Tag Archives: nelson county

In My Own Back Yard

17 Apr

A friend stops by my classroom.

“How was your weekend?” She asks.

While listening to my story, she smiles, shakes her head.

“How do you find these things? There’s nothing to do around here!”

I tell her about web sites and checking notice boards, but I’m reminded, most of the time my wayfaring is simple serendipity, finding something good when I’m not especially looking for it. Saturday was a prime example. After changing my mind about a local event, I needed to reshape the day with less than 24 hours to spare. Luckily though, I really didn’t need to leave my own backyard, so to speak, and finding happiness there is something I definitely want more of. How can I convey Saturday’s weather other than to say it was spring perfection? New green landscape, splotched with full flushes of cherry and plum blossoms, and lawns full of bright popcorn limbs of forsythia amid eruptions of daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths stretching out for miles as I drove north on Rte. 29. Clar had his little head in the wind, soft black floppy ears trailing behind as his nose took in the warm morning air. Soon, he won’t be able to go with me on my rambles. I’m not at all happy about that, and he won’t be either. But Saturday’s plan was a picnic somewhere in Nelson or Albemarle County and then, a local band at Rapunzel’s in Lovingston in the evening. The time between was open to . . .serendipity.

On my way north, I stopped in Lovingston at Trager Brothers Coffee Roastery to test drive their cafe au lait. I have been wanting to go there for quite a while, but hadn’t been able to catch them open. The roastery is in the middle of a quaint town I have always loved. Lovingston’s Main Street reminds me of a tiny model village set under a Christmas tree, folk Victorian farm homes within a mix match of architectural era businesses. A grocery, a cafe, a bakery, a church, a bookstore/coffee shop, the town has a perpetual nostalgic feel. Upon reaching the middle of the thoroughfare, TBC’s sign swung out to the road. “Open”, finally. Up the gravel drive, behind an older two storied home, I curved and bumped. The front of the tiny cafe was completely open to the gravel lot and backyard, the side portico, shaded with chairs and tables.

A bright good morning smile greeted me from Katherine, a Randolph College grad who made me a frothy rich red eye cafe au lait and for a most reasonable price. She explained that they were undergoing renovations, but I fell in love with the tiny place. It’s like going over to the neighbor’s house for coffee on a Saturday morning and finding a personal barista in the kitchen. Trager Brothers Coffee is sold in several places in the local area as well as in regional markets. Their beans are organically grown and the roastery is committed to preparing coffee by hand in small batches, which improves the flavor and protects the environment. This attentiveness to quality over quantity reflects a trend among many places I have visited and loved in the last few months. The idea of buying local, of supporting the efforts of artists, both what I would call domestic artists and those of a more traditional variety has been a part of my social philosophy for many years. So I’ll drive, nearly 30 minutes on summer mornings now for a cafe au lait somewhere other than a cookie cutter coffee establishment that shall not be named (coughStarbuckscough) since the main locally owned coffee shop in Lynchburg has closed. Clar can come along, relaxing under my chair, while I have an amazing cup and sit with laptop to write.

Lovingston is peaceful. The people I have met there are so unlike typical ruralites. While they are definitely a people connected to the land and to the community, they are also quite interested in the arts, in music, in growing and creating. Organic farms, vineyards, cideries are sprouting rapidly across the landscape, especially down the Rte. 151 corridor. Locally sourced restaurants are following. Folk culture, supported by these businesses, reflects in their art, their music, their writing. It’s so hopeful to me, this commitment back to the community, back to the artisan, the farmer, the craftsman. Perhaps a folk Renaissance is coming, squired by the generation behind me, who has tired of the “yuppie” material world in which we reared them. I hear the change in the music, see it in the style of their living. . . and I’m coming along with them.

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Post picnic, I headed down to Nellysford. First stop, Bold Rock Cidery, where I tasted all four of their cider selections. Honestly, I’ve been a cider snob since it tends to the sweet side, thinking those without much of a palate go that direction in the adult beverage department. However, upon tasting I am starting now to appreciate it much more. The Vintage Apple was bright and quite crisp with a lemon edge back note. On a hot day, after that lawn mower winds down, an icy cold one would be an eye roller. The Virginia Draft came next. Mellow and smooth, it yields to the sweet too quickly for me, much like the traditional ciders I have had in the past. The premium ciders surprised me, though, resembling sparkling wines and champagnes. Dry enough to mirror respectable Prosecco, they impressed me. Crimson Ridge Vat #1 was near to a demi- sec champagne, with honey notes. It would pair exceptionally well with beef tenderloin and horseradish. My favorite, though, was the Vintage Dry. The driest of their ciders, the lemon pop was quite pronounced. I’ll serve it with grilled summer fare. And at only 10$ a 750 ml bottle, its something I can easily offer friends in my backyard as we dine al fresco.

