Trump Estate: Girls Night Out

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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!

THE END

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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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

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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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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 =)

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Silverback Distillery Adds a Different Spirit this Christmas in Nelson County

Silverback_Distillery_Spirit_Lineup 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.Gorilla Juice

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.

DSC04021  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.Silverback Distillery

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. Silverback_Distillery_StillThe  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.DSC04022

The motto which reflects their commitment to safety, fun and the environment is

PRODUCE RESPONSIBLY. DRINK RESPONSIBLY. DISPOSE RESPONSIBLY ™Seriously...

Monkeying AroundI 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.

Love these Bottles

Hours are:

Monday: 12:30-6
Tuesday: CLOSED
Wednesday & Thursday: 12:30-6
Friday: 12:30-7
Saturday: 11-7
Sunday: 1-6

* Special Note * Closed the same days as ABC stores-early closing on Christmas Eve, Closed Christmas and New Years Day.

Virginia Winery Music Events Fall 2014

IMG_3735Cool 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.

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Grace Estate

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 395348_328889153823381_157852272_nBeatles 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

Beleza_Brasil_Glass_House_WinerySinger 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.

starrynightsseptember14On Saturday, September 13th, 2014, 7-11 pm come on out to Veritas for the last of the Starry Nights for 2014 with The Hackensaw Boys – Raucous Bluegrass
Opening: Jim Waive and the Young Divorcees 
Click Here to Make Reservations

View Menu

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 🙂

EMV Movie Night

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.

 

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 https://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
Barboursville_vineyards_ruins_snow
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
clos_de_trias_winery
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.

 

A Beautiful Day- Horseback Riding in Virginia Vineyards

Ashton_Beebe_Indian _Summer _Guide_Service
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!

Ashton_Beebe_Saddling_Up
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.

Veritas_Vineyard_Horseback_Riding
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

 

Veritas_Love
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!

 

Indian_Summer_Guide_Service_Horses
The Horses Ride!

The Other Side of the Mountain – Rockbridge Vineyard

 

Spending most of our time on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, we tend to forget about the Shenandoah Valley and all the beauty just less than an hour from Charlottesville. The “Valley” has much to offer including the P. Buckley Moss Museum which contains the permanent collection of Pat Buckley Moss’s  art work offering visitors a retrospective tour of her art and life. It features not only religious art, the Virginia collection, but also other modernistic styles not typically associated with Pat’s folksy style.  South of Staunton  and just off of Interstate 81 in Raphine, Virginia, is a wonderful winery and vineyards started before the more recent surge in the Commonwealth’s grape-growing ventures.  Rockbridge Vineyard  is the result of the dreams of Shepherd  Rouse’s early interest in wine after spending a semester  in Germany as a Washington and Lee University geology student.  Three years later he returned to Germany on a Fulbright scholarship and  decided to learn how to produce fine wine in Virginia. Unlike some of the “gentleman vineyard owners” (nothing wrong with that by the way), Shep has a Masters degree in Enology from University of California at Davis and worked for several noteworthy wineries including Schramsberg, Chateau St. Jean and Carneros Creek .

Holiday Open House

After receiving a timely   invitation to the Christmas Open House at Rockbridge, we crossed the mountain into “dairyland”.  Red barns, silos, grazing cows and rolling farmland unfolded at a higher elevation than one normally sees grapes cultivated in Virginia. We rolled up the crunchy gravel driveway to the Rockbridge tasting room just before noon.  At 11:00 the tasting bar was full and guests were nibbling on comfort food including a barley leek soup, marinated meatballs and Sheps Mom’s recipe for hot cheese dip. Jane Rouse, co-owner and Shep’s wife kept things lively while bustling about making sure that each person was warmly greeted while handling errands at the same time.  We were very appreciative of her attentiveness and joined the others in the tasting with Jane pouring for us. Some of their bottles  labels feature a drawing of Natural Bridge, located in Rockbridge and one of the oldest tourist destinations in the United States with 20 stories of towering rock walls creating the bridge.  The “Reserve” wines are labeled with the De Chiel name hearkening from Shep’s French heritage.  Proud of Rockbridge County, Jane encouraged us to visit other sites while in the area and tipped us off to one of the prettier scenic drives in Virginia just west of the vineyards. She also recommended a visit to Wade’s Mill, a short drive down 606. Wade’s Mill is a working flour mill dating back to 1750 and powered by a 21-foot water wheel that is fed by a nearby stream.

The Wines

We started the tasting with the 2010 Pinot Noir Blanc de Noir light bodied with peachy aromas and a sparkling wine quality. A very nice summer porch swing wine in my opinion.  The 2010 DeChiel Chardonnay Reserve aged in French oak has a buttery taste without being too oaky. The Tuscarora Red at $10 a bottle is their best seller, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chambourcin. My personal favorite was the 2007 DeChiel Cabernet Franc Reserve, very smooth and well balanced but full bodied and I plan on serving it this weekend. The 2008 DeChiel Meritage is a blend of 5 Bordeaux grapes, we had it with a traditional Carne Guisada (Mexican Stew) and it paired very well.  A “fun” wine Jeremiah’s (like the bullfrog) and a “mighty fine wine”,  it’s a wine for even non-wine lovers tasting more like concord grapes than wine. Be sure to ask about their Eiswein, V d’Or!

The Rouses have opened up the barn for events and is an ideal spot for small weddings, parties and receptions. Check with them about the reasonable price for the facility. Rustic, well lit, tables provided and plenty of ambience.

A Lovely Weekend in the Country

All in all, we found the drive well worthwhile.  A lovely drive, country hospitality, fun gifts in the tasting room including local art work, good wine and a good time. Hard to beat when you’re looking for something different to do for a relaxing weekend. As Ferris Buehler would say, “I highly recommend it!”.