2 Degrees of Separation in the Wine Industry

Bubbles at TastingsMarch 31st was a week set aside for family, friends and wine.

Bill Curtis & Gabrielle Rausse enjoying Thibaut Janisson at Tastings

Bill Curtis & Gabrielle Rausse enjoying Thibaut Janisson at Tastings

I had planned to show my semi ex-patriot sister (living part time between Provence and the U.K.) a bit of our world, more specifically, the New World Virginia wine country. Who says you have to have vines that are hundreds of years old to grow delicious grapes and produce great wines?

That week, we hit Tastings without her (she flew in a day too late), went to Veritas, rode horseback through the vineyards in the snow, bought wine at Feast and Tastings,  met with winemakers Claude Thibaut of Thibaut-Janisson,  Emily Pelton and Elliott Watkins of Veritas, lunched at Early Mountain Vineyards and experienced many fabulous wines.

Unfortunately, one of the  events she would have really enjoyed was the pairings of small courses at Tastings in the historic section of downtown Charlottesville.  Hosted by Bill Curtis  for the Wine Club of Charlottesville, the guests of honor that night were Claude Thibaut and his partner Manuel Janisson, both hailing from the Champagne region and most recently notable in the U.S. for their sparkling wine featured at the first state dinner  for  President Obama. The wines offered that night were sparklings from the Thibaut-Janisson partnership, Fizz, Blanc de Chardonnay Brut, and their latest release and limited production, TJ Xtra Brut, followed by three  Janisson et Fils champagnes: Francois de Rozay, Tradition, Grand Cru and the dessert finale, the Grand Cru Brut Rose. Claude  shared about the TJ Xtra Brut, 100% Chardonnay grapes aged 1/3 in oak as compared to 10% in their Blanc de Chardonnay. Only 100 cases were produced and we were privileged to get early access to this delightful slightly oaky, drier sparkling wine. Manuel discussed his method of Champagne making next and as each wine was poured, guest were given the opportunity to remark. The Janisson et Fils Champagnes were well received and fellow winemaker Gabrielle Rausse quietly sat at the next table enjoying the fare.

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After a wonderful horseback tour of Veritas, we returned to meet Claude in his “Cave” where bottles were being labeled and crated for shipping to a surprise destination (I know but I can’t tell) super cool! The shape of Claude’s bottles are distinctive and we love the new Xtra Brut T-J bottle. It does make storage more difficult as the bottles don’t fit into a typical crate.

Terrie & Claude

Terrie & Claude

T-J in Action

T-J in Action

In the end, we really enjoyed the wines, new friendships, tour of  Veritas and good times in Virginia.  I packed a bottle of the Xtra Brut to open in Texas on the last day we spent with Terrie, symbolic of celebrating great times together! T-J Xtra Brut was recently described by Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post as ” A new can’t miss Virginia sparkler that most people will miss”.   I’m glad we didn’t miss it!

Travelling with TJ

Travelling with TJ

Random: So where are the two degrees of separation? This is my mathematical formula:  I know Claude,  Claude comes from the same town in France and knows Bruno Paillard, champagne maker and his daughter, Marie Caroline Bakke-Paillard (from Claude’s days in California wine making). My sister stays part time and interns with Marie Caroline’s husband, Evan Bakke, at their winery in Le Barroux, Clos de Trias, where they produce 100% biodynamic, organic wines. We had scheduled for her to visit Claude so she could see where he makes his sparkling wines using space at Veritas in Afton, Va. While visiting Veritas, we realized that my sister, Terrie, ( ala Francais, Tehrreee’) is in the same school that the assistant winemaker, Elliott Watkins attended in the U.K., Plumpton College. So, basically, I take Claude, Marie Caroline, Bruno, Evan, Elliott and Terrie (6), divide by  (3) countries US, UK and and France and get 2 degrees of separation. Very random: Oh well, at the least, there are two great winemakers creating wine in the methode-champenoise in Virginia, two sisters that love each other and wine, two winemakers in the same space  using two different methods of winemaking under two completely different labels.

