Sunday Afternoon at Hamlet Vineyard

This is one of the best kept secrets I’ve ever seen. And it’s a secret from the locals, it seems. I’ve been there twice now. Both times it was sold out. The first time it was Labor Day weekend so I figured, holiday weekend. This past Sunday (August 7th)? Lobster rolls, apparently.

Hamlet Vineyard is up in Bassett, just a stone’s throw from Stanleytown Health & Rehabilitation Center, where my mom went to recover from a stroke. I was there every day and I never realized that there was a vineyard just down the road. Literally, within sight.

There is just a small sign on the left side of road and a long gravel drive leading off into the trees.

Driving into Hamlet Vineyards

I arrived only about a quarter of an hour after the 1 o’clock opening and the parking lot was already quite full. There is ample parking. It is all on mown grass.

I’m told that this rush always happens when lobster rolls are available and that was what I was here for. Salty’s Lobster & Co had brought them down from Roanoke.

There was still a line at the door

I think that the fireside seating and the picnic tables up by the vineyards are new since the last time I came. That time, I just gave up in the parking lot when people were coming back to their cars saying that there was no more seating.

The place filled up quickly. I didn’t dilly dally that much looking around but I missed my opportunity at the last table. I think other people are aware of the limited seating and do not waste any time getting seated.

Shaded picnic tables on the vineyard may be the best seats in the house

I wasn’t about to miss my opportunity here a second time so I ended up taking up a chair in the fire pit area. The chair was comfortable and the umbrella provided good shade. This seemed like more of a waiting area than a dining area but any port in a storm, right?

The waitress came and took my order and I sat and watched other late arrivals. Most decided not to stay. Two ladies from Greensboro and the lovely labradoodle, Willow, decided to brave the limited shade and joined me.

We chatted and had a wonderful conversation about all types of things. One was a physical therapist and one was a teacher. One was a single mom and the other, a fur mom. They had driven quite a ways for a day of wine and lobster rolls. Unfortunately, Hamlet had run out of lobster rolls. And it was really hot. Their day wasn’t shaping up too well.

We managed to keep Willow in the shade and two of the three humans. We were on the brink of rearranging their fire pit furniture to get all three of us in the shade when tables started clearing on the covered patio.

That made a huge difference. We all moved together and finished our wine and conversation in the shade. The covered patio, we noticed, has heaters in the ceiling for cold weather. They said that they enjoyed their day enough to come back. I hope so.

Tips for going to Hamlet Vineyard:

Get to the location early. There is a gate across the drive so get in line if you can. If you can’t, there is a drug store across the street where you can lay in wait for a good opportunity to get in earlier.

Try the sangria. It really is out of this world. They have a peach sangria and a pomegranate sangria. I had the pomegranate sangria and I LOVED it.

Budget to get a truffle a piece. They are $2.50 each but they are so worth it. They are made by local chocolatier Cocoa Trails Chocolates and I think they may be their best flavor.

Be persistent. This really is worth the wait.

A Rainy Morning in Downtown Madison, NC

This post is really about pictures.

Downtown Madison

I was at the 2021 Dan River Boat Race wearing a cardigan over shorts and a sleeveless top (it was supposed to be 80 degrees) when I got to thinking about the fru-fru coffees they sell at The Mad Bean in downtown Madison.

Beverage Menu at The Mad Bean

They also offer hot breakfasts or you can get a premade croissant or apple fritter.

Wrapped Pastries

Down by the train tracks, they have a beautiful building with a commemorative clock. I love the bricked up arches. I assume that those were windows back in the day. I have no idea what this building was.

The Madison Town Clock

The plaque reads:

The Madison Town Clock

1919

A memorial to the men who served and died in World War I

Jim Vaughn, The American Legion and local citizens contributed to the purchase of the clock. The purpose of the clock was to serve as a local war memorial for those who served in the Great War. The clock is a rare number two striking clock with still operates by winding.

The Commemorative Plaque

The clock rang as I was standing there.

The Clock Face

Right next door to the Madison Town Clock is the American Legion. I think that this is an anti-aircraft gun.

An Anti-Aircraft Gun?

There is a beautiful old depot just across the street. Just as old rail trails are being turned into hiking/biking trails, old depots are being fixed up in some small towns and turned into tourist attractions. (We have one up in Bassett but I haven’t seen it open).

