Recipe: Sally Lunn Buns

Sally Lunn Buns

On our last day in the city of Bath this past summer on the west coast of England we stopped at Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House for breakfast.  Bath is famous as the home of the Sally Lunn Bun, a mildly sweet and versatile bread that is served all manner of ways: slathered with clotted cream and jam at tea, or as the base of an egg dish.  We served them recently during a lavish brunch with Eggs Benedict.

Sally Lunn was actually a  Huguenot refugee named Solange Luyon who arrived in Bath in 1680 to escape persecution in France. She set up shop in a bakery on Lilliput Alley, and sold the baker’s loaves from a basket in the lanes around Bath Abbey.  The English butchered the pronunciation of her name and Solange became became known as Sally Lunn.

She brought with her to England a recipe for a rich brioche bun that quickly became a popular delicacy in Georgian England.  Soon customers came to the Lilliput Alley bakery specifically requesting the Sally Lunn bun.  Supposedly her original recipe was discovered in a secret compartment in the paneling of the Eating House (it being one of the oldest houses in Bath, the lowest floor level dates from 1137) , but variations of that recipe can be found just about anywhere.

Ingredients2014-08-02 08.45.29

  • 8 ounces whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast


Place in a microwave safe bowl or in a saucepan:

  • 8 ounces whole milk
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Heat the mixture until it is lukewarm, stirring to soften/melt the butter. Pour it into a mixing bowl, and let it cool until it’s below 120°F, about 15 minutes.

Add the following to the warm milk mixture:

  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon instant yeast

Beat the mixture at medium speed for about 3 minutes, until everything is well combined.

Add an additional 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, and beat for about 3 minutes, to make a soft, cohesive dough.  Please note: this is a very sticky, wet dough.  It is too sticky to knead, so has to be beaten to develop the gluten.

Cover the dough and allow it to rise for 45 to 60 minutes, or until almost doubled in bulk.

Lightly grease the cups of two standard muffin pans, or use ramekins or some other round, bakeable dish or loaf pan of the desired size to make up 24 cups, total

Divide the dough among the vessels so each is a bit more than half full.  Cover the pans, and let the rolls rise for 45 to 60 minutes, until they’re noticeably puffy.

Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.

Bake the rolls until they’re golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of one reads at least 190°F, about 15 minutes.  If you’re making a loaf as well as rolls, bake the loaf for about 30 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil after 15 minutes to prevent over-browning.

Remove the rolls from the oven.  Turn the rolls out of the pan onto a rack. Brush with melted butter, if desired.

Wrap completely cooled rolls airtight, and store at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Serve rolls with butter and jam, at breakfast or brunch; or as part of an afternoon “high tea.”

2014-07-02 11.07.10

2014-07-02 11.09.14

Renewing Our Gravel Roads.

Spreading Gravel

Visit any well-kept farm and the tranquility transports you — the quiet, the birds, the pristine air, the views of forests and fields.  But give some thought to the the maintenance and the infrastructure; here, like everywhere, its a battle against the elements: wind and rain take their toll, as does erosion and the passage of time.  There are other old roads that have fallen into disuse, and some have grassed over.  You can “feel” them as you traverse some of the fields.  But step from the car and underfoot is that satisfying crunch of gravel.  Did you ever give any thought to where that came from?

A little while ago we resurfaced some of the interior roads at Annefield, covering a little more than half a mile.  In our part of the world, the most commonly used is a 3/4 inch chipped blue stone known in the trade as “No. 57.”  It has a cool grey color, and came from BMC Rock, Inc., a quarry just up the road outside of Charlotte Court House.  Each load contains several tons, but the stone doesn’t go very far, so back they went for more.  A pair of trucks working in tandem brought us 144 tons, which took the better part of a morning.  Mercifully they are equipped to spread it for us, and did so quickly and efficiently.

Edsel Ford's SkylandsThe older stone beneath it has a pink stone mixed in, which brings to mind Martha Stewart’s summer house, Skylands on the coast of Maine.  The house was built in 1925 for Edsel Ford by Duncan Chandler, and the 61-acre property was landscaped by Jens Jensen.  The property was sold by the Fords to another family in 1970, and Martha Stewart purchased it in 1997.

