The Saga of the Signs.

 

AV Road SignThose of you who live close by already know, as do our Facebook, Twitter and Google+ followers, but at long last, our road signs have finally been installed.  Good timing for our first time visitors, with Carnaval in Havana this weekend!

A side note: Carnaval in Havana is a private party and we are closed to the public on Saturday, October 4, 2014.  We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

Anyway, when we first opened a few people commented on why we didn’t have them, they had trouble finding us, etc. etc. but like everything in the wine business, there is no simple answer.  In order to have winery signage in Virginia, one must participate in the Tourist Oriented Directional Sign (TODS) Program, which is run by Virginia Logos, LLC in cooperation with the Virginia Department of Transportation.

New rules did away with the brown signs with grape clusters most Virginia wine devotees are accustomed to, and there are minimum requirements for participation: the facility must be open to the public, the products or services must be of significant interest to tourists, income must come from visitors and road users not residing in the area; we must be open at least 12 consecutive weeks a year, and open six hours a day, five days a week during the normal season.

We knew it would take a while, but our in our wildest dreams didn’t anticipate this.  We first applied on 18 June 2013, but the application languished, and was finally shepherded though by the program manager, Jason Newcomb, to completion.  We were finally presented with a Participation Agreement on 30 April 2014, and the signs installed near the end of May.

Has it changed our lives?  In a way, yes — we formerly were open only on weekends, but because of TODS requirements this year changed to being open five days per week.  We do get traffic from them, and no doubt the locals will know that they have someplace to bring visitors they are obligated to entertain.  Most importantly, it makes us more of an institution, truly “on the map,” which is certainly worthwhile.

Sova Wine Region SignBut we were surprised at the end of July by an unexpected announcement, that the Commonwealth was erecting signs announcing to the world “Welcome to the Southern Virginia Wine Region.”  This is the second phase of a signage program intended to raise consumer awareness of the growing wine regions throughout Virginia.

Five signs were posted on major roadways as they enter the region:

  • US 29 southbound at the Pittsylvania/Campbell County line
  • US 15/360 at the Prince Edward/Chalotte County line
  • Va. 501 at the Virginia/North Carolina border
  • US 58 East where Pittsylvania County borders Halifax County
  • US 58 West where Pittsylvania County borders Henry County

Many thanks to the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for the placement!  The sign on US 15/360 is just south of the town of Keysville, which no doubt has travelers thinking about the region and minutes later, there’s our sign directing them off the highway.  It’s a good thing.

Update: Where Can You Buy Our Wine?

Recently we were picked up by Kysela Pere et Fils, the esteemed distributor out of Winchester for their customers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, DC.  Kysela has a terrific reputation and a fascinating portfolio. In 2013 the firm was named Importer of the Year by Wine Enthusiast Magazine  — great credentials, great wine, great service.

They picked up their first order in May 2014 and re-ordered in September.  Who was buying it?  We just received a much longer list than we were expecting, with placements all over the Commonwealth and a couple in Maryland and in Washington, DC — all in a span of three months.  Needless to say, we are impressed and very pleased.

We were in Alexandria the other day and had time for a visit with one of these merchants, Altura Wine & Gourmet at 109 North Patrick Street in Old Town.  The owner was in the middle of visit with a distributor; it was fun to eavesdrop on the pitch, with an interesting emphasis on vineyard practices by one particular label.  After they left we had a nice chat about business, and wrapped up leaving with a selection of a half-dozen bottles from Portugal, France and Spain (we never miss an opportunity to pick out a few bottles, especially when presented with such a well curated selection).  They picked up our 2012 Chardonnay and 2013 Viognier (which they had sold out of and had not yet re-ordered).  The shop opened a little over a year ago, and they present a fascinating, affordable assortment.  Do go visit when you’re in Alexandria, and if you live there, it could be your new favorite wine shop.

So below you will find a list of restaurants, wine bars and retailers who carry our wine.  No doubt through Kysela’s efforts the list will continue to grow.  If you are a retailer or restaurant in need of a tasting appointment, please call our account representative at Kysela, Mike Kotrady at (804) 909.3939, or email mike@kysela.com.

Restaurants & Wine Bars

Retailers

The Power of O.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, at Home in Dupont Circle with her Salon Pillow.  Image courtesy of Viking/Joanna Sturm.

Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), at Home in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC with her Salon Pillow c. 1970. Image courtesy of Viking Books/Joanna Sturm

If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.

– Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980)

Alice Roosevelt Longworth’s famous comment is a reminder of the danger businesses face with the advent of the “social sharing” on websites dedicated to the airing of opinions.  It seems a bit pernicious, this effort to make everything “social” and shared — online reviews and recommendations are rampant and looked to for validation, whether in the form of Facebook “likes,” Twitter “followers,” Tumblr and WordPress blog subscribers, or even Yelp reviews.  Restaurants have their own spin on it by including large communal tables, forcing “community” whether it is wanted or not.  Businesses have incubators that are essentially one large room so groups can collaborate.  Crowdsourcing sites are the vehicle of choice to fund all manner of projects.  In another time, all this collective action would have been called Communism, but today, it’s taken for granted and its just the way things are done.

For businesses, the current social bête noire is the online review.  A bad review may result in cause of action for libel.  But why do these reviews matter?  A scholarly piece on the subject that appeared earlier this year in the Harvard Business Review (“What marketers misunderstand about online reviews,” by Itamar Simonson and Emanuel Rosen, HBR, Jan.-Feb. 2014), which noted that customer’s purchase decisions are affected by a combination of three things: (1) prior preferences, beliefs and experiences; (2) information from marketers; and (3) input from other people and from information services – i.e., “opinion,” (for simplicity’s sake, “O”).  They noted that the greater the reliance on one source, the lower the need for the others.  So in order to answer the question, “how much does “O” matter?” one needs to understand where a product falls on the “O” continuum.

We know intuitively that “O” matters, but can it be quantified?  Research by a Harvard Business School professor, Michael Luca, found that in cities where a large number of diners rely on Yelp reviews, independent restaurants tend to benefit, while franchises and chains suffer (“Optimal Aggregation of Consumer Ratings: An Application of Yelp.com” (Harvard Business School Working Paper 13-042, November 15, 2012); “Reviews, Reputation and Revenue: The Case of Yelp.com” (Harvard Business School Working Paper 12-016, September 16, 2011)).  The type of person using Yelp (typically a younger, more adventurous “plugged in” demographic) appears to be drawn to the different and the unconventional; hence the preference of the independent restaurant over their better known competitors, particularly chains and franchises.

O-dependent markets can diversify more readily, because peer-to-peer information has greater influence on consumers who rely on such services more than other information sources, such as information derived from traditional marketing channels.  Since most Virginia wineries are not readily using expensive mainstream marketing (i.e., newspaper and magazine advertising), peer-to-peer messaging takes on greater importance, so most Virginia wine falls on the “O-dependent” end of the spectrum.

Review sites have mushroomed, and we have to face the fact that they confer legitimacy because of the power of “O.”  Yet customer reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor, Foursquare and Google+ Local are far more prevalent for wineries located close to urban centers, leaving those of us in the hinterlands at a disadvantage.  Not having recent reviews appears suspect — has the winery closed? Why isn’t anyone reviewing it?  What’s wrong?

Gaining (hopefully favorable) reviews is as frustrating as our efforts to use some other social sites like Instagram, which requires a robust cell signal for the photos to upload, which is something we don’t have in our corner of the world.  Of course those who don’t give a whit of others’ opinions and prefer to form their own are not affected by such things, because they don’t care enough to look, but for the majority of people who do, these things may matter.  With a smartphone, everyone is a reviewer, a witness, a critic — the power is yours, so please help us out!

If you’ve been to see us recently, please write a review on the site of your choice. There are links to many of these sites (and more) on the left hand side of our website placed there for people looking for reviews, but also providing an opportunity to interact with us, or to stay informed about what we’re up to.  Below you’ll find links to our pages on several business and travel review sites, with a summary culled directly from their pages.  We recognize that this request is fraught with peril and could invite negative reviews, since we cannot — and don’t want to — control what others write about us.  We just ask that they be balanced and fair, though we are reminded of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous comment on his headstrong daughter Alice, the source of the quote that opened this post: “I can be President of the United States, or I can control Alice. I cannot possibly do both.”

Foursquare

Foursquare

Foursquare helps you find the perfect places to go with friends.  Discover the best food, nightlife and entertainment in your area.

