Sunday, July 24, 2011

Travels and tastes of Virginia

It is no secret that I love food, but more than food I love wine and travel.  And when you can put them all together into one experience, this makes my perfect holiday.  Last summer, before this blog was born, we went away to our first wine tasting weekend up to the New York Finger lakes region.  The trip left me mesmerized and I wowed to take the same type of trip every year to different wine countries. What can possibly be better than driving through beautiful country sides, from vinery to vinery, taking in the sites, the scents and the buzz?   This year, we decided on Central Virginia’s Monticello region mostly for practical reasons, not knowing what to expect in terms of wine or countryside.  The trip was unforgettable.
Central Virginia is absolutely beautiful, covered in gorgeous meadow farms.  The long narrow roads, winding in the woods.  The little ponds and lakes and bright houses with rocking chairs out on the southern porches.  There is just a hint of the Southern charm peeking through in people and places you encounter.  It is the glimpse of a house flying a Confederate flag instead of the US one, it is the fields covered in wild flowers, it is country music played in the streets of Charlottesville, and the beautiful vineyards nested between the rolling hills.
The wineries range from tiny, one obsessed winemaker owned, to huge Napa style castles.  Some have manicured grounds, complete with anything you need to hold a grand event from a wedding to a polo match.  Some feel almost amusement-park-like, and some are reminiscent of a friend’s living room. 
Virginia is United States third largest wine producer behind California and New York states.  Unlike New York, which produces excellent whites and only a few well deserved reds, Virginia’s reds are much more mature, balanced and varied.  You will find excellent Cab Franks, Merlot and even Petit Verdot, as well as many very successful Bourdoux style blends.  The whites are drier and cleaner, with the Viogneer and Chardonnays as predominant grapes.  After last summer’s Riesling fest up in Finger Lakes, this was a nice surprise. 
With over fifty wineries in a Monticello region, you can’t possibly visit them all in three days.  We certainly tried.  And my basement wine racks are now the proof, as they are filled completely.  I am sure that sometime this winter I will be opening a bottle of wine, and question my reasons for buying it.  I would say that the boozy buzz of all day tastings does leave you to deal with a few misfortunate purchases, but for the most part, there will be no regrets.
We stayed in the most charming bed and breakfast, which in my opinion is the only way to travel to experience all of the region’s character.  It was brightly painted houses, done in the true southern country style.  Thirteen acre property filled with gardens, vines and roaming ducks and chickens. 

A swing set and a beautiful garden has a feel of a doll-house, not quite real, perfect for truly taking your head on complete vacation

The breakfast veranda, reminded me of summer houses we used to rent when I was a kid.  Always brightly covered table, with the feel of permanent summer.  I just can’t imagine this place in the winter, although it must be beautiful.

A gazebo to spend a lazy afternoon, I swear the place has hypnotic powers because your mind stays completely still there.

The endless vineyards,
farms, meadows and ponds. 
I could hardly belive that a hussle and busse of any city even exists anywhere.

It really made me long for a simpler life.

The winery highlights included Pollak winery which had the most amazing Merlot and the grounds with the pretties pond.
Blenheim Vineyard had the best wine, their woman winemaker's touch leaves all of their wines soft and balanced.
The Glass House winery which is done in the very original style of the tropics.  The winery only opened in December of 2010, but the wine is surprisingly good and the grounds are beautiful.

And this is that moment of the day, when all wine tastes pretty much the same and the life is at it’s greatest.

A very needed shot of espresso at the  right time ( right after the buzz starts to wear off and you remeber why a hangover is not the most pleasant way to end the day)

When the you need something other than wine, stop at the local brewery and pick up these jugs of beer to take home - or dink on the spot if you can

If you are feeling brave take a long, wild, very winding road through the woods up to the Stone Mountain Vineyards. If you don't wet your pants driving up there, you will be rewarded with the most amazing view of the valley. 

And on the way back to your busy, crazy life, stop by a truck stop and pick up the real deal southern BBQ and sweet tea.  The kind that can only be found on a side of the road, and has to be eaten on the hood of the car.

Vigrinia was unforgettable and I hope to go back one day.  But for now, every time I open a bottle of it's wine, I will go back to the lazy bright afternoons at the High Meadow B&B, to the fields buzzing with bees, to the sunshine peaking thrugh the branches of the magnolia trees.  And of course to the wonderful tastes and sites of Virginia's wineries and sweet, perfect fruit that is responsible for so much joy in the world.  Because ultimately it was all about the wine.

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