The house is constructed of pink granite, and the road to the house is covered with a pink granite gravel.  Preparing that house for a bitter New England winter includes taking in anything made of terra cotta, sculptures that are difficult to move get protective housing, windows are covered, some shrubs are wrapped in burlap, and the infamous pink granite gravel is scooped up, washed and stored, to be spread again in the spring.  It sounds so extravagant, but this operation is something the builder started and Martha merely continues the tradition.  There’s asphalt underneath, so this operation isn’t as difficult as it sounds, though unfortunately, it does reek of Gilded Age excess.  See great pictorials of the place here and here.

Ms Stewart has staff to do the scooping, but the mind’s eye longs for a photograph of her working the tractor, or at least showing the staff how its done.

In our case, traffic causes the gravel to sink into the earth, which calls for its renewal every few years.  It’s an earth friendly surface, given that it allows water to percolate through, and there’s nothing like the feel and sound of of it.

Two Recipes: Chicken Faux Gras & Cranberry Martinis for Friendsgiving, 2014.


BorschtOur absolute hands-down favorite event of the year is our annual Friendsgiving Feast that we celebrate with a small group friends each year.  We volunteered to host, with the intention of keeping it simple, but it never works out that way.  We’re careful to select dishes that are relatively easy to prepare but with an impressive presentation, but its the incidentals that prove time consuming: planning the menu, selecting the china, polishing silver (if necessary), setting the table, and cleaning up.  Fortunately everyone pitches in to make short work at the end, so in the morning its just a matter of putting everything away.  Still, it takes hours.

With our starters we served delicious Cranberry Martinis.  The recipe is from that master of entertaining, Ina Garten, and appears in her latest cookbook, Make It Ahead (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2014).  Start with a simple syrup with water and sugar, add a bag of cranberries and orange peel, bring to a boil, allow to cook, then add vodka and allow to steep in the refrigerator.  Ina recommends 3 to 5 days, but since we were in California last week we made it two weeks ago.  When ready to serve, stir in Triple Sec and cranberry juice cocktail.  When ready to serve, pour over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake about 30 seconds, then pour into martini glasses (though truthfully after a while everyone gave up on the shaking).  You’ll find the recipe below.

Everyone brought something.  Our friends from Hunting Creek Vineyards brought appetizers — Oysters Bienville and Oysters Rockefeller, and another friend brought Asparagus Prosciutto Breadsticks.  We made a Chicken Faux Gras (also below), an extremely simple recipe from that brilliant chef Michel Richard, and served it with toasted sliced Pain de Mie de Monaco we made the day before.  Its essentially half butter, half puréed chicken livers, and makes a very satisfying spread on crusty or toasted bread.

When we finally took our seats for dinner, we started with a vegetable soup that contained every fall vegetable you can imagine: carrots, turnips, parsnips, cabbage, beets . . . and simmered a full ten hours the day before.  The only labor there was chopping the vegetables, occasionally stirring, then running it through the blender to liquify.  The day of the dinner it was just a question of re-heating.

The turkey was ultra-show roasted.  Its first subjected to a dry rub, allowed to air cure in the refrigerator overnight; when ready to roast, turn the heat up to 450°F for one hour, then turn the heat down to 175°F and roast for about 12 hours, or longer (we had to go 15 hours because it was 26 pound bird).  According to Andrew Schoss, author of Cooking Slow (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2013), by roasting this way you can’t overcook it because it never gets above the desired temperature.  It produces a very succulent, flavorful bird.  To accompany, of course, we had that family staple, Creole Oyster Stuffing.

Friendsgiving 2014.


