Tag Archives: winery

Pieces of Gold

12 May

Learning the delicate balance of solo experience versus a shared one has been part of my path for a while now as my gal pals are starting to wander some with me. After hitting the road every weekend, there’s always something new to tell them when I come back and they’ve been incredibly supportive. Their worlds  seem much different from mine. While I am wandering in museums and attending film festivals, restaurants, and concerts, they engage in family building and loving mated connections alongside their own personal journeys. One can’t deny that there’s a bit of envy on both sides, I for their warm nests and they for my unencumbered gypsy-ish rambling. I’ve been graced by being able to slide into their family life, enjoying their children, homes and nurturing strength. However, during May’s first weekend, it was my turn to take them into a tiny taste of Wayfarinlassland.

First Friday belonged to one of my best friends, Karen, as we attended the Victorian Fusion Bellydance Beledi at Riverviews Art Space during Lynchburg’s monthly art and culture celebration. Karen was my friend long before teaching me in bellydance last year, her spirit and gypsy leanings endearing her to me in fae sister fashion. Also a Joe aficionado, she is always ready to listen, advise and encourage. The balance and camaraderie of her family clan has been a safe haven in some rougher spots along the journey’s path, so to speak. Karen is a quite accomplished dancer and the event’s Steampunk theme derived from the sponsorship of WarmStreets Gallery made the adventure extra enticing. Friday afternoon, we were like teenagers in my bedroom, sifting through clothes after a Goodwill trip, putting together the best sci-fi high Victorian looks we could muster. Doing the girly getting-ready-for-the-show injected a high energy anticipation in us both, but walking around downtown Lynchburg in bare midriffs, jingling coins off our fannies was enough to unnerve anyone. The solo wayfaring has taught me a lot about confidence and personal freedom, though. At one point before Karen’s solo performance, I could tell she felt a tiny bit apprehensive about the structure of the show and perhaps the attitudes of some of the other dancers. We stopped outside the gallery, shared some breaths and some positive energy.

“You got this.” I said. “Shoulders back…breathe. If there’s any judgment that energy needs to stay with the judgers. Right?”

Needless to say, her performance was spot on. Afterwards, still dolled in our costumes, Rivermont Pizza became the destination for a celebratory dinner. As we stood in the bar area of this trendy hipster-ish Lynchburg restaurant, I shared with her something I’ve learned about wayfarin alone as a woman.

“When you walk into a place, know that you have a full right to be there, occupy the space, and enjoy yourself no matter what because if you believe it, it shows. Everyone else will believe it too.”

And I began to think about how fearing judgment, which ultimately comes from others’ ignorance or misunderstanding, shapes women’s actions to the point that we begin to assume what others think before we act. We limit our desires in response to imagined scenarios rather than do what we want and let others take the responsibility for their own emotions. That’s something both of us are working on recognizing more in our lives, just in different areas. Friday gave me the opportunity to show her an arena that I have somewhat mastered. Karen has walked a unique path spiritually for quite awhile and she teaches me daily what it is to be calm and connected without really even trying. We are each able to mirror opposite sides of a piece of gold, that’s the beauty of our connection. Together we can see the whole.

Sporadic arcs of sun chased a chilly Sunday afternoon as my gal pal Laura and I motored up Rte. 151 to Cardinal Point and Afton Mountain wineries for tasting and talk. It’s been a winter full of changes for us both; her children, once students of mine, graduated from college this month. As I caught her up on funny or more personal moments from my ramblings, she shared with me tales and video of her daughter’s graduation celebration the day before. Many of my more personal wayfarin moments obviously don’t make it into this space, but my friends are gracious enough to put up with the catalog of tales when we are finally able to chat at length. And in listening to their stories, I reconnect to the daily details of a “normal” home life. Sometimes I see my way of living through a narrow lens. While I try to use the space of solitude to pause in the moment, attempting to wring out some wisdom in any particular experience, I often envy simple coupledom…grocery shopping, coordinating a dinner out, the random kid text. “Mom, will you pick up…Mom, where is my…?” Even the absent energy of a physical body sharing home space is noticeable.

