A Toast to Fritz Winery

img_9301When selecting wine, whether at restaurants or from wine shops, we try to subscribe to our local cause of “Drink Local Buy Local”. These are our neighbors, farming the land with grapevines and competing with less costly, large production wineries. We run into our winemakers, vineyard owners and vineyard managers at the grocery store, local events and dining out.  It’s a tough, publicly perceived romantic means of making a living and we appreciate what they do.

The Event

Trump National Golf Club Washington D.C.

One of the perks of living in the Virginia wine country is also having the opportunity to try wines outside of our area, smaller wineries in other parts of the country who are getting to appreciate our Virgina wines and we, theirs. On Friday, we were invited to an event by wine distributor Lanterna and Tamara Cavanaugh, formerly of Kluge Estate Winery, in an effort to acquaint us with Fritz Underground Winery  from  the Dry Creek area of Sonoma, California. We weren’t quite sure what to expect and were so glad we came, the event was held at the Trump National Golf Club in the Great Falls area along the Potomac.  Michael MacDonald, General Manager, greeted us and introduced us to the club, the history behind the course, the Tennis “palace” with it’s magnificently lit indoor courts and it’s signature 1st and 18th hole waterfall.


The Winery13537560_1238293899535974_8315174552705929812_n

Clay Fritz, current owner of Fritz Winery  added his own personal story with a humorous slant during the wine sampling, sharing stories of his entrance into the business by way of his father, hence the winery’s name Fritz. Clay extolled on the virtues and talents of his lovely wife, Natalia and her inspiration to use some of the acreage for olive trees. She now has her own business, Natalia’s Kitchen,  incorporating their estate grown wines in mouth watering  recipes and products.

The winery itself is underground in the side of a scenic hillside with a living roof.  The wine making process is enhanced by employing natural gravity, an energy saving means  to transport the juice from the crush pad down to the tanks and barrels, thus eliminating the need for pumps. This also saves the juice from any adverse effects of excessive pulsation and buffeting.

 The Tasting

Bacon wrapped scallops, spring rolls, caprese-kabobs, coconut shrimp and paté were paired with the three select wines, a Chardonnay, A Pinot Noir and a Zinfandel. 30% of the wines  from Fritz remain for wine club members and sold locally, 70% are distributed nationally and can be purchased at Bill Curtis’s Tastings and are on the menu at The Ivy Inn and The Alley Light in the Charlottesville area. I’ll definitely be making my way to Tastings and The Alley Light, a popular local favorite in Cville.

The 2013 Fritz Chardonnay garners 91 points through Wine Enthusiast and isn’t overly oaked or too buttery but a pleasant bright citrusy taste  and great for sipping alone.

The 2012 Fritz Pinot Noir, achieves 94 points, was a resounding hit, a beautiful garnet color with cherry flavor upfront and midrange spicy notes.  I believe a popular choice for the holidays and I hope I can find this wine to add to our Fall menus.img_9300

The 2013 Fritz Estate Zinfandel followed, more robust in character with currant and dark cherry notes, the time is ripe for this wine!

I hope you get the chance to enjoy these wines and a visit to the winery if you’re in the Dry Creek area of northern California.


No Detail Too Small, Pippin Hill & Red Pump Kitchen

IMG_8761I recently heard an interesting perspective that altered my thoughts on reviews, star ratings and testimonials. In this knee jerk reactive, social media world we live in, people have the opportunity to praise or harm a business without the owner even being aware of a situation. Such a situation developed the other evening at one of my very favorite restaurants on the Pedestrian mall in Downtown Charlottesville. We had new clients in town and they selected Red Pump Kitchen for their first dinner in Cville. Unfortunately, they had a less than stellar experience there and I was dismayed to hear about it the following morning.  I impulsively jumped on Facebook to express my concern about their experience. We want our clients to love Virginia as much as we do, of course.