Oysters Bienville
Oysters Rockefeller
Asparagus and Prosciutto Breadsicks
Chicken Liver Paté with Pain de Mie de Monaco

Cranberry Martinis

First Course

Fall Vegetable Soup

Incanto Prosecco NV


Roasted Turkey with Gravy
Smoked Ham Shank
Steamed Jasmine Rice
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Tossed Green Salad
Oyster Stuffing
Corn Pudding
Cranberry Chutney
French Bread

Rio Madre Rioja Graciano 2013
Le Renard Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2010
Marqués de Morales Tempranillo 2010


Pecan Chocolate Tart with Vanilla Whipped Cream
Baltimore Bomb (from Dangerously Delicious Pies of Baltimore, Maryland)
Persimmon Ice Cream

Sandeman Rainwater Madiera NV
Offley LBV Porto 2007

Chicken Faux Gras

Chicken Faux Gras

From Michel Richard’s, Happy in the Kitchen (New York: Artisan, 2006).


  • 16 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 pound chicken livers, rinsed and any dark spots or veins removed
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Parsley Gelée

  • 1/2 English cucumber (about 10 ounces)
  • 1 teaspoon gelatin
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Pinch of fine sea salt
  • 2 drops Tabasco sauce
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons minced parsley


  1. In a small saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat.  Add the onions and stir to coat with the butter.  Cover the pan and cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions are translucent.
  2. Mince the garlic and add it.  Add the cream and bring to a simmer.  Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook gently for about 6 minutes until the onions are very soft.
  3. Remove from heat and stir in the remaining butter.  Return to the heat and stir until the butter has melted and the mixture is combined.  Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
  4. Place the raw livers in a blender and add the onion mixture, salt, and pepper.  Blend until liquified, scraping down the sides of the blender as necessary.
  5. Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Bring a pot of water to a boil.
  6. Strain the mixture into a bowl, then divide between the four ovenproof bowls, each with a 1-cup capacity.  Cover each with aluminum foil and place in a deep baking dish so the sides aren’t touching.  Pour boiling water into the baking dish so it comes halfway up the sides of the bowls.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate for a few hours to chill.

Prepare the gelée:

  1. Place the cucumber in a food processor and process until liquified.  Strain the cucumber water though a fine strainer into a measuring cup; you should have 1/2 cup of cucumber water.
  2. In a small microwave-safe bowl, combine the gelatin and 1/4 cup of the cucumber water.  Add the lemon juice, sugar, salt and Tabasco to the remaining cucumber water.
  3. Place the small bowl in the microwave and heat just to melt the gelatin, about 30 seconds.  Do not allow to boil.  Combine this with the seasoned cucumber water, and stir.  Add 2 tablespoons of parsley, and add more a little at a time so the mixture is dense with parsley but the green of the cucumber water is still visible.
  4. Remove the faux gras from the refrigerator and divide the gelée between the four bowls.  Refrigerate until the gelée is set, about one hour.  The completed mousse can be refrigerated up to 3 days before serving.
  5. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.  Serve with crusty bread or toast.

Serves 12 as an appetizer.

Cranberry Martinis

Cranberry Martinis

These were such a big hit we had to share this recipe with you.  Adapted from Ina Garten’s Make It Ahead (New York: Clarkson Potter, 2014).  Prepare this a week before your party for a stress-free start of the evening.  The boozy marinated cranberries are a real treat.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries (1 bag)
  • 6 (1 x 3 inch) strips of orange zest
  • 1 750 mL bottle of vodka
  • 1 cup cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • Ice


  1. Place the sugar, cranberries, orange zest and one cup of water in a small saucepan.   Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 5 minutes until the berries start to pop.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Pour the vodka into a large pitcher, add the cranberry mixture, and store covered in the refrigerator for at least two days but up to 7 days (or more).
  3. When ready to serve, strain the vodka mixture, reserving the cranberries and discarding the orange zest.  Stir in the cranberry juice cocktail and Triple Sec.  Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, add the drink mixture, and shake for 30 seconds.  Strain into martini glasses.
  4. Spoon a few cranberries into each glass, and serve ice cold.  If you like, rub the rim of each glass with fresh orange zest — but you can omit this and no one will be the wiser.




A Whirlwind Trip to Los Angeles.


Metropolis II (2011) by Chris Burden, in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Metropolis II (2011) by Chris Burden, in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

We just completed a whirl-wind trip to the city of Los Angeles this past weekend to visit family and friends before the holidays.  Leaving on a Friday, returning on Friday — not much time, with most of it spent in the air, but there wasn’t much on our agenda, so it made sense to do it.  There were on delays due to mechanics or weather or some other cataclysm.  When you don’t plan much, you aren’t disappointed if all of your plans aren’t realized.

