Fun Summer Events at DuCard Vineyards

DuCard_logo_VaWine_reverse2%20(3)Recently a small group of friends have started a book club and our selections are leaning towards a wine mystery genre. Reading Ellen Crosby’s series has  been fun, especially because the setting is right here in Virginia. The series begins with The Merlot Murders and has historical facts about Virginia interjected into the story line. References to Charlottesville and the scenic landscape of Loudoun County tempt you toward weekend excursions in both locales. For oenophiles, the detailed process of growing grapes and winemaking add to the romance and authenticity of the novels. It also can de-romanticize the process explaining the critical timing of each step to yield an excellent wine. This would be a fun event for Ellen Crosby and DuCard fans combining the elements of wine, scenery and intrigue.  Saturday, July 7, 6:30:  Murder in the Vineyards!  It’s a Murder Mystery Dinner and Show at DuCard Vineyards! Can you solve the who-done-it mystery in the vineyard? Come enjoy dinner and the show by the Mystery Dinner Playhouse and see if you can sleuth your way to the answer better than Sherlock or your dinnermates.  $69 per person, plus tax and gratuity.  Limited seating, advance reservations required.  This will be a truly unique experience that should not be missed!  Call or email now (540-923-4206           540-923-4206  marty@ducardvineyardscom) to make your reservations today!

Two other events worth attending are the annual art show  presented by the Firnew Farm Artists Circle on Sunday, June 10, 12-6: Also, the Tucker Hill Art Scholarship Award will be presented to a budding young local artist. Live music and nibbles will be on hand so come and enjoy the beauty of the mountains, local artisans, and DuCard wines.

Saturday and Sunday, June 16-17, 11-6:  Father’s Day Weekend – cigar pairings and wine specials.  This Father’s Day Weekend come enjoy cigar and wine pairings by Panacea Cigars on Saturday and live music on Sunday. Wine specials offered all weekend. Show Dad how to really enjoy the weekend!

Wings Over Wine Country

Screech_Owl_Pignoli_Wildlife_Center_VirginiaThe Wildlife Center of Virginia had literally flown under my radar until recently. Via social media, my attention was called to the fundraiser “Wings Over Wine Country”.  Combining a love of wine and the beauty of the powerful raptors, Bill Sykes, Outreach Ambassador, brings the birds out to the wineries to promote interest and encourage contributions to the wildlife center. Prince Michel Winery and DuCard Vineyards have already played host to the charity this year.

As a child in Germany, we lived near a falconry and observed the Peregrine Falcons in action, hunting for food. The image has been imprinted in my brain for ages  and seeing these remarkable birds brought the whole experience back to life. Through friends, we were able to tour  one of the world’s leading teaching and research hospital for wildlife and conservation medicine. Bill (Sykes) guided us through the 5,700-square-foot state-of-the-art facility. It is fully equipped with gas anesthesia, critical care equipment, surgery, radiographic and fluoroscopic equipment, laboratory facilities, inside and outside holding areas, and flight cages. At any time there may be from 80 to 250 animals on the premises.

Treatment and Triage

Later we headed  outdoors to meet some of these amazing bird. The rehabilitation center cares for thousands of injured native wildlife. Animals unable to be released back into the wild can become educational animals or “Ambassadors” for the center.  starting with the diminutive Pignoli, the Eastern Screech Owl. She is pictured at the top of the page, showing us her one good eye and her striking russet colors.

Junior Golden Eagle Junior, the Golden Eagle, was very engaging and hopped over to a perch to greet us.  Junior will join Wildlife Center President and Co-Founder Ed Clark at Pollak Vineyards in Greenwood, Virginia for a very special event to benefit the Wildlife Center of Virginia on April 7th from 5-7 p.m. Tickets to this event are available through Pollak Vineyards for $25 per person.  Pollak Vineyards will donate $15 of every admission to the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

Grayson Broad Winged HawkGrayson is a fiercely beautiful Broad Winged Hawk  and regularly accompanies Bill on outings to the wineries and breweries.  She is one of the patients that was unable to be released back into the wild.  These rehabilitated  birds can become educational animals or “Ambassadors” for the center.