After tasting, Clar and I traveled down to Devil’s Backbone Brewery, a familiar venue and restaurant for me from last summer. What a perfect site and stage for local outdoor theater and musical events! I sat in the sun cascading in stripes through the high arched windows and across the gleaming wooden floors, starting my evening with a Schwartz Bier Black Lager brewed on site. Pork Flat Iron, came next, a perfect paring of a grilled pork tenderloin glazed with sweet jalapeno mustard. Roasted red potatoes and baby carrots accompanied it. Devil’s Backbone and similar local restaurants are establishing a standard of fresh food and craft beverages in the area and the response is most encouraging.

As the sun began to set, I made my way to Rapunzel’s to end the day where it had begun, the tiny town of Lovingston. As I took my seat, I saw Katherine again from Trager Brothers.

“Cyndi!” She tucked into my front row table with a smile just as bright as the morning’s.”How was the day?”

We talked about Nelson and it’s slow change. Even though the IGA grocery has closed and the corridor’s growth hasn’t quite made it to the tiny hamlet, there’s hope. Hope for an organic grocery, or more cafes, a vineyard or a cidery…maybe even a traditional tavern. As the music began, it hit me…this community is so alive. Cody and Freeman Mowier, their parents sitting right next to me, opened the evening playing a few original tunes on acoustic guitars. The room slowly began to fill with greetings and hugs; neighbor after neighbor, friend after friend arrived. In this place there is connection at the heart, and as Chamomile and Whiskey, a local folk-rock fusion band with roots in blues, bluegrass and Irish traditional played, I thought about who this post grunge generation really is,these hipster mountain men and hippie vintage gals embracing Tweets and slow food, Foursquare and organic espresso.

The band’s set list, proudly scribbled on a PBR box flap, prompted song after song, including Long Day dedicated to guitarist Koda Kerl’s father, whose memorial service was held hours earlier at the Rockfish Valley Community Center. His mother sat in the audience, his friends and fellow musicians there as well . . .off stage, sometimes on stage, but always connected to the real life behind the song, behind the music. In their debut of A Thousand Sleepless Nights, a slight nod to the rhythms of U2 reminded me of other small communities I’ve known. C&W’s banjo player, Ryan Lavin’s Irish roots reflect in his vocals and picking, and Marie Borgman’s fiddle harmonizes right along.

This connection…

Is it the land…Is it the sky? Is it a place and people interlaced in creative movement through this green Virginia valley? There is a simple, but great beauty there among them and luckily I found it, right in my own backyard.

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Book in Hand

9 Apr

And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe
Maybe this year will be better than the last
I can’t remember all the times I tried to tell myself
To hold on to these moments as they pass. . .

Virginia springs are filled with a kind of green that I have only seen in one other place …Ireland. First growth grass is lush and bright everywhere, but the mountain trees have yet to leaf. Instead, tree limbs are laden in a first flush of starry white, rose and lavender buds. The warm edges of the breeze have fluttered open, a last veil of winter sleet swept away in front of it. Winter is saying a lingering goodbye, but none of us are crying about it, I think. This winter has been one long December, a cold lead of grey drear drawn out to the last possible edge. It’s been a hard few months for so many people I know. This weekend, however, sunshine bore the message that the worst is behind, flowers tilting their small faces upward. A turning has been made.

Saturday, Clar and I rolled up the road to Lovingston Winery’s opening day to meet dear friends who live a few hours in the opposite direction. Nelson County is the half way mark between my “wine conscience” and soul brother Paul and his lovely wife Newt. Arriving around mid-day, I eased down the steep embankment to a lovely spot by a small pond. Lovingston’s Winery is a compact place, all the workings organized into a gravity fed system. A tasting bar is tucked into a small corner of the work area. Upon tasting their selection, the whites quickly rose as top picks for both myself and my companions. Lovingston Seyval Blanc, a fantastic new release, was rounded and smooth with a bit more body than an average Chardonnay or Viognier. It will pair well with seafood and summer grilling. The Petit Manseng was bone dry, bright and lemony with a sharply citrus bite. But since their line is small and there’s not much in the way of a picnicking area to lounge in, we decided to leave right after the tasting and head toward Mountain Cove. For some reason, both Paul and I had thought we didn’t like their wine. Perhaps we had tasted with them at Rebec’s Garlic Festival? We couldn’t remember, but the trek was worth a try while exploring sunny back roads round the mountain.