IMG_4923_2As the pilot on the second leg cheerfully welcomed us to the “City of the Angels,” which is pleasant enough, but not entirely correct.  Those inclined to be historically correct have been told that the original name of the place settled in 1781 was El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora La Reina de Los Angeles de Porciuncula (“The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the Porciuncula” [Prociuncula was the name of river on which it was founded, now known as the Los Angeles River]).  Documents written by Governor Felipe de Neve, Commandant General de la Croix and Viceroy Bucareli reveal that the settlement was simply named El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles (“The Town of the Queen of the Angels.”)  To others today, of course, it is simply “L.A..”

We found a place to stay close to everything we wanted to visit in the utterly charming town of Culver City, the Culver Hotel, which dates from 1924.  It has old Hollywood connections in spades, having once been owned by Charlie Chaplin, who according to legend lost it to John Wayne in a poker game.  The old Selznick International Studios are across the street; you would recognize its iconic white-columned building from the opening credits of Gone With The Wind (1939), which was filmed there (now the Culver Studios).  The hotel is where all 124 actors who played the Munchkins in The Wizard of Oz (1939) stayed during filming, getting into all sorts of mischief.  Many other notable movies were filmed there, like Alfred Hitchcock’s Rebecca (1940) and the Janet Gaynor and Frederic March version of A Star Is Born (1937).  As an homage to The Wizard of Oz you’ll find red sequinned throw pillows on purple couches near the elevator.

A giant rubber tree in the courtyard of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica, California.

A giant rubber tree in the courtyard of the Fairmont Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica, California.

We arrived at lunch time, and made our way to Santa Monica for lunch at FIG Restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.  A funny thing about Los Angeles — people seem to gather at restaurants to transact all sorts of business, which doesn’t quite seem so evident in Washington (or maybe we need to get out more).  A couple of tables away were three people in suits with one casually dressed gentleman; were they Hollywood types?  One took notes, and it became evident this was a man and his divorce attorneys making notes of the man’s soon to be ex-wife’s property settlement demands, as he understood them.  Everything at FIG is local, though we opted for a Portuguese wine from Duoro – Quinta Do Crasto, “Reserva”, 2010, with burgers and fries.

Tt was  a short drive to Culver City to check in and relax a bit before dinner.  The commerical strip in Culver City is quite lively with a broad array of places to choose from.  We learned of it on previous visit, when we dined at Bistro in Paris there.  So we headed out, had a drink at our hotel, then another restaurant down the block, then settled in for pizzas alfresco at Wildcraft, an Italian tavern right next to Bistro in Paris.   On the menu — Virginia osyters!  The buttery Bayside kind (though we love the salty Chincoteague), so we had to have this bit of home, followed by a grilled romaine salad and a pizza they called “Carnage.”

Penetrable (1990) by Jesus Rafael Soto, in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Penetrable (1990) by Jesus Rafael Soto, in the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Saturday morning was family time, so we went to the original Du-par’s at Farmer’s Market.  The chain dates from 1938, which these days qualifies it as a bit of “old” Los Angeles.  After a leisurely breakfast, we took a short stroll around the market and spent the rest of the morning at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), which has evolved into a tired assemblage of buildings that are frankly a bit depressing.  The museum needs space and light to properly show off its collections; there are plans for a new building, which we understand isn’t that well thought out and is more of a vanity piece of work than one appropriate for the site, which will cost something like $300 million and not increase the available space for exhibitions.  When originally built it was a 3-building assemblage, much in style at the time, but new buildings were inserted around them, so the original vision his hopelessly obliterated. The interior of the main building once was a series of balconies over a central light well; all of the balconies have been filled in to create additional wall space, but what was once a light filled, lively space (with people moving through it on all levels, creating a tapestry of movement and noise) is now an oppressive beige cube with this massive spider-like sculpture hulking at the bottom.  What were they thinking?

A new building down the block features modern works, but even that is lacking — you walk in and haven’t a clue which direction to go; there are no visual clues to guide you.  And no map is provided.  Frustrating.