The program “Caring fo Critters” is a great way to educate children not only about the center, but how we as human beings impact wildlife in even small ways. Through this program, you can sponsor an animal and as part of the adoption packet you will receive:

  • The sponsored animal’s biography
  • A photo of the animal
  • Detailed information about the characteristic of the animal’s species, and
  • A personalized certificate of sponsorship

Several events have been scheduled this year so there will be many opportunities to learn about the animals and birds that have been rehabilitated at the center.

Wings Over Wine Country & Kickoff of National Parks Week Sunday, April 22, 2012, 2-6 PM Bill Sykes from the Virginia Wildlife Center will be here with live raptors –  hawks, owls and other ‘ambassadors’ and talk about their efforts to rehabilitate injured wildlife in Virginia.  There’s no charge for visiting the Shenandoah National Park during this Week, so it’ll be a great day to take a hike too.  Contributions welcome, with matching by DuCard.

Special thanks to Paulette Musselman for introducing me to Bill and of course, to Bill Sykes for the time he shared with us and his passion for these amazing birds.

Bill and Pignoli

Early Bird Gets the DuCard

2012 VA Wine Expo Pre-Sale Special!
Planning on attending the Virginia Wine Expo in Richmond on Feb. 24-26? We have a deal for you! We will be offering ALL of our wines (including wines not being tasted at the Expo!) for a special 15% off discount if you order between now and noon on Thursday Feb. 23rd! Minimum purchase is two bottles. You can pick them up at our booth at the Expo and save on any shipping! Wines currently in stock include (see website for details:

–2010 Signature Viognier
–2010 Gibson Hollow White
–2009 Sweet Virginia Vidal Blanc
–2009 Cabernet Franc Vintner’s Reserve
–2009 Popham Run Red (Bordeaux blend)
–2009 Petit Verdot
–2010 Norton

To pre-order, simply email us at with your desired order, name, email address, and phone number and we’ll back with you to confirm your order and get your credit card info. Don’t miss out on this opportunity! Looking forward to seeing you at the Expo! (

By the way, on display (and for sale) in the Tasting Room this month is the beautiful photography of local artisan, Carl Zitzmann ( Check it out!

Congrats to DuCard Vineyards for being a co-winner of the Virginia Green Travel Leader Award! Read about DuCard’s green efforts here (!

Thank you for your interest and support!


Co-Winner: Virginia Green Travel Leader Award

Open Friday – Sunday, plus holiday Mondays, 11 AM – 6 PM. And by appointment. Follow us on

Today At DuCard!! Artists, Music and Wine!

Looking for Mother’s Day Ideas? Think Virginia Wineries!

Note from Keswick Vineyards: Thank you so much to everyone who voted for us in the Virginia Wine Lover Magazine’s “Best of” poll! We are so honored to have won Best Winery -Central, Most Romantic, Best Viognier Overall, Best Cabernet Franc Overall, and our talented Stephen Barnard won Best Winemaker Overall! They received over 7000 votes and the full results will be in their Summer 2011 issue!

Okay,  Dads!

I have talked to several Moms this week who had no idea what they were doing to celebrate Mother’s Day this weekend! What they all agreed on was their expectation that their husbands should a) plan something,  b) probably wouldn’t plan something and c) would wind up planning something themselves! This is a sad commentary on appreciating Moms! When I mentioned a trip to a winery, they loved the idea but thought it wouldn’t come together.

So, husbands, here are a couple of ideas that are close t0 Charlottesville and already planned for you. Buy a ticket, gas up the car and treat your lovely wife to something special. Maybe even line up a babysitter for a few hours if you have small children. There are several other wineries serving up wine and music as well. In addition to the ones listed below, check out Keswick Vineyards, Afton Mountain, Mountfair or Glass House Winery (decadent gourmet chocolates!).

Sugarleaf Vineyards                                                             

Mother’s Day Weekend Chocolate and Wine Pairing
Date: May 8, 2011
Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM

Celebrate Mother’s Day with all the special women in your life at Sugarleaf Vineyards! Participate in a fun and informative wine and chocolate pairing. Sit outside, overlook the vineyard and enjoy the day with those you love while savoring hors d’oeuvres and wonderful Sugarleaf wines. $20 per person includes wine tasting, your personal box of wine infused chocolate truffles and hors d’oeuvres.

