Tag Archives: Virginia

World is Ending!!! Might as well go out with a wine-tasting

Two months ago, my friends and I had a little wine-tasting adventure (as blogged about by Sheridan at Barkless Vegetables) to some vineyards in Northern Virginia.  As wines go, Virginia does an ok job of turning out some decent wines, but is certainly not ready to be crowned the wine capitol of the world.  However, wine-tasting with friends is always fun and these places are nearby. 

The best of the 3 places we went to was Tarara.

Tarara’s wines were better tasting than those from the neighboring vineyards; however, their tasting fee is higher and their pricing is much higher (undeservedly so).  Are the wines good – yes.  But, they aren’t as good as Tarara thinks they are.  Still, I didn’t want to go home empty handed so I bought a bottle of their 2006 Cabernet Franc.  Because it was such a nice day, we all split a bottle of their Meritage, got some snacks and relaxed on their terrace.


Later that week, Ryan and I opened up our bottle for dinner and it was HORRIBLE.  It wasn’t simply a case of I did a lot of wine-tasting and chose a not-so-great bottle in my buzzed state of mind.  It was truly undrinkable and we poured it down the drain.  I emailed the folks at Tarara about the bottle and they were very accomodating.  We were offered replacement bottles and a complimentary tasting.  So, this last weekend Ryan and I made our way over to Tarara to cash in. 

Of course, we picked the worst weekend ever.  Tarara’s tasting room was closed and they were having a complimentary outdoor tasting with a “vineyard tour”.  While this was nice, our tasting was supposed to include additional wines that were not available because the tasting room was closed.  Again, Tarara was great about this and threw in more free bottles of wine to make up for it.  We figured we were already there, so we hopped on the wagon for a tour. 

As the tractor pulled us through the rows of vines, I assumed we would be given some sort of speech about the history of the vineyard or the types of grapes and their growing habits or something.  Radio silence.  However, I was with Ryan who makes friends with everyone, so he struck up a conversation with the woman manning the tour and she told us a little about the history. 

Apparently, the owners were searching for some land to start a vineyard when they happened upon the land that is currently Tarara.  There had been heavy rain in the preceding days and one of the lower fields was flooded.  Looming behind the flooded plain was Sugar Loaf Mountain (which Ryan had already identified as soon as we pulled into the driveway).  According to the story, the owners thought of Noah and his arc landing at Mount Ararat.  The bought the land and named the vineyard Tarara, or Ararat spelt backwards.  Sticking with this trend some of their wines bear the name Nevaeh, or heaven spelt backwards.  As it turns out, we made a very fitting choice for how to spend our time on the day of the Rapture.   

The outdoor tasting was a nice change from doing more traditional indoor tastings.  The tents were set up right next to the vines and it was much more beautiful than being stuck inside.  Plus, it was sunny and nice to be outdoors!

Overall, I had a good time at this tasting (despite the de-railing of our original plan) and at the last tasting I was at.  Plus, the staff was really great about the bottle incident and seemed truly genuine in their desire to make up for the quality lapse.  My only complaint still is that the wines are a little pricey for what they are.  Still, if you live in the area and feel like going for a tasting its near by and fairly good wine.  They also have an outdoor concert series for the summer.


Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Food and Drink


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Picasso & Cafe Con Leche

“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary”

            ~Pablo Picasso

Picasso had paintings, I have this blog!  I’m sure my blog is just as relevant and game-changing 😉  Anyways, last weekend I had the opportunity to see the Picasso exhibit at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond.


The collection is a rare traveling exhibit from the Musee National Picasso in Paris and is comprised of many pieces that Picasso kept until his death, at which time his family donated them to the museum created in his name.  It is unique in its size and in that it spans throughout his life and various styles and mediums.  I’m not a huge Picasso fan, but I felt like I couldn’t pass this opportunity up!  If you have a chance to see this exhibit before it leaves (last day is May 15th), I would recommend it; but, word of warning – the wait line was a little ridiculous, especially considering you get timed tickets.

Still, the collection was really interesting and had two of my favorite Picasso pieces – Two Women Running on the Beach – and a painting of Marie-Therese, one of his mistresses who hung herself after his death.

A portrait of Marie-Therese entitled Reading

Ryan also found something that he really dug – a bull head formed out of an old bike seat and handlebars.  After making our way through the exhibit, we popped in to see some of the Greek and Roman art, a Faberge collection, some Japanese woodblock prints and Ice Man, a sculpture of the ancient natural mummy found in the Alps (Ryan called this out from across the museum – impressive!).

While in Richmond, we also took the time to explore some of the vintage shops along Cary Street.  I do wish we would have had more time, because I know I would have spent hours exploring!  Ryan looked quite fetching in this top hat:

Hitched My Bonecrusher up so I Can Look for Some New Tweed

Hahahaha.  Why nobody rocks a top hat anymore is beyond me.  Ryan’s gonna bring it back.

We also had the awesome experience of Kuba Kuba while in Richmond.

This place is the best – tiny, intimate restaurant, good-natured singing waiter and absolutely yummy food.  Ryan and I shared the black bean soup to start and then it was time to get serious.

Ryan had the Cubano

My GIANT Bowl of Paella - Clams, Mussels, Shrimp & Chorizo

You can only kind of see in the photos, but plantains come with both dishes.  Mmmmmm – the best plantains I have ever had.  The one small downside to Kuba Kuba was no mojitos – they don’t have liqour; however, Ryan did have a refreshingly tart limeade.