 

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A Beautiful Day- Horseback Riding in Virginia Vineyards

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Ashton Beebe of Indian Summer Guide Service in Virginia offers vineyard horseback rides

It’s a Beautiful Day, Sky Falls, You feel Like It’s a Beautiful Day, Don’t Let it Get Away- U2

Crystal skies, frosty winds coursing the rows of dormant grape vines anchored on slopes of the Virginia piedmont….feeling the snowy terroir under hoof… it was a beautiful day.

Whether you’re a horse lover, wine lover or outdoor enthusiast, a ride on horseback through the Virginia vineyards appeals to the romantic in all of us. Don’t believe me? Gentleman, ask your spouse or girlfriend if she would like to venture out on horseback, escorted by a professional guide and finish at the tasting room of one of three spectacular award winning  wineries.  Ladies, ask your husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends or bridesmaids if they would enjoy a private tour like I just described….exactly!  Which is the same reason that I arranged for my sister ( fellow oenophile-fancy name for wino) and I to do just that!

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Cville UnCorked in Saddle

Veritas, King Family, Pollak Vineyards and Glass House Winery all snuggle up to the backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains with views that arguably beat Napa Valley hands down.  All three wineries have joined with local cowboy, Ashton Beebe and his Indian Summer Guide Service, to provide a sensory experience that shouldn’t be missed. If you have any apprehensions about riding, no worries here, these horses are accustomed to the terrain and easy as can be with any novice rider.

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Chloe Hodson on Horseback at Veritas

We selected Veritas Winery  for our tour and would have gladly hit all three if time had allowed. Two Socks, Beau and Murphy (Quarter Horse Pintos) were brushed down and ready for our ride. Ashton had requested the lovely Chloe Hodson,  Manager of the Farmhouse and Retreat  at Veritas, to join us for an education about the grape varieties, the terroir and the history of Veritas.  We mounted and set off towards the slopes above Veritas casually chatting, getting accustomed to the gait of the horses.  In a matter of moments, we had established a connection-multiple connections-between the four of us. Chloe immediately tripped to the fact that her boyfriend, Elliott Watkins, assistant winemaker to sister Emily Pelton and originally  from the U.K. , graduated from  Plumpton College in England, for wine making, the same school that my sister is attending for her WSET.  I knew Ashton’s family from years before where we attended church together. Small world!

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Veritas Vineyards in the Snow

The ride was comfortable, horses snorting in conversation with each other, and we continued to ascend the slopes. Should you have any reservations about riding, Ashton will put you at ease and the horses follow each other, easily used to mountain trail rides. I wanted to take pictures with my camera, no easy task when  you’re trying to relax and just take in the moment; but Ashton was riding, reigning single handedly and snapping pictures with his own camera. A nice surprise and we lapsed into just savouring the experience.  At the highest elevation on our ride, Chloe pointed out a slope where future vines would be planted and quite possibly be tended on horseback due to the steepness. It was at this point that I felt like I was in Montana,  in another era, bygone days and away from the hustle of business, cars and crowds.

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Sisters

 

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Virginia is for Wine & Horse Lovers

Following our ride, we entered the  tasting room with it’s soaring ceilings and the “cork LOVE” display  playing off the slogan Virginia is for (wine) Lovers. Chloe and Elliott walked us through the extensive line up of wines produced at Veritas. Two wines of special note were first,  Elliott’s baby, a 2013 Rosé, which my sister is taking back to Plumpton College to brag on his winemaking skills. It was fun sampling wine with Ashton and getting the guided tour of the cellar and doing some barrel tastings.  

The other was the Kenmar, made with  Traminette grapes ( a hybrid of Gewurtztraminer and Joannes –Seyve (JS)  from Cornell. Emily’s  Veritas 2005  Kenmar brought national  attention to this young female winemaker as the winner of the Judge’s Choice Competition at the 2007 National Women’s Wine Competition in California.  Chloe explained the history of this wine, named in remembrance of her grandparents, Kenneth and Marjorie who passed away during 2001, the year of their first vintage. Her grandmother enjoyed sweet wines and asked that one be made to her taste, thus the Kenmar was born. As Chloe shared the sweet story about her grandmother, we couldn’t help but get teary eyed along with her. My favorite wine was the Harlequin Reserve Chardonnay 2012, a little oaky, buttery and served later at home with our favorite cedar planked Alaskan salmon. I admit that I do like creamy chardonnays…what’s wrong with that?