Before visiting the museum, we had a few minutes and walked over to look at an even older bit of Los Angeles, the LaBrea Tar Pits to watch the fetid methane bubble up from a lake formed in an old quarry, with campy statues of ice age mammals on the shoreline.

IMG_4953With a hankering for Mexican food, we made it to another old Los Angeles institution, El Coyote, a restaurant dating from 1931 that is infamous as the place where Sharon Tate, Abigail Folger, Jay Sebring and Wojciech Frykowski had their last meal before being slaughtered by the Manson Family in 1969.This is a place for margaritas and burritos — both fantastic.

We stopped to see an old friend after lunch, but had to make our way to Santa Monica again to join friends to watch the crosstown rival football game between the University of Southern California and UCLA (UCLA won, 38 to 20) at a restaurant called Ma’kai Restaurant and Lounge, right on Ocean Boulevard overlooking the Pacific Palisades and the Camera Obscura.  We started with assorted sushi rolls as an appetizer, and the pan asian menu called for fish, with a lovely 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Bell Wine Cellars in Napa.

With a noonish departure, we had plenty of time for breakfast, so we stopped at that epitomy of “Googie-style” architecture, Pann’s Restaurant on La Tijera in West Los Angeles.  We’ve passed it many times over the years and this is our first visit.  The website doesn’t do justice to the 1950s, space age style of the place.

Each day was so comfortable, with temperatures barely reaching the mid-70s, and barely a whiff of smog.  These are the days that make Los Angeles so seductive when it isn’t fire season or mudslide season, or after a major earthquake or riot or whatever.



A Little Bird Told Me: A Cautionary Tale.

twitter-logoA recent brew-ha-ha erupted in California when the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control dropped a hammer on a number of California wineries that inadvertently violated the “tied house” rules by re-tweeting a seemingly harmless notice published by the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau advising their followers of a wine tasting event that was sponsored by a wine retailer.

The offending tweet?  Behold, the horror —

Two days till @SaveMart Grape Escape in Downtown #Sacramento! Get tickets and info here:

The problem is that the tweet violates the rule that alcohol producers are prohibited from promoting specific retailers to the detriment of others.  Eight wineries were investigated for social media activity that mentioned the retailer SaveMart, and were compelled to turn over to ABC all social media postings and emails related to the event. ABC threatened to suspend their licenses for 10 days (during which time they would be unable to sell anything), or admit the offense and be placed on probation; all eight chose the latter penalty.

Read all about it in The Sacramento Bee (“Tweets cause trouble for Sacramento-area wineries, breweries,” by Chris Macias (8 November 2014)).

Tied-house laws go back a very long time. In England a “tied-house” is a “public house” (pub) owned by a brewery or distillery that, naturally, promotes its own product.  They are shamelessly all over London. Tied-houses were legal in the States until that grand experiment known as Prohibition, but with its repeal and the creation of the three-tiered system of manufacturer-wholesaler-retailer, where common ownership in two of the three is prohibited, out went the tied-house.  The thinking was that the tied-house encouraged the over-consumption of alcohol, because a common practice was to offer a “free lunch” while the consumer paid for drinks. The public policy rationale is to prevent vertical integration and dominance by a single producer in the marketplace.

The rules seem to have outlived their usefulness, and each state has a confusing array of exceptions. For example, in California if a person who owns a winery has an economic interest in several restaurants, they can sell their wine in a maximum of two restaurants, and the winery cannot supply more than 15 percent of the alcoholic beverages there. And if the winery sells more than 125,000 gallons per year in California, they must supply the wine to the restaurant through a wholesaler.

Tied-House Laws in Virginia

Virginia’s Administrative Code specifies what is allowed in the context of tied-house rules, but its the Code of Federal Regulations that singles out the provision of “things of value” in the context of the tied-house:

[It shall be unlawful …] To induce through any of the following means … by furnishing, giving, renting, lending, or selling to the retailer, any equipment, fixtures, signs, supplies, money, services, or other thing of value . . . .  27 United States Code, Chapter 8, Subchapter I, Section 205

Virginia’s tied house laws aren’t nearly as Draconian as California’s, but in the last year Virginia had its own tied-house controversy, when the Virginia ABC put a stop to distributor-hosted wine tastings and dinners.  As reported by Rebecca Cooper in The Washington Business Journal, “Virginia restaurants get reprieve on wine dinner crackdown” (10 April 2014):

The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started  cracking down on the dinners in 2013, using the logic that the ABC law prohibited wine wholesalers and distributors from providing anything of value to retailers that sell alcohol — in the case of wine dinners, that thing of value was information about the wine they were drinking.