During our first tasting at Cardinal Point, the weight of my accumulated experience over the last few months really hit home. Laura’s presence prompted a mindfulness of how many places I really have explored solo. A co-partner in the experience refocuses the introspection; contrasts often give a greater gift of insight. In wines, she tends to prefer those with more residual sugars and without oak. I’m directly opposite. But her opinion helped me see the value of the whole line. Cardinal Point whites are quite good, especially their Quattro, an off dry blend, and The Green which is reminiscent of a Portuguese Vinho Verde. Laura preferred the Quattro and I, the crisper Green. We traveled on to discover Afton Mountain’s incredible wine offerings; literally, I liked every one I tasted. Their tasting room and grounds are almost resort like as well. We were both quite impressed. However, while both of us thought the place was beautiful, she naturally saw an amazing spot for a future wedding celebration. I saw an American winery wedding Pinterest style: white designer dress, trendy hand-tied flowers, giggling bridesmaids having manis and pedis all around. A great deep thoughtfulness seemed to well up in me that needed un-bottling.

So, we reclined on a couch out in the sun with glasses in hand viewing the growing vines and spoke of our own growth as women. Laura is so incredibly strong. It permeates her energy. She has backbone. Its flexibility and resiliency has held her family together for over 25 years. The flowering of full womanhood is so powerful and beautiful. In my experience though, men tend not to value it, preferring instead the feminine flowering of the physical rather than the soul. Marriage in modern social terms seems about stages of life rather than evolving life. The relationship focuses around the task of family building and income securing so much that a mutual supporting connection which encourages individual growth, in which child rearing becomes a part rather than the point of the endeavor, seems to be a fantasy. The construct is …a white dress and giggling bridesmaids. Then, the first apartment. Then, jobs. Then, pets and children and then…. Are social benchmarks taking precedence over the evolution of self? And then, when the steps stop, especially for women, they look around and wonder…now where did I put that self of mine? I let my eyes graze the lush green lawn, the vines trailing the training wires over to the twinkling white lights hanging in the marquee and honestly, I felt slightly bitter.

I will never wear a white dress again, I thought…and moreover, was it even real to begin with?

This thought and our conversation lead me back to thinking about mated relationships over all. I’ve gone back to question whether a person’s important needs truly can be met by just one other after a certain point in life. That reshapes the meaning of what intimacy really is from my perspective. End of the romantic ideal? Maybe. As I talk with more and more women and I observe their relationships and attitudes toward their partners…yes, perhaps. The idea that at this stage in life one’s needs may not be met in only one person is pushing me into a new way of thinking about love and connection. To be honest, I’m beginning to tacklea profound disappointment in the social fabric, for that is where I think a great unfairness in romantic relationships lies. But I live in culture, more free than in the past yet not free enough. And as Laura and I talked about needs and desires, responsibilities and freedoms, I began to see more clearly the two sides of the same piece of gold. But its so valuable, this feminine life…and in reflection, the vision of our worth becomes more whole .

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

But Saturday, I Didn’t Care

13 Mar

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Some days are a perfect chain of events likecrystal beads on a long strand around my neck, having so many facets it’s hard to pick the sparkles. And in the speckles of light, all one can really do is sit back and watch the play, the starry arch of a day unfolding. Hours are lengthening now, warm light lingering around in the breeze. And in its wake, as Shakespeare says, come thronging soft and delicate desires.

This weekend was full of such wonderfulness that I don’t know where to begin or how to sort. Part of me thinks, “Why bother to craft this word- hoard, to tease out the connective tissues of the experience. Why not just say, Here’s what I did…here’s how it felt…here, let me show you that the world is so big sometimes you can’t get your arms around it all.” Perhaps I should just say, “I laughed. I drank. I ate. I sang. I danced”. And the only thing that could have made it better would have been arriving home to something I’m really not willing to discuss publicly, but let’s just say that the day’s events didn’t make it any better. It’s spring and its incipient wantoness is beginning to set me on’t. So gentle reader, I’m about to go down a path of no return. It might be personal; it may be titillating; it may lead you to wonder. I’ll just tell the story because Saturday, I just didn’t care.

It snowed heavily up in the valley this week, but the warm spring turning was melting it quickly. Water ran the road and the rocky mountainside on my way to Staunton, VA. I stopped the car so many times to snap a photo, hopped out in an outfit that is the epitome of my quirk: black jodphurs and ankle boots, black suede vest, double poet’s shirts with high ruffled necks and large billowy sleeves, strands of beads jingling about my neck. At one point, someone actually thought I was part of the American Shakespeare Theater, my main activity for the day. Since Ocracoke, I barely brush my hair anymore. It dries in wild crinkle- curled whisps and I dress in contrasting layers of color and era out of the Goodwill and consignment shops. Beads, vintage hats, fringe, feathers and scarves decorate me like some rag tag tousled gypsy. This wildness mixed with a mild hedonism has spread over me like a crazy quilt. My stitches, all come loose. But Saturday, I didn’t care, so I wore what expresses this wild beauty that has taken residence in my spirit.