Down the windy mountain ways, road after road through Nelson’s farms and fields we traveled, finally turning up a gravel drive toward some small barns resembling old tobacco sheds. After parking in the field, I chuckled. The whole place reminded me of a tiny cottage farm I once encountered in Ireland, and I half expected chickens to scoot out any moment. The sun glowed against the rustic red planks; bright yellow boxes filled with spring pansies lined the sides of… a tasting room? A porch and table in front of the small Appalachian shed signaled a possible entrance, but we weren’t really sure if it was open or if anyone was on site. Soon though, friendly lady in gardening clothes and hat rounded the corner. Her casual charm reminded me of home, of neighbors one can drop by to visit any time with that, “come on in the house” type of comfortable authenticity.

Showing us in across pallet plank floors, past the wood stove and rocking chair, she asked us, “Y’all here to taste?” The smell of past fires lingered in the light filtering through high windows and we looked around at the bottles lining the plank walls. At our assent, out came six bottles. Plunk. . . plunk, plunk…three rocks tumblers were popped onto the rough hewn bar, the sign above it letting us know that tastings were free. If we had come all that way, we were obviously interested in the wine, it said. The genuine simplicity in it struck me, nothing snooty about this place. And I’ll be honest, I wondered about what we were going to taste, especially when the fruit wines appeared on the counter. Surprisingly though, lack of pretension extended to the wine as well. Mountain Cove features some of the best wine I have had from a local vineyard, hands down. As we tasted a full bodied spicy Chardonnay, steel aged much to my surprise, our hostess told us that Mountain Cove is the oldest winery in Virginia, having been started in the early 1970’s. As we moved from wine to wine, each one proved to be impeccable, and at only $12 to $15 a bottle, a steal when comparing to the $20 plus bottles at most vineyards I have visited. The Tinto, a blend of Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc was big and spicy, less tannic than most reds, and the Skyline White, simply incredible. A Vouvray style with a slight effervescent twang, like having a jingle bell in one’s mouth on the finish. These are substantial wines, developed and solid.

Mountain Cove’s fruit wines were lovely as well. But I have a small confession, I’m a fruit wine snob. When I was directed to do a “cheese shooter” at a wine festival from one vineyard’s hot pepper wine, I rolled my eyes. Fruit wines generally fall into the sweet category. . . not a fan. However, Mountain Cove’s Blackberry is dryer than an off dry Riesling and the Apple, drier than a Gewürztraminer. I didn’t care for the Peach, but I’m not a huge peach fan anyway.

As Paul, Newt and I sat on the porch with a bottle of Skyline, we caught up on our lives. They are in the midst of professional transitions and I have been…well, on this journey. We sipped and laughed and I remembered why I love them so much. They are genuine and so real. I thank the Universe daily that they are in my life, for they love me in spite of my failings and complaints. Times I spend with them are precious, often funnu like the time we played Scrabble in December and I didn’t remember the rules. It had been nearly twenty years, and upon receiving my tiles, I promptly flipped one over and proudly announced, “F”! At which they burst into laughter and then said, ”Um Cyndi . . .you don’t tell the other players what you have”. Or the time where I told Newt that my favorite things were the three “C’s”: Coffee, Cupcakes, and Wine. She looked at me with all the kindness and yet incredulousness of the moment and said,  “Three. . .C’s?”

As we laughed and re-connected, I was reminded of a wisdom given to me on the island at the start of this long December:

To be a friend is to love and be loved as a book in hand.

Real friendship is like a book with paper pages. You hold it in your hands. You touch and turn the pages. You make time for it, experience it, commit to it and it gives you an experience in connection and you take its story with you forever. That is a real friend. And in this age of technology, nothing will replace the reality of a book, a warm hand or a smiling face or. . .

A story.

