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.

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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.

OUR EXPERIENCE

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

WINE & LUKE

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.

WHO CAN VISIT

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

EVENTS

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!

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

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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

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Fun at the Vineyards

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Thibaut Janisson My Favorite Gift

Food, Family, Celebrations, Shopping! It’s the holidays and the pressure is on to entertain, so why not make life easy? Here are some ideas of upcoming events at our local Virginia wineries. Beginning with Black Friday ( I prefer Green Friday if you’re hung up on the sales aspect of the season)  at Grace Estate Winery and enjoy the ambience and views in Western Albemarle from the new tasting room. From November 27th-29th and take advantage of the 20-30% discount on three different wines. unnamed

ENTERTAINMENT 

Tired of leftovers? Take your friends for a nice country drive on  Friday Nov 27th 6-9pm where the Beatles cover band Abbey Road Unplugged will be at Glass House Winery,  and Two Brothers food truck will be servin up their fantastic southwestern style eats, so come hungry, too.  You can still bring a picnic if you like, but the food truck is fantastic, just so you know. No cover, no outside alcohol, no reservations.Buy some delicious gourmet wine infused chocolates while you’re there!  Tastings served throughout (noon-5:30).

 BARREL TASTING

Head to Keswick Vineyards and spend some time getting up close and personal with Keswick Vineyards 2015 vintage with Winemaker Stephen Barnard as you get to experience a barrel tasting of this very promising vintage!

Taste exceptional wines including  Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Viognier as they develop and mature in the barrel. There will be 8 sessions, Saturday, November 21st, Sunday, November 22nd, Saturday, November 28th, and Sunday, November 29th from 10-1pm and from 2-5pm each day. You will also have the opportunity to purchase “futures” of these wines at a discount during the barrel tastings!

SHOPPING and SANTA

On November 28th and 29th “Deck the Halls” at Early Mountain Vineyards To celebrate the holiday season,  from 11:00am to 5:00pm.  On Saturday, Two Wishes  (if you haven’t heard them you’ve really been missing out!), and on Sunday, The Olivarez Trio with our friend Jeff Cheers, will be providing holiday music throughout the event. Enjoy horse-drawn carriage rides, photos with Santa, cookie decorating and shopping for gifts from a wide variety of local artists and artisans .We went last year, it was lots of fun and ran into friends out with their visiting families. unnamed-3 

COCKTAILS and CANAPES at Pippin Hill Farm  

Celebrate the holiday season on December 9th 6-9 p.m.  with Pippin Hill’s Executive Chef Bill Scatena! Learn to entertain with small festive bites great for your next holiday party! Tickets will also include a cocktail demo that will explain how to mix flavors to create the perfect holiday drink!

Masked Ball for Shop1

MASKS and BUBBLES!

On New Years Eve Veritas will be hosting their annual Masked Ball, an elegant event featuring wine and hors d’oeuvres followed by a five-course winemaker’s dinner at 8 p.m. in Saddleback Hall. There will be dancing until midnight, when the masks come off and the champagne flows! Breakfast follows at 12:30 a.m. So bring your mask and your dancing shoes to have great food, wine, and fun to bring in the New Year 2016. Tickets are $175/person.

For any of these events, please plan ahead, call now for reservations at the links provided.

Cheers to You and your Families as we ring out 2015 and celebrate the New Year 2016, Clink!

Early 2014 Harvest at Trump Winery

Trump_Cork

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.

Trump_Vineyards

 

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.

judi_bowers_trump_winery

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.

Picking_Chardonnay_grapes_Trump_Winery


Chardonnay_Grapes_Trump_2014

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.

 

Trump_Sparkling_Brut_Rose_2009

Cheers to Good Taste at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards

In the previous post I spent much of the focus on the surroundings,  but very little attention to the experience at Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards.  When we arrived, the final tear down and post wedding reception clean up was  in progress.  It was actually an opportunity to get a glimpse at the attention to detail offered at Pippin Hill.  We passed through the Granary in the direction of  the Tasting Room and spied a table of leftover  floral arrangements  by  Pat’s Floral Designs, lovely mini garden urns of hydrangeas, berries and David Austin roses. One of the gentleman offered us some of the flowers and we selected a beautiful apricot rose and strolled out to the veranda.

Our visit was at a leisurely pace, encouraged to linger and savour the experience.  Mariah, one of the excellent tasting hostesses, greeted us and took the initiative to set up outdoor seating for us, pulling a low table to the center and arranging chairs for conversation.  She obliged us with a wine tasting outside and brought each wine out in adorable hand crafted  carafes!  I wanted to take one home and wondered if they would be available for guests to purchase in the future.

I’m afraid we enjoyed the wine and food pairings so much that we weren’t quite attentive to the description of each wine. The tastings are separated into whites and reds, each flight 5 dollars per person. The  chardonnay was really nice, not too oaky, fermented partially in steel and new french oak barrels.  We chose two different tapas style pairings, one of roasted garlic and lemon hummus, crusty bread and marinated olives.  The other appetizers paired well with the red wines, a charcuterie platter of dry cured salami, Kite’s country ham, La Quercia prosciutto picante with bread from the wood burning oven sweet spiced pecans and marinated olives. 

