Have you ever visited a new place and felt, maybe a little selfishly, that you are somehow coming home? It’s not deja vu, because you know you’ve never been there before- have never been anywhere like there before- but are immediately, comfortably, at home? Pulling up the drive at the Market at Grelen does that. You want, somehow, to make your movements more practiced, more dainty. Because, of course, you want to belong to this place as much as you feels it belongs to you.
When you pull up the drive, you are greeted by an immediate, overwhelming beauty. The mountains curl around the venue like a shawl, the wisps of cloud like hand-stitched lace. And then there’s the body- the exposed brick, the wood terracing- and the makeup, the blush-bursts of floral phantasm, the lip-color rose, the lusty red of japanese maples. And the perfume- honeysuckle and rose, basil and mint, unidentifiable (at least, to a gardening newbie) graces of rare, fantastic blooms, all lovingly tended. If I could bottle the scent, I’d be president.
It should go without saying that on my first visit, I didn’t want to leave. I wandered in through the luscious gardens to the shop and bar, which manages to feel like the living room of an Instagram model and the living room of your favorite aunt at the same time. The carefully chosen wares boast clever slogans- but nothing trite, nothing silly- and all seem to crave a place in the kitchen you might form- and maybe, with the help of this market, could form. Everything seems- filtered. Except that it’s not, because this might be the most authentic place you’ve ever been.
The husband and wife team (or should I say wife and husband?) that run, respectively, Grelen Nursery and the Market at Grelen ( two separate, lovely businesses that share the same space copacetically, much the way I imagine a healthy marriage) manage to present a perfect presentation and make it feel completely natural. Let Leslie pour you a local draft off the tap and if you have a moment, sit down with the two of them. He’ll tell you about the guided hikes, through the nursery, the mature woods that have rested for 50 years without a human guiding touch, through fallow farmland- and talk you through the conversations that come up in each setting- the history, humanity, the now. She’ll talk you through the local wares, the personal relationship she has with each local artisan whose wares she provides space for in her market. She’ll tell you about the weddings they host, about the ceremony site they built on their favorite place to have an after-work drink together. She’ll tell you about sorority dinners, about the customers that come in as regulars, always eager to taste the new offerings (Grelen switches up their tastings weekly) and about the bands that come to play events in the grand tent they’ve set up overlooking the mountains. Or about the many women who celebrate birthdays, go hiking or horseback riding, participate in a gardening lecture and/or enjoy a tasting of Virginia beer, cider or wine. In short, The Market at Grelen is the kind of place you want to be. More than that, it’s the kind of place of which you want to be a part. It makes you want to set down your paperwork to take up gardening, makes you want to quit your 9-5 to be an event planner, just so you can spend time there. It makes you want to get married, just to get married there. It’s the kind of place that every visitor wants to absorb- and the real magic is that every visitor does walk away carrying just a little piece of Grelen with them.
The Market is open Wednesday to Sunday, 10-4. Table Tastings with Virginia beer, cider and wine are given on the ½ hour from 11 to 3:30 every Saturday. Check out their website for special events- and please, do yourself the favor of visiting this special destination.