Clearly, I intend not to dwell on what went awry, but how rapidly  the efforts were employed to  rectify the situation! After hearing about the note on Yelp and my note on  Facebook, the owners, Dean Andrews and Lynn Easton   aggressively delved  in to the situation, reached out to their team (even though they were out of town at one of their restaurants in Charleston, S.C.) and contacted me on our clients behalf the very same day!   With their reputation for  attention to detail and hands-on service, I received a phone call with a sincere personal apology  and Dean offered the option of inviting our clients to experience the beautiful Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyard for a complimentary Sunday lunch.IMG_8771 As many already know,  Pippin Hill is a favorite with The Knot, Martha Stewart Weddings and Vogue and deserves it’s ranking as one of the premier wedding destinations in the country. Pippin also boasts one of the most picturesque views in Virginia, and a striking approach through an allée of fragrant popcorn white hydrangeas towards the rustically elegant  barn/event hall and tasting room.IMG_8772

Reserved for us on this gorgeous August afternoon was the shaded corner table providing a gentle breeze where we were indulged with refreshing Blanc de Blanc and sparkling Rose. Our server, Colleen, was delightful, attentive and excellent! Matt, the manager checked into make sure everything was perfect…and it was. The cheese board and charcuterie board were artistic, locally sourced and delicious, we loved the Buffalo Sliders and the atmosphere and scenery exquisite as always.

IMG_8764 It couldn’t have been a more delightful afternoon. It also served as  an unexpected opportunity to celebrate my birthday and our clients =) which are both tomorrow.

So as far as those star ratings and reviews,  I came to the conclusion that sometimes second impressions have even more impact then first and we have two new prospective homeowners in Charlottesville who are totally sold on Pippin Hill, will certainly return to Red Pump Kitchen and are excited to be able to experience more of our beautiful area. Many thanks and a Five Star rating to Dean Andrews and Lynn Easton for your amazing attention to detail and welcoming them to our Virgina Wine Country..  IMG_8774Happy Birthday to me…

Trump Estate: Girls Night Out


It’s been two months since I wrote Part One of this post!

Procrastination and life has a way of interfering with sitting back at a keyboard with a glass of wine and reflecting on how  blessed we are to live in such a beautiful part of the world. It actually took the Republican National Convention to spur me on to writing. Kerry Woolard, General Manager of Trump Winery, spoke last night at the RNC and Eric Trump is slated to speak this evening. I have Kerry to thank, along with the staff at Trump Winery, for making our stay exceptional.  Oh, and by the way, this is not a political diatribe, it just got me thinking. This is about an over the top Bed and Breakfast in Virginia wine country,  just a short drive down the road from the historic Monticello,  Ashlawn ( James Monroe’s home),  Dave Matthew’s winery Blenheim Vineyards, peach and apple orchards and our own charming downtown Charlottesville.

In thinking back over our stay,  I pondered as to why it was such an impressionable overnight  and several reasons came to mind.

One: As children we hear stories and read fairy tales about princes and princesses, castles and sumptuous living, but only a few people actually experience the daily lifestyle of the rich and famous. This was an opportunity to slip into that world, for a night or a weekend or a week.

Two: Trump does have the letter “T” everywhere and guess who has the same initials? So, when they handed us the remote control for the gate to the property and I kept seeing the “T” everywhere, well, it kind of did feel like home. The fact that the manor house has only (only!) ten suites, and due to the limited number of guests on our stay, my sister actually started calling it her home. Conversations began with “ I’m so glad you could come to visit me” and along with plenty of bubbly wine and giggles, we did make ourselves quite at home.Lumina_Boston_Photography_www.luminaboston.com_Charlottesville_Wedding_photographer_Trump_Albemarle_Estate_-0043

Three:  The approach through the vineyards and traversing through the rolling countryside with pastoral vistas, I was reminded of early 1800’s paintings of  England in  particular, a  landscape by English Romantic painter, John Constable of Wivenhoe Park  an English landscape park, and the estate of the Rebow family. John_Constable_-_Wivenhoe_Park,_Essex_-_Google_Art_Project

Four: Elegance permeated the property with two 1760 handmade Waterford crystal chandeliers, the elaborate ornamental rococo mantle in the dining room, the soaring 22 foot ceiling in the living room, hand-painted wallpaper designed in Paris and painted in India, garden statuary and formal rose gardens plus the Steinway grand piano-  all speak to a lifestyle of days gone by and made this home outstanding.

