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Rose Hill Manor

Written by Maxine Mayes.

Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but Grapevine residents Patricia and Clayton Tewksbury have surrendered theirs to Stonewall, or, to be more specific, to Rose Hill Manor, a country inn just south of Stonewall. The Tewksburys first visited Rose Hill to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary. “From the moment we walked into our beautiful suite, we knew we had found ‘our place,’” Patricia recalls.

Like scores of other guests, the Tewksburys have found at Rose Hill a reservoir of tranquility for refreshing their spirits and a storybook setting for romantic retreats. The name alone—Rose Hill Manor—conjures up images of genteel elegance and romance, a Tara before the siege. In reality, Rose Hill boasts luxurious amenities Scarlet could never have imagined: world-class dining, a tantalizing wine selection, a 2,000-volume library, sumptuous suites, a stunning view, luxurious custom linens, and distinctive Victorian decor and furnishings.

Approached by a winding, gravel driveway, the Manor stands on a gentle, windswept hill overlooking the Pedernales River Valley. The main house, a two-story, Charleston-plantation-style structure with upper and lower verandas, reigns in dignity and beauty over the 38-acre site. Four charming garden cottages (two are duplexes) built by German craftsmen, and a residence for the proprietors, Patti and Bob Vander Lyn, and their son, Austin, complete the picture.

Sixteen years ago, Bob, a litigation attorney, and Patti, a CPA, left the Houston corporate jungle for what Bob called a “cedar jungle” in the Hill Country. Trading business suits and Ferragamo shoes for faded jeans and work boots, Bob readily immersed himself in taming the raw acreage and building the main house. Now, he can’t imagine being stuck in a courtroom, even though he puts in long days maintaining the landscaping and buildings on their property. “I’m outside every day,” he says with a grin, “and when I’m not outside, we have windows everywhere.”

Both the main-house suites and the cottages offer a sweeping view that encompasses a grassy field, stands of live oaks and cedar juniper, the Pedernales River Valley, and low-lying hills hugging the horizon. The scope of the vista allows savoring both sunrises and sunsets from the same vantage points.

Though some guests prefer the greater privacy of the cottages, others like the “feel” of the upper-story suites in the main house, with their sun porches and accessibility to the library and restaurant on the lower floor. Both types of accommodations feature red-oak hardwood floors, hand-milled in Fredericksburg. The cottage duplex suites, which border an herb garden, have high gables with a stained/leaded-glass window at the apex and some combination of bead board and paper on the walls.

Patti has done all the decorating, with only “a little advice from a friend.” Furnishings throughout the Manor are a mixture of authentic antiques and fine reproductions. Second-story suites have four-poster queen beds; the cottages feature king beds of sculpted iron, no two alike. A profusion of florals in a mix of colors defines Rose Hill’s decor, lending a romantic feel to the rooms and public spaces: simple valances across stretches of windows, richly patterned rugs, wallpaper “gardens,” tapestry wall art, and, in the restaurant, whimsical table skirts.

Craftsmanship in construction and attention to detail in the decor, along with Bob and Patti’s down-home warmth, combine to evoke country-estate elegance. As Lyndon Dodds from San Antonio puts it, “I tell people it’s like having friends in the Hill Country who own this mansion, and we can go visit them anytime.”

Lyndon and his wife, Deborah, celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary at Rose Hill and have returned many times since. “The accommodations and staff are first class,” says Lyndon, “yet it is supremely South Texas and relaxing.” The Dodds also rave about Austin’s, the on-site restaurant named for the Vander Lyns’ son. “The food is incomparable,” says Lyndon. “My wife and I have eaten in the finest restaurants in Europe, Asia, and the United States, including New York City. I honestly have never had a better meal than at Rose Hill.” The Tewksburys agree. “We would not even consider dining anywhere else!” says Patricia. “Why venture out when the very best is right there at the Manor!” Typical dishes include jumbo lump crab cakes with citrus risotto and lemon cream sauce, and Certified Angus Beef filet mignon with potatoes boulangère and salsify. The outstanding desserts, which include chocolate decadence and chocolate truffles, feature El Rey chocolate from Venezuela.

Along with exceeding their guests’ expectations, Bob and Patti have met the exacting standards of prestigious industry critics. After passing what Patti calls “very rigorous surprise inspections,” Rose Hill Manor earned a Four Diamond designation from AAA, and the endorsement of Select Registry, a prestigious rating service limited to 400 B&B listings throughout the nation. Only nine inns in Texas can claim the latter distinction.

Rose Hill has even inspired sonnets from the pen of a rocket scientist. Joe Thompson, an aerospace engineer and professor at Mississippi State University, discovered Rose Hill when he was exploring the Fredericksburg area following a technical meeting at the University of Texas in Austin. “I went there for dinner one night and was captured by the bookshelves up to the ceiling in the library and the wine racks as high in the hall.” Joe returns twice a year now to reflect, to write, and to relish Rose Hill’s “integrated quiet ambiance” of books and wine, fine dining, isolation, and view. He especially enjoys the veranda early in the morning, “coffee at hand, watching the deer as the mist is clearing from the field out front.”

If there were a “Top 10 List” of things to do at Rose Hill, veranda sitting would rank high. Lyndon Dodds speaks of taking coffee out to the veranda to “smell the air, watch the sun rise over the hills, and listen to the country sounds floating up.” Patricia and Clayton Tewksbury treasure memories of “sitting on the veranda in the white rockers, holding hands, and taking in the beautiful scenery.”

The mood at the Manor is definitely laid-back and mellow, which suits both the guests and the Vander Lyns. “Bob and I are music and book people,” remarks Patti. “The books, the wine, the food, the music—all are designed to complement the peace and quiet here.” That’s why recorded dinner music and occasional live entertainment in Austin’s feature mellow sounds, which never compete with the romantic ambiance. All during the month of February, guests will receive a split of champagne and chocolate-covered strawberries in their rooms at check-in. For five evenings in February, Austin’s will serve a six-course dinner to include traditional Valentine’s specialties like lobster, filet mignon, and chocolate desserts, while a piano/vocal duo performs old standard love songs.

Immortalized in a classic song, San Francisco will for all time call to Tony Bennett, but it is Rose Hill’s whispered summons that will always linger in Patricia Tewksbury’s heart. “Rose Hill is our little piece of heaven on earth,” she says, “and we have a standing reservation in August for the rest of our lives!”

ROSE HILL MANOR is at 2614 Upper Albert Rd., just south of Stonewall. From US 290 at Stonewall (between Johnson City and Fredericksburg), go south on RR 1623 for 1 1/2 miles, and turn right on Upper Albert Rd. The Manor is on the left about 1/3 mile down. Call 830/644-2247 or 877-ROSEHIL; Rates: $145-$209, including gourmet breakfast. Watch the Web site for seasonal packages and special pricing.

Austin’s, open to the public for dinner Wed-Sun evenings by reservation, serves a 5-course prix fixe dinner for $39.95 in the main dining room. A limited, à la carte menu is available in the smaller dining room. Price for the 6-course Valentine’s Dinner celebrations on Feb. 9, 10, 14, 16, and 17 is $65. Reservations a must.

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From the February 2007 issue.

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