Chloe Guides the Wine Tasting

Chloe Guides the Wine Tasting

Our tour culminated at the winery, off horseback, (no drinking and riding despite our posed photographs to show off the link to the vineyards).  If you can arrange a horseback tour of the vineyards, try to arrange it during the weekdays when the tasting room is quieter and you can sit by the grand fireplace or really take your time learning about the wines. I cannot recommend this enough and look forward to the soonest opportunity to ride along again. Contact Ashton to arrange your vineyard tour at 434) 531-9679, he DOES answer his phone :-)

Hanging out at the Veritas Winery

Hanging out at the Veritas Winery

If you want to create the ultimate package, horse back rides, massages courtesy  of Blue Ridge Massage Therapy ,  yoga, cooking classes, spa treatments and staying at the Farmhouse call 540-456-8100 for rates and reservations. Chloe is hands on in this area and can coordinate your visit with various pampering and adventures for your indulgences.

No, You Can't Do This!

No, You Can’t Do This!

 

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The Horses Ride!

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Wining and Dining for Wildlife Benefit

 Wildlife Center of VA 035-1Pignoli, Athena and Grayson invite you to CAFFE BOCCE

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 for “Wining and Dining for Wildlife”

 A Benefit for the Wildlife Center of Virginia

Sunday, January 12, from 5 to 8 PM

Love Wine? Wildlife? Fine Dining?

Start off 2014 in a philanthropic mode and enjoy the evening benefitting the rescued birds and animals at the Wildlife Center of Virginia!

To see more of these education ambassadors go to The Wildlife Center of Virginia site.

Guests will be greeted by volunteer Bill Sykes and one of the Wildlife Center’s avian ambassadors.  Between courses of the delectable three-course meal, guests will meet other ambassadors such as majestic Broad-winged Hawk, Grayson, and lovely and inscrutable Barred Owl, Athena.  These ambassadors will share their stories and tell guests how the Wildlife Center of Virginia has worked for more than 30 years to help all Virginia’s wild creatures.

  Tickets are $50.00 per person, exclusive of tax, tip, and alcohol.

Caffe Bocce will donate 30% of the ticket price to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.  

 

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A Thanksgiving Tradition-The Blessing of the Hounds

DSC03091Living in the midst of Virginia’s hunt country has it’s perks. One of the nicest, aside from the scenic backdrop of rolling hills, miles of painted four board fences and Gone With the Wind sunsets, is the pageantry of the horses and hounds. Just a short distance down the road from the popular Keswick Vineyards in Cismont, Virginia is a must do for Thanksgiving.

At 10 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning the church bells toll and the annual Blessing of the Hounds is celebrated as an outdoor service  at Grace Episcopal Church established in 1742. This prayer service was first held on November 28th, 1929 and is a well loved tradition that “dates back to the eighth century when St. Hubert ( the son of the Duke of Aquitaine) was hunting on Good Friday and saw a stag with a luminous crucifix between it’s antlers. He allowed the stag to get away and ultimately founded a monastery where he bred the black and tan hounds. He later was canonized by the church as the patron saint of hunters”.

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Formal fox hunting  attire is elegant and functional. The uniform consists of scarlet colored coats worn with white breeches or black blazers with buff breeches and both always worn with a black hat and black riding boots. Stock ties accentuate  white shirts and are protective and functional. In case of an injury, the tie can be removed and used as a tourniquet, sling or bandage and pinned using the simple stock pin.

Blessing of the Hounds

This has become a family tradition on Thanksgiving, all bundled up with warm clothes, a cup of hot coffee and standing huddled with others awaiting the entrance of the horses and hounds. The horses and hounds arrive promptly clip clopping with their riders in fox hunt regalia under the shadow of the Grace bell tower. The hounds rustle around, responding to their masters direction and sniffing for some of the treats tossed from the riders on horseback. Horse tails swish, snorting sounds and frosty breath in the cold morning air while the voices softly sing anthems of patriotism. It almost seems as though the animals are hushed by the quiet notes of America the Beautiful and My Country Tis of Thee.

