Wine Weekend in Augusta, Day 1: Augusta Winery, Balducci Vineyards, and the Amazing Rooms at the H.S. Clay House Bed and Breakfast
Augusta is a place that Julie and Bob had been to a lot in the past, but hadn’t visited in six or seven years. We decided to have a big family vacation out there (along with Katie and Dan), and set out on the long drive down through Illinois.
We made good time, and arrived a bit before our check-in, and before Katie and Dan arrived (Dan had to work a half-day). With a bit of extra time on our hands, we decided to dive right in to our first tasting at Augusta Winery.
While I like wine, I’d never really done much in terms of tastings. The way most places handled things, it was $5 for about 5 samples (according to Bob and Julie, once upon a time all the tastings were free).
In my head, I was expecting we would be seated while doing the tastings – but most places had bars/countertops set up for large groups. You just walked up, asked for the tasting menu, and just go.
I’m mostly a red wine person, but I opted to try some of the whites – just to see how I’d like them. To my surprise, I found several white wines to be quite good. In my head, when I think of white wine, I think of a super acidic or tangy Chardonnay – an almost sour-like taste.
I learned that I needed to avoid the dry whites, and go for something a bit sweeter. I also learned (over the course of the trip) that by starting off with whites, I ended up finding a lot of the reds almost overpowering. Weird.
Around 4:30PM, we headed to our Bed and Breakfast: H.S. Clay House. The place is just jaw-dropping and amazing (as you’ll see with the photos, below).
At the front gate, looking towards the front door.
Walking in, you immediately noticed that nearly every wall was decorated. Pictures and antiques adorning almost every available surface.
Looking back at the front door.
On arriving, we were greeted by Leigh, who gave us an extensive tour of each room.
Looking into the living room.
Later in the evening, Katie described her feeling that the house just “enveloped you in a big hug” as you walked in.
The living room was one of my favorite rooms by far. The chairs almost pull you in, and with a good book on your lap… you’d never want to get up.
Another view of the living room.
In one of the back bathrooms, Leigh showed us where she keeps her birds.
Looking into the sitting room, off the front hallway.
The fireplace mantle.
Looking in to the dining room.
So much to see. Each room made me feel like I could just spend an hour, looking at the walls and decorations.
It felt a bit like we were inside a living flea market – so many old antiques, so many hidden secrets and histories waiting to be discovered.
A larger view of the dining room.
Inside the kitchen, we got to meet Alan (who was preparing some chocolate chip cookies).
Julie and Liz, talking with Alan and admiring his kitchen.
An old photo of the house, with the original owners.
Leigh and Alan got these photographs from I believe the youngest son of the Clay family – who recently passed away. He is pictured in the row of photographs, third from the left.
Stairs leading up to the second floor.
I could have stood here for another hour, just looking at all the bottles.
While there were several rooms on the second floor, the room Liz and I got was the “Tree Top Suite.” Which was one more floor up.
A small sitting area, near the top of the stairs. Here is a short snippet of a conversation that Liz and I had, regarding chess.
It’s the same conversation that’s probably been had, between two people, for many centuries now:
Me: Do you want to play chess?
Liz: I don’t know how to play.
Me: Do you want me to teach you how to play chess?
Looking towards the bed. The stairs are to the left, as is the private bathroom.
Another small seating area, near the bed.
Each room also had two small glasses of port, along with some chocolate.
Oh, and I should also mention that nealy every room in the house also had a glass container chock full of M&M’s.
Our private bathroom. While all the rooms at H.S. Clay House are very lovely, the Turret Suite and Tree Top Suite are the two with their own, private bathrooms.
A small little noook, with two chairs, a TV, and lots of books. Yet another little spot that you could just settle in, and lose yourself for a few hours.
Looking down the stairs to the second floor.
A pitcher of their “Welcome Punch,” made with Rhine wine, peach schnapps, triple sec, and a touch of sugar. This was a deceptively strong drink, as told to us by Julie and Bob – so I drank very little, and was quite cautious about it. We also heard a story of a prior lodger who gave Alan money specifically requesting that he make another pitcher, because he had liked it so much.
Leigh and Alan, proprieters of the fantastic H.S. Clay House.
After the tour, I got to wander a bit more and take some pictures in the kitchen.
Again, just so much amazing stuff to look at, everywhere.
Looking in towards the dining room.
Another view of the kitchen and work area.
TV and breakfast nook.
Countertop. On the left there is a door that leads to the laundry room. Leigh told us about how, in the early years, she and Alan used to live in that small room. With all the other rooms for lodgers, they stayed in the small laundry room, and feel asleep to the sound of the dryer going at night.
Nowadays, they live in an adjacent building – but we got to glimpse the small room where they once had set up a small bed, and where they had originally stayed.
Hanging out in the living room, sipping on some glasses of the Welcome Punch. Reminded that the last time all six of us were on vacation together was several years ago, when we went on a cruise.
In all honesty, the H.S. Clay House was just a phenomenal place to stay. Had we done nothing else at all over the course of the weekend, had we not gone to any wineries at all and just stayed at the house? I would have been perfectly content.
I failed to photograph the hot tub, as well as the back patio, as well as the swimming pool. I truly could have spent the whole weekend at the house, and been incredibly happy.
For dinner, we drove to Balducci’s. There were several outdoor spots, along with several tables that looked to be just out on their own. As inviting as those were, we arrived right around sunset, and opted to go inside.
We started off with a small tasting, and then settled in for dinner.
We got back to the house around 9:30 or so. Despite Alan having set up wood for a fire, we all decided to get to bed early given the long travel day. It was super tempting to light a fire, or to go in the hot tub… but we were just all pretty wiped out.
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