Clarksville on the Lake with Two Names.

Clarksville on the Lake

We spent last Saturday at the Clarksville Lake Country Wine Festival, an annual event sponsored by the Clarksville Lake Country Chamber of Commerce.  This is the only wine festival we are doing this year, and for good reason — its a sophisticated crowd, composed mostly of wealthy people from nearby urban centers, and some more remote — Richmond, Charlottesville, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Winston-Salem; even Charleston, West Virginia — who own lake front vacation houses.  We chatted with a couple of regulars at this event (and Annefield Wine Club members) who were frustrated that other wineries don’t send their “good” wine.

It is a commonplace notion among winery owners that they use festivals to move product they aren’t entirely happy with, or wine they make especially for festivals, which are perceived to be rookies with a sweet palate.  We see that approach as a marketing mistake, because you have a captive audience that is there because they enjoy Virginia wine — why not promote your best products?  Sure, there are events that are just drunk fests, and we don’t do those.  We were pouring for one couple who walked up and said repeatedly, “No sweet wines!”  By the time they sampled the third wine, their tune had changed: “Where can we buy your wine in Richmond?”

The town of Clarksville is in Mecklenburg County, Virginia’s only lakeside town, and as such it has evolved into a resort community, being the hub for the residents of the numerous lake-front vacation houses that surround the lake.

Curiously, the lake, which is the largest in Virginia, has two names, as does the river that flows into it (more on that later).  The name of the lake from the outset was contentious; Virginians insist on calling it Buggs Island Lake, for a family that owned land surrounding the impoundment dam, which was completed in 1952.  The people of North Carolina, meanwhile, call it Kerr Reservoir, in recognition of the work of Congressman John H. Kerr of North Carolina, who was instrumental in having it built.  Most official signs and most references in North Carolina call it Kerr Lake or Kerr Reservoir (pronounced “Car”).

Angered by the perceived over-reach by Congress, in 1952, Virginia State Senator and future Governor Albertis S. Sarrison, Jr of Lawrenceville introduced a joint resolution in the Virginia Senate proclaiming that the body of water created by the dam shall “forever more” be known as Buggs Island Lake. The resolution passed unanimously through both houses.  The posted signs on the Virginia side are for Buggs Island Lake.

The resulting lake is the largest reservoir in Virginia by surface area. Upstream, Smith Mountain Lake is Virginia’s largest by water volume. At its maximum capacity, Buggs Island Lake is one of the largest reservoirs in the Southeastern United States. The lake has over 850 miles of shoreline and covers approximately 50,000 acres. It touches Vance, Granville, and Warren counties in North Carolina, and Mecklenburg, Charlotte, and Halifax counties in Virginia.

In 2015, Virginia State Senator Frank Ruff, at the request of tourism officials, introduced a bill that would allow them to use the Kerr Reservoir name when marketing the region.  The bill won unanimous approval in committee in January, and is likely to pass.  Just to be clear — the bill does not seek to re-name the lake; it is only to grant explicit permission to Mecklenburg County officials to use both names in their marketing of the region.  Maybe you can have it both ways.

Festival Scene

The River with Two Names.

Stubbornly sticking to tradition and resisting any sort of change appears to be a trait in these parts — witness the Charlotte Courthouse Kerfuffle we wrote of last week.  Its likely that if the name of the lake is changed to Kerr, but the locals will forever call it Buggs Island.  So too a stretch of the Roanoke River that feeds into Buggs Island Lake that has always been known as the Staunton River.

The section of the river is in south-central Virginia and forms the boundaries of Campbell, Pittsyvania, Halifax and Charlotte counties. This 81-mile segment of the Roanoke River begins at Leesville Dam and continues to the confluence with the Dan River where it feeds into Buggs Island Lake.  It is again called the Roanoke at that point.

The Staunton River is named for Captain Henry Staunton, who before the American Revolution commanded a company of soldiers organized to patrol the river valley from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the mouth of the Dan River. Their job was to protect early settlers from attacks by Native Americans.  This section of the river became known as “Captain Staunton’s River” and, later, the Staunton River.   In 1984, the 51 miles of the river between State Route 360 and State Route 761 (at the Long Island Bridge) were designated the “Staunton State Scenic River,” a component of the Virginia Scenic Rivers System.