Restaurants subsequently cancelled wine dinners they had planned to put on with wholesalers, who often sell a significant amount of wine to customers at those dinners.

But a bill signed into law by Gov. Terry McAuliffe on March 31 [2014] specifies that wholesalers providing information to customers of retail establishments is not prohibited.

“Nothing in this title or any Board regulation adopted pursuant thereto shall prohibit … Any winery, farm winery, wine importer, or wine wholesaler licensee from providing to adult customers of licensed retail establishments information about wine being consumed on such premises,” the bill,  S.B. 337, reads.

One section of the Virginia Administrative Code strangely singles out employees.  If, for example, a person working as a secretary at a distributor cannot take a job moonlighting as a bartender, because it would violate the sanctity of the three-tiered system and is therefore illegal (Virginia Administrative Code 3 VAC5-30-20).  The Virginia ABC used that as an example of a prohibited practice in a notice to licensees in 2012).  There is, fortunately, an exception for banquet licensees, farm wineries and off-premises winery licensees.


It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.

– Gore Vidal (1925-2012)

Going back to the story from Sacramento, something particularly pernicious needs examination, because what is galling to this wine producer is how this tweet came to the attention of the California ABC.  The story reports that a multibillion dollar wine company has a legal department dedicated to ferreting out transgressions and reporting them to the understaffed ABC:

[Joe] Genshlea [a co-owner of Revolution Wines, one of those penalized] said he spoke with an ABC agent who said the department was getting swamped with tied-house accusations. The uptick in complaints, Genshlea was told, was a concerted effort by a certain large-scale producer.

“He wouldn’t say the name of the company, but they have a huge team of legal assistants, and they scour the Web looking for people to violate,” Genshlea said. “He said it was a multibillion-dollar producer … one of the big ones.”

ABC declined a request by The Bee to name the producer(s) logging the tied-house complaints.

This seems so mean-spirited.  Revolution Wines produces less than 10,000 cases per year, which is small by California standards, but pretty substantial in Virginia.  As Genshlea stated in The Bee, “I always thought we flew under the radar of the big guys,” Genshlea said. “That’s not my assumption anymore. In this cutthroat world of wine, we’ll be more careful.”

Alcoholic Beverage Advertising Restrictions

One wonders if this multibillion dollar producer might take aim at Virginia producers as the Virginia wine industry gains national attention.  How does the ABC Administrative Code address advertising?  Section 3VAC5-20-10 states that
All alcoholic beverage advertising is permitted in this Commonwealth except that which is prohibited or otherwise limited or restricted by regulation of the board.  Any editorial or other reading matter in any periodical, publication or newspaper for the publication of which no money or other valuable consideration is paid or promised, directly or indirectly, by or for the benefits of any permittee or licensee does not constitute advertising.
Electronic advertising is addressed in a separate section (3VAC5-20-40(B)), which states that alcoholic beverage advertising in the print or electronic media is permitted, then lists the requirement that the address of the advertiser be included and lists prohibitions of advertising in college student publications.
“‘Electronic media’ means any system involving the transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data, or intelligence of any nature transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, television, electromagnetic, photoelectronic, or photo-optical system, including but not limited to, radio, television, electronic mail, and the Internet.”

And blogging?  While we see it as a tool promoting “brand awareness;” the goal is the same as advertising, but there is definitely no compensation.  If blogging is accepted by ABC to be alcoholic beverage advertising, in the eyes of this observer, this blog is safe.