As I said, we were totally impressed!

Movie Night

So that night, we slipped on our slippers like The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm (except there were only four princesses in this story) and danced and traipsed through the halls of the mansion down to the private theater, complete with freshly popped popcorn, loads of candy bars and BYOB Trump Sparkling Blanc de Blanc.              Lumina_Boston_Photography_www.luminaboston.com_Charlottesville_Wedding_photographer_Trump_Albemarle_Estate_-0095

Okay, so maybe we don’t look like princesses-we felt like princesses.


Showing pictures of our “Pajama Party” at the Albemarle Estate,  I really wanted you to see how much fun you can have at the estate and it would’t be complete without sharing about our evening in the private theater. The room was used in the 1980’s to screen first release films and currently, state of the art surround sound and HD projection. For about $20 per person, you can reserve the theater for your group .

You’ll have the theater to yourself with tons of movies to choose from (you get to select only one though), all you can eat Reese’s and it’s really close to the indoor hot tub, sauna and outdoor pool area if you decide to do something else. I fell asleep and missed THE END but we had a short walk to our opulent suite and sweet dreams.

The Morning AfterLumina_Boston_Photography_www.luminaboston.com_Charlottesville_Wedding_photographer_Trump_Albemarle_Estate_-0142



I think the pictures speak volumes…it was a heavenly wake-up and the formal breakfast/brunch was artfully presented.

Afterward, we took advantage of the cool morning air, a bike ride and further exploring the property…


A special thanks to my sweet daughter/photographer, Jillian Curran of  Lumina Boston Photography, the pictures were too many, too wonderful to include all in this one post.

I hope you have as much fun as we did!






Albemarle Estate and Trump Winery: A Girls Night Out

Lumina_Boston_Photography_www.luminaboston.com_Charlottesville_Wedding_photographer_Trump_Albemarle_Estate_-0057It’s all about presentation, whether it’s a creatively garnished plate in an elegant Michelin rated restaurant, an exquisitely wrapped gift or the initial dramatic entrance as you approach an estate property. It is an announcement of what is to come, a tantalizing expectation of an anticipated experience. In this case, large iron gates supported by heavy brick columns with the name Albemarle Estate and Trump Winery announce your passage into a world of opulence. We had arrived!Lumina_Boston_Photography_www.luminaboston.com_Charlottesville_Wedding_photographer_Trump_Albemarle_Estate_-0054I’ve been fortunate to be in attendance at some of the major events at Albemarle Estate including the announcement of the acquisition of the winery by Donald Trump , the official  ribbon cutting for Albemarle Estate Bed and Breakfast, gala events and a recent wine makers sparkling brunch. While researching  places to stay around Charlottesville, I couldn’t find a write up by anyone who had actually stayed at the B & B. As a member of the Trump Winery Wine Club and living in Charlottesville, I decided what better place for an indulgent girls getaway? No beach house for this group! No way!

Fabulously groomed ornamental gardens with tucked away sculptures, fountains, blooming Dogwoods, Cherry and Apple trees, Wisteria draping over arbors and perfectly chilled glasses of sparkling Trump Blanc de Blanc Chardonnay  awaited us.

Graciously, the men in our family  took over the job of babysitting and keeping up on the home front as we headed out on our own for a retreat a mere 30 minutes away in Albemarle County.


Bye Bye Daddy! Bye Bye Elena!