We are seriously using this historic anomaly to our advantage.  Over the years we’ve worked (off and on) on an application for an American Viticultural Area for our region.  The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — and the industry — likes to have them clearly defined and focused, and the Staunton River watershed can be a starting point for defining that region.  Much study is needed of the different soils, the climate, and the many other factors that are considered when creating such a thing.  The “Staunton River Valley AVA” has a nice ring to it, and ties this emerging wine growing region to its earliest history, which is something this history-conscious community would appreciate.

The Charlotte Courthouse Kerfuffle.

Charlotte Court House SquareOur courthouse here in Charlotte County is a gem.  Its simplicity is deceiving. The courthouse was built in 1821-1823 from plans provided by none other than Thomas Jefferson.

Roman Revival designs were a favorite of the early Republic, given the ideals embodied in its Classical Revival temple-front form.  The National Register application for the courthouse notes:

Interestingly, the Charlotte building was not initiated by Jefferson.  In 1821, a special committee was appointed by the county court to plan and carry out the building of the courthouse.  The committee consisted of Clement Carrington, Isaac Read, William M. Watkins, John Morton, Jr., Joseph Wyatt, Henry A. Watkins, and Henry Carrington.  According to tradition a delegation was appointed by the committee to visit Monticello and obtain a set of plans from the former president.  Jefferson dutifully supplied designs for a Tuscan porticoed edifice.

The courthouse interior has been altered, but preserves its early character by retaining a Classical Revival style, and it is one of the few courthouses of the period that retains its original two-story space.   These alterations appear to have been made in the early 20th century in a Classical Revival style.  But what is essentially a 19th-century building is woefully inadequate for the needs of a 21st century court in light of modern security concerns.

Frustrated with the lack of action by the county, the Circuit Court Judge Joel C. Cunningham filed a lawsuit (of course) to force the hand of the County Board of Supervisors to do something about it, and a panel was appointed, with retired Circuit Court Judge Robert P. Doherty, Jr appointed to preside in the case against Charlotte County.  The panel was rejected by the court for bias with the county failing to follow statutory guidelines as to its composition, and a new panel appointed.  After a lot of tiresome wrangling over the last six months, some progress appears to have been made.

The initial plans called for building an addition to the existing courthouse, and that raised the ire of every historic property minded person on the Eastern Seaboard — letters of protest poured in from historians, officials from Colonial Williamsburg and many other places.  It’s inconceivable in Virginia to alter something Thomas Jefferson had something to do with, and fortunately that plan was quickly set aside, but the new design is just as controversial.

The courthouse plans have progressed to the point of public meetings presenting alternative plans for a new building, which mercifully leave the old courthouse untouched.  The reaction to the new plan was equally contentious,  with several outspoken citizens not wanting anything that would affect the existing courthouse square.  On one side is the courthouse, and to south one of those traditional Confederate Memorials that are ubiquitous in these parts (it seems every courthouse has one) and a cannon, with the clerk’s office in what was once a tavern forming the southern boundary.

Curious about how the square looked in years past, we did some poking about and found photographs of the Confederate Monument taken in 1943 by Philip Bonn for the Farm Security Administration that show it was once located in the middle of the intersection of Patrick Henry Highway and LeGrande Avenue (State Routes 40 and 47).  The Monument was dedicated in 1901, according to the Charlotte Court House Historic District National Register application.  Presumably modern traffic called for relocating the memorial from that very busy intersection.  Clearly, changes to the Court House Square are not unprecedented.

Charlotte Court House, Virginia in 1943 (2). Charlotte Court House, Virginia in 1943.

The latest version of the plan, presented by Andrew Moore of Glavé & Holmes Architecture of Richmond, called for erecting the new courthouse behind the clerk’s office to complete the square on a space that is now used for surface parking.  The plan makes a lot of sense, and out of respect for the old courthouse the new building would not have columns and was designed to complement the clerk’s office, which is housed in an old tavern dating from 1823.  The plan makes sense, but a small number of very vocal citizens would have none of it, and made their displeasure known at a public meeting a few weeks ago.

