ST. MICHAELS, Md. – With the enthusiasm and precise language of the best college professors, Chance Miller brought the recent history of wine alive.
It is not often that one’s waiter at dinner turns lecturer the following afternoon. But for about the last nine years, he has been pouring and teaching the history of wine into the glasses of visitors to the Inn at Perry Cabin.
This is a regular event: a fun and informative wine tasting where on Saturdays at 3 pm, the assembled group learns about the controversial 1976 “Judgment of Paris” competition on which the film Bottle Shock was based. In scaled-down fashion, Miller conducts a blind taste-test with French and Californian wines (one red and one white from each country) and encourages the group to rate them before tallying the results for the weekly “Judgment of St. Michaels.” Our group, like the shocked oenophiles of more than 40 years ago, preferred the California wines.
Miller is one of many friendly faces one encounters at the boutique resort, and he is part of the intimate scale that makes it a relaxing place to pass a few days.
Successful out-of-the-way resorts often have a profoundly calming effect on a traveler. They reduce the size of the universe to just a few hundred acres and simplify one’s concerns, if only for a brief time. And much of this feeling of relaxation comes down to the concept of scale.
Consciously or not, this concept works on travelers in new places all the time. Architecture in general exhibits a range of different scales, which can affect a person exploring a particular space. Scale can make or break one’s impression of a room, a building, a resort, a golf course (more on this in a moment).
Even within quiet destinations, particular hotels and resorts can be placed on a spectrum of scale. Earlier this year, I spent a couple days marveling at The Greenbrier ’s massive interior spaces and grandiose décor. In such a place, the feeling of insignificance and almost anonymity in juxtaposition with centuries of history is part of the charm. It stirs appreciation for what it took to bring that place into being, and maintain it for so many years. It also makes exploration of the property a main recreational activity.
The Inn at Perry Cabin and its attendant Links could not feel more different, although because the scale is just right, the overall potential for relaxation and enjoyment is just as high. There is plenty to see and do, of course, but the more intimate confines bring a slower pace to one’s stay.
At the 78-room Inn at Perry Cabin, cozy rooms and narrow, winding hallways both honor the two-centuries-plus history of the property and make a guest feel very much a part of the daily life of the place, rather than mere scenery. One sees the same staffers, like Chance Miller, each day, and the quick familiarity this breeds underscores the high standard of service on display. The property is managed by Belmond, an international brand with its share of super-fans who enjoy sampling its many resorts and available experiences.
The Inn at Perry Cabin sits at the edge of the idyllic town of St. Michaels, on the west side of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Excellent restaurants, shops and historical sites abound, making it worthy of close inspection during any Perry Cabin stay. The best pasta dish I’ve had anywhere this year was the paccheri all’amatriciana at Limoncello. The town’s population is barely 1,000 and the downtown is well worth exploring on foot. Once again, the scale is perfect.
(Note: The nearest airport of any size to the resort is Baltimore (BWI), which means getting to the resort via the infamous Bay Bridge can be a hassle. With advance arrangement, guests can “skip the bridge” and be conveyed to the Inn at Perry Cabin in style aboard Five Star, a multimillion-dollar 55-foot yacht that is the resort’s flagship. The 90-minute journey from Annapolis down the Miles River to St. Michaels is as spectacular an introduction to a resort as you’re likely to have. And once you're on site, you can charter Five Star or any of the resort's fleet of sailboats for a tour around the Chesapeake.)
Oh yeah, there’s a nice golf course there, too. The Links at Perry Cabin is about two miles away from the resort proper, and the Pete Dye design – the last in a career whose importance and influence are hard to overstate – fits beautifully. Those who associate Dye with his more bombastic courses like Whistling Straits , the Ocean Course and the Stadium Course at PGA WEST might find it hard to reconcile their image of the architect with the concept of restraint. But here, Pete and P.B. pulled off something compelling with a gentler hand than usual.
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3 good looks from @innatperrycabin’s new Links at Perry Cabin, Pete Dye’s last design: - The opening green on a course where a few surfaces have more movement than other Dye courses I’ve seen. - The 7th, a Dye version of a Biarritz, with a somewhat off-center green - Close-up of the 16th green, with the 17th green beyond.
The routing of the Links at Perry was pre-determined, as they actually built the course over the corridors of a previous layout called Harbourtowne, which Pete’s brother Roy had designed back in the 1970s. That course ran in a long loop out and back from the main resort building, which the Inn at Perry Cabin has since acquired and plans to totally renovate into its new Lodge in 2020 or so. So it was necessary to design on existing corridors that, thankfully, are wide enough that players never feel like the residences on the property are encroaching on play. The flattish course is very walkable, and a caddie corps is available for those wanting to walk.
Dye also fit the Links at Perry Cabin to the scale of the resort with the shaping of the course. Whereas layouts like Whistling Straits are exercises in near-sensory overload, Dye was selective with his use of bold golfing features at Perry Cabin. There are some pot bunkers, but they are generally avoidable. The first five holes on the back nine head into forest but manage not to feel closed-in. Railroad ties feature on just two holes: the short par-4 16th and the par-3 17th, a near-mirror image of its TPC Sawgrass counterpart. Most notably, some (but not too many) greens have more slope in them than those at any other Dye course I’ve seen. Two examples: the Biarritz par-3 seventh and the massive final green’s four-foot elevation change between front and rear sections. It is a nice curtain call for a figure whose puckish personality always made its way into his work.
The Links at Perry Cabin is open only to its private membership (it is a second club primarily for folks from Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and New York who enjoy this quiet sector of Maryland’s Eastern Shore) and resort guests, with rates ranging from $175 to $285 per round. Opening earlier in 2018, it met some challenging months of weather with surprising vigor for a brand-new course. Come summer and fall 2019, conditions should be immaculate, as Director of Golf John Mlynarski and Superintendent Jim Bollinger are as experienced as they are passionate about their domain. Like their colleagues at the Inn, they will be glad to meet you, and you will be glad to spend a few days on their turf.