The Surprise

After being buzzed in through the gate, we were able to park right  in front of the 26,000 square foot 45 room Georgian style mansion now Bed and Breakfast recently acquired by Donald Trump and part of the Trump Hotel Collection. We were greeted and delightedly found out we had our accommodations upgraded to the premier William and Mary Suite!  With  two luxurious  separate bedrooms, each with King size beds sumptuously made with 100% goose down pillows and comforters and Italian Bellino bed linens, two  55 inch LCD flat screen HDTV’s, and a Nespresso Beverage system.  The suite is  accessed via an alcove adjoined by a private dining room. Each of the two bathrooms boasted a wonderful extra long claw foot tub with all the spa Trump bath goodies, and a separate hot steam shower. This is my kind of living!

The William and Mary SuiteLumina_Boston_Photography_www.luminaboston.com_Charlottesville_Wedding_photographer_Trump_Albemarle_Estate_-0028



The CelebrationIMG_7989

Myself, my sister from London, our daughter in law from São Paulo, Brazil and most recently, Raleigh, N.C., and  our daughter presently residing  in the Boston area, all came to celebrate being together, birthday, and friendship in Charlottesville  for a “Girls Getaway”.  The last time we were together was almost 4 years ago and it was entirely too long. Book bridesmaid parties, a fun time with your besties, your  book club or whatever, for a ridiculously wonderful “Girls Night Out”-preferably two nights if you can manage it-it takes a while to wind down. But do plan ahead. I planned this early and we scheduled on an off day which allowed us incredible privacy, lots of laughs and an all round grand experience. The more people in your group, the less you have to worry about bothering others since it is a quite intimate setting and others are looking for sanctuary as well. In retrospect,  It was a good idea that we had reserved during the week since the following day all 10 rooms were completely booked. The estate is a perfect venue  for weddings, functions and romantic weekends near the Monticello Wine Trail.



Pool Time

Check in is at 3 p.m., if you get there right on time,  (we actually sneaked in a bit early, nabbed a freshly baked hot chocolate chip cookie or two, towels, lovely spa bathrobes)  head straight out to the pool. The staff  are quietly available to serve your needs and will give you a complete tour of Albemarle House prior to settling into your room or afterwards. The pool had just been heated and the hot tub was deliciously inviting after a cool Spring and welcome sunny day. Poolside towels are available, water bottles and  the fireplace in the cabana  can be lit for you upon request. The fitness room is nearby at the main house if you must workout as well as bicycles to ride around the property and vineyards.

What’s for Dinner?

Pay attention to the time, it slips away quickly and your options include heading back into town for dinner which is about a twenty minute drive, or (what we did) take advantage of the complimentary wine tasting at the Trump Winery, just off the grounds of the estate. They offer delicious fare and we called ahead to have our food ready to complement our tasting. They can also prepare plates “to go” and take back with you to the estate leaving you more time to enjoy the surroundings.



One of the more popular and unique wines outside of the award winning sparkling wines at Trump is Cru, a dessert wine created by blending Chardonnay juice with grape brandy  then aged for over a year in American bourbon barrels. With 14% residual sugar and flavors of citrus, pear and a little bourbon, it can also be used as a mixer as well as an aperitif. It never fails, when I’m at the winery, there are always people walking away with a bottle or case of Cru. On our return, we took advantage of my favorite perk at Albemarle Estate (and the hardest item to give up) the electronic gate opener. Oh how desperately I wanted to keep it, while it was in my car we could pretend we were pulling up to  home !


Stay tuned for Movie Night, the Morning After and the Gardens… Part Two: Girls Night Out at  Trump






Montpelier Wine Festival 2016 Rain or Shine


The rolling hills of the Piedmont and the history of Montpelier make this one of the more idyllic settings for showcasing our local wineries. I’ve been there in all kinds of weather, but this is a must for history buffs, wine lovers and gardening enthusiasts. This event is well organized and traffic flow is smooth. Wear your Wellies or rain boots (just in case) since the ground may be a bit mushy after all of our recent rain. Bring some camp chairs, you’ll want to be able to sit back a bit after walking the gardens and enjoy a nice Viognier or Cabernet Franc. For hikers, save your wine for the end of the day and head out on the Montpelier-Grelen Trail, MontpelierTrails, a 3.9 mile loop with 9 miles of trails to explore. The Governor designated this trail a “Virginia Treasure” and is a fun way to explore the historical grounds, mountain views and it links to the Grelen Nursery on the Grelen Farm. Grelen is another find and worthy of a separate blog post, family oriented, great gift shop and in season berry picking, plus a sand box for the little ones!