The sun rises above the tower of Grace Episcopal Church and the crystal clear blue skies provide a brilliant contrast to the vivid scarlet coats, while we reflect with thanksgiving on the blessings we take for granted the rest of the year. If you haven’t been before, I highly recommend It. The children will love it and it’s great family time.

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Another Vineyard in Charlottesville: Vineyard Vines!

Charlottesville_is_for_Whale_LoversEvery day should feel this good.”  The well known slogan of Vineyard Vines was apparent at the grand opening of one their newest nautically themed locations in Charlottesville and it felt really good!  The VV concept is to have their  clothing and accessories conjure an image of “enjoying the finer things in life,  the things people love to do and dream about doing”. Founded in 1998 on Martha’s Vineyard by Shep and Ian Murray, the Connecticut raised brothers left the Manhattan corporate world to make “ties for others so [they] didn’t have to wear them”. Starting their business on an accrued debt of $40,000 , Shep and Ian have managed to turn the small business into a thriving American company with over 28 stores and affiliations with the NFL, NHL, Major League Baseball not to mention colleges and universities. Nautically appointed,  their stores display Vineyard Vines memorabilia, sailing gear and an “all hands on deck” sales counter set below a teak sailing yacht ceiling and the backdrop of a ship’s cabin.

Vineyard_Vines_CharlottesvilleThe two brothers have become icons in the world of “haute-prep” and customers have a tradition of  bringing in their old Vineyard Vines ties to be autographed.  I like to think that Nolan Ross, the fashionably-preppy attired Hamptonite  on the ABC TV series Revenge , shops at one of the original VV stores in New England.  The same signature “fun” atmosphere Ian & Shep have injected into their retail stores  permeated last Thursday evening’s event as popped-collared customers socialized, shopped and in keeping with the “vineyard flair” sipped glasses of Pippin Hill Chardonnay and Merlot while sampling carried trays of hors de oeuvres.  Side note: I’m sure there has been more than one bridal party at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard (a premier destination wedding venue near Charlottesville) to don Vineyard Vines accessories.

Pippin_Hill_Vineyard_Vines One could almost smell the salty air of the Vineyard as corn hole toss games played at the entrance, photo ops flashed with Ian & Shep, and a duo performed live summer themed music at the door.

Vineyard_Vines_Cornhole_GameThe successful evening ended as smiling shoppers left with whale embroidered ball caps and  bags of whimsically colored clothing while Shep was noticed generously giving away merchandise to future young customers!  I spoke later with  Deborah Kahn and Hannah Nolan, both who love being a part of the new Vineyard Vines team, plus modeling the latest outfits for the Fall/Winter season.  Their enthusiasm for the management style of the company as well as the quality products made me want to join the team as well.  I’d have the best Christmas gifts to give, like the new ties with holly berries or candy canes or even lobsters with antlers….are you smiling yet?  If not, pop into the store, you will be =)

                        I recommend checking out the Vineyard Vines blog too!

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Pollak Merlot Harvest

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5 Reasons to Visit Pollak Winery

DSC02627Seriously, do you need more than one? I certainly don’t! I noticed a video on NBC 29 in Charlottesville about horseback tours of vineyards and I wanted to share this information with all of you horse-wine-outdoor- photographer-romantic types. Check out the video below and the read why you should set aside some time for a visit to Pollak:

Horseback Vineyard Tours at Pollak, King Family & Glass House Wineries

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#1 Reason to visit Pollak Vineyards The Wine! The wines are fabulous and you really need to try some of the award-winners like the 2012 Rose which won a Double Gold Medal .

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#2 It’s harvest time and the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful in Central Virginia – except during peak Fall foliage :-) With a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop and a picture postcard lake just below the winery, Pollak is one of my favorite patios to soak up the views.

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#3 The weather is glorious-ask anyone today and I bet they’re outside, except for me and I’m heading out in a couple of minutes!

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#4 You can horseback ride through vineyards? Awesome! Indian Summer Guide Service offers these tours at Pollak, King Family or Glass House for a real down to earth experience, then stop in and sample a Virginia Viognier. The Pollak 2012 Viognier won Gold, Best of Category at the Atlantic Seaboard International
and Gold in the Monticello Cup!

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#5 Buy Local, Drink Local! See you at the Vineyard!

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