The next week the Charlotte Court House Town Council sided with them, urging the County Board of Supervisors to move the building to the south, away from the courthouse square, and to put columns on the building that mirror the existing courthouse, yet at the same time asking that the building not detract from it.  We’re inclined to agree with the architects and not have columns so the building does not distract from the old courthouse.  Plus, the building would be placed on what is now a parking lot — what is wrong with that?

Nothing is settled, and we’re hopeful that the Board of Supervisors doesn’t cave to the opinions of the few.   Its a lovely old space, and the the massing of the new building and its placement behind the Old Tavern makes sense to us.  But come see for yourself — this walking tour of the Historic District is a helpful guide, and if you require more information, have a look at the District’s National Register of Historic Places Registration Form.

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The Court House
The Court House
Courthouse Site
Proposed Location of New Court House
Courthouse Square
Confederate Memorial in Courthouse Square

With Budbreak, a New Season!

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With the budding of the vines imminent, beginning 31 March 2015 we’re again open five days each week, Tuesday through Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm, until just after harvest in October.  In November we go back to being open on Friday and Saturday.  There’s a nice symmetry to this schedule, because business falls off dramatically when schools re-open in August and September.  If you don’t have kids its the perfect time to come visit the wineries — you will have a captive audience in the tasting room, and the staff can give you their undivided attention.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.  We love this time of year, though its tinged with a touch of nervous anticipation because of the possibility of that potentially devastating event, the late spring frost.  On the first day of spring ere in the mid-Atlantic we had a snowstorm in Northern Virginia, but just a bit of rain in Southside; winter seems reluctant to let go and move on.

So you’re coming for a visit — what to do?  You’re likely on a wine and food adventure, so turn first to the website of the SoVA Wine Trail.  On these pages we’ve featured selected attractions (search “Attractions” using the search box to the right on the blog homepage), and on our website you’ll find a local guide listing attractions in Southside Virginia, and listings for more specific categories: wineries, farm markets, civil war sites, and opportunities for sports and recreation — hiking, fishing, boating, hunting and the like.  There are still others we haven’t had a chance to visit or profile in this space, like the Steins Unlimited Beer Stein Museum up the road in Pamplin — which sounds a little bit crazy, but could be so much fun.  And of course you’ll find lists of places to dine and places to stay.

Last week we mentioned meeting Nina Buty of Buty Winery from the Walla Walla area of Washington State. With a population of 31,731 (2010 Census), it doesn’t support the wine industry by itself.  Nina mentioned that Walla Walla is a four to five hour drive from the nearest metropolitan areas — Portland, Seattle, Boise; Spokane is closest, being just three hours away.  According to the website of the Walla Walla Valley Wine Alliance, “People come to Walla Walla with intent. They don’t just happen across our valley.”  We can relate to that, though Richmond, Raleigh and Danville are just an hour and a half away, give or take; Washington, DC is three and a half, Charlottesville just two hours away.  So we invite you, come visit!  You’ll be pleasantly surprised by what the region has to offer.

Buty and the Beast.

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Buty.

A few weeks ago when we were pouring at Mondovino 2015, a trade event sponsored by our distributor, Kysela Pere et Fils, LTD, our station was next to that of Buty Winery, (pronounced “beauty”) which hails from the Walla Wally Valley AVA in Washington State.

Nina Buty is the proprietor and brand ambassador, and a force of nature — charming, delightful, with boundless energy and the perfect spokesperson promoting her brand. She does a stellar job of it, gracefully explaining what makes her wines unique, expounding on the virtues of the vineyards’  unique terroir and that of the vineyards from which she sources fruit.  Her innovative vineyard-designated blends are uplifting and serene; the depth of flavor transcendent.  The wines live up to the billing: impressive and lithe, with power that purrs: stealthy, self-assured and satisfying.  Truly impressive stuff.  “Small” by Washington standards, they produce about 3,500 cases each year.

Fruit is sourced from other Washington AVAs, too — Horse Heaven Hills and Yakima Valley, which are, along with Walla Walla Valley, sub-AVAs of the Columbia Valley AVA. Her 10-acre estate vineyard, called Rockgarden, is densely planted with clones of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, grenache, mourvèdre, marsanne and roussanne.

