Hazy Mountain Vineyards Brings Tuscany to Virginia

Hazy Mountain Winery Grand Opening

If you haven’t heard, Hazy Mountain Vineyards is the most recent budding addition to the Central Virginia landscape and the buzz of the wine community for more reasons than one.

Hazy Mountain is located in Albemarle County just moments off of the BrewRidge Trail that courses down 151 beginning in Afton, Virginia. Along the trail are multiple wineries, breweries and distilleries attracting tourists and locals alike and a favorite area for destination weddings. The winding approach and views of the winery are eye catching and hints at the birds eye views ahead. The winery itself along with an event hall is sited on top of Turk Mountain with panoramic views overlooking several blocks of vines, some just in the process of planting, while others bearing fruit after 3 years. Between the beauty of the scenery and the Mediterranean/Italianate style architecture, prompts scenery competing with Napa with a dose of Tuscany as the vineyards mature. The multiple photo ops around the property and inside will beckon brides from across the continent and surely will be a certain popular wedding venue.

Hazy Mountain Grand Entrance

The attention to detail begins noticeably with the artisanship of the iron work on the doors, palladian windows and extensive rock used in the construction. Some of the local contractors that helped fulfill the dream were and are Jay Moffett for paving and hardscape, Scott May for landscaping and Webber Painting for the painting and staining of the prominent beams. The focus is clearly on the vistas and the landscaping employed mainly to soften the stucco and rock. I thought some accent Italian Cypress, Sky Pencil Hollies and a lovely kitchen garden of herbs including lavender and rosemary would enhance the overall image.


We had the good fortune to slip in on the first day open and return promptly on Father’s Day to soak up the views, the breezes and enjoy sampling wine, beer and an appetizer. After spending some time touring with Sarah McGinnis, General Manager, and quizzing her about the goals and expectations of the winery, it was refreshing to hear how the venture is being paced to achieve highest satisfaction for visitors. I would love to return on an early morning to see how the winery appears to float on top of the clouds on cooler mornings as Sarah mentioned and during the winter when we are knocked out by spectacular fuschia and orchid colored sunsets.

Comfort and a pleasant time for all appears to be high on the list. Radiant tile floors warm the inside tables surrounded by windows left open for the breeze until weather necessitates closing. According to Sarah, consideration of the surrounding neighbors is reflected in the hours of operation and limitation of outdoor music. There had been and still may be some lingering negative feelings regarding the immensity of the project and impact on the environment during construction but some neighbors are being won over and hopefully more will appreciate the venue as time passes and the vines take hold. Certainly small country lanes that travel to wineries are disconcerting to long time locals, with the amount of vehicles passing up and down two lane roads, but cars moved slowly and all seemed peaceful, even on a busy day like Father’s Day. Reservations are definitely recommended to get a select table.

At first we were a bit confused about ordering, laminated QR Code Stickers are on each table with the intention of quicker attention to guests and ease of delivery. For guests used to this style of service, especially during the 2020 pandemic, it is easy. For patrons who do not use smart phones or need extra service, the staff are readily available to answer questions and assist in the process of ordering. It is a learning curve right now as the best way to accommodate guests but also to stay in keeping with protocols.

I, along with most winery visitors, are accustomed to a brief overview of the wines and some tasting observations. In this case, printed sheets are shared to read through and then make a decision. I was a bit of a pain on the first visit, opting to act as a devil’s advocate-opposite sorter personality to illicit a reaction and see how the staff performed. Kind of a mystery wine shopper. I can honestly say the staff and management were prompt in answering questions and delivering service with a smile and no attitude. Refreshing! Loved the Antipasto Appetizer! One order was perfect for two. I ordered the chilled Sparkling Rosé due to the warmth of the day and Bob enjoyed the HAZY Pale Ale.

Private Balcony for Small Gatherings


Luke Trainum is the winemaker in charge and also local to the Shenandoah/Charlottesville area. He was very pleasant, explaining his passion for the subtle underlying contributions from the terroir giving wines as well as meats their flavors. He grew up with a family who raised heritage breed pigs specialized in hams and sausages popular in the area and Washington D.C. It was interesting hearing his background, “The pigs are raised outdoors in a mix of open pasture and hardwood forests, all in a way to give the animals a broad diet that had a tremendous influence that you could taste in the meat. We would cure hams and shoulders in salt and hang them in the old Spanish style, after a few years those flavors would magnify. This gave me my first understanding of terroir, or a sense of place coming out in the flavors and textures of a final product, and the time and process needed to pursue perfecting it.”