 

images-1Google+ Local

On Google+ Local, see reviews of places you’ll love, from people you trust. Recommendations from people you know and trust show up when you search for restaurants and other businesses. Knowing who wrote a review and their tastes helps you pick the right places.  Reviews from real people like you are tallied to create scores on a precise and easy to read 5-star scale. People’s reviews also factor into concise summaries that help you quickly get an overall sense of a place.  

TripadvisorTripAdvisor

Plan and have your perfect trip with TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site. Browse over 150 million candid reviews, opinions, and photos of hotels, restaurants, attractions, and more – all by travelers like you. You’ll also find low airfares, free travel guides, worldwide vacation rental listings, popular forums with advice about virtually every destination, and more. No wonder so many travelers make TripAdvisor their first stop before every trip.

YelpYelp

Yelp is the best way to find local businesses.  People use Yelp to search for everything from the city’s tastiest burger to the most renowned cardiologist. What will you uncover in your neighborhood?

 

You’re Invited to Our Harvest Party: Carnaval in Havana!

Carnaval
Get Ready for Music, Mojitos and Mambo!
 
Annefield Vineyards
invites you to
 
CARNAVAL IN HAVANA
Saturday, October 4, 2014  – 11 am to 6 pm
 
Music by The Key West Band
 
Come to the tropics with us!  Enjoy a taste of Old Havana accompanied by our award-winning fall releases, with Caribbean cocktails, Cuban food, hand-rolled cigars, dancing, a lounge and entertainment.  Cash bar.
 
$49./person
 
Wine Club Members receive free admission for themselves and one to three guests, depending on their membership level.  There are three membership levels (3, 6 or 12 bottles per allocation, which are distributed in the spring and fall), with a choice of all red wines, all white wines or a mixed selection.  For additional information and to join, see this page.
 
Do you need overnight accommodations?  Here are our recommendations.
We have reserved a block of rooms at The Berry Hill Resort, October 3 & 4 — special rate: $169/night for a Queen Room – Ask for the “Annefield Winery Rate
 
Reservations are essential!  Please reserve by Saturday, September 27.

>> RESERVE NOW <<

The City of Bath.

IMG_4471

In Bath we had use of a delightful Georgian townhouse, dubbed Founders House by the owner and located on a quiet lane just steps from everything.  The location was splendid, with all of the sights and numerous restaurants just steps from our door.  The house was perfectly appointed, and even had an Aga cooker, though there was no opportunity to use it.

Our first stop was the famous Roman baths, which gave the city its name.  The museum built around the site was opened just months ago, and did a wonderful job of explaining the site and its artifacts and bringing the ancient site to life, and showing its evolution as Bath grew.

Our visit to Bath Abbey had to take place after Bath University’s graduation.  The vicar spotted us as Americans and took us over to the memorial for William Bingham (1752-1804), an American statesman who was born in Philadelphia but died in Bath at the home of his daughter, Ann Louisa Bingham, who had married Alexander Baring, the 1st Baron Ashburton.  Bingham was a privateer during the American Revolution and was one of the richest men in America, with vast land holdings in the northeast.  At one point he owned 2 million acres in Maine (according to one news report, his estate was not settled until 1964).

With his son-in-law Alexander Baring, helped broker the Louisiana Purchase.  He represented Pennsylvania in the Congress as Senator (1795-1801), was also president pro tempore of the United States Senate in 1797.  He held several other offices of note, representing Pennsylvania as a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1786 to 1788, and was elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and served as its first speaker in 1791.

His wife Ann (Willing) Bingham (1764-1801) was reputably the most beautiful woman of her age, and was the model for multiple portraits by Gilbert Stuart.  According to legend she was the model for Lady Liberty on the earliest American coinage.

Bath at the time of Bingham’s occupation was experiencing its “Golden Age,” when the city took on its present form, dominated by rational, ordered Georgian buildings.

IMG_4422

IMG_4424

IMG_4426

IMG_4430

IMG_4432

IMG_4436

IMG_4438

IMG_4445

IMG_4447

IMG_4449

IMG_4450

IMG_4453

IMG_4454

IMG_4458

IMG_4461

IMG_4462

IMG_4464

IMG_4476

IMG_4479

IMG_4480

IMG_4484

IMG_4487

IMG_4490

 

IMG_4494 IMG_4498

IMG_4504

IMG_4505

IMG_4506

IMG_4507

IMG_4511

IMG_4512

IMG_4514

IMG_4518

 

IMG_4522

IMG_4524

 

The Lows and Highs of the Wine Business.