Don’t miss  visiting the Mansion at James Madison’s Montpelier, but allow extra time!  Mansion tour tickets will be discounted for festival attendees. Exchange Café, featuring BBQ Exchange barbecue, is available for lunches! Wineries that are featured are, of course, Barboursville and Horton Vineyards, as well as Cross Keys Vineyard, Well Hung Vineyard, Democracy Vineyard, Reynard Florence Vineyard, Delfosse Vineyards & Winery, Lazy Days Winery, Villa Appalachia, Kilaurwen Winery, Mattaponi Winery, Prince Michel Vineyard & Winery, Peaks of Otter Winery,  Lake Anna Winery, Jefferson Vineyards, Rockbridge Vineyard (blog post waiting in the wings) and Stone Mountain Vineyards plus even more!


Have Fun!


3 Virginia Wineries for Fireside Sipping

untitled02Whether you are a native of the Old Dominion or a Virginian by choice, I’m reminded of a quotation, “You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!  In Virginia we have so many places to go! Historical, scenic, cultural and of course, the wineries and vineyards. Get out and shake that cabin fever!

It’s not the prettiest time in the vineyards, the vines are rough and scruffy, asleep waiting for the warmth of the sun to awaken them and the first buds to burst forth. However, it’s a great time to enjoy the wineries! Super Bowl has passed and Spring sports are just around the corner, in the meantime, what better way to enjoy a chilly day then to cozy up to a fireplace with friends with a glass of wine?

We have so many great wineries in Central Virginia, but I’ve chosen three of my favorite, all for different reasons but with a common element, fireside sipping. If you’re fortunate and have the option to go during the week days, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but can have some personal attention from the tasting room manager or even winery owners or winemakers.

All of these mentioned in this post are in the Western Albemarle, northern Nelson County area. All have Blue Ridge Mountain views, are gorgeous wedding venues (check out Borrowed & Blue) and all have  fireplaces.  Don’t miss the opportunity to head out on horseback with Indian Summer Guide Service like we did a while back with owner Ashton Beebe. Each of these vineyards offer horseback rides touring the vineyards.

While they all have much in common, each of the wineries has their own unique ambiance and appeal.

Nestled up close to the mountains is Afton Mountain Vineyards, one of the oldest vineyards in the area dating back to 1978.untitled01

Afton Mountain has the most intimate setting.  Stepping through the Mediterranean style exterior you feel as though you’ve been invited into Tony and Elizabeth Smith’s (owners of AMV) personal living room. We honestly stayed 2 and a half hours sharing a bottle of a perfect winter day Cabernet Franc and photographing with my new camera under the tutelage of our daughter, Jillian Curran of Lumina Boston photography- by the way-she does do weddings and will come to Charlottesville! Outside there are two patios and a covered pavilion offering more space for groups and special events. If you have a larger group (more than 6 or 7) please see the restrictions and special arrangements on their website. They really try to maintain an optimal wine tasting experience. untitled03


Congratulations and Happy Chinese New Year to the Smiths and AMV for being chosen for wine pairings with the delicious menu prepared by Peter Chang and two other chefs at THE JAMES BEARD HOUSE in New York City as they celebrate the Year of the Monkey.

