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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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Everyday is a Good day for Virginia Bubbly

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

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

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

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

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.

 

Early 2014 Harvest at Trump Winery

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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.

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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.

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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.

Charlottesville_Trump_Winery_View 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.

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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.

 

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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 http://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
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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
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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.

 

5 Reasons to Visit Pollak Winery

DSC02627Seriously, do you need more than one? I certainly don’t! I noticed a video on NBC 29 in Charlottesville about horseback tours of vineyards and I wanted to share this information with all of you horse-wine-outdoor- photographer-romantic types. Check out the video below and the read why you should set aside some time for a visit to Pollak:

Horseback Vineyard Tours at Pollak, King Family & Glass House Wineries

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#1 Reason to visit Pollak Vineyards The Wine! The wines are fabulous and you really need to try some of the award-winners like the 2012 Rose which won a Double Gold Medal .

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#2 It’s harvest time and the scenery couldn’t be more beautiful in Central Virginia – except during peak Fall foliage 🙂 With a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop and a picture postcard lake just below the winery, Pollak is one of my favorite patios to soak up the views.

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#3 The weather is glorious-ask anyone today and I bet they’re outside, except for me and I’m heading out in a couple of minutes!

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#4 You can horseback ride through vineyards? Awesome! Indian Summer Guide Service offers these tours at Pollak, King Family or Glass House for a real down to earth experience, then stop in and sample a Virginia Viognier. The Pollak 2012 Viognier won Gold, Best of Category at the Atlantic Seaboard International
and Gold in the Monticello Cup!

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#5 Buy Local, Drink Local! See you at the Vineyard!