Double, Double Toil and Trouble: Behold, New Hours — and A Special Food & Wine Event!

Witches Going to Their Sabbath (1878) by Luis Recardo Falero, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Witches Going to Their Sabbath (1878) by Luis Ricardo Falero, courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder’s fork and blind-worm’s sting,
Lizard’s leg and owlet’s wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

 William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1

This Friday begins that trifecta of macabre commemoration: Halloween, All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day.

First up is the most secular (and ancient) of the three, Halloween, which has devolved into a festival of sugar-coated gluttony for children.  It has roots in Celtic pagan rituals, particularly one called Samhain, which was a celebration of the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.  It’s also a time of year when spirits could more easily cross into this world and visit their old homes, so offerings would have to be made to them to ensure the survival of livestock through the winter.  Offerings of food and drink were made to them.  Pranks were played, in imitation of impish demons.  Costumes in the guise of repugnant, frightening beings came much later, in the late 19th century and continue today with appearances by witches, vampires, ghosts, skeletons, devils, zombies and the like — perhaps the guys sporting the ultra-tacky Ray Rice costumes are onto something.  We’re dealing with a tradition that’s been going strong for a couple of thousand years.

Next up is All Saint’s Day on November 1.  In the Catholic tradition we commemorate the saints and martyrs.  This is followed by All Soul’s Day, which is the day set aside to pray and remembrance of the departed who don’t happen to be saints.  Or martyrs.  The difference is All Saint’s is for those who have been “beatified,” while All Souls is for those who have not — that is, those who have not been purified and reached Heaven.  In a nutshell, everybody else.   This tradition is of more recent vintage, dating from 835 AD.

There are varying traditions worldwide commemorating the end of the harvest, all rooted in an ancient appreciation for the celebrating the harvest, the passing of the seasons and preparing for the dark days ahead as we look forward to another spring.  Not surprisingly, most of these traditions involve food.  In parts of the South, All Soul’s Day is the day to visit cemeteries, clean tombstones and, of course, leave flowers.  Usually this includes a picnic, as if you are joining the dead for a meal.  Many ancient European traditions included feasts that provide for leaving place settings for the departed.

Whether you observe these feast days as a Christian or a pagan, to us it means the end of our regular open hours.  With the close of Virginia Wine Month, we switch to our abbreviated winter hours. From November through the end of March, we are open on Friday and Saturday, 11 am to 5 pm — just like our closest winery neighbor, Hunting Creek Vineyards, and the other wineries down the road you can visit during an easy day trip this winter, Bright Meadows Farm and Sans Soucy Vineyards (assuming you’re heading west).  If your travels take you to the east, visit our newest winery neighbor American Way Country Wines on the way to Rosemont of Virginia, or if heading southwest, Greenwood Vineyards on the other side of Halifax, or if you’re going due south, visit Three Sisters of Shiney Rock Winery near Clarksville.

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Speaking of boiling and baking — here’s an event you don’t want to miss …

Taste of SoVA

Dust off the cauldron and bring on the hell-broth!  The Southern Virginia Wine Trail Association presents Taste of SoVA on three weekends in November (November 1, 8 and 15).  For just $35 guests receive a Food & Wine Pairing Passport.  Each SoVA winery has paired with a local restaurant to present specially prepared bites to accompany your wine tasting (we will feature Charley’s Waterfront Café & Wine Bar from Farmville).  Passports are NOW ON SALE! You have three weekends to visit all 12 SoVA wineries for food & wine sampling, wine tours, and fun! Save $5 if you purchase your passport online by Thursday, October 30.  Use SoVA Fan Promo Code: Fest3.  See the SoVA Wine Trail website for details.

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About the artist: Luis Ricardo Falero was a Spanish-born painter (1851-1896) who lived most of his life in London.  His work concentrated on the nude, shown in a highly-finished manner in a mythological or fairy tale setting. At his best, Falero shows a super-realist talent for depicting the female form, but his subjects are a bit coy, with an emphasis on sexiness — well executed pin-ups rather than high art.   ¶ He was born in Granada, but studied in Paris and lived in London after rejecting his parents’ choice of a nautical career for him. In Paris he worked as a portraitist and in pencil, and learned the art of watercolor. He settled in London in the 1880s, and died there in 1896.  Witches Going to Their Sabbath resides in a private collection.

A Reception & Lunch at Trump Winery.

Glasses

Monday afternoon was a reminder of why we love this business.  We were invited to participate in a reception and lunch with and in honor of the Virginia Wine Summit conference panelists at the Trump Winery outside of Charlottesville.

It was an apt choice of venue.  The lunch was held at the top of the Trump property in what was built as the Kluge (now Trump) Carriage Museum.  The massive building is still called that, and renovation of the building is nearly complete for its use for barrel storage and events.  To be fair, it crowns the summit perfectly, and its all done up in perfect taste.  To reach it one traverses a long, winding drive through acres and acres of vineyards, past the chapel, and further up the hill to nearly the highest point on the property, with a  panoramic view of the 1,300 acre estate below, with cattle grazing in the distance.

The reception with passed starters lasted 45 minutes, followed by lunch on the terrace. The menu was by Tucker Yoder, Executive Chef of The Clifton Inn, our favorite in Virginia, where they manage a seamless combination of elegance, sophistication and ease.    The Trump staff made everyone feel perfectly at home on this flawless fall afternoon.  Well done.