Historic Depot

But this historic depot is not empty. It is home to the GIA Distillery. Open on Fridays and Saturdays in the afternoons and early evenings. I’m not a huge fan of whiskey but it wouldn’t kill me to stop in and see what they offer.


GIA Distillery

My husband and I used to be very good about getting down to Madison to see new businesses. We loved Southern Spirits, an old fashioned downhome restaurant with fun specialty drinks to go with dinner. If there is such a thing as an American pub, Southern Spirits is it.

Southern Spirits

And now there’s another new place … Wine Nox. Check out their Facebook Page. It looks like they have a wonderful sitting area in the back and live music?

Wine Nox

Madison is just a pretty place. Even the local recycler’s building is beautiful on a rainy morning in August.

Just a Pretty Building

Great Outdoor Provisions Has Kayaks

I still haven’t made it to Bob’s Up The Creek Outfitters in Moneta (VA) yet so it may be premature to say that Great Outdoor Provisions Company is my favorite local outfitter. But I could go out on a limb…

And, another thing, I am not so sure about this “kayak shortage”.

Great Outdoors has kayaks and they don’t look especially picked over. It’s not about price either. They have the FeelFree Move kayak available at $549. I don’t know if I like sit-on-tops but, if I do, this is pretty and half the price of a Dagger Katana. So, if I am going to be in love with each new kayak I see and the prices are going to vary wildly, how do I pick my “forever kayak”? What is it that I actually want?

So, here’s what I like about going to an outfitter. They know kayaks. The salesman I spoke to was a fan of Jackson kayaks. He explained that for what I am wanting a kayak for – lakes and rivers with less than class 2 rapids – the Dagger Katana is not a good fit. He explained that there are kayaks made for the sea, kayaks made for whitewater, and kayaks made for flatwater. He suggested two kayaks to look at. Both are pricey (but still less than the Katana):

The LiquidLogic Remix says that it “excels in whitewater yet carries speed across flat, calm lakes”.

The Venture Flex says that it allows you to “explore canals, take short coastal trips, enjoy a tranquil day on the lake, or float along gentle rivers”.

I may be completely off of the Dagger now. It’s an elite kayak but I feel embarrassed by my basic kayak when next to a LiquidLogic kayak, even if they are made for two entirely different things. LiquidLogic stands out as a top brand around here. It’s like having a Trapper Keeper when I was in 8th grade. Sure, a regular binder would do but a Trapper Keeper was just better for some reason.

I do not want to thrill seek and bang my head against rocks. A crazy whitewater experience is not on my “to do” list. But I can’t shake the envy/respect I am getting for the LiquidLogic line. Now that I know that they make a crossover, I have something else to think about.

And so I get to the other great thing about Great Outdoors.

They share a parking lot with World of Beers.

World of Beers is a regular restaurant with an extraordinary line up of beers. They have a nice indoors seating area, a great bar, and a beautiful large outdoors patio. Apparently, the latest thing is to not have a physical menu. Instead you scan the QR code and it is supposed to show up on your phone. Supposed to. When that didn’t work for me, my waitress dug out a paper beer menu.

This is just the BEER menu.

This is just the BEER menu. I had a Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat. It must be pretty popular because I’ve even seen it up here in Martinsville.

It was too hot of a day to try the Deep River Waffles & Syzurp. A North Carolina brown ale, 6.0 ABV, “A brown ale with added spices, syrup, and malts that would remind you of your favorite brekkie. Waffles, syrup, bacon, coffee … and more”. I will be going back as soon as there is the slightest chill in the air.

Actually, I just looked up the Deep River Brewing Company in Clayton, NC and it might be a fun trip to go straight to the source…

Not to bore anyone with food photos but, when you order a salad, do you have preconceived notions of what it should look like before it gets to you? Because the picture below is of the Wobb Cobb salad. Definitely unique. It tasted great so no complaints here. Just a little in awe.

A Wobb Cobb

Next step is to learn to move my kayak from point A to point B, by myself. I got a Rhino Rack for my car but have since learned that I have to put at least $300 more into it to be able to carry a kayak. This already costs more than my current kayak.

Plus, it whistles. It’s like having a giant flute tied to the top of my car. On good days, I’ve compared the sound to those Himalayan singing bowls. On bad days, it reminds me of the sound of a British ambulance I’ve heard on tv shows.

Instead of doubling down and buying J racks, I have backed up, accepted that I wasted a good chunk of change and, hoping not to waste more, ordered something cheaper.

I hope this works.

Wish me luck.