Told with love or pain, in frivolity or confidence, good books only come along once in a while. That’s why they are worth the time to read.

Our beloved friends are those who make up the shelves of our libraries, well-worn copies we’d never part with for all their annotations and dog-eared edges. Like a rustic barn with no pretension, like a wine that is unassuming but excellent in its structure, each friend bears a beautiful story which we have the honor of not only enjoying but joining.

Skyline White

That’s What You Do

7 Mar

You never know who you’re going to meet seated up at the bar…or who will want to meet you. It’s been interesting, the people with whom I have crossed paths and their response to me. And to be perfectly frank, men seem to be the most affected by my solo seating in a variety of ways. For the large part, I don’t have issues. Most are respectful, friendly and/or interested in what I am doing so they ask questions. Other times, though, it seems I’m impeding on their private world by sitting there all on my own, pen in hand, not requiring assistance or soliciting company. I’m not antisocial by any means, nor unapproachable. I’ll talk to anyone if not deep in writing or my internal GPS warning doesn’t fire up. I try my best to add to intelligent conversation when engaged; the pub is like United Nations of the common man. I try to blend, adding as much as the next diplomat.

Sunday night, I stopped at Blue Mountain Barrel House after my day in Charlottesville. Post Wine Expo, I was in need of a little beverage change and Blue Mountain crafts it’s own range of beers. The bar area, toward the back of the restaurant, is definitely not the main feature, though. The outside Tiki Bar and patio are. In the summer, I will definitely be there socializing. The wide landscaped patio has an amazing view of the Blue Ridge and when it’s not 40 degrees, I can imagine an evening there is one of the best parties in Nelson County.

I could easily tell the bar area was a “man zone” upon approach. Basketball on TV? Check. Pretty plain and angular in décor? Check. Mostly men seated there? Check. A lot of pubs are like this, but it doesn’t really phase me much. Blue Mountain’s atmosphere was lively, but not obnoxious. Comfortably seated between two gentlemen, I pull out my gear: smartphone, notebook, pen. Trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, the big girl camera often stays in the car if there’s the sense it may be crowded. Three young men in ball caps and jeans were next to me huddled in story and confidence, enjoying each other and a few pints. Ah, the lads, I thought. Good places always have a group of regular lads, they add character.

The bar mistress brought me a Dark Hollow first, a bourbon barrel stout. Sweet, smooth, and chocolaty at a whopping 10%, it arrived in a ladylike goblet. We chatted briefly about pizza, one of the main features of the menu. She recommended the local sausage, but it’s large and there’s only me. I do like leftover pizza for lunch, but not for seven days running, so eventually I ordered chicken wings. Blue Mountain’s menu has the pub spirit, offering burgers, hotdogs, and sandwiches as well as gourmet pizza. And when in Rome, eat as the gladiators.

After some time, I drifted into sporadic conversation with the lad next to me while scribbling notes, but when the bar mistress arrived to say they had run out of wings, “Lad” went into action. He was actually one of the chefs, enjoying his day off, but began a quest to find more wings for me. I was content to order something different, but a lad on a quest is not to be denied. Wings were found and sent to the main kitchen, but as all frozen items prepared quickly in anticipation of pleasing a customer, they were underdone. I understand the mechanics of cooking, and it wasn’t an issue, but what I appreciated most was the commitment to serve what I wanted. I reordered differently, though, and the staff began to make up for the experience …something not necessary, but greatly appreciated. The manager paid for my beer that night, and I enjoyed another of their brews, a Local Species, fruity and oaky, it was lighter but just as full- bodied and balanced as the previous stout.

When I finally dove into my dinner, (Caesar with Crab Cake) Lad queried me to make sure the food was to my liking. It was apparent that the kitchen should reflect his level of commitment and we chatted about last summer, the outside crowds and bar action. He reminisced about the derecho of 2012, how they worked in nearly 100 degree heat, but all the while having a grand time together. Our conversation was light, as he traded lines back and forth with his friends and the bar mistress, patting me on the shoulder at times in friendly banter. One of the cooks in the back, clad in an Angry Birds hat characterized the jovial spirit there. Lad commented upon his never taking it off and went to retrieve him later for a picture at my request. Anything I asked for that night was gladly provided and the service was genuine and wonderfully friendly. They even sent me home with a half of a local sausage pizza on the house, just to make sure I had tried it. The pizza was delicious. Whole wheat thin crispy crust with Double H farm spicy sausage, thinly slivered red and green peppers, and mozzarella bubbling on top. I’m not the world’s biggest fan of pizza, but for pizza and beer in Nelson…there’s only one place I’ll go now.

