by Bill Weinstein, Cincinnati, OH
Location, location, location.
In Springfield, Kentucky, along the popular Kentucky Bourbon Trail, an hour away from vibrant Lexington and it's airport and just fifteen minutes from the crown jewel of bourbon distilleries, Maker's Mark, up a half-mile driveway, you'll see a brilliant white 1871 postbellum manor on a hilltop, above acres and acres of rolling country, glades, ponds, and streams. That is Wildflower Ranch Inn. On the web, it is listed as a new Bed & Breakfast. But it is far more than that. That manor and its surroundings are a unique destination in a landscape of destinations. It is an experience of its own, like none we had ever experienced before.
We meet our hosts.
Photographer Carol Henry and painter Rich Brimer are established artists (and master cooks) from Carmel, CA, who envisioned a new project: create a luxurious B&B, and art gallery and a separate artists-in-resident's workshop surrounded by nature and quiet, seemingly remote yet readily accessible. After a long search, with their artists' eyes and a down to earth sensibility, they took in the details of the house, the land, and the possibilities of creating a B&B with every modern touch of luxury within the enormous scale of an historic mansion, a continuous work in progress.
From the chandeliered entrance, they took us on a tour of the manor – not the cursory tour of facilities and towels, but an exploration of 1871 grandeur, studded with anecdotes and historical details – Carol and Rich are excellent storytellers and ever better conversationalists. We walked under soaring 14' ceilings, over original wide-plank wood floors, walls with newly hung artworks and enormous photographs, through the sitting room and the parlor and the Florida room and its nearby pool, through the dining room and the soon-to-be art gallery, up and down two grand staircases to enter our suites, one for my wife and me, another for our son.
The Blackberry Blossom Suite.
Think of the Lincoln Bedroom at the White House. Both in size and grace, the Blackberry Blossom suite is its mirror, sixty feet of bedroom, extending still forward into two walk-in closets and further into a bathroom the size of a typical apartment, featuring a modern steam shower and a Jacuzzi bathtub with its own bay windows with a view to the open land.
The bedroom itself, towering and flooded with light from tall windows, had nooks, crannies, comfortable chairs, a classic fainting couch—classic touches accented by modern fine art photography on an equally bold scale. The focus was a 19th-century four-poster bed under a canopy, with a perfection of a king-sized mattress and sheets with a thread-count of infinity. (A nice touch: bedside lamps with built-in USB ports for our cell phones).
Bed and Breakfast
That night, I had 10 hours of unbroken sleep for the first time since I was in college. (That alone was worth the price of admission).
Rich cooked breakfast: hand-shredded latkes in honor of Hanukkah, with layers of smoked salmon, sour cream, capers, red onion, and dill, topped with a poached egg. Masterful. Every morning was a different revelation, as both Rich and Carol were experts at inventing unique breakfasts.
Day and night.
Maker's Mark was only a fifteen-minute drive, offering a worth-every-penny tour that ends with a guided tasting of 5 different bourbons. Had we wanted more bourbon, we could just drive on; they're everywhere, and we had a place to call home.
Also within minutes are the towns of Springfield, Lebanon, Bardstown and, a skoosh farther, Berea, founding homes of the American West and the land of Lincoln. The historic Talbott Tavern in Bardstown (1783) overflows with artifacts and legends, and the food is classic Kentucky cuisine and the atmosphere 18th century. The next day was Christmas Eve, when many highly rated restaurants were closed, but we found an excellent Mexican restaurant to take us in.
But most of the time, we opted to stay at Wildflower. Pulling out rattan chains to watch extravagant sunrises and sunsets across both distant horizons. Taking walks over undulating hills, through bursts of forest, over streams crossed over convenient blocks of limestone, with deer there, cows here, birds everywhere. Or—my favorite—cocooning into nooks for endless reading. Wildflower Ranch Inn is not your ordinary BnB or AirBnB. Rich and Carol are constructing a world with their artist's eyes, and their medium is a manor mixing both grandeur, fine art and the luxury of perfect comfort. I have traveled for decades. In all that time, I have never stayed in accommodations more sumptuous, nor with hosts so gracious. I can't think of a recommendation high enough.