect for a quiet getaway. We went there numerous times after Kevin got home from work.
Charlotte is definitely one of a kind. Charming, laid-back southern city where rich history permeates its everyday life. I love the way sleek skyscrapers tower over quaint centuries-old houses without ruining the integrity of the historic uptown, the way modern-day traffic caters in to a horse and buggy taking tourists sightseeing, the way a lot of shops and businesses are located in the old mills and warehouses that they took the time and effort to renovate and bring back to their original glory. This is a city that values the past, enjoys the present, and projects for the future.
We started our tour of Charlotte with visiting Atherton Farmer’s Market. My kind of attraction. Housed inside an old warehouse in Historic South End of Charlotte, it’s a hodgepodge of local foods, farms, and artisans. From fresh meats and vegetables to unique art and jewelry, this place has something for everybody. Even for me who had no basket to load, no stove to cook, and no extra room in the luggage to fill.
As I was leaving the place, I grabbed a spring issue of Edible Charlotte from the newsstand which led me to discover a place so unique and gorgeous it takes your breath away. Right under our noses in a green quirky town of Monroe where Kevin drove to work every day. A place not a lot of locals know about and a place I am already brewing plans to return to.
Treehouse Vineyards is a family-owned Vineyard and Winery that specializes in producing wines from native muscadines as well as imported grapes. We headed there on Mother’s Day for a wine tasting and a tour of the wine-making process followed by a stay in one of their ruggedly charming tree houses about 30 feet off the ground. And I thought tree houses were only for kids! The one that we rented for an hour can accommodate up to 6 people, seats comfortably 4 inside, and includes an outside fireplace on the deck overlooking the vineyard. Are you raising your eyebrows yet? Wait! It gets better! Their other tree house has a kitchenette, full bath, upstairs bedroom with a queen size bed, hot and cold water, heat, air conditioning, and a gas grill on the private deck . . . and it is booked through the end of this year already. And this is exactly why I have to make plans to return there some time in the fall next year for their Grape Stomping event or in the winter when bonfire nights complete with s’mores kits draw people in from near and far.
And while the house wines are bold in character, rich in taste, and distinct in flavor, and the farm’s vistas of well-groomed muscadine vines and horses roaming them freely are beautiful and romantic, and the tree houses make perfect getaways for kids of all ages, it’s one family’s incredible journey that brings it all together into one-of-a-kind experience.
Phil and Dianne Nordan, the owners, took a chance when they decided to put the farmland that’d been in Dianne’s family for over 200 years to good use by growing native muscadine grapes and wining them in the state that wasn’t big on wine at the time and muscadine wines were often overlooked in liquor stores due to their intensely sweet taste. But hard labor, strong vision, and the tree houses that are an attraction by themselves have definitely paid off, with the vineyard considerably outselling its competitors and taking home both the gold and silver medals for its muscadine wines at the 2011 NC State Fair.
Although I am not crazy about very sweet wines, I must admit their Sunset Hills, which is a sweet red blend of three different muscadine varieties, seemed a bit smoother than the others and more gripping with the flavor of the fruit. Pretty good.
Their viniferous wines are as delicious. My personal favorite is “Rock Quarry” Riesling. Made without the muscadine grape, it has a dryer, more delicate flavor.
They sell the wines by the glass and the bottle, and you are welcome to make a picnic out of it on the deck of one of the two tree houses while enjoying the farm’s spectacular views.
In short, good people, good wine, good entertainment.
Stop by and wine a bit.