King Family Vineyards was on our list, of course, (love their Viognier) and in a rare moment we had the place to ourselves with the exception of one other couple. While the fireplace wasn’t lit, the tasting room host graciously offered more than once to light up the wood burning fireplace for us. untitled07

It was wonderful to see how King Family has expanded their space inside to accommodate the crowds of UVA folks and Polo fans that throng there when Spring rolls around. Like AMV, the tasting room offers a refrigerator case stocked with local snacks and has  additional fun wine lovers gift items in case you’re looking for a Valentine’s Day gift for someone special. The new Library is available for special events as well!untitled09untitled08

The most dramatic fireplace in the area is at  Veritas  with it’s floor to ceiling rock wall. The spacious bar and upstairs loft is able to handle larger groups with multiple leather sofas and expansive windows illuminating the tasting room. All three wineries have outdoor patios and seating to soak up the fresh air when the days get longer and warmer. Fire pits and outside space heaters can offset the winter chill for those so inclined. We did a complete tasting here and again, were the only ones in the tasting room until another couple strolled in briefly. We selected a port style wine, the 2012 Othello, made with 75% Tannat and 25% Merlot grapes, packed with complex flavors of dark fruit, vanilla and coffee, perfect for sipping by our own fireplace at home.untitled10


Clearly, winter and weekdays are a great time to relax and find new wineries to visit or revisit some of your all time favorites. Oh, what places will we go…next?untitled14






Trump Estate Winery, Albemarle House and Virginia Wine Chat

IMG_5589 Friday afternoon, one week before Christmas, a pot of stew simmering on the stove and a glass of crimson Cabernet Sauvignon smiling at me next to my laptop. The last thing I need to do is write a blog post. Still haven’t finished shopping or writing Christmas cards, but I can’t help reflecting back over another wonderful year living in the Virginia wine country. If you live here or visit Central Virginia,I encourage you to  pause long enough to appreciate the Blue Ridge mountains, the exquisite neon pink, fuchsia and purple sunsets, the rows of vineyards crossing slopes between country estates and the hospitality of our local wineries. So stop… carve out a little time… and enjoy…

Highlights that stand out over the seasons of 2015 were sensory experiences I will not forget. Thank you to Claude Thibaut, winemaker and friend, who graciously helped us showcase the elegance and entertaining value of our clients home  for sale in Northern Albemarle county. It was a sparkling day in January with crystal blue skies, ridges of mountains in the background and fireplaces warming us as Claude poured flutes of Thibaut-Janisson Extra Brut. The home was a house of celebrations and what better way to exemplify it then offering Thibaut-Janisson bubbly for our agents and guests to enjoy during the tour. And yes, the home sold and there is a new owner;  I hope they are toasting in the New Year with TJ Extra Brut!IMG_5515

The second highlight was a quite grand event- the official ribbon cutting at the Albemarle Estate, 98 pastoral acres and the 23,000 square foot, 45 room mansion.  Strategically purchased by Donald Trump at a fantastically low $6,700,000 price after having already secured the Kluge Estate Winery and portions of the vineyards surrounding the property. Thanks to good friend Mark Norman, President of World Wine Marketing and Kerry Woolard, General Manager of all operations at Trump Estate, I was invited and able to see the opulent interior and manicured Italianate gardens of Albemarle House!IMG_5517

In Trump style (pardon the cliché) guests as well as local dignitaries gathered in front of the manor, newscasters in place poised with microphones as the chop-chop-chop sounds of the highly recognizable  private helicopter landed yards away from our seats. Introductions followed including Eric Trump, Donald’s son who has taken leadership of Trump Estate Winery as President and Kerry Woolard, General Manager. Both have impressive credentials and since taking over the foreclosed property have placed the Trump name significantly on the map in Virginia wine country. 

**Another separate blog post devoted to Albemarle Estate will follow soon, extolling the details and beauty of the property, especially as a remarkable fairy tale wedding venue and luxury B & B.**IMG_5540IMG_5542

The third and final highlight for me was a return trip on December 10th to the fully operational Albemarle Estate for a Virginia Wine Chat event hosted and moderated by well known popular wine expert and blogger, Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like and Jonathan Wheeler, Winemaker for Trump Estate Winery. Jonathan has been with the estate since 2006 and it was interesting hearing his explanations and joining in the conversation as questions came from not only the small group of guests, but also participants via Twitter and Ustream using the hashtag #VAWineChat. Virginia Wine Chat is a virtual participation event for busy wine lovers to gather, share and learn in the comfort of their own home (or wherever they may be at the scheduled moment). Started in 2013 by Frank Morgan after realizing the interest and opportunity for social media oenophiles to meet virtually. Make plans to participate next month if you aren’t already involved.