Luke’s first vintage was working in the cellar in the Sierra Nevada foothills in Amador California. From California he returned to Virginia and spent a vintage in the cellar and vineyard in the Monticello AVA. In 2017 Luke joined Hazy Mountain Vineyards and spent a harvest working with Matthieu Finot at King Family Vineyards in 2018 and had a double harvest year in 2019 by working at a large winery in New Zealand during March and April, then making wine at Hazy Mountain that Fall. Currently, the majority of the wine is sourced from the owners other vineyard, Little North Mountain in Swoope, VA. Both Little Mountain and Hazy Mountain are at higher elevations and rockier soils which will help in dealing with the humid summers in Virginia. It will be interesting to see how well the Pinot Noir develops compared to the notably successful Pinot Noir wines at further south but higher elevated Ankida Ridge.

We purchased the 2019 Chardonnay for it’s acidity and minimal malolactic fermentation, a less heavy creamy Chardonnay and the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon Silver Label. We will be back to taste more, currently the bar wasn’t open for traditional tastings.


Safety is a chief concern for patrons and wristbands are provided to ensure age appropriate drinking. In the cooler season, patio space heaters will warm outdoor areas as opposed to firepits to protect the public. Children are welcome and non-alcoholic drinks and food are available for a family atmosphere. I failed to ask about pets but children are encouraged and were having a great time with their families, especially climbing on the boulders =).

My Happy Place


Future events are on temporary hold for the moment (perhaps starting in the Fall) while the staff work out the kinks of a fledgling business and striving for positive press and excellent reviews when operations are in full swing.

Definitely make this a stop as you travel through our Virginia wine country!

Septenary for Father’s Day 2020

Is it possible to write a blog post in 2020 and be able to avoid the mention of the words social distancing?

Our local vineyards and wineries have suffered the devastating effects of two freezes late in Spring as well as the impact of shutting down facilities during the Covid-19 virus. It has been a trifecta impact on the agricultural community in central Virginia as well as other places.

“I grew strong I will survive“ sung out by Gloria Gaynor, could be the mantra of 2020 for the wine industry in Virginia. Since 2014 Todd & Sarah Zimmerman have been owners of Seven Oaks Farm and have done an amazing job of establishing Septenary as one of the “go to” wineries in the Charlottesville/ Crozet area. We visited once and joined immediately! Great  wine  club!
In addition to having a great venue for outdoor social distancing  with multiple options of shaded picnic tables and seating for 2-4 in comfy rattan chairs and tables, the Zimmermans seized the opportunity to bring winemaker and former graduate of UVA, Corry Craighill on board. Corry was named Loudoun County Winemaker of the Year in 2019.

With experience in South Africa, France, Australia, New Zealand and Oregon, as well as Northern Virginia,  she returns to Crozet and Greenwood and we are excited to see her results at Septenary. 
Come out (reservations not required and no children please) and sip wine  with a picnic option (we did!) shaded under magnolia trees with a view of the vineyard. Come out and support our local wineries-they appreciate your support and welcome you personally. Ask for Paige if you can-he’s great! 
Happy Father’s Day Dads!


Valentine’s and Galentine’s Day at Vitae Spirits

IMG_5863Sometimes circumstances cause us to chase a rabbit and where it leads is quite unexpected. Attending a picnic on a friends farm, we met the parents of Brian Ashworth, owner/barbecuer/chef of Ace Biscuit & Barbecue, who raved about their son’s accolades (and food) and highly recommend we try it sometime. How did we miss this place? Actually, I’ll tell you how =) We are HUGE Bodo’s Bagel fans and also MarieBette Café and Bakery , consequently when hunger pangs ensue we take a direct route down Rose Hill Drive and never even glance down little Henry Ave in the Rose Hill neighborhood near downtown Charlottesville. After finally realizing that Ace Biscuit closes daily at 3, and having to get my iPhone 7+ repaired for the second time (dropping it in sub-freezing weather-not good) we managed to head to Ace for a breakfast biscuit.  Vitae_Spirits_Distillery_StorefrontThe exterior is unassuming, more industrial in appearance, but within lies talent we take for granted in our community. Not only can you enjoy homemade biscuits, barbecue and excellent vegetarian sides, you can pack up and head to Vitae for spirits to accompany your meal.Becca, who works not only at Ace, but also at Vitae Spirits next door was an enthusiastic cheerleader for both local businesses . And so the rabbit hopped into Vitae and we ducked in right behind.  Actually, I had to come back because they weren’t open until 2!