What I noticed most was the easy going nature and cameraderie of the people who worked there. They were attentive but not overly so, even in their attempt to make my experience the best. And Lad and his friends at the bar didn’t seem to mind me drifting in and out of conversation while eating and scribbling. These experiences make it easy to dine while traveling solo. However, this is in huge contrast to an experience I had during the writing of this post. Last night, seated at my home bar, iPad out and posting a few pics to Instagram on my phone, a gentleman on my left interrupted.

“You need to get a third now, huh…”

He was referring to my two mobile devices in use, but I could tell by his inflection that he was slightly annoyed for some reason.

“No, I use the iPad to write, and the phone for Internet…there’s no wifi here”, I say directly looking him in the eye, flat voice that said I minded the interruption.

“Yes, there is. My wife has wifi here. Hey! there’s wifi here right?” He shouts to my bartender.

His wife tells him quietly that a password is needed.

“Hey!” he shouts. “What’s the password?” And one of the waitresses standing at the bar begins to recite the password to me whether I want it or not.

“Yeah”, he says, “there’s the password”, as he motions for me to type it into my iPad.

The password doesn’t work because the signal is weak. He begins to talk loudly to the couple on my right.

He stops. “Hey! Did it work?”,  he interrupts as I am trying to go back to my writing.

“No.” I say, not looking up.

“Did you put it in right?” He repeats the password to me, insisting I stop writing to put in the code. As I begrudgingly do this, he begins to lean way into my left to engage the couple on my right again in a lively conversation over top of me as if I am not sitting there.

I sit straight up in my chair,in the exact middle of their conversational view.

“Excuse me.” I say, sincerely. “Would you all like to sit together? I mean, then you can talk. I’ll move down. I don’t mind.”

“OH”, he pipes up immediately “EXCUSE ME, I didn’t mean to BOTHER you with our TALKING…I mean it’s a bar… that’s what you DO…”


Maybe that’s what YOU do asshole, but I was here first writing, minding my own business until you commandeered my iPad to help me without thinking first that maybe I didn’t need and / or want the help.

I immediately stand up and move to another chair.

He calls after me. “Oh SORRY. I didn’t know you wanted to be QUIET”, he remarks sarcastically.

I go back, moving very close to him and say in my teacher voice,

“No, I’m not really here to be quiet. I’m here to write.”

I pick up my iPad, post half written on the screen.

“Its what I come here to DO.”

Times like these generally only happen with men my age or older for some reason and its happened more than once. I haven’t figured out why. Perhaps they have preconceived notions about why a woman would be by herself at a bar. Perhaps it’s some misdirected sense of chivalry. At one function, a kind older gentleman with whom I chatted admitted later in our conversation that he thought my picture taking was only an attempt to be comfortable in the room without a date. In essence, I was hiding behind my camera. Of course, after I stopped taking pictures and began to converse and dance, he changed his assumption.

Maybe its generational, but the most of the younger generation don’t see it that way. And while they offer to help or simply have a conversation, they generally don’t make gender role assumptions and then push on. In the United Nations of the bar, I suppose roles shift and change, but we meet there and it’s important. The pub is the community living room. The relationships there affect our experiences either positively or negatively. Hopefully, we’ll all get along enough to connect and enjoy ourselves….or simply just allow each other to be.

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Time to Breathe

24 Jan

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Drink it,
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine — Neruda

The past weekend’s ramblings took me into the hills of Nelson and Albemarle to some local Virginia wineries. After meeting Michael Shaps representative Santa Rava at Magnolia Foods here in Lynchburg and chatting, I knew I wanted to venture out to Wineworks for a visit. The lovely aspect of visiting wineries in Virginia is really the drive itself. Most seem to be tucked up into some “holler”, the drive a virtual “over the river and through the woods” adventure to some high hill and vines. In any season, the windy road yields more often than not a surprising vista, a tree that begs a stop to say hello or motionless cows by the fence just being cows. And when one arrives to the rows of vines, usually a small cottage is settled in behind them, filled with bright bottles. Similar to Martin Luther’s thought, if beer is of earth, wine is definitely of the heavens. The varieties are so complex, the combinations fascinating from white to rose’ to red, steel aged to oak aged, dry to sweet to fortified. All wine presents a challenge to me,  to decipher the magic that went into making it. I know a bit about wine, probably more than the average person, but there is so much more to know.  The best part about this challenge is that to do so, one must taste. So to tastings I go.

