Fall Getaways 2010
Where to go and what to do: Six nearby spots where you can shop, dine, explore — and relax
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Hotel in one: Winvian’s golf-inspired getaway delights putt-putt fans across the board
Photograph courtesy of Winvian
Winvian Morris, CT
This enclave of 18 architect-designed themed cottages offers a one-of-a-kind getaway experience
By David Levine
Deep in the heart of the Connecticut woods stands a resort unlike any I’ve ever seen. Here, spread out over 115 of Litchfield County’s prettiest acres, stand 18 cottages and an historic home. Each has a different theme, architecture, and décor. You like antiques? They have one with that. Modern? Check. Log cabin? Of course.
Helicopter? Yes, helicopter.
This is the Winvian, the brainchild of managing director Heather Smith, whose family has owned the property for generations.
Her grandfather, Win Smith, was a founder of Merrill Lynch. Win and his wife, Vivian, bought the place as a “gentleman’s farm,” Smith says. “They came here to relax.” When Win died, Vivian lived here permanently until she passed away in the 1990s. The property went to their daughter, Maggie, Heather’s mother.
They also own a property in Vermont called the Pitcher Inn, where each room is decorated by a different architect. Heather ran the inn for several years. In 2000, she had an epiphany.
“It just appeared to me one day — wouldn’t it be cool to take the inn and make it on larger scale,” she says. “The Litchfield property was just sitting there, so I told my mother the idea, and amazingly, she said ‘I love it.’ ” They named it after Win and Vivian — Winvian.
They took their time developing the property, which borders another 4,000 acres of preserved land. “We hired the top experts in wetlands management, traffic control, everything to have as minimal an impact on the site as possible and maintain the integrity of the property,” she says. That care paid off. The cottages seem as though they grew up from the ground, surrounded by mature trees and undisturbed vistas that must have made construction a major headache but provides remarkable privacy for guests.
For the cottages, the Smiths invited 35 architects to a two-day symposium and asked for building suggestions that reflected Connecticut in some way. “We received about 50 ideas, and my mother and I picked the 15 we liked best,” Heather says. Along with the ones already mentioned, there is the Artist Cottage, based on a 1920s bungalow that includes an adjoining artist’s studio with blank canvases, water colors, acrylics, and oils that guests can play with. The Camping Cottage is airy and open; its floor-to-ceiling windows give views of the forest. There is also a screened porch with an outdoor fireplace.
Other favorites include the medieval Connecticut Yankee Cottage (inspired by Mark Twain’s novel A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court); the Treehouse, 25 feet off the ground and suspended among three trees; and the Hadley Suite, in the historic 1775 Seth Bird House. The Hadley features chestnut floorboards, a bedroom with canopy bed, and a “servant’s” corridor connecting the living areas with the bar and the bathroom — all overlooking the gardens.
And finally, the Helicopter: a fully restored 1968 Sikorsky HH37 Sea King Pelican helicopter situated in a wide open room houses a bar and entertainment center.
Roughing it: The interior of the “Log Cabin” cottage at Winvian — with its cathedral ceiling, overstuffed armchairs, and tiered chandelier — is a definite step up from most log structures
Photograph courtesy of Winvian
The cottages range in size from 950 to 1,250 square feet. Each has at least one wood-burning fireplace, a wet bar, icemaker, Nespresso coffee system, writing desk/study area, and private screened outdoor porch. For those who just can’t leave work behind, phones and wireless Internet access are available. Bose sound systems, concealed televisions with DVD players, and individual climate controls provide city comfort in a country setting. Each bathroom contains a whirlpool bathtub, separate walk-in steam shower, double vanity sinks, and radiant floor heating.
“We feel everyone has a different style as travelers,” Smith says. “Of course, everyone wants great food and service, so different cottages would appeal to the widest number of guests.”
Food is in the capable hands of Chef Chris Eddy, who previously worked at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, among other fine eateries in New York, Nantucket, and Vermont. If you get up early enough, you can often see Eddy picking the produce of the day from the resort’s organic vegetable garden.
The spa is a major draw, offering a sauna and six other rooms for a variety of transformative treatments. Pilates, yoga, and other classes are also available.
Obviously, relaxation is the order of the day (or days) here. For outdoor fun, there are hiking and biking trails (the resort supplies two bikes for every cottage); fly-fishing (poles and tackle also included); and skiing, skating, and snowshoeing in the winter. Should you wish to venture out, the concierge can set you up with golf, horseback riding, a hot-air balloon ride, or Formula I racing lessons at nearby Lime Rock Speedway.
Or you can just hang. “It’s not unusual to find a guest in the main lobby, reading a book with one leg thrown over the arm of a chair,” Smith says. “Though our services seem very ‘white glove,’ we want to be extremely welcoming and comfortable. If you want lots of care, we’ll be there. If you want to be left alone, we leave you alone. We welcome everyone, whether you want to live here all year or visit for one special weekend.”
155 Alain White Rd., Morris, CT 860-567-9600, www.winvian.com
Where to stay:
Abel Darling B&B
102 West St., Litchfield. 860-567-0384
This inn is just a short stroll away from the Litchfield Green, home to a variety of restaurants and quaint New England-y shops.
Tollgate Hill Inn & Restaurant
571 Torrington Rd., Litchfield. 866-567-1233
This charming lodge has been welcoming visitors through its doors since 1745. Patrons are able to choose their sleeping quarters: a tavern, a charming Colonial, and even a former schoolhouse.
The Boulders Inn
East Shore Rd., New Preston . 860-868-0541
This Dutch Colonial mansion boasts an ambiance of elegance while staying true to rustic New England simplicity and charm.
Where to eat:
The Community Table
Rte. 202, Litchfield. 860-868-9354
Features exclusively local ingredients from area farmers.
The Woodward House
4 The Green, Bethlehem. 203-266-6902
Offers Zagat-recommended American cuisine in an 18th-century clapboard house.
The Rooster Tail Inn
Cornwall Rd., Warren. 860-868-3100
Another 18th-century B&B with a cozy dining room and an English pub-style tavern.
What to do:
New England Carousel Museum
95 Riverside Ave., Bristol . 860-585-5411
Vintage carousel horses are brought back to life through masterfully detailed restoration and preservation.
Sunset Meadow Vineyards
599 Old Middle St., Goshen. 860-201-4654
Featured attractions at this vineyard include wine tastings, guided hayrides, and informational tours.
Connecticut Art Trail
With the Connecticut Art Trail pass you’ll be able to explore former artists’ boarding houses, modern art museums, and more at your own leisure ($25 for 15 museums; valid for two months).
Harvest Festival Haight-Brown Vineyard
29 Chestnut Hill Rd., Litchfield. 860-567-4045, Sept. 19-20
This annual festival features local brews, vineyard and cellar tours, music, and children’s activities.
Rte. 61, Bethlehem. 203-266-5350, Sept. 10-12
There’s fun for the whole family at this annual fair, with a western horse show, lumberjack and “hollerin’ ” contests, antique tractor parade, and an “agri-Olympics” competition.