A bird's nest in the Pinot Gris.

A bird’s nest in the Pinot Gris.

With harvest, two things are weighing on our minds.  One is our excitement from our first relatively mature harvest of Vermentino, the other the distressing state of our Pinot Gris.  One a high, the other definitely a low, and an increasingly difficult issue for winegrowers in the mid-Atlantic states.

First, the low point.  This year we are contending with a relatively new pest for Eastern growers, the Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD).  We wrote about this pest last year (“I Love The Smell of Malathion in the Morning!“) so won’t repeat here — only what’s new this year is we definitely now have it in Charlotte County.

SWD enjoys cherries early in the season, then turns its attention to grapes as they ripen late in the season.  No fruit is immune — it will attack stone fruits like peaches, nectarines and plums, and other fruits like raspberries and blueberries.  It seems to be attracted to darker fruits, so in the vineyard it will concentrate on red grapes and seemingly avoid the white varieties.

The insidious thing about them is their life cycle — adults can live up to nine weeks, and you can have 14 generations in a single season.  Being an invasive species, they have no natural predator.  The female lays eggs under the surface of berries, where they hatch in one to three days, and feed on the berries before emerging as adult flies.  With the short life cycle, repeated insecticide applications become necessary.

There are three organic compounds that you can use — two insecticides, PyGanic, which is pyrethrin-based (and unfortunately resistance is being reported from the West Coast), Entrust, which has spinosad as an active ingredient (a naturally derived toxin), and a kaolin-clay product called Surround, which supposedly dessicates the insects.

Regardless of the mode of action, the insecticide does not penetrate the fruit so the larvae remain unharmed and will emerge on schedule.  The more potent (non-organic) insecticides we have been using, like Delegate and Malathion, have greater residual activity.

Another that supposedly works well is Imidan, but the re-entry interval on that one (the re-entry interval is the time specified when it is safe to re-enter the area sprayed) is 14 days, so there is no point in using that one.  Perhaps after harvest in a vain effort to reduce their numbers for next year, though at this point it just seems spiteful.

And this new foe comes with additional cost, because these pesticides are not cheap.  PyGanic, for example, costs $250/gallon, and Entrust is over $400/quart.  One treatment of our older vineyard would require 22 ounces of Entrust, and we’re allowed a maximum of five applications, which comes to $1,600 for the season.  Given the short life cycle, resistance to these substances will develop relatively quickly, and at that point, there is no stopping them.  When that happens, we may need to think about producing only white wines.

The fruit, while under fire, is intact — but because of the SWD we picked this past weekend — much earlier than we would like.  And so it goes in the glamorous wine business.

IMG_4721

IMG_4726

IMG_4729

IMG_4731

And Now Comes the Vermentino.

Vermentino.

Vermentino.

That’s all very depressing, so on to more positive development.  Last year we had our first Vermentino harvest.  The vines were planted in 2011, yielding a relatively small crop so all of the wine was used in a blend, but this year we expect to have enough fruit to present our first single-variety Vermentino.

For those unfamiliar with it, Vermentino is best known for its Italian examples, being widely planted in Sardinia.  It goes by other names: Pigato in Liguira and Corsica, and Favorita in the Piedmont.  In France its believed to be the same grape as one called Rolle.  In Virginia its grown by those wineries with close ties to Italy, Barboursville Vineyards and Villa Appalachia Winery. The first East coast example we tried came from Raffaldini Vineyards in the Yadkin Valley of North Carolina.  There are a number of West coast examples, but none that we’ve enjoyed.

Italian bottlings almost always come from close to the sea, producing wines that are bright and zesty with high acid and generous aromas; these are championed as a perfect pairing for seafood.  Examples from the higher, landlocked vineyards in Piemonte are a bit more floral, often rich and with considerable minerality.  The more unctuous Piemonte examples bring to mind Riesling or Viognier.  With this grape you can obtain complex aroma and flavor with modest sugar levels, which makes it well suited for early harvest on warm sites — a valuable characteristic that makes it well suited for Virginia.