Clarence and I rambled up Route 29 to Wineworks on Saturday afternoon, but I didn’t find a little cottage in the woods in which to pause; it was the back of a warehouse. Remodeling is occurring, so finding the restroom among hoses and forklifts was an adventure in itself. The warehouse room was cold and concrete, filled with boxes and barrels, so I stood with my coat on to sample all the wines once again. Somehow this time, they were different. I previously enjoyed the Michael Shaps wines, especially the Chardonnay and the Petit Verdot, but the ones which seemed so amazing to me on Friday last were not so today, and yet others were better than before. After going through the line up white to red, my picks were the Wineworks Rose’, the nose faintly floral with a lovely soft strawberry, slight cedar back note, and the 2010 Merlot /Malbec blend. I shouldn’t even comment on it since it’s sold out, but it had wonderful cassis, cherry, and spice. I almost offered to buy the rest of the open bottle.

As I tasted, I fell into conversation with two lovely young nurses who had also stopped by. As we talked, the conversation rolled into traveling and philosophy, and then the universe was at work again. One of them said, “You know, I should be getting married and having children, but somehow that’s just not really what I want right now” There’s that “should”. So I chatted with her about journeys and Joe, and as she talked about what she wanted in her life, I thought about how conditioned we are to walking a cleared road, one we can see without too much scrutiny. We talked about relationships, about personal ambitions and it lead me to think of the many lessons in wine.

Like so many other women, I was conditioned to believe that this is how it goes:

You educate yourself enough to get a good paying job while trying to find a partner to marry, have children, and live out the middle suburban dream of house and hearth and family, either working in the home or doing the job and family like Superwoman. There is that time issue when it comes to children we are told and honestly, it is true that most people partner in the first part of their adult lives with greater ease. Meeting these two young women confirmed for me, though, that the development of self is so important. To be entirely who one is with no apologies. Then, the bringing of that lovely prepared wine to the table of relationship can happen.

But as I reflected further and we chatted more, I realized there is another caveat in this. To fully appreciate the wine, it must be served correctly. Most good wine needs to breathe, to develop into what it was intended to be while it is being enjoyed. There is the making of self and then there is the sharing of it and both must be accomplished in balance for magic to happen. Nuances are lost in crowding, in not letting the air transform it. From one bottle to the next, in one environment to the next, the wine changes and one must allow the time and space to then experience it at the right moment.

I traveled to First Colony later on in the day and then to Delfosse on Sunday, but the visit to Wineworks stayed with me. At First Colony, the pourer barely gave me a sip in each tasting, so I couldn’t judge well. She stood right in front of me with the next bottle, so I felt pressure to decide quickly. It was the shortest tasting session I’ve ever had, and although I liked the Reserve Chardonnay well enough to buy a bottle, my experience wasn’t pleasant. I’ll not go back.

At Delfosse, the pourer was busy, and I’m sure tired of pouring the same thing, saying the same thing, for the hundredth time. It showed. But I slowed my experience, and that in turn, slowed his pouring. He didn’t seem to mind me taking a tiny bit of extra time to smell, to taste, to note. In a way, it gave him some moments to catch his breath, to take in some air. My decision of what to buy waited until after I had enjoyed the delicious crepes offered for the day, too. My picks? The Viognier, which has a wonderful apricot and honey quality and slight effervescence, and their Deer Rock Farm red blend which has a slight sweet berry edge with high vanilla notes and is served chilled. Then, my favorite, the 2007 Merlot which is so balanced. Beautiful nose, firm structure and body, rich blackberry, smoke, and oak on the palate.

I stayed until closing, resisting the urge to watch the clock or my phone. Before I left, I took Clarence for a walk around the small lake there and on the way home, I pulled over on Route 29 to watch the last bits of sunset behind black velvet and Chantilly  tree limbs against an apricot grey-blue panorama. I thought of how important this time is to take, to allow space enough for changes to this wine of self, and to breathe. I sat for a long while on the side of the road. A long while.