La Belle et la Bete, by Jean Cocteau (1946)
La Belle et la Bete, by Jean Cocteau (1946)

A recent addition to their product line is what they call “Beast,” described thusly:

BEAST is the rare alter ego of Buty. Everyone who dates or marries a ‘Buty’ naturally contends with this counterpart nickname. BEAST allows us spontaneity and exploration, and most releases are one of a kind. Every year we release the BEAST at Halloween, and some years we unleash an April Fool’s BEAST.

With BEAST we present new varietals, new vineyards, or showcase an intriguing wine outside of the Buty portfolio. Historic BEASTs include: Rosé of the Stones, Minnick Hills Vineyard Cinsault, an edgy stainless Conner Lee Vineyard Chardonnay, Cailloux Vineyard Cabernet of the Stones and Conner Lee Vineyard Malbec. These BEASTs are only available through the winery.

It’s an interesting theme, this play between the notion of beauty vis à vis the Beast; that which is refined (presumably) up against that which is base or primitive or ugly; the untamed, the opposite of refinement.

What then is beauty?  The Greeks included it among the ultimate values with goodness, truth and justice; medieval philosophers treated it the same way.  To look at things objectively and declare them beautiful, one relies on devices like proportion, the golden mean, order, harmony and symmetry; or in wine-speak, “balanced,” something that delights the senses.

By the 18th century, philosophers Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant tried to distinguish “beauty” from the “sublime.”  While earlier theories posited that beauty was the result of proportion, utility, or perfection, Burke believed that both beauty and the sublime were perceived emotionally — subjectively. Edmund Burke explained the sublime in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757).  The sublime prompted feelings of awe or terror (being out of mind), beauty is comprehensible to the mind because it evokes familiar experiences and promotes pleasurable feelings.

Kant, In his Critique of Judgment (1790), describes how a viewer projects beauty onto natural objects and how such experiences of beauty create universal feelings of satisfaction and delight.  He also states that beautiful objects need no underlying concept or purpose. Kant’s theories justify the creation and admiration of beautiful art objects for their own sake, and the embrace of this notion helped pave the way for Romanticism, the movement in art, literature, and music that emphasized emotion over scientific rationalism.

So over time the idea of beauty progressed from something inherent in the object, to the subjective notion of it in that tired phrase,”beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  So “Beast” — the wild, the untamed, the sublime — isn’t really a counterpart to “Beauty,” they are both beautiful, in their way, since that which is uncultivated or uncivilized can be beautiful, too.  Interestingly, when making his film La Belle et la Bête (1946), Jean Cocteau instructed the cameraman and lighting technicians to present the prince once freed of his beastly visage in a saccharine way, so that the viewer would have a visceral reaction and prefer the Beast to him.  A famous story recounts that when viewing La Belle et la Bête, upon seeing the transformation of the beast into the prince, that legendary beauty Greta Garbo is said to have yelled at the screen, “Give me back my beast!

And The Beast.

All is not so beautiful on the West Coast, as a different sort of beast extends its pernicious reach into Oregon and Washington: drought.

Washington State is second to California in wine production, with much of it concentrated in the eastern part of the state, which is semi-arid and depends on irrigation for agricultural production.  The western half is the wet, rainy part one associates with the Pacific Northwest, but this year is different, because of our increasingly uncertain climate.  On 13 March 2015, Washington state Governor Jay Inslee declared a drought emergency across three regions because of record low snow pack levels ahead of spring runoff.

This is dire because without the snow pack, there is little water supply in the eastern half of the state, which is semi-arid, the ordinarily cool and wet western half notwithstanding. Writing for Reuters, Rory Carroll notes, “With snow pack statewide averaging 27 percent of normal, 34 of the state’s 62 watersheds are expected to receive less than 75 percent of their normal water supplies.” (“Washington state governor declares drought emergency” 13 March 2015).

The areas affected are the Olympic Peninsula, the east side of the central Cascade Mountains (which includes Yakima and Wenatchee), and the Walla Walla region.  The winter has been unusually warm, causing most precipitation to fall as rain, leaving just a fraction of normal snow pack.  Washington is not (yet) experiencing hydrological drought on a large scale; the U.S. Drought Monitor records hydrological drought (which is presently at a moderate level), but in this instance, Washington has a “snow pack drought.”  In ordinary years, the snow pack melts slowly through the warmer months, feeding rivers, but this year the snow pack statewide averages 27 percent of normal.  The following week Oregon Governor Kate Brown joined in and made a drought emergency declaration.  Statewide, Oregon snow pack levels are between 6 and 38 percent of normal.

