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!
So 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.
I just did a casual poll in my office, 100% in favor of the rocky little mollusks! Disclaimer: several people were away from their desks or at lunch. Whether or not you’re an oyster lover is a moot point, this years Oyster Festival at Early Mountain Vineyards strikes a nice balance, offering alternatives for those who pass on bivalves. Last year the event was a fixed price for all you can eat oysters, this year is structured a little different and in my opinion, better. All food is priced a la carte and for those with shellfish allergies or are not fans of oysters, there’s always wine! Raw & steamed oyster, crab cakes, and Barcat chowder will be served in addition to the excellent selection of wine. A limited alternative menu will be available in the Market Place in the winery. Bonus! A free souvenir stemless EMV glass and wine tasting are included in the ticket price.
Gotta get the T-Shirt!
If you’ve never visited Early Mountain Vineyards you’re in for a treat, the staff is well trained in making your experience pleasurable and no doubt you’ll want to return. The facility is gorgeous, allow enough time to see how artfully designed this venue is and the blends and contrasts of textures from the pillows on the sofas to the course brick walls and tables to the smooth polished wood tasting bar.
Come out and enjoy the sounds of Folk rock band, Mercy Creek from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Admission is $12 in advance, $10 for EMV Wine Club Members, and $15 at the door.
Under 21 are admitted free and Early Mountain Vineyards keeps a stock of fun games for the family. Hope to see you there!
While 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).
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!
I Love Christmas! And as excited as I am about spending the holidays with the ones I love, there’s always the question as to what to give or what to do with our out of town guests. Well here’s a a different type of spirit that makes for a fun “get out of the house” trip and even get some Christmas gifts or stock up the bar for New Years Eve.
Chest thumping enthusiasm is palpable as wine drinkers and beer lovers “fall off the Brew Ridge Trail” and into the new tasting room of Silverback Distillery in Nelson County. Curiosity tempted us away from apple butter festivals and past some of the wineries and breweries dotting 151 in Nelson. Just a short drive south of 250 and Afton is the newest attraction, opened the end of August by partners in life and business, Christine and Denver Riggleman and close friend and operations manager, Blake Rhodes.
The distillery bears Denver’s nickname of Silverback (gorilla of course) because he had grayed prematurely, lifted weights and is actually quite gentle unless provoked.
We arrived shortly before closing and within a small window of time that allowed us to connect with the Silverback himself, Denver, for a quick but thorough tour of the distillery. Proud of not only the design and the process thoughtfully chosen by the couple, we were treated to a brief chemistry lesson in spirit production. The two stills used would make Willy Wonka want to switch to Bourbon,Gin and Vodka. Sleek and sparkling in the sunny room, the contraptions rest above a hidden geothermal system for heating and then shock cooling the spirits to achieve the best flavor possible. Teflon lined fireman’s hoses transfer the mash to the stills. The stills are Denver’s million dollar plus babies, don’t quote me on this but I remember the dollar figures astounded me.
The motto which reflects their commitment to safety, fun and the environment is
PRODUCE RESPONSIBLY. DRINK RESPONSIBLY. DISPOSE RESPONSIBLY ™
I won’t steal their thunder, head to 151 in Nelson and take a tour, there’s an encyclopedia of information about distilling spirits and the bourbon to come at Silverback. You can even shop for some fun non-alcoholic gift items for tea-totalers.
Virginia wine fans, join us for a live tasting with three winemakers on Virginia Wine Chat
There is still plenty of time to order for this weekends special event!
Virginia Wine Chat – 3 Bottles of the finest Monticello wines
Virginia wine fans, join us for the September edition of Virginia Wine Chat, Saturday, September 27 at 7:30pm, presented by DrinkWhatYouLike.com, Virginia Wine Marketing Office, and The Virginia Wine Club:
A live tasting and interview with Emily Pelton (Veritas Vineyard), Matthieu Finot (King Family Vineyard), and Jake Busching (Grace Estates Winery ) moderated by wine writer Frank Morgan. The educational tasting and panel discussion will be streamed live via the Virginia Wine Chat UStream Channel. Participants watch the live panel discussion/tasting via UStream and can ask questions via Twitter by using the #VAWineChat hash tag.
This Wine Package will include one bottle of each of the following:
Veritas 2013 Viognier
King Family 2012 Meritage
Grace Estate Winery 2012 Cabernet Franc
Many of you may have already attended this benefit in the past, but in case you’ve missed it, let me share a bit about Bras for a Cause. The fashion show is highlighted by male models (since men can get breast cancer too) cavorting in the specially designed bras. Past themes have been Virginia Tech, University of Virginia, Golf theme, and the Wizard of Oz. Just as almost everyone has had an encounter with breast cancer, whether yourself, a family member or a friend, hearing the diagnosis is a life changing event. The Blue Ridge Chapter of Women’s Council of Realtors ( which has male members also) is hosting the 4th Annual Bras for a Cause event in an effort to provide funds to help Flourish, the positive image boutique at The Emily Couric Cancer Center in Charlottesville, Virginia and raise Breast Cancer awareness in our community.