3613 Walnut Branch Lane
North Garden, Virginia 22959

Wine & Food Pairing
<!– Adv. Tickets Required
–>Cost: $20.00

Organizer: Sugarleaf Vineyards
Name: Lauren Bias
Phone: 434-984-4272


Montpelier Wine Festival

11393 Constution Highway
Montpelier Station, Virginia 22957
Date: May 7, 2011
Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM

Montpelier Wine Festival
Date: May 8, 2011
Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM


The Montpelier Wine Festival is a two day event May 7 & 8 – showcasing the best of Virginia wines with music, wine cooking classes, upscale vendors and a kite extravaganza all on the beautiful grounds of James Madison’s Montpelier in rural Orange County. Enjoy a day in the country while sampling from 24 of our great wineries. Picnic on the grounds, take a carriage ride, fly a kite or sit back with your favorite vintage and listen to the music. Special tours of James & Dolley Madison’s home are just a short carriage ride away. This event is geared for the whole family to enjoy. Kids can make & fly their own kite, run on the grounds or make a balloon animal! Enjoy the whole festival with general admission or reserved your very own private table or tent to expand your experience!


11393 Constution Highway
Montpelier Station, Virginia 22957

Private Parties: You can choose to have a private table for 8 which includes tickets, glasses, seating under a tent and a complimentary bottle of wine with your hospitality basket OR a private tent for parties of 12 and up which comes with all of the above, extra tables, chairs and hospitality baskets as well as VIP parking! Call 540-672-5216 to reserve yours now.
Bus/RV Parking: We welcome large groups. Parking is plentiful and we will greet your group at the bus. Call 540-672-5216 to arrange your special bus package.
Child Friendly: This is a day for the whole family. Wings Over Washington Kite Club hosts special classes to make your own kite. Then they help you fly it. They also have fun kite contests. The grounds of Montpelier are a special place to play and picnic for the whole family.
Specialty Foods: We look for the best of the best with our food vendors to compliment your favorite wines! Try butterfly shrimp or specialty crab cakes; wood fired pizza; honey baked ham treats; locally made cheeses with a great variety of breads; complete menu of vegetarian treats; baklava or chocolate covered strawberries – just to name a few tempting items.

<!– Adv. Tickets Required
–>Cost: $25 gate/$15 advance


Roses and Rosé for Moms                     

DuCard Winery

40 Gibson Hollow Lane
Etlan (Madison County), Virginia 22719
Date: May 8, 2011
Time: 11:00AM – 6:00PM

Join us on Mother’s Day with a rose for all the Mom’s and discounts on our new Rosé wine. Mattie Fuller will be performing on the patio too. While supplies (of both!)last, as they say. No charge, but bring a brag picture of the little one(s), Mom.


40 Gibson Hollow Lane
Etlan (Madison County), Virginia 22719


Roses for the Moms:

 <!– Adv. Tickets Required
–>Cost: a brag pic of the little one(s)

Organizer: DuCard Vineyards
Phone: 540.923.4206

Valentine’s is For Virginia Wine Lovers!

                                        Call me Cupid!

Need some ideas for your special sweetheart this Valentine’s Day?  Check out some of our local wineries and  revel in chocolate and wine, an indulgence for all your senses! Pick out a sentimental card and a rose and you have the ingredients for a very romantic weekend!

DuCard Winery Valentine’s Sunday Brunch
Sunday, February 13 2011 11:30 AM seating
Here’s an elegant idea for you and your special Valentine to enjoy at their Madison County tasting room.  Charlottesville personal chef Cindy Shepard will be serving a gourmet brunch featuring local ingredients (click here for menu) and paired with DuCard Wines (of course!).  Vicky Lee will set the mood with her harp ( $40 per person.  Seating is limited – for reservations contact or call 540.923.4206.

Glass House Winery

Mark your calendars for Sunday Feb 13th, when Glass House welcomes acoustic rock musicians The Lost Souls to Glass House.  2-5pm.  No cover. 
Also on Sunday Feb 13th, they will be celebrating Valentine’s Day with cheese and chocolate pairings with their wines!  For $15, they will pair a cheese or one of Glass House Winery’s delectable chocolates with each of their wines for this tasting.  Don’t miss it, as Michelle is dreaming up some new flavors for the occasion.   Regular $5 tastings will also be available.