Meanwhile, further south in California (where its been reported that as of 24 March 2015, the snow pack is a shocking 9 percent of normal), an Op-Ed by Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, that appeared in The Los Angeles Times pulled no punches: “California has about one year of water stored.  Will you ration now?”  When first published, the copy editor used the phrase “one year of water left,” which wasn’t entirely accurate; the author was referring to water stored in impoundment systems, not groundwater; but groundwater resources are still under duress, so they modified the headline.  He wrote:

As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water — and the problem started before our current drought. NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002, when satellite-based monitoring began, although groundwater depletion has been going on since the early 20th century.

Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain. 

It seems like the entire state is in denial, unable to contemplate the unthinkable.  All that relentless sunshine has a price, and this is a devastating reminder that California is desert.  Climate scientists have come to realize that the 20th century, with its abundant moisture, was an anomaly.  And let’s not forget the sad state of the Colorado River watershed, the source of much of Southern California’s water, is similarly, catastrophically stressed (see “The Other Big Drought Story You Need to Pay Attention To” (Tom Yulsman, Discover Magazine, 18 March 2015).  How bad could it get, really?  Perhaps São Paulo bad.  The situation in this Brazilian metropolis of 20 million hasn’t gotten much play in the United States press, but São Paulo has essentially run out of water.  It’s projected to be completely dry in about two months (“São Paulo, South America’s Largest City, Will Run Out of Water by June” (Stacey Leasca, Ryot, 15 March 2015).

Meanwhile, halfway around the globe, Taiwan officials are imposing rationing to preserve what’s left of the water in Shihmen Dam in Yaoyuan, which supplies water to the northern parts of the island, affecting some three million people.  The dam has only 47 days of water left, absent additional rain (as of 20 March 2015).  Taiwan has had its lowest rainfall in 70 years.  See “Taps turned off as Taiwan battles worst drought in decade” (The Straits Times, 20 March 2015).  There are numerous other examples of water shortages worldwide — in Russia, Australia, India, and elsewhere.  Just in time for “World Water Day” on 21 March 2015 the United Nations weighed in with a report that in just 15 years, there will be worldwide water shortages, leaving humanity with just 60 percent of the water it needs.  This represents a shortfall that could affect 2.9 billion people in 48 countries.  The report notes that overpopulation and economic policies promoting growth over sustainability are to blame; it proposes solutions, but they are so aspirational it seems they will remain just that.  For example, here’s one:  Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes and reverse the loss of environmental resources.  In fairness, though, these policy goals are for the entire world and must be nebulous by necessity.

There certainly isn’t an easy solution to this most vexing of dilemmas.  Doing something about overpopulation is a political non-starter, since no one likes to be told that they can’t have babies, even though there is no denying that human population is exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet.  That’s seen as the stuff of Communist China or a frightening dystopian future, so no one is going to go there.  This leaves us with admonitions to use less water and to use what we have wisely.  So like the good people of California, we have one last resort: praying for rain.

US Drought Monitor West 17 March 2015

 

Milt in a Kilt!

Milt MacPherson (2014) by Wyatt Ramsey.
Milt McPherson (2014) by Wyatt Ramsey.

Last weekend we joined our friends Milt and Sandy McPherson, owners of Hunting Creek Vineyards for the unveiling of a portrait they commissioned of Wyatt Ramsey, the artist whose drawing appears on Hunting Creek’s labels.  Wyatt studied at the Savannah College of Art and Design and is currently studying at the Fine Art Painting department of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.

Readers of these pages will know that the McPherson’s are dear, dear friends — we’ve traveled with them to Portugal (A Visit to Portugal), Italy (An Italian Idyll)and England (There Will Always Be An England); this fall we’re staying stateside for a different adventure and planning a road trip to Kentucky.  They’ve greatly enriched our lives and have introduced us to many amazing and special people.

That afternoon, though, we had a group of six gentlemen stop through the tasting room after visiting Hunting Creek Vineyards.  It was officially a bachelor party; the guys came from Washington, DC and were staying at the lake house of one of their parents over at Lake Gaston.  We’ve had bridal parties, but this was our first bachelor party — who knew?  They were all delightful and we enjoyed chatting with them and showing them the house.