Frank Morgan and Jonathan Wheeler-photo courtesy of Mark Norman

Greeted by the Trump management and hospitality team, we were immediately offered our choice of two wines, a Viognier and a Sparkling Reserve. Bubbles trump every time for me-pun intended.

Appetizers were delicious with my favorite served, mini gluten-free crab cakes! Yummy with the crisp sparkling wine! Strolling through the elegantly appointed rooms accented with tasteful Christmas decorations, we made ourselves at home (oh my gosh!) and settled in to the Library, a combination room including leather tufted sofas, fireplace and billiard table and served by the adjacent bar. Hospitality abounded throughout the evening and we proceeded to the event itself. Note:pinching myself, could get really used to this!IMG_7268

The wines featured were a 2009 Blanc de Blanc, 2009 Sparkling Rose, 2014 Chardonnay  and the pre-release 2014 Meritage. All were very good, the Meritage was a little young and needed more time to develop ( they already know that) but well received. I think we had a consensus that the overall favorite, and by the way, we all asked for a second pour, was the 2009 Blanc de Blanc-effervescent and citrusy with a nice light yeasty influence. IMG_7272

If you haven’t finished shopping like me, check out the “Gift Shop” at Trump Winery for some last minute Christmas or New Years ideas. Hint to my husband, hope he reads the blog…

Cheers to the end of 2015, an excellent vintage in my opinion =)





Holiday Fun at the Vineyards

Thibaut Janisson My Favorite Gift

Food, Family, Celebrations, Shopping! It’s the holidays and the pressure is on to entertain, so why not make life easy? Here are some ideas of upcoming events at our local Virginia wineries. Beginning with Black Friday ( I prefer Green Friday if you’re hung up on the sales aspect of the season)  at Grace Estate Winery and enjoy the ambience and views in Western Albemarle from the new tasting room. From November 27th-29th and take advantage of the 20-30% discount on three different wines. unnamed


Tired of leftovers? Take your friends for a nice country drive on  Friday Nov 27th 6-9pm where the Beatles cover band Abbey Road Unplugged will be at Glass House Winery,  and Two Brothers food truck will be servin up their fantastic southwestern style eats, so come hungry, too.  You can still bring a picnic if you like, but the food truck is fantastic, just so you know. No cover, no outside alcohol, no reservations.Buy some delicious gourmet wine infused chocolates while you’re there!  Tastings served throughout (noon-5:30).


Head to Keswick Vineyards and spend some time getting up close and personal with Keswick Vineyards 2015 vintage with Winemaker Stephen Barnard as you get to experience a barrel tasting of this very promising vintage!

Taste exceptional wines including  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier as they develop and mature in the barrel. There will be 8 sessions, Saturday, November 21st, Sunday, November 22nd, Saturday, November 28th, and Sunday, November 29th from 10-1pm and from 2-5pm each day. You will also have the opportunity to purchase “futures” of these wines at a discount during the barrel tastings!


On November 28th and 29th “Deck the Halls” at Early Mountain Vineyards To celebrate the holiday season,  from 11:00am to 5:00pm.  On Saturday, Two Wishes  (if you haven’t heard them you’ve really been missing out!), and on Sunday, The Olivarez Trio with our friend Jeff Cheers, will be providing holiday music throughout the event. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, photos with Santa, cookie decorating and shopping for gifts from a wide variety of local artists and artisans .We went last year, it was lots of fun and ran into friends out with their visiting families. unnamed-3 

COCKTAILS and CANAPES at Pippin Hill Farm  

Celebrate the holiday season on December 9th 6-9 p.m.  with Pippin Hill’s Executive Chef Bill Scatena! Learn to entertain with small festive bites great for your next holiday party! Tickets will also include a cocktail demo that will explain how to mix flavors to create the perfect holiday drink!

