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

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Everyday is a Good day for Virginia Bubbly

Virginia_Sparkling_WineWhile the Champagne region of France claims the name, other countries including the United States of America are establishing their own reputation using traditional Chardonnay grapes as well as Pinot Noir to make sparkling wine. The average bottle of Champagne contains enough carbon dioxide to potentially produce 49 million bubbles, some say even more. Watching the bubbles shoot upward is quite mesmerizing,  recalling childhood memories of bubble lights on Christmas trees.  This has sparked a new tradition in our family of opening gifts with a chilled bottle of Champagne or a Brut Rosé from Soter in the Willamette Valley of Oregon (very welcome gift from my sister).

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Virginia has now placed itself on the sparkling wine map courtesy of Claude Thibaut and his Thibaut Janisson sparkling wines. Originally from Champagne, Claude has traversed the globe popping coks, perfecting his dosage and selecting only the best grapes and juice for his wines. He brought his expertise in the “methode champenoise” to  Kendall-Jackson, Jordan and Iron Horse wineries in California as well as Champagne Veuve Devaux, Bar sur seine, France and Yarra Bank, Victoria Australia, where his wines were voted “Best of the Best” in the 1995 Australia and New Zealand Wine Guide. He partners with Manuel Janisson of Janisson et Fils, a well know family of Champagne makers in Verzenay, France. Claude originally was enticed to Charlottesville by Patricia Kluge of Kluge Estate Winery and is  now owned and operated by Donald and Eric Trump. I am particularly fond of Claude’s latest T-J Extra Brut!

We were recently gifted with a bottle of Barboursville Cuvee 1814 Brut wine which was excellent. Side note: after pouring the wine there seemed to be very few bubbles and within a short period of time an explosion of bubbles occurred. The wine was well received by all! I look forward to serving it again.

Following traditional holidays like Christmas, New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, Champagne drinking may hit a slump but any time is good for serving sparkling wine. It’s like the slogan, Orange Juice, It’s Not Just for Breakfast Anymore! Watch these three wineries (Trump definitely included) as well as other Virginia wineries for  future vintages!

Ankida Ridge & Cross Keys Vineyards- Opposite Sides of the Appalachian Trail


photo-7With one toe still wedged in the doorway between 2012 and 2013,  I reluctantly find it is time to take down our beautiful Christmas tree  (after all it is Valentine’s Day)  and start a new year of wine blogging.  My own mini-vacation, a touch of procrastination, added to an already  busy early Spring real estate market; the days speed ahead and we approach March!  I find drinking  wine easy, hanging out at a winery listening to music with friends certainly no rough task,  but describing it in print  requires a little effort from the grey matter that is already tinted a touch  purple.

Reflections of Winter 2012

We wrapped up 2012 with a memorable tree trimming  Christmas Party at Ankida Ridge and a delightful note to end the year.  The famed Pinot Noir that the Vroomans are already known for was served along with their newest  label, Rockgarden Cellars.

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Sourced from grapes grown in neighboring Virginia vineyards that  have made the journey up 1800 feet to become  “The Voyager Series,” and in keeping the French theme, we are calling this “green-style”  spritzy white wine “Voyage (voy-AJH) de Vert” and the red blend of Merlot,  Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc “Voyage de Rouge.”  We really enjoyed the Rouge as well as the family style sing along and many, glass in hand, headed further up the mountain via a tractor-pulled hayride. Here’s a little snippet of Christine Vrooman’s talented niece, Jessie Rogowski, leading the carols:

Keep your eyes on this boutique winery in the Amherst region of Virginia.  They have an active intimate wine club and visits to the winery are arranged by appointment or scheduled events, next one is St. Patrick’s Day 3/17.

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Early 2013

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For Valentine’s, our celebration was highlighted by opening a Port wine saved after a visit with friends to Cross Keys Vineyards. It lies a little south of Massanutten in the Shenandoah Valley in Mt. Crawford. Cross Keys commands a rather regal presence over the valley with its palatial architecture. A perfect locale for weddings and grand photo ops that would please any bride. Move over Kate Middleton 😉

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Cross Keys does an excellent job by teaming up with Massanutten Resort, the Shenadoah Park Hotels and local B&B’s to provide dining, tastings and special events for vacationers.  We stepped in midway through a tour and due to the number of visitors, extracted ourselves up to the tasting room and beat the crowd. Aren’t we the clever ones!  Typically, port style wines don’t intrigue me, but this 100% Touriga Nacional was so aromatic with dark cherry fragrance and a slight orange scent, I had to bring it home for my husband.  Aged for two years in French and American Oak, garnet red in color, with a smooth round velvet mouth feel, I felt it the perfect choice to set the mood for a romantic evening.

Cheers to a happy and prosperous, healthy New Year!

A Heavenly Valentine’s Day Pairing Wine with Chocolate

Better than Reese's!

Just a few ideas for your Valentine this year:

Stinson Vineyards Valentine’s Day Weekend in the Tasting Room

Saturday February 11th & Sunday February 12th, 2012

Since Valentine’s Day falls on a Tuesday this year, we’ll be celebrating the weekend before. Come on out to the Tasting Room for a glass of our delicious Rosé and homemade Red Velvet cupcakes! We’ve also got plenty of gift baskets sets and pre wrapped wine bottles if you’re looking for a last minute gift.

Be Mine With Wine Keswick Vineyards
Saturday, February 11th, 11-4pm

Come spoil yourself or someone you love with Keswick Vineyards’ special wine and dessert tasting for a Valentine’s Day indulgence. Discover how these luscious confections complement each wine. After your tasting, enjoy the romantic setting while you savor a glass of wine on our newly enclosed heated porch! The cost is $15 for our wine club members and $20 for non wine club members. Please call ahead as reservations are recommended. (434) 244-3341.

Valentine’s at White Hall

Saturday, February 11th & Sunday, February 12th
11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
$10/person

Join us for a wine and chocolate pairing featuring Gearharts Fine Chocolates. We will be sampling three sumptuous chocolates paired with six wines, and you take home your glass. Live music performed by Curtis Prince on both days from 1 p.m.to 5 p.m.

Glass House Valentine’s Pairing Party

Music, wine, wine pairings

Spend Sunday Feb 12th in the sultry tropical conservatory at Glass House Winery.

Sip wines served at your table, listen to Beleza Brasil’s sexy Valentine’s Day set; all while having chocolates, artisan cheeses, and small dishes paired with your wines.

Feel free to get up and dance…when Beleza plays it is almost impossible not to!

12-5 pm (Beleza Brasil from 2-5 pm)

Barboursville Valentine’s Dinner $150

Some special sentiments about Love for your Valentine:

  • Life has taught us that love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” By Saint-Exupery

    • “Love is patient, love is kind.

      It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
      It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
      It is not easily angered; it keeps no record of wrongs.
      Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
      It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
      Love never fails.” The Bible

  • “There is no remedy for love but to love more.” By Thoreau 
  • Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. – Henry Van Dyke