But — are tweets, Facebook posts and other electronic transmissions protected?  Just like California, Virginia ABC could decide that a tweet by a winery or wholesaler that inadvertently promotes a retailer violates the tied-house rule.  Advertising is expensive, so if tweets and posts are deemed to be “free advertising” that benefits a retailer, then ABC has something to hang its hat on and pursue the producer.  If complaints start rolling in, it could happen.

We might add that alcoholic beverage advertising in connection with the sponsorship of public events is allowed, but limited to sponsorship of conservation and environmental programs, athletic and sporting events (but not college or younger), and events of a charitable or cultural nature.  Cooperative advertising is prohibited, and awards or contributions of alcoholic beverages to the event are prohibited.  Further, the charitable organization must be tax-exempt.  See 3VAC5-20-100.  But promoting a retailer?  It is not allowed in the Code.

So Virginia wineries that use Twitter (or any other social media platform) — beware!  We all need to be more vigilant about this strange intersection of social awareness as promotion, and actual advertising.  Sometimes they are one and the same (in the cold gimlet, jaundiced eye of the law).  So wineries — please be mindful of the tied-house rules and don’t risk your license and your livelihood.  See the rules here and the penalties here.

Success in Social Media Advertising

But there just might be an alternative approach to using social media advertising — it needs to be more than that in order to connect.  James Crespo, the senior brand manager for Lipton North America, noted in a speech last October at eBev 2014, a conference on digital, mobile and social media marketing, shared some thoughts on brand engagement in social media (“Instagram trumps Facebook for brand engagement,” (31 October 2014).

Millennials measure wealth not by possessions but by experiences.  They enrich their lives by accumulating experiences from their travels, hobbies, volunteering, relationships … and the stories of those experiences become the new social currency for a target that’s “always on.”

That’s why, for millennials, sharing visual artifacts of their experiences is core to the relationships, building their identity.  The digital world provides a unique environment to facilitate that sharing with unparalleled access and reach.  Brands that are able to integrate seamlessly into millennials’ desires to share and communicate are the most successful.

 Success in social media marketing means having a point of view that resonates with people, engages them, and compels them to share.  We are re-thinking our approach to social media advertising in this ever changing landscape.

Come Enjoy A Taste of SoVA.

IMG_4890Over the last two weekends the Southern Virginia Wine Trail Association presented Taste of SoVA, a food and wine pairing adventure.  Guests obtained a passport that lists all of the member wineries, and on visits to each received specially prepared food from local restaurants to accompany their wines.  The trail has a large footprint, so it made sense to divide it roughly in half, so November 1 featured the trail’s west end, November 8 covered the entire trail, and this coming Saturday, November 15 will showcase the east end.  Passports for this weekend are available at a cost of $15, and can be purchased at the member wineries.  You can see a list on the new SoVA Wine Trail Guide, now available to download to iPhone and Android phones.

We teamed up with Charley’s Waterfront Café in Farmville.  We have a special regard for Charley’s; they were our first wholesale account and remain a great customer.  One of the owners, Tommy Graziano, spent the day with us preparing the food.  We served a Low Country-style fried oyster with crab roe, apple-cider cole slaw with chopped green onions and sea salt on a Ritz cracker.  The chef insisted on the Ritz cracker — that’s what makes it “Low Country.”  If you’re unfamiliar with the term, for Foodies it describes the rich culinary traditions of coastal South Carolina and Georgia — picture Charleston, Savannah, Edisto Island — refined, languorous and oh so Southern.  The oyster was perfect with our 2013 Viognier.

The second bite was a scrumptious sweet called Chocolate Royale, a chocolate ganache with almond succes, gianduja feuilletine on a crunchy bed of almonds and hazelnuts.  That was paired with our 2012 Merlot and 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Many thanks to Tommy for the food and the stories!  He always keeps us in stitches sharing his adventures.  And many thanks to Pamela Toombs, our who graciously and tirelessly tends to the tasting room.  But it’s your turn to create your own– come to Southside and see us!

Start the day early with Rosemont of Virginia (they open at 11 am), then stop in the lakeside town of Clarksville for lunch at either The Lake House or The Lamplighter.  From Clarksville, make your way north on Route 15 to see us.  From Annefield, head west to Hunting Creek Vineyards, followed by Bright Meadows Farm, make your way to Sans Soucy Vineyards, and finish up at DeVault Family Vineyards.  Here’s our suggested itinerary.  But if you’re traveling from the north and starting near Lynchburg, just reverse the route, start with DeVault, and plan on lunch as your next stop at The Drug Store Grill in Brookneal.  Done!