Menu

First Course

Fall squash salad with sprouted quinoa, herb tofu dressing, toasted squash seeds and pecan nougatine

Trump Chardonnay 2013

Second Course

Braised duck leg with swiss chard, smoked bets, blackberries and farro

Trump New World Reserve 2012

Third Course

Grilled apples with maple Panna Cotta, cinnamon brioche croutons and basil

Trump Blanc de Blanc 2008

 Pouring

Tucker Yoder

First Course

Wine

Crowd

Panna Cotta

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The Year Without a Summer.

Darkness

I had a dream, which was not all a dream.
The bright sun was extinguish’d, and the stars
Did wander darkling in the eternal space,
Rayless, and pathless, and the icy earth
Swung blind and blackening in the moonless air;
Morn came and went—and came, and brought no day,
And men forgot their passions in the dread
Of this their desolation; and all hearts
Were chill’d into a selfish prayer for light…

Darkness, by George Gordon (Lord Byron)

The phrase, “the year without a summer” has been reserved for the year 1816, when the eruption of Mount Tambora resulted in unprecedented (on a human timescale, anyway) global cooling. Mount Tambora on the island of Sumbawa in the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia) erupted with such force on 5 April 1815, it spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that it affected climate worldwide; global temperatures fell three degrees Celsius, and there were massive crop losses throughout North America and Europe, causing food shortages and starvation.  The following year the effects became apparent.

That gloomy summer of 1816 had other effects. That particular summer Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Lord Byron were on vacation at Lake Geneva, and the constant rain and gloomy skies inspired them — Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and Lord Byron wrote his poem Darkness, which perfectly captured the angst and unhappiness caused by the relentless gloom.  It’s worth noting that one other influential literary work arose from this jointure: the composing of the short story The Vampyre (1819), by John William Polidori, who accompanied Lord Byron on this trip as his personal physician.  This was the first vampire tale which spawned that Romantic genre.

The eruption was in 1815, but in 1816 and the two following years the hardship was immense, with widespread food shortages and mass migrations.  Comparing that global catastrophe to this past summer in Southern Virginia may be a bit extreme, but its been devastating (to us) nonetheless.

Because its been so cool and wet, our red grapes refuse to ripen.  While there is really no such thing as a “typical” year, in yeas past we would have picked our red fruit around mid-September (a couple of weeks earlier than the rest of the Commonwealth), and it would be pushing 22 or 23 Brix.  Yet as of this writing, the fruit is still hanging in the vineyard, and we contemplate the possibility of making an Ice wine.  We took samples this morning after two days of rain, and the results are not encouraging.

For the uninitiated, what is Brix?  It is a measure of the specific gravity of sugar in a solution.  For red grapes, we aim for 23 Brix or higher but can manage (like the Europeans) with something lower.  Our Cabernet Franc has been dancing around 17 Brix, while the Cabernet Sauvignon around 19 Brix.  There are other things we measure — the pH and the total acidity, but we won’t bore you with those details.  When we get to the most basic and subjective of measures to evaluate the juice — taste — we find that is is diluted and lifeless.

It really is astounding, but it’s the hand we’ve been dealt by Mother Nature this year.  The Pinot Gris, Vermentino, and Vidal Blanc are in, but we may have to abandon the rest of the fruit this year, which is a great disappointment.  There is consolation in the fact that we have so much wine from the stellar 2013 vintage we have plenty to carry us forward.  We’re giving it a couple more weeks, but the growing season is essentially over.  And with a particularly violent storm bearing down on us this morning, all we can say is, “Well played, Mother Nature, well played.”

Cabernet Franc

Scenes from Our Harvest Party: Carnaval in Havana.

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Where to begin? Once again the party was a great success, thanks to the efforts of Cameron Anctil our tireless event planner and coordinator who somehow finds time to be the director of the Southern Virginia Wine Trail and run her own professional photography and design business, Studio Luxe Photography & Design.  Whew.

She pulled together an interesting assortment of vendors to make this party memorably evoke the Carribbean on this flawless, brisk day.  We had a gentleman from Bull City Cigar Company  of Durham, North Carolina rolling cigars for guests.  The Key West Band provided an unobtrusive background.  Floral arrangements were executed by Pamela Toombs, who runs our tasting room (and she is also a professional floral designer).

We had a pair of amazing cakes by Shannon Moon of Dessert Tres Leches.  They were cigar boxes made of sugar!  Every bit of it, including trompe l’oeil including cigars, ashtrays and lighters was edible.  That last bit doesn’t sound very appetizing, but we had the lighter, which was a delicious marshmallow fondant.  The food from Boka Taco Truck of Richmond was just delicious.  In the middle of the afternoon we were treated to a salsa dancing demonstration by Salsa4Life Richmond.

And everyone had to have the 2013 Annefield Vineyards Viognier, which was profiled in The Richmond-Times Dispatch this week after winning Best in Show at the State Fair of Virginia Wine Competition.

What made it most memorable, of course, were the guests.  Our wine club members are a loyal group, and are not just fans, but friends.  One and all, thank you.

To see additional photographs, please visit our Facebook page.

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Salsa

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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?

 

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