It would be hard not to enjoy a stay at Harvest Moon, the spectacular rental home nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains in Montebello, Virginia. But, if you’re one of those people who seeks the most out of every experience, this guide could help make a stay even better.
After spending most of their lives in the travel industry, in 2020 Lauren Strachan and her husband JC found the mountain house of their dreams. They spent months renovating it before launching it as a rental property in early 2021. As we discovered this weekend, the result is worth the wait: a spectacular setting and experience for anyone lucky enough to score a reservation.
If you are coming from Charlottesville or points East, take the scenic route along 151, and stop at any of the vineyards, breweries, cideries, or distilleries on the way. We chose Hazy Mountain Vineyards & Brewery, a stunning and transporting new property where Luke Trainum presides over the beer and wine.
As tempting as Nelson County’s offerings can be, though, don’t linger too long as you will want to savor as much time as you can at Harvest Moon itself. The scenic drive from 151 to the house is less than an hour. And the destination is worth every minute.Once there, you don’t need much of a plan at all. The seamlessness of online lives, work lives, and everyday existence can make true escape nearly impossible these days. But, with no cellular service and limited WiFi, Harvest Moon leaves almost no choice. Within minutes of arriving, you may find yourself newly engaged with your housemates, lost in self-reflection, or just happily enjoying the spellbinding views.
The hosts’ extremely helpful 14-page guidebook includes tips for nearby restaurants, but we’d recommend dining in. It’s a pleasure to watch dusk set on the house, where not a minute feels wasted. The absence of nearby grocery stores does require advance planning, and we packed coolers full of groceries for the weekend.
While there’s no reason to leave the house, its location does serve as a useful launchpad for nearby adventures, like drives, hikes, vineyards and breweries, and more. One is St. Mary’s, which a good friend calls one of his favorite places on earth. Another is Crabtree Falls, just down the road from Harvest Moon, which is actually located on Crabtree Falls Road. On the first morning of our stay, the proximity helped us arrive well before crowds descended upon the popular hike. We saw barely a handful of people during the two-hour up-and-back.
From there, it was off to brunch. Two worthy choices are the classic country greasy spoon Gertie’s and the more refined Osceola Mill, at which Harvest Moon guests enjoy a discount. We opted for the latter, where the children enjoyed French Toast, and I stuck with a liquid brunch of Waterbird Spirits Ranch Water, to save room for lunch at our next destination.
One of the most picturesque vineyards in Virginia, and just minutes from Harvest Moon, 12 Ridges Vineyard sits atop the Blue Ridge Parkway at 3,200 feet. Still awaiting its first vintage, in lieu of its own wines the vineyard serves comparable “cool-weather” wines from other favorite wineries. We had the good luck of visiting while Island Wheels food truck was on site, dishing out Eric Vasson’s St. Lucian food. De Morgenzon Rose washed down a sandwich of fried red snapper.
While we could have spent all afternoon at the vineyard, Harvest Moon beckoned, so it was back home for more relaxation. Daytime, we enjoy the views and mountain air from the house’s living room and two decks. And, when evening comes, it is time for S’mores by the fire and family games in the pub-like basement.
Making the stay even more memorable are the house’s two portable Bose speakers, which you can carry wherever you roam. Creating a playlist specifically for the weekend not only provides entertainment during the stay but also can transport you back to Harvest Moon long after you leave.
Beyond the setting, house, and mountain air, what rounds out the experience is the hospitality of the hosts. Their passion for the house is unmistakable, and it manifests itself in how desperately they want their guests to enjoy it as much as they do. They seem to have thought of everything. And, they are always available and so prompt in responding to any questions that may arise.
We can hardly wait to go back. Until then, we will just follow along on social media.