Early 2014 Harvest at Trump Winery

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Being first is nothing new to Donald Trump and, in this case, timing is everything.

Known for associating their brand with luxury and the finer things in life, the sound of a popping cork and tiny effervescent bubbles racing to the top are symbolic of this latest of Trump ventures. Trump blew into the Virginia countryside in early October 2011 with a clapping helicopter entrance and media show announcing his arrival onto the Monticello AVA scene and in a flash set in motion the transference of ownership from Kluge Estate to his namesake.

With 95 acres of grapes dedicated to sparkling wines, the 2014 harvest began as  a “crunch to the crush”.  The consumption of Champagne and sparkling wine has been on the rise and Trump Winery was poised to meet that demand. After an unseasonably cool Summer, little rain and hot August days approaching,  the time to pick the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes for sparkling wines was quickly upon us in the Charlottesville area. Due to their micro-climate, location and a desire to have a more acidic grape desirable for sparkling wines, Trump is one of the earliest vineyards in Virginia to start picking grapes (as early as August 7th).  If we got rain too soon, as was in the original forecast for the 9th and 10th of August, the grapes could become saturated affecting the sugar (brixx) level which is so critical.  Harvesting grapes at night and into the cool morning hours is ideal for a champagne style wine.  Vineyard managers believe that night harvests result in grapes with better sugar levels and  acidity.  It is also easier on the workers who are hand picking without having to labor in the heat of the day.

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On Sunday August 10th, accompanied by my husband and our daughter ( our photographer) we set off for a visit to the Trump Winery tasting room.  The transformation from Kluge Estate was quite apparent with the Trump logo everywhere emblazoned on polo shirts, on chocolate bars looking newly minted in silver and gold and on the black shirted tasting room team attending to the guests.  Even the bathroom fixtures appear gilded!

Business is certainly thriving at Trump and the tasting room filled rapidly, but not before we had quick assistance from lovely Judi Bowers, opening a bottle of the Trump Brut Sparkling Rosé 2009 to taste.  Great choice, Judi!  Armed with our Champagne glasses and an ice bucket we headed outdoors.

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One of the best decisions ( in my opinion)  made at the tasting room since Trump had taken ownership  was opening up the vista off the larger outdoor patio. Previously the outdoor space had been surrounded by trees and dense natural foliage obscuring the view. Now a picture-postcard, artist-inspiring view draws guests out to rough picnic tables with a pastoral scene of vineyards and a lake in the distance.  Just off the patio and tasting bar is a garden smelling ripe with tomatoes.

Charlottesville_Trump_Winery_View The salmon colored sparkling wine paired beautifully in taste and appearance with our selection of a rustic bacon lettuce tomato sandwich and a Caprese salad of heirloom tomatoes. We savored the experience and our glass of Brut Rose before heading out on the hike across the road through the vineyards. As we  approached  the vines seemed to come alive with the rustling  sounds of  invisible workers  hidden below the vines laughing and singing as they selected the best clusters of grapes to clip. Moving rapidly up the rows and bringing in the bunches of grapes was a pleasure to watch.

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Listen and perhaps the next time you pop open a bottle of sparkling wine from Central Virginia  you may  hear some of the laughter and song in the rising bubbles!

 

We hope you enjoy your next bottle of Trump bubbly as much as we did.

 

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Posted in Albemarle County Wineries, Virginia Wine Country, Weekends in Charlottesville | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Experiencing French Wineries vs Virginia Wineries

Clos du TriasVisions of warm sunny days, leisurely two hour lunches drawn out with conversation, an aproned waiter pouring bubbles into your champagne glass  and soft music beckon us back to the Old Country. If you’re like most wine lovers from the United States, it is a dream to visit the birthplace of  wine making, Europe. France, Italy and Spain are the most sought after destinations, followed by Germany, Portugal and Greece. 

Thomas Jefferson was just so inspired during his travels to France, thus beginning the New World efforts of cultivating grapes to make wine. He started his vines on the slopes of Monticello, his mountain top home, overlooking Charlottesville, Virginia. Richard Leahy has written a wonderful book, Beyond Jefferson’s Vines, about the history of this endeavor and the more recent explosion of vineyards in Virginia. I especially like the praise offered by  John Hagarty, www.Hagarty-on-Wine.com “Richard Leahy has woven a rich tapestry of Virginia’s wineries and winemakers. If Jefferson could peruse this book a satisfied smile would surely grace his countenance because his dream of quality Virginia wine has been fulfilled. This volume will be referenced often for those seeking to better understand the Old Dominion’s wine ascendency. A riveting and rewarding read.”