The unveiling took place during a cocktail party with heavy Scottish-themed hors d’oeuvres. Lots of salmon canapés, white fish, Scotch eggs, and of course oysters (Sandy comes from Virginia’s Eastern Shore and oysters are almost always on the menu).  The chef was Miles Perkins, who prepared our Valentine’s Day feast last month (A Valentine’s Day Feast).  One other guest arrived in a kilt, and Milt was resplendent in his.

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Join Us for the 2015 Spring Bacchanalia!

Annefield Vineyards logo

Spring Bacchanalia

Enjoy a decadent repast at Annefield, featuring ingredients sourced from local producers and paired with our new releases

Saturday, 30 May 2015,  6:00 pm

Jameson & Read Wine Club Members: $120/person
All Others: $195/person

RESERVE NOW

Passed
Caromont Farm Chèvre Stuffed Peppadews with Candied Almonds
Smoked North Carolina Bluefish Mousse with Preserved Lemon Relish
Great Oak Farm Chorizo and White Bean Hummus
Shaved Edwards Family Farm “Surryano” Ham with Manchego Cheese
Roasted Fingerlings and Morcilla

1st
Rappahannock Virginia Oysters three ways: Bacon, Classic Mignonette, Sweet & Spicy Cucumber
Annefield Vineyards Vermentino 2014

2nd
Melrose Bison Farm Buffalo Tartare with Arugula Salad and House Baked Crostini
Annefield Vineyards Red 2012

Intermezzo
Cucumber Citrus Granita

3rd
Braised Auburnlea Farms Chicken Thigh with Parsnip, Chickpea and Mint
Annefield Vineyards Vidal Blanc 2014

4th
Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Mushrooms from Sharondale Mushroom Farms and
Hudson Heritage Farm Beef Bone Marrow and Potato Puree
Annefield Vineyards Chardonnay 2014

5th
Hudson Heritage Farms Albondigas with Parsnip Puree and Romesco Sauce
Annefield Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013

Dessert
Duo of Bread Pudding with Annefield Vineyards Red Wine and Potts Chocolate Special Chocolate Sauce and
Annefield Vineyards White 2014

Producers

Caromont Farm — Esmont, Virginia

Caromont Farm is located 23 miles south of Charlottesville, Virginia, in the heart of Virginia’s Piedmont region.  They produce both fresh and aged cheeses using milk from Gail Hobbs-Page’s herd of Alpines, Saanens, and La Mancha goats. Caromont’s cow’s milk cheeses are produced from milk sourced from Nathan Vergins’ herd of grass fed Jerseys at Silky Cow Farm in nearby North Garden, Virginia.  All cheeses are made “on farm” and are hand ladled, tended daily, and follow a seasonal path. At Caromont, they strive to create cheeses of “place” using quality milk from animals raised on the principles of natural husbandry and grass-based management. Gail, Daniel, and everyone at Caromont Farm, holds a strong belief that great cheese comes only from great milk.

Great Oak Farm — Virgilina, Virginia

Great Oak Farm is a Woman-owned business in Halifax County, Virginia. Specializing in fresh garden produce, free range chickens & eggs, and pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free hogs and meat goats. Great Oak Farm raises healthy and happy Boer meat goats and heritage breed hogs called a Guinea hog. They also raise Tamworth, Gloucestershire/Duroc cross hogs. All of their animals are pasture raised.

S. Wallace Edwards & Sons — Surry, Virginia

In the time-honored style of the Native Americans, settlers and farmers before them, S. Wallace Edwards & Sons processes each ham by hand as it goes through the stages of curing. The very finest hams are selected and hand-rubbed with salt. They remain in the curing room under controlled temperatures until the desired amount of salt has been absorbed. Excess salt is removed by washing and the hams are then pepper-coated and ready for hanging in the smokehouse. Many days of cool “hickory” smoke are required to give these hams their rich mahogany color. They are then allowed to hang undisturbed for “aging” until they develop that real Virginia flavor.