I was quite impressed with the background of the owner, Ian Glomski as well as the  spirits distilled at Vitae. A former Professor of Microbiology at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine, Ian trained at the Pasteur Institute of Paris, a research institute founded and named for Louis Pasteur and responsible for major break-throughs in medicine including vaccinations, the process of pasteurization and the isolation of the HIV virus. Now that’s impressive! Read more about Ian and the team at their website.Vitae_Vendome_Copper_StillIMG_5866

Tastings are different at a distillery than at a winery, guests are allowed a maximum total of 3 ounces per person per day. These tastings can either be served as a straight spirit in 0.5 ounce pours or can be served as 1.5 ounces of the selected spirit with a cocktail mixer. I sampled the golden rum, gin and the orange liqueur, made with the peel of local oranges. I really am not a mixed drink person but I thought I should see what everyone was talking about, especially by virtue of the fact that so much of what happens is locally sourced. The rum is made with American sugar cane that Ace Barbecue grills to impart a smokey flavor and combines with charred American oak steeped in their 140 proof Platinum Rum. The Modern  Gin is made with 18 different botanicals and is fragrant and aromatic, a real surprise and less emphasis on juniper.  It won a Silver Medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2017!

Mark this on your calendar, Vitae will be hosting a GALENTINE’S DAY event on February 8th from 5-9 pm. Kind of like an open house, come by for a tasting, there will be a massage therapist there offering massages for 5 minutes, up to 15 minutes at a $1 per minute massage. Cocoa and Spice chocolates, Darling boutique and Hedge Fine Blooms will also be there, all the things a gal loves! A portion of the proceeds will be donated to SARA  for victims of sexual violence ( men, women and children) and the Charlottesville Derby Dames.

And so the rabbit escaped out the  door of Vitae after a nice little side jaunt into a world I wouldn’t normally have entered.  How nice to find a couple more businesses that support not only local food sources, but also local charities. I hope you get a chance to stop by some time and check them out!

IMG_5861New Traugott Icon

2018 Keswick Hall Gets a Full Body Makeover


What’s Still OPEN? First, everyone wants to know what will remain open during the extensive renovation of the infrastructure of  “The Hall” as fondly known by neighbors.  Full Cry at Keswick Golf Club, the resort’s golf course will remain open. The golf course layout was rated  #3 “Best Courses You Can Play in Virginia”  in Virginia in 2016 by Golfweek magazine. U.S. Designed by World Golf Hall of Fame architect Pete Dye,  Golf Digest’s ranked “Full Cry” as one of the prestigious “Best New Courses for 2015”.  Appropriately named, the term “Full Cry” refers to the eager cry of the hounds when in pursuit of their prey, fitting for avid golfers although they have to keep their enthusiasm more subdued ;-).  Keswick Hall is located in the heart of Virginia’s Hunt Country, located just below the hills of the Southwest Mountains; scenic byways lead you past vineyards such as three time Governor’s Cup award winning Keswick Vineyards and historic plantations.  The resort will be fully open in 2019 and will be perfectly timed to enjoy the Keswick wines produced from the outstanding 2017 harvest.


Other benefits still available are the Spa, Fitness Center, driving range and member’s pool. The Pavilion pool with it’s infinity design will be closed only temporarily and you will still be able to enjoy the chaise lounge view over the golf course after a relaxing swim.


Second, What to expect in RENOVATIONS:

With parts of “The Hall”  construction dating back over a century, there has been a great effort to hire the right firm to retain the historic elements and character which keep it on par with resorts like The Greenbrier, The Jefferson and The Homestead.  H7 Holdings LLC, owned by Robert and Mollie Hardie, selected the design firm of Hart Howerton to oversee the renovation which will include attention to the roof, plumbing, heating and air conditioning as well as modernization of furnishings and finishes expected by present day traveler demands. The renovations will be an added bonus for tourists and locals and we look forward to seeing the final result!