The first event of the day was at Blackfriar’s Playhouse to see Wycherly’s The Country Wife, a naughty comedy of manners from the 17th century. I laughed at his farcical take on the sexual and romantic appetites of men and women. This hilarious romp was bawdy and bad and several times I laughed way too loud to have been seated on my gallant’s stool on stage in plain view. But Saturday, I didn’t care and so I laughed anyway, hooted and snickered and giggled at every dirty joke. I raised my eyebrow, put my hand over my mouth, didn’t stop to worry when the crowd missed the nuance of language. I was totally absorbed, the words so beautiful, so elaborate, so juicy that they made me squirm. Upon entering, the cast was already performing saucy songs of a more modern ilk, Prince’s Kiss being one of them, sung by a gentlemen clothed in one of the most alluring eras of men’s haberdashery. Yes, this lass is all about some frock coats, ruffled shirts, and button front breeches. First thought? Uh oh, I am so in trouble. Ces pantalons dangereuses. And for me the witticisms, quips, and rakish wordplay is just as provoking as the costume. The art of intellectual coyness has been lost in the modern age, much to my dismay. As much as Wycherly focuses in on the husband as cuckhold and the wife as baggage, he balances it with the pretty young wench as mistress and handsome rake as “china” to be plundered. Through all, one thought remained clear: both men and women have the same desires, and use whatever means necessary to meet them. It’s as much about power as it is about physical desire. As Lady Fidget says, “we women of quality never think we have china enough” ….Amen, sister.

I shopped after the play, first stopping at a chocolatier. Normally, I do not indulge, but Saturday, I didn’t care. I lusted over Bailey’s truffles, chocolate dipped candied ginger, white chocolate bark and gold dusted Gran Marnier bits of lusciousness. The Cocoa Mill was filled with the thick rich smell of it and resisting the tiny tidbits was nearly impossible. I refrained, until spying the chocolate dipped apricots lolling obscenely about on their crystal cake plate. They begged. I withdrew. But it was Saturday and I didn’t care, so I bought one and promptly devoured its sticky sweet fruitishness on the spot. Among the shops, I strolled. My first conquest a new journal, Celtic knot heart on the cover, declaring “Walk this World with Hearts on Fire”. It will hold the next few months of the road.

My afternoon amble through the town ended at Ox Eye Vineyards tasting room. That is when the next temptation arrived and it wasn’t just the wine. A quite handsome gentleman tended the tasting flights; engaging him in conversation was required. Yes!

No.

There’s that moment, you know that moment, before talking to someone you are so physically attracted to you find it hard to form a thought. That pre-conversation mind racing where you breathe slowly and pray, “Please God, don’t let me sound like an idiot. Because I’m melting already and may just end up saying something like: Hi, I’m a rutabaga and its nice to meet you too…or Oh.my.god, you are the most gorgeous thing I’ve seen in months and I’d really like to see your…. china.” I’ll stop right there; you get the picture. But Saturday, I didn’t care, so I smiled charmingly while sipping and thought about …things…. and enjoyed the view …. and then the wine…a lot. Sigh. Okay, enough.

Dinner came at sunset, a beautiful orange spreading over the blue mountains like silk on fire. Zynodoa, a locavore’s paradise, was my dining destination. Sitting in my usual bar spot, I enjoyed more Ox Eye Riesling along with two small plates, a salad of butter lettuces, black eye peas, fried onions and pancetta with buttermilk dressing and a flash fried flounder on papardelle over pureed cauliflower with sautéed wild mushrooms on the side. I won’t tempt you with the description of the flavors, but needless to say the sinful savory and sweet, softness and bite had my eyes rolling back in my head. Zynodoa’s food is ah-mazing, the atmosphere close, dim, intimate and inviting. I’ll be back, often.