A Bit of Blarney in Dublin.


The Temple Bar, Dublin.

It’s a bit late, but here’s the last post on our European idyll this summer.  We kept getting distracted by more pressing matters.

After a couple of perilous wrong turns in Bristol, England, we made it to the Bristol Airport for a quick hop over to to Dublin for the last few days on the Emerald Isle.  Our hotel on Harcourt Street was a great location, close to everything, but it was also in the heart of the busiest nightclub district in Dublin, which mean’t lots of activity into the wee hours of the night — lots of shouting, car horns, music.  Patrons being booted out of the clubs at 5 am, that sort of thing.

Dublin has a gritty charm, like many northern cities.  Think Baltimore or Providence or Philadelphia, and you get the vibe.  Interesting sights include the Guinness Storehouse, a multi-media extravaganza that shows how Guinness beer is brewed, and with a roof-top bar with phenomenal views.  The National Gallery is undergoing restoration, but a selection of masterpieces can be seen, including works by Vermeer and  Caravaggio.  The Archaelogical Museum had breathtaking displays of Celtic art, jewelry and antiquities, and a sobering display of perfectly preserved prehistoric bog bodies.  The peat bogs are a wonder, anything that gets buried in them does not decay.  There were exhibits of medieval and Renaissance clothing recovered from bogs that looked like it was made yesterday.

Don’t forget the famous Book of Kells in the Old Library at Trinity College.  The Long Room of the Old Library is what one wants in such a place, with ancient tomes running floor to ceiling and marble busts of great luminaries at the end of each shelf.  The lavishly decorated Book of Kells is unlike any other, dating from the 9th century.  Visiting it is a bit of a disappointment, for school group after school group crowds around, and fail to understand the importance or attraction.  The students barely glance at it.

We spent a day exploring the villages south of Dublin.  One called Sandycove included a James Joyce Museum in what is known as a Martello tower.  The towers date from 1804 and were built as a defense against our dear friend Napoleon Bonaparte.  The tower was occupied by the army until 1897, and in 1904 Oliver St. John Gogarty became the tower’s first civilian tenant.  During his occupation, the tower hosted a visit by James Joyce, who stayed but a few days (and was unceremoniously asked to leave).  As the tower’s brochure puts it,

On the sixth night of Joyce’s stay, Trench (Samuel Chenevix Trench, a friend of Gogarty’s) had a nightmare about a black panther.  With a scream he reached for his gun, fired a few shots into the fireplace and fell asleep again.  Gogarty then took the gun, called out “Leave him to me!” and shot down the saucepans from their shelf over Joyce’s bed.  Joyce took the hint and left the tower immediately, never to return.  A month later he eloped to Europe with Nora Barnacle, to begin a life of self-imposed exile.

While resident for just six days, this incident was the model for the opening sense of Joyce’s Ulysses.  The museum exhibits include first editions of most of Joyce’s works, manuscripts, personal possessions, and death masks of the great writer.

Apart from the touring destinations, two establishments stand out: one night in search of place to have drinks we chanced upon a new restaurant called Pedal Pushing Monkey on Pembroke Street in search of a drink.  Behind the bar were two mixologists; the place had just gotten their liquor license and they were working on selections for the bar menu, so we let them experiment on us.  Everyone was charming and accommodating and delightful, and the drinks superb.  We ended up staying for dinner.  Its right upstairs from Dax, a French restaurant that in 2014 was named the best restaurant in Dublin — the accolades must rub off.

On our last night we had reservations at a restaurant equally close to the hotel but in the other direction, Camden Kitchen, which serves cutting edge comfort food in an intimate two-story space.  Loved it.

Pedal Pushing Monkey, 23 Pembroke Street Upper, Dublin, Ireland +353 1 661 8636

Camden Kitchen, 3A, Camden Market, Grantham St, Dublin 8, Ireland +353 1 476 0125














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