Homeward Bound

20 Jan

If you ever change your mind
About leavin’, leavin’ me behind
Oh, oh, bring it to me
Bring your sweet lovin’
Bring it on home to me, yeah

Okay, lets talk about the blues and let’s do it honestly.

What it do to a passionate woman?

I’ll keep this civilian and as delicate as I can, but if you don’t really want to know about my first experience with the blues ala Eli Cook, stop now…because I’m going there. Let me preface this by saying that the day’s travels were not as astounding as I had imagined. Dinner at Wild Wolf Brewing Company in Nellysford was entirely forgettable, wretched even (little better than Buffalo Wild Wings), and if I could have left without paying the check I would have. Honestly, it was the lowest tip I’ve ever left for service and I wondered how stoned all the wait staff actually was, and that was at the bar. So, I was looking for the blue lining in the coffin of the day, so at least I could rest the day’s end in respectable comfort.

Upon entering Rapunzel’s Coffee and Books in Lovingston, the atmosphere was quiet and well, a bit on the reserved side. It’s a coffee shop that has wine and a good beer selection. I immediately began to think, hmmmm.. blues in here? Must be the slow, sort of folksy blues…maybe a little James Taylorish type of blues.

The atmosphere is really rather interesting.Walton’s Mountain meets antique shop meets bookstore. It’s hushed, really hushed. To my left there were two older gentlemen asleep at their tables. Asleep, sitting up. So I wasn’t really sure how the evening was going to go, but I had come this far; I might as well go for it. When Eli took the stage, he reminded me of the grunge guys I loved so well from the 90’s, mixed with a bit of modern mountain man. Entirely alluring, handsome, masculine and entirely young, too. When he began to play and sing, this Nelson County white boy meets Texas bluesman meets reincarnated “down at the crossroads” black man had enough salt and gravel in his voice to keep a woman from freezing up for miles and miles and miles. Last night was cold in Nelson County, until I got to Rapunzel’s. Part of me giggled and the other part of me said shame on you for giggling.

The style of his blues definitely has a Texas twist,  raw and electrified with a slide up and down the distortion scale. Its hillbilly meets Hendrix all barreling down a dusty hot road. But it connects to that side of a gal, that side that men might do well to pay closer attention to. Someone once told me a long long time ago, that if you wanted to know a woman’s true nature, watch her on the dance floor when they’re playing the blues; you’ll know right quick where her intentions lie. By the fifth song, I began to think,  Wonder if they’ll think I’m entirely too much if I just get up and dance? Then I began to wonder, Why isn’t everyone else moving? The gal sitting in front of me was catching the wiggles, but she and I were definitely the only ones on the same wavelength.

Listening to Eli play his own tunes interspersed with Robert Johnson, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray, Muddy Waters and other blues giants was raw and real. Several tunes stood out such as Anything You Say, Don’t Ride My Pony, and his Miss Blues’es Child. When he launched into a rendition of Sam Cooke’s Bring It on Home to Me, my hand went to my heart. Jimi’s Bold as Love, and his finale of Lennon’s A Day in the Life blended into She’s Got a Ticket to Ride shows his musical versatility and talent. This guy is ah—mazing. After two hours, I was still wondering, Why is no one dancing? Clapping along at least? How much can I wiggle in my antique wooden folding chair and not break it?

In that sort of venue, up close and personal, I began to think about the troubadours of old, the wandering minstrels who sang of love and romance to ladies of court. How could they not fall under the spell? I sat dead center stage, maybe twenty feet from Eli’s one man combo in perfect view of that left foot on the beat box, right foot on the tambourine and both hands making a gorgeous acoustic electric sing her heart out. Music like that sends an imaginative mind into overdrive. His music and persona has a kind of broody moody charm that makes a woman feel well, to quote Aretha, like a natural woman. Like cooking collards and pork barefoot in the kitchen on a August afternoon so hot the only solution is a cotton sundress with no knickers and a beloved waiting in an old creakin’ cherry post bed in Me’mie’s well worn and ironed hundred year old French linen sheets. And the song to come? Practiced, played for the hundredth time, but honest to heart as the first time through.

That’s as far as the blues will take a wandering lass. And regrettably last night, takin’ it on home was a solo adventure.  😉

You know I’ll always be your slave
Till I’m dead and buried in my grave
Oh, oh, bring it to me
Bring your sweet lovin’
Bring it on home to me, yeah ….


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