The Vermentino is performing so well, we are contemplating removing the Pinot Gris and planting more Vermentino.  Given the wine’s popularity (and the investment), we’ll give it another year, but those tight, tight clusters just turn to mush as the fruit ripens (and the SWD doesn’t help, either), so in the long run it is better to plant what grows really well in our climate.  That said, we also need to see how the market accepts Vermentino (though Barboursville Vineyards has done quite well with it), and if there is market resistance, we might plant the grape that everyone loves to hate, and for which there always seems to be a market, that ubiquitous Chardonnay, in spite of the fact that it grows best on the East Coast in cooler sites at higher elevations.

Hidcote Manor Garden and a Vineyard Visit.

Hidcote Manor Garden and the Town of Chipping Campden.

IMG_4245

And now back to our European adventure.

A stunning expression of the arts and craft garden is maintained by the National Trust in this remote corner of Gloucestershire, at Hidcote Manor on the outskirts of the town of Hidcote Bartrim, near Mickelton and Chipping Campden.  Its’ creator was Major Lawrence Johnston (1871-1958), an American who naturalized in England (Major Johnston obtained the rank of Major from his service in the Great War).  He was a bit of a cypher — a very private man who obsessively collected plants (several are named for Hidcote and Johnston, such as Hidcote Lavender and the Lawrence Johnston Rose), and and created a masterpiece in what was once a simple field adjoining a manor house purchased by his mother in 1907.  In 1948 it was the first property accepted by the National Trust on the strength of the garden alone.  An excellent summary of his life (of which little is really known) appears here.

The genius of the place is now the commonplace “garden room” with a strong backbone of carefully tailored shrubbery and in some instances exuberant plantings so typical of the English cottage garden style, while in others the restraint one expects of Italian and French gardens.  The dramatic axes cutting through the garden are breathtaking, the intimacy of the smaller spaces, with their unexpected color combinations and structure are startling.  Johnston was a “gardener’s gardener” — you see echoes of his work in the designs of masters like Russell Page (1906-1985) and Penelope Hobhouse (born 1929).

Russell Page was particularly struck by the garden, and wrote of it in his book Education of a Gardener:

At one point we come through a yew arch into a tiny square hedged-in garden filled with so large a circular pool that there is barely room for the narrowest of paths between it and the hedge. The raised pool, perhaps twenty feet across, looks all the larger for being so compressed and the unusual proportion of the whole breaks down, for a moment, the mechanism of one’s habitual criticisms and judgments. One is free to accept and feel this little scene as intensely real; the pool becomes like a sea which reflects the sky and a floating leaf. A passing bumble bee and each chance-grown plant in crevices of the stone border seem to shine with a special clarity – time and space exchange their scale.

After Mr Johnston donated the property to the National Trust, while he was welcome to use it and visit, he thought the experience spoiled by the presence of so many visitors.  So he never returned,and devoted his energies to his garden in the south of France, Serre de la Madone, which he started work on in 1924 an remained there until his death in 1958.  He devised that property to Nancy Lindsay, the daughter of his good friend Norah Lindsay.  It passed through the hands of a succession of owners, but in 1999 it was acquired by the Conservatoire du Littoral, with contributions from the town of Menton, the Conseil Général des Alpes-Maritimes, the Conseil Régional (Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur) and the foundation Electricité de France.

Perhaps there’s a trip to the Côte d’Azur in our future …

IMG_4259

We spent a little time exploring Chipping Campden and had lunch there, then drove on to see one of England’s wineries, Three Choirs Vineyards near Newent, Gloucestershire.  Given the northern climate and lacking the requisite number of growing degree days, most vinifera don’t grow very well, so the wines were made using a variety of hybrids, many unfamiliar to us — Madeline Angevine, Phoenix, Reichensteiner, Solaris, Rondo, Regent, Triomphe, Orion, Schonburger, Siegerrebe.  The trellising system was novel, with but two wires supporting the massive cordons.

With that it was back to the car an on to the city of Bath, a World Heritage site.  Bath is known for its Georgian architecture and the ancient Roman baths at its heart.

IMG_4247

IMG_4250

IMG_4252

IMG_4257

IMG_4261

IMG_4263

IMG_4267

IMG_4271

IMG_4274

IMG_4281

IMG_4283

IMG_4288

IMG_4293

IMG_4295

IMG_4298

IMG_4301

IMG_4303

IMG_4306

IMG_4310

IMG_4317

IMG_4332

IMG_4336

IMG_4343

IMG_4346

IMG_4359

IMG_4360