Friday, June 24, 2011

Doukenie Winery & Loudoun Valley Vineyards: April 2011

Ah, here we are at last in 2011. As many of you know I moved back into DC after a year across the river in Arlington. Having lived in the District for 3 years prior to that, working downtown and going to school uptown and living smack dab in the middle I got around the city a fair amount. My new 'hood is the "frontier" as some would say, but its not far from Chinatown, an area that gets old fast in my opinion thanks to the throngs of teens and tourists. Once I got settled in February we entered a March that wouldn't shake winter. The extended cold really gets to me; I start feeling trapped indoors with an innate need to escape, to run away be anywhere but sitting solemnly inside staring out a the bleak grey skies and barren trees.  That's when it dawned on me: I have a car and many of my city friends don't. Before I had a car I would try to plant seeds of ideas for trips to Shenandoah, Target and elsewhere in their minds so I didn't have to outright ask them to drive somewhere. Well, now I have the car and know that several of my non-driving friends would absolutely LOVE to get out of the city for an afternoon! So, April 2nd I rounded up Debbie & Kelly and headed to the vineyards. We were hoping for a lovely spring day, but alas it was still quite brisk out.

Stop #1: Doukenie Winery
I'm still not quite sure how to pronounce the name, either "do-kenny" or "do-kiney" its a mystery to me. I picked this spot since they were hosting an open house with several local artists. Nothing was that great, but there was a woman making decorative pottery which was fun to watch. The tasting started downstairs where the artists had their work on display and then moved up into the hopping tasting room. It was a pretty busy day there and we had to elbow our way to step up to the bar. They had a pretty good dessert wine, Hope's Legacy Raspberry. Its one of those that you taste and its sweet and alright, then you eat a piece of dark chocolate and it becomes amazing in the second sip! We were kind of rushed through the tasting since it was so busy, so we took our packed picnic and set up outside near their pond. It was tad too cold for me, but we held up and after lunching and sipping headed down the road.

Stop #2: Loudoun Valley Vineyards
Ok, if you go to Loudoun Valley Vineyards' website before going to the winery you will think you are in the wrong place entirely! The website is flashy, modern, colorful. When approaching the tasting room at the winery you see an average sized, single family home circa 1950 without many windows and a small front steps. I was definitely turned off and wanted to run away fast since it looked like we were lured there to be chopped up and forgotten. Alas, once we entered it was much more of a normal tasting room. The walls were brightly painted and there was a large porch around the back side of the house over looking the vineyard.  It was also much quieter than our first stop, we were the only guests until a party of about 10 bleach blonde barbie types rolled in, downed their glasses and were out the door before we got half way through the list! They were quite the scene, looking and acting like they came straight from LA or Orange County not Northern Virginia. I came home with a delish Sevyal Blanc since I'm really trying to expand my taste for the cool white wines in the summer.

Doukenie Barrels
Outside Doukenie
Early, early spring at Loudoun Valley

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Unicorn Winery: September 2010

This trip didn’t start out as a vineyard destination trip.  No, it was a thought but not the objective of our trek. It was early fall and Amy & I wanted to go hiking. Well, one thing led to another and we didn’t hit the road until after 2 in the afternoon so by the time we got out to Warrenton towards Shenandoah it was close to 4:00pm.  Since Adam and I had been hiking out that way a few weeks prior I knew we wouldn’t have enough time to hit the trails for a decent hike before sunset, and we saw bears at sunset. Anyways we saw some wineries and decided we had enough time to hit one. Unicorn Winery was the closest one so we popped in for a tasting. It was a cute, quaint winery with a small pond on the premises. The wines were decent and I tried my first ice wine. Ice wine you say? Yes, ice wine is made from the grapes that are still on the vine after the first frost and are picked post-frost. It makes a wine with “increased residual sugars” or a sweeter more dessert-like wine. Amy had encountered these before in Germany (I think), and was a big fan. They also had some wine slushies which were...interesting, not quite like a frozen sangria, a bit sweeter. 

We then got a short hike in on the grounds of the winery and may have wandered farther than we should have since we stumbled into a surveillance camera. Oh and our adventure didn’t stop there. We proceeded to stop at Wegman’s on the way back since everyone that lives in the ‘burbs raves about them. It was pretty huge and quite overwhelming to us city folk who are used to overstocked, compact grocery stores. They had about 3 restaurants in the place and I think we walked out with pizza by the slice. Overall a fun, random day. 
Vines all the way into the woods!
Does it get much better than a rural sunset?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fabiolli Cellars: August 2010

Labor Day 2010. I could not believe it when I heard my friend Adam had not been to a winery! It was a gorgeous Labor Day weekend, half of  which was spent in NYC with Marlene and that seems to be quickly becoming tradition going on 2 or 3 years now. Anyhow, I packed a picnic and Adam and off we went to meet Jill at Fabiolli Cellars.  I was drawn to this vineyard because of its promotion of being eco-friendly and their fairly decent webpage. On a side note: I definitely size up a vineyard by its website, ones that are user friendly with all their tasting fees, directions and calendar of events laid out are usually the ones I'm drawn to. If its just got one old picture and no links to information about "your visit" or their wines I usually click right past it.