Melrose Bison Farm — Gladys, Virginia

Bison meat is a wonderful food. It is lower in fat, calories and cholesterol and higher in protein and iron than beef, pork or chicken. It has a flavor that is sweeter and richer than beef. Bison meat is incredibly satisfying because it is very nutritionally dense.  The bison at Melrose Bison Farm are raised as close to the way Mother Nature intended as possible. They forage on native grasses and hay. They are never given any type of growth hormones, steroids, stimulants, antibiotics or animal products.

Hudson Heritage Farms — Elmo, Virginia

Hudson Heritage Farms, LLC  produces natural pasture raised meat products.  All of their meats are processed at a USDA Inspected facility and packaged ready for consumers. Their livestock is raised on their farm located in Southside Virginia in the small community of Elmo.  They treat their animals with care and respect, and allow them to roam freely in their pastures.  Their animals are not given steroids or growth hormones.  The farm strives to provide their customers with an all natural, chemical free meat product.

Auburnlea Farms — Gladys, Virginia

All of the pigs and cattle at Auburnlea Farms are always on pasture, from birth to finishing, and are moved to fresh grazing frequently enough to provide plenty of quality grasses for them to forage.  They are treated humanely, and are given plenty of sunshine, fresh water, ample grazing, and quality hay which is produced right here on the farm. The pigs are supplemented with Non-Gmo grains and raw milk to produce a quality meat in taste and texture. They also raise chickens and turkeys on pasture, moving them daily to fresh grasses.  They have available shelter, water, sunshine, fresh non-GMO & non-soy feed, and protection from predators.

Sharondale Mushroom Farm — Charlottesville, Virginia

The growers at Sharondale Mushroom Farm believe that food should be fresh, nutrient-dense, and be consumed locally. Their commitment to high-quality food is reflected in their growing practices. They use no harmful herbicides, pesticides, or man-made fertilizers. Their farm provides the highest quality gourmet and medicinal mushrooms for the health of the land and community. They also believe everyone can grow their own mushrooms, and will help and empower you to do it.

Potts Chocolate — Meherrin, Virginia

Potts Chocolate takes special care in every step of creating one-of-a-kind chocolate confections. Their extra care demands that they distill their own vanilla extracts, find the perfect beekeepers to supply honey, work with their coffee roasters and pay that extra attention to detail all wonderful foods require.


Our Chef is Paul Anctil, Jr.  Paul’s passion for great food and wine began at an early age while living in North Africa and Italy as the son of a Marine.  Before moving to Virginia, Paul was Executive Chef and Owner of CUVÉE, a wine and tapas bar in Ormond Beach, Florida.  Since relocating to Virginia to help with his family’s winery, he has operated Epicurean Underground, a pop-up supper club and is now Chef de Cuisine at the Drug Store Grill in Brookneal.

Recipe: Chocolate Chip Cranberry Pecan Oatmeal Cookies.

Cookies

A few weeks ago we attended a meeting of the Southern Virginia Wine Trail Association, better known as SoVA.  Given it was the depth of winter, we opted to meet mid-afternoon rather than have the usual dinner meeting.  Everyone brings something to share, so we chose to make these cookies, which are super easy and very delicious.  Its pretty basic, but we kicked it up a notch by adding pecans to give it that Southern dimension.  There is so much “stuff” in the mix the dough barely holds together, making them quite airy.  Delicious.

Greenwood Vineyards
The welcome committee at Greenwood Vineyards.

The meeting was at Greenwood Vineyards over in Halifax County (pictured here is the welcome committee that will follow you from the gate to the parking area outside of the tasting room).  Greenwood was founded by Paul Greenwood, a native of Halifax County who planted the vineyard in 2004 (expanded in 2007) who returned to the family farm after a career in government service.  Greenwood grows Merlot, Sangiovese, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.  At first selling fruit to other wineries, Greenwood opened his own in 2010.

Greenwood is located just west of the town of Halifax, which is a great place to stop for  during a SoVA winery tour.  Make some cookies to take along for the ride.

Chocolate Chip Pecan Oatmeal Cookies.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats
  • 2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F
  2. In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and oats.
  3. In another bowl with an electric mixer, cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in vanilla.
  4. Beat in the flour mixture and stir in the chocolate chips and pecans.
  5. Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets and bake cookies in batches in middle of oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden.  Cool cookies on racks.