Shelves of Cuban Espresso for Sale

Despite the fact that the buttons on my dress were literally popping open if I breathed out too deeply, we got two iced cafe con leches to go.  BEST DECISION EVER.  Cafe con leche starts off with a strong coffee, sometimes even espresso, and then adds condensed milk and sugar into a delicious little cup of coffee.  I have had cafe con leche once before and really liked it, but iced brought it to a whole new level.  Unreal.

As we walked through town sipping our delicious beverages, we were window shopping the houses, which are beautiful and old – in a good way.  Some of them even had the old coal chute doors.

Old coal chute

We also came across this awesome vintage, two-seater moped.  I would love to scoot around on this thing!

Vintage Moped with Double Seats

Overall, Ryan and I both really liked Richmond. The shops are very cool and interesting, the museum was great and the city is very walkable.  Definitely a city worth visiting, even if just for Kuba Kuba.


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Drinking with George – The Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival

Last year Ryan and I went to the Mount Vernon wine festival and had a fantastic time!  So, just to make sure we got tickets this year, I set an outlook reminder on my work computer for the first day of sales….hahaha.  I know it’s lame, but I wanted tickets and I was rewarded for my nerdy efforts.

Unfortunately, even with my reminder, Friday had already been sold out and we had plans for Saturday night (the camping trip to Shenandoah with our infamous ranger friend from a previous post).  Sunday, October 3rd was the only other option, so while not ideal, we took it because really there is no bad time for a wine festival.

The weekend came and was one of the nicest, warmest fall weekends.  That is, until Sunday.  Sunday was rain and lots of it!  However, people are not to be deterred from their need to imbibe.  Boots and rain jackets donned, we headed to our first president’s fine estate.

On the one hand, the cooler temps were nice because the wine warmed you right up!  On the other, because of the rain, more people continued their tastings longer rather than settling on a bottle or two and sitting out on the lawn listening to the band.  This made for a rather crowded tasting tent, but the more the merrier!

Tasting Tent

In total 17 vineyards from around Virginia attended the festival and for $30 plus tax and fees, you have unlimited tasting, admission to Mount Vernon and a souvenir tasting glass….not bad at all!  Plus, you are hanging out where George Washington did, so that’s pretty cool.

Mr. President

According to American, George himself found wine to be one of life’s simple pleasures:

My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it.  A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready.

Who am I to argue with our first president?  Let’s get to the wine!!!

In reality, most people don’t stop at every vineyards booth, so you kind of carve out a game plan based on which ones you are set on tasting and which ones look like they have space for you to saddle up to the table.  Ryan and I both like Horton, so we wanted to save that for last.  Other than that, we just went wherever we found space.

Chateau Morrisette

The man who conducted our tasting here was knowledgeable but a little soft-spoken for such a loud and widely attended event.  The wines were pretty good, with the standouts for me being their Liberty (a Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend) and Independence (a Traminette and Riesling blend). Plus, both of these wines are service dog wines, meaning that a portion of the proceeds go to the Saint Francis Service Dog Foundation and the Service Dogs of Virginia.

Blenheim Vineyards

The woman at this booth was doing the vineyard a major disservice.  She was unfriendly and not engaging.  We were some of the first people to walk up and she did not say one word to us.  When we engaged her, it was like pulling teeth to get this lady to talk about the wines.  Unreal.  Maybe it was the bad start to this tasting, or maybe her dull personality is a true reflection of their wines, but I only really liked their Cabernet Franc and even that was not anything spectacular.

West Wind Farm

Overall, I really liked the wines that this vineyard put forth.  Of course, the Riesling was tasty (after living in Alsace, Rieslings are my favorite!) but I also really enjoyed their Chambourcin and their Galena Creek Peach.  The Galena Creek Peach was incredibly sweet and you guessed it, peach-flavored.  It would be a nice wine to use with desserts or maybe mixed with Champagne.

Prince Michel

Again, another fairly good offering.  The Merlot was better than I anticipated as someone who is not inclined to choose a Merlot.  The Rapidan River Semi Dry Riesling was also very good.


Wine please!

Horton far and away had the best atmosphere.  How do you create atmosphere in a booth?  Their pourers had personality, so even though at times one of them was a little out there, they still had a way better vibe than any of the other vineyards.  Horton also brought the most options for you to taste.  My favorites here were the Eclipse White which was absolutely fantastic and their Vintage Port.  The Eclipse is smooth and sweet, but not too sweet and would be absolutely the best summer wine for an outdoor party, picnic, or day out on the boat.

Horton also had an interesting array of fruit wines and chocolate wines.  Both the lighter and darker chocolate wines were pretty good.  I preferred the lighter one.  Their peach was not as good as West Wind’s, but their raspberry and pomegranate were both great!

After Horton, it was time to make our purchases and get home to some cooking and more wine drinking!

Our Bounty

Raspberry Wine Chocolate Cake

Taking the suggestion of our rather crazy wine pourer from Horton, I made a cake using their Raspberry wine.  I bought a double chocolate fudge cake mix and substituted the wine for the water.

After it cooled, I iced it with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled dark chocolate shavings on top.  Eating this cake with the remainder of the raspberry wine was a fantastic dessert!  I can only imagine how much better it would be if you have some legit baking skills and made a cake from scratch doing this.  I highly recommend giving this a try.



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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Food and Drink


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