At Flourish, stylish products are made available to those facing Cancer. Flourish is located on the main floor of the UVA Emily Couric Clinical Cancer Center. Supported by the UVA Hospital Auxiliary, funds generated by the boutique help the UVA Cancer Center to provide additional resources for cancer patients. Mastectomy garments, skin care products, wigs and scarves, clothing and accessories are some of the products available. It’s a great place to buy gifts for someone that you care about including stylish and affordable jewelry, cancer awareness books and other inspirational gift items. With private fitting rooms, a Certified mastectomy fitter can help women while giving them the privacy, respect and concern so needed during this time. It also features Ramona’s Room, offering free wigs, scarves and caps for those who are un- or under-insured.
Come out and join in the merriment with our local Realtors (and affiliated real estate folks including mortgage brokers) hoot and holler at the brave male models showing off their “themed bras”, not making light of the disease but laughing together as we attack it! Many of our Realtors have or are going through this right now and can use the support.
Please join us Friday,September 19, 2014 – 7:00 – 10:00 p.m. Elk’s Lodge, 389 Elk Drive, Charlottesville, VA
Hors D’oeuvres, Cash Bar & Live Auction. Tickets now on sale at ‘Flourish’ UVA Emily Couric Cancer Center for $20.00 (or $25.00 at the door).
Cool weather is around the corner and Autumn is always a busy time around the grapevines. Harvest speaks to our soul and smells of burning leaves and pumpkin patches; cinnamon and juicy fallen apples perfume the air. It draws us out of air-conditioned homes and cars to reconnect with the earth. I thought it might be nice to share some of the upcoming events ( certainly not all) that might piqué your interest.
Music at the Vineyards
Grace Estate Winery is one of our newer wineries with older vineyards and widespread views across western Albemarle County. Located nearer the White Hall area in Crozet on the Mount Juliet Farm, music this Friday begins at 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. with Hot Twang and catered by Kitchen Catering
September 5th (Friday): 6-9 pm Abbey Road “Unplugged” The Beatles Tribute Band
Abbey Road “Unplugged” will be performing in our Friday night sunset series, with their acoustic Beatles melodies, Check them out here! Bring a chair, a picnic blanket, or come early and grab a table and enjoy some classic southern style soul food, award-winning wines, and awesome Beatles tunes while the sun sets over the vineyard.
Foodtruck service by: Black Jack’s Mobile Soul Food
Singer Songwriter Event Benefitting The Wildlife Center of Virginia at Glass House Winery is coming soon, meet some of the winged raptor ambassadors from the Wildlife Center and listen to the music of ‘2 Wishes’ – Joy Kuhar and Mike D’Antoni and musicians Genna Mathew, John Kelly and Justin Storer. Event begins at 6 p.m. and donations of $10 is suggested but any amount is appreciated.
With so many wonderful wineries in the Charlottesville area, you may want to plan ahead so you don’t miss some of your favorite musicians this Fall. Sippin into Sunset at Early Mountain Vineyards has managed to secure Beleza Brasil, my favorite duo for Samba style soulful music, for two different dates in September.
Sunsets at Carter Mountain have been playing music every Thursday evening 6-9 p.m. since May 15th and will continue until the end of September. Look for Lockjaw, a band of local dentists who perform together, and The Local Vocals, an acoustic trio, each member with a long history in the Charlottesville area.
Helpful tip: Bring warm blankets, temps can drop quickly, and seating is harder to come by so bring those camp chairs. Picnics are encouraged but not inside the wineries. I did this once, not cool, they were quite nice about it 🙂
A new way of going to the movies, kind of like going to camp or the drive-in, pack up your lawn chair and Early Mountain Vineyards provides a bag of popcorn and it’s cheaper than the theater. Tickets are $6 and you can reserve on-line. The feature will be The Sandlot and September 25th is usually exquisite weather for kicking back outdoors with a glass of your favorite cool season robust red, perhaps the 2012 Eluvium Cabernet Sauvignon?
This should be a good start to fill up your September calendars, look for more venues next week in my Weekend Picks off the Vine post.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Visions 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 🙂
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 https://cvilleuncorked.com/2011/10/15/afton-mountain-vineyards-revisited/ for more about Afton Mountain.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
March 31st was a week set aside for family, friends and wine.
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.
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.
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!
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.