Valentine’s and Galentine’s Day at Vitae Spirits

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

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

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

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

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

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A Toast to Fritz Winery

img_9301When selecting wine, whether at restaurants or from wine shops, we try to subscribe to our local cause of “Drink Local Buy Local”. These are our neighbors, farming the land with grapevines and competing with less costly, large production wineries. We run into our winemakers, vineyard owners and vineyard managers at the grocery store, local events and dining out.  It’s a tough, publicly perceived romantic means of making a living and we appreciate what they do.

The Event

Trump National Golf Club Washington D.C.

One of the perks of living in the Virginia wine country is also having the opportunity to try wines outside of our area, smaller wineries in other parts of the country who are getting to appreciate our Virgina wines and we, theirs. On Friday, we were invited to an event by wine distributor Lanterna and Tamara Cavanaugh, formerly of Kluge Estate Winery, in an effort to acquaint us with Fritz Underground Winery  from  the Dry Creek area of Sonoma, California. We weren’t quite sure what to expect and were so glad we came, the event was held at the Trump National Golf Club in the Great Falls area along the Potomac.  Michael MacDonald, General Manager, greeted us and introduced us to the club, the history behind the course, the Tennis “palace” with it’s magnificently lit indoor courts and it’s signature 1st and 18th hole waterfall.


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Clay Fritz, current owner of Fritz Winery  added his own personal story with a humorous slant during the wine sampling, sharing stories of his entrance into the business by way of his father, hence the winery’s name Fritz. Clay extolled on the virtues and talents of his lovely wife, Natalia and her inspiration to use some of the acreage for olive trees. She now has her own business, Natalia’s Kitchen,  incorporating their estate grown wines in mouth watering  recipes and products.

The winery itself is underground in the side of a scenic hillside with a living roof.  The wine making process is enhanced by employing natural gravity, an energy saving means  to transport the juice from the crush pad down to the tanks and barrels, thus eliminating the need for pumps. This also saves the juice from any adverse effects of excessive pulsation and buffeting.

 The Tasting

Bacon wrapped scallops, spring rolls, caprese-kabobs, coconut shrimp and paté were paired with the three select wines, a Chardonnay, A Pinot Noir and a Zinfandel. 30% of the wines  from Fritz remain for wine club members and sold locally, 70% are distributed nationally and can be purchased at Bill Curtis’s Tastings and are on the menu at The Ivy Inn and The Alley Light in the Charlottesville area. I’ll definitely be making my way to Tastings and The Alley Light, a popular local favorite in Cville.

The 2013 Fritz Chardonnay garners 91 points through Wine Enthusiast and isn’t overly oaked or too buttery but a pleasant bright citrusy taste  and great for sipping alone.

The 2012 Fritz Pinot Noir, achieves 94 points, was a resounding hit, a beautiful garnet color with cherry flavor upfront and midrange spicy notes.  I believe a popular choice for the holidays and I hope I can find this wine to add to our Fall menus.img_9300

The 2013 Fritz Estate Zinfandel followed, more robust in character with currant and dark cherry notes, the time is ripe for this wine!

I hope you get the chance to enjoy these wines and a visit to the winery if you’re in the Dry Creek area of northern California.