Masked Ball for Shop1


On New Years Eve Veritas will be hosting their annual Masked Ball, an elegant event featuring wine and hors d’oeuvres followed by a five-course winemaker’s dinner at 8 p.m. in Saddleback Hall. There will be dancing until midnight, when the masks come off and the champagne flows! Breakfast follows at 12:30 a.m. So bring your mask and your dancing shoes to have great food, wine, and fun to bring in the New Year 2016. Tickets are $175/person.

For any of these events, please plan ahead, call now for reservations at the links provided.

Cheers to You and your Families as we ring out 2015 and celebrate the New Year 2016, Clink!

Stinson Vineyards: A Family Favorite

StinsonVineyards_Tailgate_ThursdaysWeather forecast on 4th of July: good chance of rain and upper 80’s, almost didn’t leave the house, who needs another muggy day…change of plans and headed to Western Albemarle county…best decision ever!

I hadn’t been back to Stinson Vineyards in quite a while, actually since they were completing their “new” tasting room ( in 2011!) for a wine blending class with Matthieu Finot. Way too long!StinsonVineyards_View

Since we’re real estate agents and sometimes find carving out personal time difficult, we tend towards spontaneity. This spontaneous choice found us on the patio at Stinson, overlooking ripening vineyards and the bucolic valley below the Blue Ridge Mountain skyline. Listening to Charlottesville’s own homegrown New Orleans style jazz band of Chickenhead Blues completed the experience. Recently the musicians have been discovered in New Orleans and a majority of their scheduled gigs are now in Cajun country.

As far as selecting wine, we chose the 2012 Meritage, which would have been perfect on a cooler day or in the evening with a steak, but in accordance with the warmish weather we moved on to the Sauvignon Blanc. I now have a new favorite Virginia wine and since have encountered other wine lovers who feel the same. Father and daughter winemakers, Scott and Rachel Stinson have invested in, not one, but two concrete eggs to ferment wine in and this wine is done in a combination of stainless steel and the concrete egg, achieving  a delicious grapefruity, white peach flavor followed by a mineral finish for a refreshing result. The concrete egg is a whole other storyStinson Vineyards Concrete Egg Fermentation

It’s been on my calendar to make it for their  Tailgate Thursday nights event held weekly until September 3rd, and we’re running out of time to take advantage of the TWO Big Green Eggs and Weber grill. Bring your own meat for grilling, grab a blanket or chairs and picnic in a family, dog friendly venue and kick off the weekend early. No time for grocery shopping? Local meat from The Rock Barn and Free Union Grass Farm can be purchased and thawed by calling ahead.IMG_5413 Now, pick your favorite wine to pair and it’s a cookout. Can’t get too much easier than that.

Starr Hill Has A Heart


It’s been a bit since I’ve posted but this is the perfect cause to get back in to the swing of blogging. Last time I was at Starr Hill Brewery was when the earthquake hit on August 23rd, 2011 in Louisa while  we were sampling the strongest stoutest brew on tap. The building began to shake and we thought, Wow that was a robust beer!!  The manager thought it was the train that runs directly behind the building, but moments later Tweets were out with the Richter scale reading 5.8.

In August (and starting tonight!) for every pint of beer sold , Starr Hill Brewery will donate  $ ONE DOLLAR $ to our local American Heart Association throughout the rest of the month. This is  a cause literally near and dear to my heart and the financial support  stays local. This is an ongoing program that Starr Hill does benefitting different charities and this month #CheersforCharity is focusing on heart health. Get a little cardio in by raising a glass (or mug) and lower your blood pressure while supporting research that will benefit someone in your life, maybe even you!

Starr_Hill_Tap_RoomSo here we are , four years later in August, and not expecting the earth to shake but would love to see a roar of support for this charity!  I’m looking forward to seeing the changes made in the last year to Starr Hill as well.

Thanks in advance to all who plan to support The American Heart Association in our area.

Hope to see you there…