Debating whether to go to Byers Street Bistro for music, I checked in with Clarence in the back seat. Mr. Sleepy yawned, “Go ahead Mom. It’s Saturday. . . I don’t care.” So I drove down three blocks and popped into a raucous college bar to hear 3/5 of Maybe Tomorrow play some acoustic sets, late 80’s through aughties pop and dance tunes. Even though it didn’t seem to be my sort of venue at first, I slowly began to blend after the music started. I swear if you call out anything these guys know it, and play it well. When they hit “Love is What I Got”, “Save Tonight” and “Two Princes”, up onto the tiny dance floor I went and then the stairs. After set one, I was feeling so fine and the crowd was as well by observing the dance floor. Despite the time change and long drive home, this Cinderella stayed well past midnight. So. I know you’re wondering…did I drop my slipper?

I laughed. I drank. I ate. I sang. I danced.

But I kept my shoes on.

Cause it was Saturday and I didn’t care.

An Epic Wine

27 Feb

[I]t is the wine that leads me on,
the wild wine
that sets the wisest man to sing
at the top of his lungs,
laugh like a fool – it drives the
man to dancing… it even
tempts him to blurt out stories
better never told.

– Homer, The Odyssey

When I found The Map, it was like discovering a dusty worn parchment inking out the elusive burial spot of Blackbeard’s famous hoard. The Virginia Wine Board produces a free detailed map of the wineries, cideries and meaderies of the entire state of Virginia. It’s big. . . . really big. The sheer number of vintners, brewers, apple and honey fermenters in this state proves one thing. Virginians, like their forefather Thomas Jefferson, love the fruit of the vine. I had been to a few wineries in the past, but I had no idea of the literal explosion of vineyards and variety of wines produced in this state over the last twenty years. So when I stumbled upon the Virginia Wine Expo at the Richmond Convention Center, I bought my ticket more than a month in advance. Nearly all of the state wineries in one place? I imagined walking up to heavy double doors and then the treasure trove of bottled liquid ambrosia piled within awaiting my plunder.

The actual experience was a little different.

As I strode in to the main exhibition hall of the Richmond Convention Center, and luckily found a floor map, I quickly realized that this event was definitely not what I had anticipated. Imagine a home show, wine replacing the flooring and faux rock siding samples. I queued into a line in which I was promptly barcode bleeped and herded toward the branding and tagging area. Then, rounded up through the rotating gates into the main pasture where I could use my nifty ticket to gain my Riedel crystal trough. Coat check and wine check areas lined the perimeter of the pen, erhm…. I mean, “wine garden”, large round tables where we might enjoy our Circean feast. I had imagined most incorrectly, that such a venue would attract fine wine lovers, those who taste wine for its nuances, to know it, to understand it in an organic and personal way. My imagination also allowed for those who may not be so introspective, but yet, enjoy drinking Virginia wine and appreciating it for more than its ethereal properties. Those types may have been there, but I didn’t really encounter them…at least on my side of the vendor table.

Herds of wine swillers (say that three times fast), or flocks of sweet sipping sirens, are mostly what I navigated my tiny ship through, around and in between. The main group were the swillers…these were folks who mainly came to the event to drink ….and drink ….and drink a lot. Tastings were basically shots.

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

Slurp…that’s okay…(extend glass)…

I take at least q few minutes  to fully examine a wine, and I make notes. I do not taste it a second time if it isn’t to my liking, pouring it out into the waste bucket. And if I have had more than a glass or two in total over the course of the day…I taste and spit. This doesn’t seem to be the case with anybody else and by the looks, I had suddenly sprouted a second and third head at the tables from which I was able to actually get a tasting. The crowds were HUGE. And wine was literally being tossed at times into glasses over people heads in Baccanalian frenzy. Every time one of the drunken herd would drop a crystal glass on the concrete convention floor the crowd would roar in approval of the shattering like the crowds at a coliseum lion fight.

The other group was the sweet sirens, mainly women hovering about the tables who would not taste anything that didn’t have residual sugars of 2% or more. They would try a viognier or semi dry white blend and their little noses would crinkle up like little hummingbirds inserting their probosci into an allium. They flitted about the backs of tables luring pourers to hurry us toward our sugary demise.

The most humorous moment of the day was standing en masse at the Narmada Winery table, waiting for a chance at a flight. A small group had moved in beside me and one of the ladies, another tall red head, began to regale her group with the tale of finding out her teenage son was beginning to “manscape” and how proud she was of his responsibility and consideration for his girlfriend. Intimate details about their budding physical liaisons ensued. Oh…Holy…Night… I didn’t know whether to laugh, or simply stand there in excruciating empathy for her absent son who had no idea that the entire queue now knew way too much about his beloved and her reaction to his denuded state.

