In an effort to bring you some new voices on Ottsworld, here is a guest post from writer Sherry Spitsnaugle. I met Sherry at a Denver event and found out that she was a travel writer! So not only does she have a cool name, but she also has a way with words! All opinions, experiences, and photos here are hers. –Sherry
Taking the road less traveled has always appealed to me, especially during a pandemic. I convince a friend to join me to drive east of Denver—rather than west—to stay at the elegant Claremont Inn, celebrating its 25th anniversary.
The great hall of the Claremont Inn, Stratton, Colorado, just two hours from Denver, feels like a universe away from the city. It’s a break from the sameness of life these days, and yes…Covid.
Louis Armstrong’s What a Wonderful World plays softly and the aroma of fresh bread wafts from the kitchen as my friend and I toast with the first of five heartily poured wine samples at happy hour.
The break from the doldrums—or maybe it’s the inn’s hand-crafted pinot grigio with a hint of citrus—lifts my mood.
A Denver Getaway
It’s time for a return trip. My husband and I have stayed at the Claremont Inn several times on our many back-and-forth trips to Kansas to visit relatives; and 12 years ago, my sister, niece and I spent a scorching July 4 here in air-conditioned comfort watching a chick flick in the inn’s movie theater and dining in the wine cellar. Now, as most of us aren’t flying, but I’m eager to go somewhere on a getaway from Denver, the Claremont comes to mind.
Tumbleweed attack and dust blizzard – File this wackiness under 2020
On this day, the normally tranquil drive on I-70 from Denver is anything but calm. Winds are ferocious and tumbleweeds pelt our car; dust fills the sky and visibility is low.
My friend and I break into fits of nervous giggles as Russian thistles strike the car in the freak dust storm. The normally nothing-to-see drive along I70 today, is a thrill a minute.
A Claremont Warm Welcome
The dust seeps in through the car windows, and I can taste the grit. When we finally pull up to the stately Claremont Inn, our arrival is that much sweeter.
Innkeeper Dave Dischner greets us at the door, gives us a quick tour, and shows us to our rooms.
The Claremont Celebrates 25 Years
The country mansion is celebrating 25 years in business, which is no small achievement, especially considering 2020.
During non-Covid times, the inn hosts Murder Mystery dinners, cooking classes, wine tastings, family reunions, weddings and more. Hopefully, it won’t be long before we’re all planning those types of events again.
Here’s What To Expect at Claremont Inn
Today, the inn follows all CDC guidelines which means fewer guests, fewer tables, and strenuous cleaning and sanitizing.
Innkeeper Dave Dischner says staying at the inn is all about having an experience. The philosophy is, “Good food, good wine, great times.”
By the time we sit down at an elegant linen-clad table, far away from a handful of other guests, I am more than ready for that sip of pinot grigio.
A Winery in Eastern Colorado?
The inn launched its own hand-crafted small batch winery in 2012, and today they make 30 bottle batches right on the property.
Grapes are imported from Australia, France, Italy, South America, and the U.S., the wine is bottled on site. The offerings include traditional varietal red and white wines, sweeter fruit wines featuring reds, whites and blushes and dessert wines including ports and ice wines.
With names like Romeo, Call a Cab, and Prairie Breeze, someone has a good time with the labeling.
Dinner With a Local Feel
The small community of Stratton supports each other; the Claremont serves locally grown beef and pork. Dinner is a leisurely three-course meal beginning with Italian meatballs with a balsamic glaze and a cheese plate appetizer, followed by a fresh salad with champagne vinaigrette, and the main course pork chops (raised locally) with mushroom onion ragu, garlic mashed potatoes, and sautéed Brussels sprouts. One of my favorites is the freshly baked focaccia bread. I make the rookie mistake of wolfing down several pieces of bread and wishing later I had paced myself.
Tres Leches cake with fresh strawberries in a Grand Marnier glaze tops off the feast.
My friend is in the Waverly, described as having “country cottage décor” and I’m in the cozy Sunset Room, with corner windows and a view of the prairie – still dusty.
Guestrooms have whirlpool tubs, TV, internet access, free WiFi, large screen tv, whirlpool tub and shower, mini fridge.
Where is Stratton, Colorado?
Few people have even heard of Stratton, which has a population of a mere 650. The morning we left, my Starbucks barista asked if I had anything fun planned for the day. When I answered that I had plans to go to Stratton, she asked, “Oh, is that a restaurant?”
You won’t find Starbucks, Nordstrom, or a traffic jam on the plains of Eastern Colorado, which is the charm. Besides, the town isn’t the destination. Travel east of Denver on I-70 for about two hours, and you’ll see the Claremont to the north of I-70, looming large over the prairie.
The Perfect Denver Getaway
Through masks and from a distance, we have a friendly chat with a couple from Denver who are on their second evening of a two-night stay.
The couple’s plans for a river cruise and extended visit to Portugal, like pretty much everything, were canceled. But, they still needed a getaway. They spent the day sight-seeing at Little Jerusalem Badlands State Park, south of Oakley, Kansas, and share their photos—from a distance—of the rock sculptures.
We toast our fellow Denverites and I sip the last of the five samples of Claremont wine, a sweet fruit wine named the “Blues Buster.”
Cheers to the road less traveled.
How to Take an Eastern Colorado Getaway & Book a Stay at the Claremont Inn
To book a stay, visit claremontinn.com or call them at 719.348.5125. I am always amazed when someone answers the phone these days, but that’s exactly what they do at the Claremont. A staff member told me when the phone rings, he drops everything to answer. They not only answer, but are exceedingly cheerful. Read Trip Advisor Reviews on the Claremont Inn here Visit their website The best deal is the two-night stay. Claremont innkeepers are more than happy to help with directions and tips for sightseeing for the layover day.
Don’t Forget to Stockpile Some Claremont Wine!
The Claremont sells its wine and I stock up on my personal favorite, the pinot grigio, before we take off. I even love the bag, which has the words, “Good food, good wine, great times,” printed on it.
When things return to a more normal time, the inn will resume its popular cooking classes, drop-in wine tastings, murder mystery parties and other special events. In addition, they offer a travel membership, which features four visits a year.
Meet the Author: Sherry Spitsnaugle, guidebook author, travel writer, wife and dog mom, first expressed her urge to explore at age four when she packed up her little red wagon and took off for an adventure— around the block. Today, she continues to fulfill her travel bug tendencies, exploring and writing about her experiences.
Sherry was a guest of Claremont Inn, however all opinions expressed here were her own.