Keswick Vineyards Be Mine With Wine

Feb 12th, 11am – 4pm
Wine, strawberries, and sweets… Spoil yourself or someone you love with Keswick Vineyards’ special wine, 2 different kinds of hand-dipped strawberries and other sweets for a Valentine’s Day indulgence.  Discover how these luscious confections complement each wine.  After your tasting, enjoy the romantic setting while you savor a glass of wine and take a guess at how many candy hearts are in their  Rosé bottle to win a free future tour and tasting for you and your sweetheart.

The cost is $12 for  wine club members and $15 for non wine club members. Reservations are recommended.

If you’re unable to break away on the weekend, stop by during the week and pick up a bottle of Norton wine for Kris’s homemade brownies!  I borrowed the recipe from the Keswick blog:

Double Norton Brownies

We’ve had a lot of requests for the recipe for Kris’ brownies that we had in the tasting room last weekend, so here it is!  It’s really simple!
Just take a regular box of brownie mix (chocolate or fudge) and substitute Norton wine for the water and 1/4 of the amount of vegetable oil that the mix calls for with Norton chocolate sauce.  Mix it together and bake as directed.
The chocolate sauce will make a more fudgy texture so you can use less or more depending on how fudgy you want them.  

To make an extra special treat, we topped them with strawberries dipped in whipped topping (we used equal parts mascarpone cheese and whipped topping, sugared to taste) and rolled in coconut and then drizzled the whole thing with more Norton chocolate sauce! 


King Family Vineyards

February 12, 2011 – February 14, 2011Valentines at the Vineyard

Celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend with your special someone at King Family Vineyards! Enjoy Gearhart’s chocolates specially selected to pair with their wines. $15/person includes souvenir glass, glass of wine, and 3 handcrafted chocolates. Reservations are recommended. 11am-5pm Saturday and Sunday, 9am-5pm Monday.

Glass House Winery: A Confection of Chocolate, Wine and the Tropics

Have you ever taken a vacation to a remote destination on a tropical island and returned wanting to tell all your friends, but really thinking it better to keep the secret to yourself?  Our experience at Glass House Winery was just that, a treat to savor and enhanced only by the prospect of sharing it with others.  Glass House Winery in Free Union, Virginia was only opened a few months ago and word is rapidly spreading.

Inside Glass House

The winery is strategically sited, embraced by rows of grapevines overlooking a small, geese populated lake with a backdrop of Buck Mountain.   The structure of the winery is striking, an eclectic juncture of a copper clad tasting room and a soaring tropical greenhouse, thus the name Glass House.  Jeff and Michelle Sanders spent substantial time (five years) on the island of Roatan off the coast of Honduras and recreated some of that lush tropical atmosphere in their greenhouse.  The greenhouse serves as a conservatory for Kumquats, Banana Trees  producing ice cream flavored bananas, a highly prized Royal Hawaiian Pineapple and tables graced by tiny Sago Palms.

Applauding the 21st Amendment

  The floor is a Brazilian wood similar to teak and the climate is carefully controlled with a vented roof and mechanical sun screen.  A perfectly delightful spot for a light picnic (self provided) complemented by a bottle of artisan wine. The greenhouse can accommodate 88 guests seated for weddings or events! Invite me, please!

Park Here!

 Attention to detail begins in the mosaic studded retaining wall in the parking lot and proceeds to the doorway where, Vina, the wine goddess greets you, grapes in one hand and a glass of wine in the other. Several other clever whimsical touches including a giraffe create a fun and light hearted foyer.

Accents of pineapples adorn niches and shelves, carrying on the logo of Glass House and reinforcing the symbol of Virginia hospitality.  The winery puppy, Dogbert, eagerly approached us with a wagging tail, and then stretched out for a nap in the warm sun by the patio door.

Michelle's Art Work

Michelle Sanders, owner and Chocolatier Extraordinaire, offered us glasses for tasting and a history of the young winery. We started with a 2009 Pinot Gris followed by a 2009 Viognier.  The Pinot Gris was unremarkable and light, but the Viognier had more character and with a creamy texture and nice bouquet.  The third wine was the Cvillian, a red blend of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes grown on the property and on nearby vineyards.  We purchased the next wine, the Twenty First, a Meritage blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot grapes and named after the 21st amendment.  Can you recall the significance of that amendment?  It also had the most fruit and was quite good.