But there were some bright moments of the day, like when the pourer at the Gabriele Rausse table could tell I knew, or at least cared, about the wine I was tasting. We had a nice chat about the delicate differences in the varietals involved in their offerings. Or when my eyes rolled back over nearly every wine King Family Vineyards sells. Even when I tasted the foods offered alongside the wines such as amazing chocolates by Gearharts (tequila lime white chocolate truffles), roasted almonds and cashews, and delicious cheese by Emmi Roth, I began to enjoy the day’s course.

After tasting seven different wineries’ wares, my favorites were predominantly white and rose’…I need more whites in my cellar. Of course my wine conscience texted me. “Are we being good?” Surprisingly, I did not buy one bottle. I made notes instead. I’m really trying to hold onto my bag.

Top Picks from The Wayfarin’ Lass: Wine Expo 2013

King Family Vineyards: Crozet, VA

  • Roseland 2012: Chardonnay/ Viognier
  • Cabernet Franc 2011
  • Merlot 2011

Rosemont Vineyards: LaCrosse, VA

  • Rose’ 2011
  • Lake Country Red
  • Cabernet Franc 2010

Gabriele Rausse: Charlottesville, VA

  • Vin Gris de Pinot Noir 2012

Cedar Creek: Star Tannery, VA

  • Chardonnay 2011 (one of the best Chardonnays I have ever had)

Potomac Point: Stafford, VA

  • Chardonnay 2011
  • La Belle Vie: Vidal, Viognier, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng
  • La Belle Vie Rose 2012 (so pretty)
  • Cabernet Franc 2010

Narmada: Amissville, VA

  • Primita 2010 (dessert wine)

Truth be told, at the end of the day I was glad to have survived the journey generally unscathed. I learned more about why I like wine, especially Virginia wine and it has more to do with focusing on mindfulness and the senses, especially in the service of the written word, more than the drinking. For wherever there is treasure, the search is really more about the seeker than the sought. In the search, our truest desires are revealed and where we eventually find our fortunes.

Roots and Vine

22 Feb

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Winter is wearing me way thin these days, and I’m not the only one it seems. So many of my friends are in the “bring on the great one or let’s get on with spring” mindset. The days are cold, my hands perpetual briquettes. I brave the air every day at 5:15am on my nighttime jog with Clar. It’s dark…that still qualifies as night in my opinion. So, I get up at the end of the night and run before the day begins, thinking all the while,What am I doing out here? Sane people weren’t meant to be out in this …exercising. Yesterday, though, I noticed in the predawn blue under the sterile halogen of the street lamp, tiny purple-white croci pushed up in my neighbor’s yard, their little buds tight, braced against the winter air, holding their little breaths.

“It’s coming”, they say. “Hold on.”

And I’ve noticed that I’m tired of holding my own breath. Seriously, I need some real fun. Cut it loose, laugh my ass off, dance till I’m out of breath fun. The past few weeks have been soft and reflective, like a shifting snow but underneath, the creek is beginning to run like a mountain thaw. The ground never sleeps for long beneath its frosted blanket of white.

So Sunday morning after my run, I knew I couldn’t stay in the house all day grading papers. I had get out and go some place warm and fun. I’ll take my medicine. I’ll grade my papers like a good little underpaid, under appreciated school marm, but I will have some fun while I’m doing it. A quick on-the-fly Internet search revealed that Tara Mills and Yankee Dixie would be playing at DuCard Vineyards in Madison County up above Charlottesville. Listening to the tracks on her website suddenly reminded me what a Virginia gal I really am. Bluegrass is in my roots, both from my Roanoke upbringing and my Irish heritage. And in my love for the vine, any winery is a fine place to be. The concert was free and DuCard has a fireplace…score.

As I drove north to Madison County, I actually thought to myself with as many wineries as you are visiting Cyndi, your readership has got to be making some judgments. Let me unequivocally state that while I love wine, I can go to a winery without lolling around in inebriated reverie or purchasing a case for my cellar, really.

. . .Stop smiling at me like that, I already have a wine conscience named Paul, thank you very much. Every time I go to a wine festival, he texts me,  “And what’s our spending limit for the cellar today? Are you being good?” and I have to stick to it. Brothers are like that.