 Later, we were treated to a surprise from the chef, a plate of Oysters Rockefeller.  I can really get used to this lifestyle!  Of the red wines we tasted, the Winemakers Select Red was my favorite, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chambourcin.  Some liked the 2008 Shaps Petit Verdot with spicy and bold, with deep crimson color.

Happy Father’s Day to my sweet husband of 29 years!  He is very indulgent taking me to yet another winery on Father’s Day and so is Brian, our youngest son, by hanging out with us! Needless to say, they are my usual partners in crime along with Carolina, bride- to-be!

During our tasting the afternoon humidity became a touch sweltering and we moved indoors,… ahh, nice and cool inside.  The vantage point here was just as well thought out, with windows framing the patio and the wood burning fireplace centering the room.  Tables, sofas, and seating were comfortable and I believe Architectural Digest would do well to write about this place! Can you tell I liked it?

A Double Gold Afternoon at Jefferson Vineyards

 

Sunday Drive

Family outings with our son Brian and his  bride to be,  Carolina, are the best!  Always game for scoping out a new winery, we headed in the direction of Kluge Winery to pick up more of the 2007  Albemarle Simply Red.  The sun had  just peeked out after a rather gloomy Sunday morning and we were ripe to enjoy a little fresh April breeze and warm sunshine.  In a recent church sermon, ( it was Sunday after all!) we learned that direction not intention determines our destination!  Cruising down 53 past historic Monticello,  Jefferson Vineyards appeared ahead on our right and with that,  our destination  veered to the Jefferson Tasting Room!  Side note, we did make it to Kluge eventually and a quick stop at Blenheim as well.

We were quite familiar with  Jefferson wines but always held the notion that this particular winery was a bit  more of a tourist trap then a local attraction.  Nice to be  proven wrong,  it turned out to be a very pleasant experience and in retrospect are glad we hijacked ourselves off  our original route. If you’ve read any other posts you’ll notice I’m a bit spontaneous when it comes to winery visits.

To the right side of the parking area are old wine barrels  for sale to recycle rainwater, cool idea!  Add that want to Honey! I want a Vineyard!  Next to the rain barrels were even larger wine barrels.  Brian, anticipating his upcoming wedding festivities was attracted to the super sized wine barrels and attempted a pre-tasting!  Not really!  He hammed it up for the camera!

Jefferson Vineyards

A shaded deck is positioned just in front of the door to the tasting room. Lacks a little in curb appeal but  a  nice area to sit outside;  I think the best views are from the meadow facing the mountains and  that site could  be capitalized on  more.  They have placed a few Adirondack chairs with small tables to rest your wine bottle and glasses.  Nice touch!  I would recommend tightening the bolts a little or sturdier furniture, they’re  a bit light weight compared to other chairs of similar style.  All it takes is a bigger budget! or maybe a smaller…!  A lovely flagstone patio would be nice and visible from the scenic highway, beckoning to the multitude of tourists who visit Monticello and Ashlawn daily.

Invited inside by a couple of engaging  tasting hosts, forgive me I can’t recall the gentemen’s names, we embarked on tasting award-winning wines envisioned long ago by Thomas Jefferson.  Several visitors passed through during our tasting.  They were given directions, information and local trivia by the hosts.  We enjoyed their personal stories about  the wines and their favorite food  pairings. Such hospitality,  Another nice touch!

The Tasting

Tastings are $10,  slightly higher than most of the local wineries but includes a Riedel wine glass. Nicest touch of all!!  I’ve been in wineries in the Willamette Valley that offer the same style of Riedel glassware, each engraved with their logo.  A classic idea which enhances  the overall experience of the quality, color and especially the bouquet of the vintage.   Coincidentally, we were consulted about offering engraved glasses at Jefferson.  Of course, we thought it an excellent idea as a keepsake.  I use my souvenir glasses for sipping by the firepit, no tears if the glass doesn’t return to the cabinet!  In this case, the glass stays indoors.   We first tasted the whites, then reds and finished with the semi dry whites,  the Vin Blanc was Carolina’s favorite ( as marked on the tasting notes)!  Carolina draws hearts and stars (which fit her personality) on her tasting notes and Brian draws emotional  faces and caricatures on his (fitting his personality!) .

     Carolina Loved This-See the Heart!

Top of our list was the 2010 Pinot Gris crisp, bright and floral like the afternoon weather.  Our favorite reds were the Petit Verdot 2009 tasting of spice and tobacco and definitely, the Meritage 2008  Gold Medal Winner of the 2010 San Diego International Wine Competition.  The memorable and unique Malvaxian wine wasn’t available for tasting  (I love that bottle design) which is an excellent addition to any wine collection!   We selected the Pinot Gris, a Double Gold Medal winner,  to toast our side trip.  Taking our bottle to the meadow, we relaxed in the Adirondack chairs  savouring  excellent wine,  picture postcard views and sharing it with a lovely young couple very much in love.

 A Double Gold Day in The Monticello Trail Wine Country!                       

Cheers and a Clink to Carolina and Brian in 2011 and another Clink to Thomas Jefferson-Happy Belated Birthday!