Ok so getting out to Fabiolli wasn't too bad since its out in Leesburg. The tasting room was in the lower portion of a two-story home on the property that looked quite inviting from the outside. Once inside however it was quite a different view, the tables were set up on horses-you know like if you are going to saw a piece of wood you put it on two other triangular frames to hold it while you saw it? So very rustic, then there were curtains haphazardly thrown up around the place to block off storage and a kitchenette. It was like they didn't have time to organize their tasting room before they went into business. Then we tasted the wines and Adam loved it! Which is great, I'm really glad he had a good time, because I was being very judge-y.  They served only served red wines with the exception of a pear dessert wine. The only reason we got to taste the pear wine was because a couple at our tasting "bench" bought a glass so we got the tasting too. I've noticed you always seem to get more than you expect or pay for when it comes to a vineyard. Maybe that's their subtle way of luring you in for the bigger purchases.

Paradise Springs Winery: June 2010

Just over a year ago some girlfriends of mine helped me celebrate a milestone year at Paradise Springs Winery. Its a cozy little cabin not too far from DC and when we went it was so hot and humid the air was hazy. I partially picked Paradise Springs because they were supposed to have live music, unfortunately this musician decided to play all of 2 songs over the course of 2-3 hours spending the rest of the time flirting. He then left early saying he was late for a wedding or something. We gave him a lot of crap, but it being my birthday and all I kept nudging the servers to top off my glass which they did, perhaps a little too frequently. We spent the afternoon picnicking and once we got back to our apartment we promptly made a bee line for the pool. Half the girls didn't have suits, but made due with what they did have. We also brought the pool boy what was left the cupcakes as bribe to keep the pool open later. I think we still left on time, but all summer I had a friend in that pool boy, too bad he had to go back to Serbia in September! Overall it was a great day and we finished off the night with fruit and madelines dipped in chocolate fondue! Fantastic!
The lovely ladies
Our delish spread: brie, fig jam, manchego, watermelon...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Sunset Hills Vineyard: May 2010

I'm not sure what inspired this trip, but I headed up to the WV to meet up with the Jones & Jenkins clan. And yes all their first names start with J's just like my fam, it was a match made in Moldovan heaven! (Jill and I were pre-service training site-mates and she was technically my "cousin." Since that summer of '04 she has been like family.)  Her sister and brother-in-law were visiting from the far side of WV so we headed to Sunset Hills for some wine and live music. They had a fantastic wrap around a porch and some entertaining music. I think Jill had to wipe the drool from my face for a bit because I was so enthralled by a guy with a guitar. I also think we started out with a plan to drink one or two bottles but ended up finishing 4! It was a drizzly day, we were on a deck with live music, who wants to leave that?!

Group Shot: Joy, John, Julie & Jill

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Blue Mountain Brewery & Barborsville Vineyards: April 2010

Travelling down to Charlottesville for a weekend away, with my bf at the time, one of my goals was to check out a winery since it had been so long since I’d been to one. We spent the weekend hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but a full day of spring hiking doesn’t leave much time left for wineries that close at 5 or 6 so we hit up a mountainside microbrewery that was open a little later. Coming from the Northwest microbreweries are abundant and now nanobreweries are popping up, but back east a good microbrew is hard to find. Well, we were in luck and found some good beers at Blue Ridge Brewery, my favorite was the stout aged in bourbon barrels. I’m not big on whiskey or bourbon but this stout was delish!

We continued our weekend adventures and on the drive out of town we finally hit a winery. Our stop happened to be at Barboursville Vineyard, which has been my favorite winery yet! Its vineyards and tasting room are beautiful and elegant. There is a B & B on the grounds next to historic ruins of a home designed by Thomas Jefferson.  For $5 you can taste all 20 wines, which may sound like a bit too many varieties, but some were the same varieties are from multiple years. They had a great white table wine and I really am not a fan of many whites. While it’s an Italian wine I did discover Sangiovese here in Virginia, I know right?! Well at least Barboursville vineyards were established by an Italian family in 1976. 

Jefferson designed home
On the grounds of Barborsville