So, I rambled up the road searching for this tiny vineyard at the base of the Shenandoah National Park. It had snowed Saturday evening in a wild draping pattern over the cedar and pine speckled mountains and through rocky valleys. I ran into white, then gold,then white. Rocks and black trees appeared amid the dusting. On the last leg of the drive, I actually laughed out loud. Ruby Thewes began to echo in my head. “Waaaaaay up in the hol-ler”, describes DuCard’s location precisely. The vineyard is situated amid open fields and cow pasture, mountain ranges and winding rural state roads. As I pulled up the drive, I knew it was worth the trip, a tiny little tasting room, nestled in a modest sized vineyard. Next to it, a tiny creek, in thaw.

DuCard has one of the warmest, most open tasting rooms I’ve experienced yet. The ceilings are high and the walls are nearly all glass, revealing the view of the mountains. In other seasons, I am sure it’s even more magnificent and I plan to go back in spring with a picnic basket. They have a lovely patio area and small stage adjacent to it. Inside, though, it’s leather couches and small garden tables aside the long tasting bar, like a great room of someone’s mountain getaway. All are invited to a nice Sunday afternoon gathering, except we don’t have to bring a dish, just ourselves.

I set up shop with papers at a table near the front, the fireside being coveted and occupied. Confession time: I had a quick tasting session beforehand. Okay, no chuckles there. DuCard has a small list of about eight wines and I directed the pourer to make sips tiny. Papers need grading. My picks include their Cabernet Franc Reserve, super smoky oak, deep and well balanced blackberry notes. The Petit Verdot will store well, as its quite hearty and full-bodied. Surprisingly, their Rosé was good even though it had a bit of bottle shock, dry with a slightly strawberry edge. The prices are somewhat high for me, though. So I obtained a glass of Cab Franc and settled back into enjoying the music of Tara Mills and Yankee Dixie for the next several hours.

Second confession: bluegrass music is my long lost love. It’s like an old flame you meet again at a highschool reunion and realize you still have it bad after all those years. You know the notes, you know the dance, no matter how long ago you heard it last. So almost immediately, I was enjoying myself way too much to grade papers except during the set breaks. The trio featured Mills on guitar and vocals, John Howard on mandolin, banjo and harmonica, and Turtle Zwadlo on upright bass. That upright bass gets me every time. It’s funny, I began to remember words to songs I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. Their blend of bluegrass and folk is like a Sunday afternoon drive on a well- traveled road. You know where you’re going and it’s warm sunshine all the way

Their rendition of Ain’t Nobody Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone, had me singing with Tara’s low and steady vocals. John’s joined hers in what I call the perfect “bluegrass wind up”, both voices twining around each other, stringing the notes out low then up like the long road outside. Tapping my feet to original tunes like New Year’s Resolution and What I Need…and even The Cat Song was what I had needed to shake off the winter cold. Letting out a few Irish yips at the end of songs felt fantastic, like being home.

There was a time and I think it’s true for nearly everyone when we want to escape our roots, where a young person thinks, “I live in the most uncultured uninteresting place on the planet”, especially if one happens to be from the rural south. I had always viewed my Southwest Virginian status as somehow less cultured than others, especially in college. My friends from all parts north or even places like Texas and California, I felt were “cooler” than me. Nothing exciting happens in a cow field or in the woods behind my house. So I left bluegrass behind for rock, punk, and jazz and other musical forms, just as I left my grandmother’s home cooking for cultural delicacies and foreign wine.

But as I sat there singing and tapping my heels to familiar songs, I began to realize that like a vine, I may have grown out, curling away from where I began, but that home ground still feeds me, still attaches to my core. The roots are where I truly lie and where I will eventually return at the end of my days. John Howard even mentioned playing in a punk band for many years and now he’s back to playing his roots. Seems like we all come back home from our journeys.

As I drove that evening down the mountain, I stopped to notice the landscape in its last breath of winter, the sun setting over cold mountains with the faintest glimmer of spring, a ghost of a rose hidden under the frosted fields.

Our love was like a burning ember
It warmed us as a golden glow
We had sunshine in December
And threw our roses in the snow

In old time bluegrass, those notes of home echo a slight longing, even the happy songs, and that’s a good place to start spring. That slow movement away from the still, quiet, and deep of the sunset, toward a longing for and a stretching out in the morning to the sun.

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.

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