Woodford  House    849 Club Drive


In the MEANTIME: We are proud to call it to the attention of equestrians, golfers, tennis players and individuals seeking a luxury lifestyle in a gated community just minutes from Charlottesville; currently we have exclusively listed the residence at 849 Club Drive in Keswick Estate. While there are  building lots for sale in the neighborhood, this estate home was built with a focus on creating a timeless property that evokes images of a country estate in England with the contemporary conveniences and luxuries of the current generation. Exceptional in design, architecture and landscape, this is a truly unique property on the east coast sited strategically on 2.39 acres with 7,382 beautifully finished square feet and a delightful Hartley Botanic greenhouse imported from the U.K.


Fun Note: the hounds of the Keswick Hunt Club can be seen on their walks through the community and the location of this particular home is an easy walk or golf cart ride to the amenities at Keswick Country Club and Keswick Hall. Please feel free to contact Bob & Tricia at 434-882-0824 to schedule an appointment to view this lovely home.



An Estate Home Worthy of Celebration

849_Club_Drive_Keswick_Estate_For_SaleFor many weekend visitors, the Piedmont region of Central Virginia is an escape from the hectic work week and a get-away to explore scenic byways through rolling hills, countryside rich in history and beauty. A chance to unpack a picnic basket filled with local artisanal cheeses and a fresh baguette alongside picturesque vineyards and uncork a bottle of  Virginia wine or bubbly.  For others, this is a privileged daily way of life; residents in and around Charlottesville hail from all over the world and choose to live here because of the temperate four seasons, the proximity to major East Coast metropolitan areas and the abundance of recreational, educational and cultural opportunities. In this particular case, the Tiemeyers, who have owned several homes and traveled globally, ultimately selected Keswick as their retirement home. The approach to  Keswick Estate transitions through the Keswick Hall resort, past tennis courts, a small vineyard, the splendid  “Hall”  hotel and Keswick Country Club. Passing through the electronic gate, a peaceful community of estate homes on acreage awaits, surrounded by  the newly redesigned Pete Dye golf course at the foothills of the Southwest Mountains. The estate home at 849 Club Drive was designed with attention to the smallest detail and is currently on the market for the very first time. We launched the listing with an invitation to meet not only the builder and designer, but also one of our favorite local wine makers, Claude Thibaut of Thibaut-Janisson, internationally known for his sparkling wines made in the traditional Methôde champenoise. Claude was born in Reims France, renowned for it’s world class  Champagnes and from there brought this style of wine-making to the United States. I can’t think of a better way to enjoy this home than sitting outside and taking in the view with a glass of Claude’s bubbly.

Claude Thibaut Hartley Botanic IMG_1923Guests previewed the exquisite home and gardens with a flute of chilled sparkling TJ Xtra Brut offering a relaxed atmosphere to chat with builder, Baird Snyder and Jimmy Grigg, architect of Daggett + Grigg about the elements that went into designing the home. All three- Baird, Jimmy and Claude have built their reputations on excellence and the home itself is equal in it’s perfection.  The home, lovingly known as Woodford House, was inspired by the owner’s childhood in Essex, UK and was created to reflect the stately elegance of an English manor surrounded by soft layers of landscaped formal and natural gardens. Sited on 2.49 acres on a gentle slope above the golf course, the home features over 7600 sq.ft, 4 fireplaces and a stunning loggia for outdoor entertaining, a clear favorite.

849 Club Dr Keswick VA 22947-print-032-17-exterior16-4080x2720-300dpiThe automatic humidity controlled Victorian style Hartley Botanic greenhouse adds a sense of fantasy to the garden, imagine enjoying morning coffee amongst the flowers or sipping champagne inside as the snowflakes fall. The golf course lot gracefully undulates to a gazebo and brook flowing just inside a sheltered fringe of trees.849 Club Dr Keswick VA 22947-print-057-56-exterior32-4080x2720-300dpi

A convenient 15 minutes to downtown Charlottesville, 7 miles to historic Monticello, minutes to lovely Keswick Vineyards and a golf cart ride to dining and amenities at Keswick Hall.  To make Keswick Estate your new home and enjoy the best of Central Virginia and to schedule a showing, please contact Traugott & Associates, 434.882.0824 at WelcomeHomeCharlottesville.com849 Club Dr Keswick VA 22947-print-005-20-exterior18-4080x2720-300dpi


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.

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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…


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!