Recently, I travelled “across the pond”  in the company of my mother, to visit my sister currently living in Provence.  The movie, A Good Year, with Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard, , is one of my favorite movies and the film location of Bonnieux, Vaucluse, France was just a little southeast of Carpentras, where we made our home base. Maison Trevier,  the delightful maison we  stayed in, is within the walled village of Carpentras, around the corner from a wonderful fromagerie, La Fromagerie du Comtat. Grab a baguette, some home made fig preserves, olives and truffles from the market and you are in heaven.  As I walked into the jardin of Gina Trevier, owner of Maison Trevier,  I could almost hear the music from the soundtrack from  A Good Year :-)

Maison Trevier & Bebe Chat

Maison Trevier & Bebe Chat

Fromagerie Vigier

Fromage

Ah, I drift….so this was the beginning of our visit to the romantic south of France, Chateauneuf du Pape, Avignon, Isle sur la Sorgue, Pernes les Fontaines, Gigondas and Le Barroux. The influence of Rome and Catholicism permeated the terroir, walled villages, monasteries and small churches and olive trees used for olive wood carvings.

11th Century St. Catherine's in Gigondas

11th Century St. Catherine’s in Gigondas

I was accustomed to our lovely tasting rooms at the wineries in Virginia. Many of which supplement the costly production of wine on the east coast by building fabulous event sites for weddings and celebrations.  Not all are like Pippin Hill Farm, Veritas, King Family Vineyards  or Early Mountain Vineyards with their beautifully appointed celebration halls (which are quite gorgeous!)  many are smaller, more intimate and not quite as opulent. Afton Mountain Vineyards has a wonderful outdoor covered space, complete with blankets and space heaters to enjoy the view even when it’s cold. They have a perfect spot with a contemporary arbor for weddings plus one of the coziest tasting rooms. See my post http://cvilleuncorked.com/2011/10/15/afton-mountain-vineyards-revisited/ for more about Afton Mountain.afton-mountain-008

Horton Vineyards

Horton Vineyards

Each winery around the Charlottesville area has it’s own personality. Some are dog friendly like Keswick with it’s Yappy Hours on Sundays but also known for fabulous weddings with a plantation feel that Scarlett O’Hara would have loved.  Some are tropical and create gourmet chocolates like Glass House Winery and seating under the glass conservatory jungle of banana trees. Pollak Vineyards sits below the mountain overlooking a pond and has offered fly fishing lessons in the past. Mountfair  does weddings on a smaller scale and many of the wineries offer live music on weekends. Veritas has their Starry Nights, outdoor fire pits and a bandstand. King Family Vineyards hosts Polo matches and  an annual benefit for breast cancer, the Pink Ribbon Polo Classic coming up on June 20th, 2014. None of this takes away from the fact that Virginia is producing award winning wines that rival the wines of the Old Country. Southern hospitality abounds and you won’t be disappointed in visiting a tasting room in Virginia.

Glass House Winery

Glass House Winery

By contrast, the wineries and tasting rooms we visited in France were small, most do not charge a tasting fee and can limit you to three tastings, unlike Barboursville Winery (with it’s 5 Star Dining at Palladio)  or Horton Vineyards where you taste quite a large selection. Not to be outdone by the ruins at Chateauneuf du Pape, Barboursville has their own ruins of Governor Barbours home, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself. In Chateauneuf,  you can taste in a Cave, a small room under ground where you may taste from several different wineries or in the main tasting room for Chateauneuf du Pape that even sells souvenirs.  The French term for tasting is  “degustation” so look for a sign that includes the term. ‘En vente directe‘ indicates that they have direct sales and “vin a’ emporter” means they sell wine that you can take with you.

Ruins of Chateauneuf du Pape

Ruins of Chateauneuf du Pape

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Ruins at Barboursville Vineyards

In Gigondas, my favorite village of the trip, we visited a more contemporary tasting room with very small bottles in a test tube style presentation, where you may taste many vintages and some world class wines. It was a bit  like stepping up to the counter in a store than tasting at a bar, but they had an amazing selection of wines.

Gigondas Tasting Room

Gigondas Tasting Room

The smallest winery we visited was Clos de Trias in Le Barroux and the winemaker’s home really did remind you of A Good Year, family owned and operated, this winery is one of the few 100% organic, biodynamic wineries in the world. With the family Great Dane, Tauro, sneaking in to watch us barrel taste, it was the best wine tasting on our trip. The wines were excellent and we had a wonderful  tour by Paige Carnwath and my sister, both who’ve bottled, pumped, picked and tasted for the wine maker,  Evan Bakke.

Steel Tanks at Clos de Trias

Steel Tanks at Clos de Trias

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Tasting at Clos de Trias

 

Clos de Trias "Tauro"

Clos de Trias “Tauro”

If you want to taste wine and make an effort to converse about your tasting in France, explore this link  for French wine tasting terms. It’s like the old adage, when in Rome…

Whether you venture out to wineries in France or Virginia, the wine community is a big family, facing the same obstacles of weather, and uniting to support each other. Both countries appreciate wine from bud break or bud burst to the final product, so go, enjoy and savor the experience wherever grapes are grown.

 

Posted in Albemarle County Wineries, Nelson County Wineries, Virginia Wine Country, Wineries Outside Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Sisters

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!

Vineyard_Vines_BrothersVirginia_is_for_Whale_Lovers

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