On our visit to DuCard Winery, in Madison, we were tipped off to the dessert wine.  Marty Mitchell, the tasting room manager at DuCard was so delighted with it that she actually is credited with naming the wine, Meglio Del Sesso, her initial observation.  In Italian it translates to “Better than …” use your imagination!  We sipped this along with a sampling of Michelle’s own hand crafted chocolate Red Wine Cream – a ganache made from Norton wine and dark chocolate, hand enrobed in 72% dark chocolate.  An exquisite combination!  The chocolates are artistically packaged and sold only at the winery.  The gourmet chocolates are Early Grey, Salted Caramel and Espresso and sold by the dozen.  A perfect Valentines gift for your sweetheart!

And this is Winter!

Music is provided in the evening on Fridays. Look for special events at their website or Facebook page! The winery is open Fridays noon-8pm
Saturdays noon-6pm
and Sundays and holiday Mondays noon-5pm

Virginia Hospitality

New Winery in Madison! Visit DuCard!

DuCard Patio and Tasting Room

Intrigued by numerous mentions on Twitter about the recently opened winery in the shadow of Old Rag Mountain, we set out on a leisurely Saturday afternoon drive to investigate DuCard Vineyards.  Heading north from Charlottesville we turned left from 29 North in Madison onto Rt.231 towards the Town of Etlan. For some strange reason, I thought it was closer to Greene County and thought we had missed the turn to Rt.643.  Actually, we really didn’t care!  We were enjoying the snow dusted Blue Ridge Mountains and crossing rivers resembling  film locations from  A River Runs Through It. Inspiration for the DuCard Wine Label

The approach to the winery is down Gibson Hollow Lane past impressively large rock outcroppings and on the left a noticeably different vineyard trellis system.  Light snow flurries and flirtatious peeks of sunshine created a soft pleasant backdrop to the winery.  We were welcomed into the tasting room by a crackling fire in the fireplace surrounded by  leather upholstered furniture  and a warm smile from Marty Mitchell, the tasting room manager. Marty is very knowledgeable about wines,  having completed the certification courses in Oenology and Viticulture offered at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville. Fortunately for us it was a slow January afternoon at DuCard, providing us the undivided attention of Marty and the tasting hostess, Heather Gerry.

My first question regarded the trellis system employed at DuCard. Marty informed us the system is known as a modified Lyre System and it appears very much like rows of football goal posts!

 This allows for more sunlight on the grapes and better air flow to discourage diseases. It’s even more than that but I don’t have a degree in viticulture and won’t  pretend that I do. Suffice it to say, it is working and the grapes have been used to create award winning wines for other wineries in the past.

Modified Lyre Trellis System
Entering DuCard on Gibson Hollow Lane

The next question  was about  the history behind DuCard. Having formerly owned the property as a weekend getaway the owners purchased the adjoining old apple orchard to start growing grapes. Several years later, owner Scott Eliff is now involved in the process of winemaking, using the facilities at Rappahannock Cellars. The new label is attractive and minimalistic much like the winery itself. A commitment to sustainability is exhibited in the reclaimed barn wood used in the flooring and wine tasting bar, solar panels for electricity and using wine bottles that are about 20% lighter than average, requiring less fuel for shipping.

An excellent blog post was done this summer by Frank Morgan,  Drink What You Like. His interview with Scott was so well done that I would like to include it and won’t attempt to duplicate it.

We tasted the Signature Viognier 2009, the Gibson Hollow Viognier 2009, Popham Run Bordeaux Blend 2008 and the Virginia Native Norton 2008. All were good but the Gibson Hollow Viognier was my favorite of the whites with peach and honeysuckle on the nose. The Bordeaux would be excellent with grilled meats and my husband really liked the Norton which we tasted with local chocolates.

Future events are planned including a Spring festival and cooking classes with Cindy Shepard!

Definitely place this winery/vineyard on your list as a place to visit and one to watch for expansion in the future! We will definitely return and recommend it especially when you’re in the area of Graves Mountain Lodge or Rappahannock Cellars!