Grab Your Life Jacket, And Triple A Card, We’re Going Wine Tasting!

First, I think we can all agree that I am no a wine blogger. I leave that to people much more talented and knowledgeable than me. At best, I sometimes blog wine or wineries, but mostly I blog food and food-related stuff. I’m going to keep it that way, so don’t worry that your foodie fix here has left you for a glass of pinot noir. This coming week, however, I am going to blog wine, because I have a great reason to do so. Well, two reasons: 1) we had an amazing time on the opening of the Appellation Trail and 2) I have a really light week due to some client vacations.

We made it to 4 of the 5 wineries on the trail: Stinson, White Hall, Mountfair, and Glass House. We also got a sneak taste of the Ankida Ridge pinot noir, which I’ll include with the Stinson review. The wineries are all going to get their own posts with my wine reviews. I’ll be doing one a day, starting on Tuesday and running through Friday. Why, you ask, didn’t we make it to Moss Vineyards for an awesome, one-day-only sneak preview of their winery & tasting room? Let me just say it wasn’t for lack of trying. And that’s why I’m not starting today with an individual winery post. You know the saying “Half the fun is getting there?”

We met up with our friends Renee and Brian around noon, so we could carpool the trail. We’ve never been tasting together before and decided kind of last-minute to meet up for the Grand Opening of the trail. I’d been planning it for a few weeks,  and was delighted that we’d all finally have a chance to taste together (we’d been talking about it for weeks).  Despite a call for rain and some pretty ominous skies, we headed out in their SUV. All I can say is I am so very glad that we made the (also last-minute) decision to take their car because mine’s just too darn small.

Stinson was our first stop. I was pretty geeked about Stinson, since they’re new and this was a special open day for them until their grand opening later this year. We pulled into an obviously-busy tasting room (this would prove to be the norm all day long,  which was great!), ran inside through heavy rain, and settled ourselves at one of the three small tasting bars.  You’re not getting a full run-down here until Tuesday (Stinson will be first-up on my reviews), but I will say it was a $5 tasting fee, which included the Ankida Ridge pinot noir. And, as it turns out, it also included a great little slider from Gyffon’s Aerie farm and a few homemade side dishes. This was a pleasant surprise.

Aside (scroll down if you could care less about foodie stuff)

Now, while I am not doing the wines here, let me talk about the beef. The beef was, in a word, fabulous. I didn’t get a chance to ask them if it was seasoned (and if so, with what), but it was excellent. I met the folks who run the farm two years ago at Monticello’s Harvest Festival, and have wanted to try their meat ever since. It was lean but juicy, flavorful without any hint of game. That said, it was $7/lb. You all know that I believe pretty firmly in paying more for quality meats, with a premium on local. But, $7 is way out of the market for this area. Davis Creek is $4.85/lb, and their beef is fantastic.  Our Father’s Farm is on the highest side of what I pay in the area at $6.50/lb, which I’ll pay because I love them to death, and it’s super-convenient because I can have it delivered with my milk share. 

We still decided to purchase some sausage from Gryffon’s Aerie, though, because we have a hard time getting local pork unless we drive to Charlottesville for the market (which we do, but we’re out right now). We were floored: $10/lb for sausage.  Babe in the Woods–very high-quality local pork–is $5.50 to $7.50/lb! We haven’t tried the sausage yet, and I’ll let you know how it is, but I have to say that it’s difficult for me to imagine what could make it $$2.50-4.50/lb better than Babe in the Woods.

Now, back to our trip!

We left Stinson and drove the 2ish miles to White Hall. The rain was coming down in torrents, but we dashed through it and into the tasting room. Note: pergolas, while attractive, do diddly for keeping you dry. Once again, we were welcomed into a tasting room practically bursting. It was great. This was another winery I was looking forward to because they were doing a special Petit Verdot vertical of 4 years, and pairing them with gourmet cheeses. We had to wait a bit to get started, but the staff was friendly and we got to talk to the chef who did the pairing.  And, we met another great couple who were into food and wine, and they were also doing the trail.

As we got ready to leave, we paused.  It was time to head to Moss, for which we’d be bypassing Mountfair. That had been kind of a hard decision for us, because I’ve heard so much good stuff about Mountfair’s Wooloomooloo that I was dying to try it (and the rest of their wines), but we weren’t going to have time to hit all 5. Mountfair was nixed, and Glass House was a “maybe,” at best. Except…

Wow, it was really, really raining out there. We decided to make a break for it instead of waiting for the rain to slow, and ran out to the car. I ended up, as Renee so succinctly put it, like a drowned rat; but, we were on our way.  Driving down 810, the river to our left was rapidly rising. In some places, it was submerging people’s driveway bridges, and water was running over the road from the uphill on our right. Renee navigated us around fallen branches, and onward we went, our newly-made friends from White Hall following behind in their truck.

Really, we were doing pretty good. It was fun. Until we saw the bridge ahead of us.  We didn’t get a picture of this. I really wish we would have.  The water was completely over the road bridge, forming what I swear was a lovely class 4 or so rapid, and the water was rising fast. Needless to say, we knew we had to turn around.  In that short time, that 1 or maybe two minutes, this is what happened behind us:

All photos courtesy of Renee and Brian Scott

Brian took the wheel:
Once clear, we made our way back towards White Hall to let them know the road was washed out, and then realized we could still get through to Mountfair, even though their bridge wasn’t too far from swmaped out:’
We arrived to another full tasting room, and ran into our new friends from White Hall, as well as a group of folks we’d been essentially following since Stinson. I got to meet the social media guru for Mountfair, and the winemaker himself, Fritz, was working the tasting room. You’ll hear more about this later in the week. We finished up there, and everyone–winemaker included–was heading to Glass House for the final stop of the day. So, we threw caution (and Thadd’s homework) to the wind joined the caravan.
Down a dirt road. In a storm that was flooding paved, higher roads. You see where this is going.
Aboout halfway to Glass House, the road was swamped out. People were out of their cars on each side, and one woman had made three attempts to drive her vehicle through the running waters. The cars in front of us were Jeeps, so they gave it a go anyway and made it across. We held our breath (because really, I’m pretty sure our only option on this road would have been to back down it), and our fearless leader Brian went for it. On the other side, the rest of the caravan (including  Jaqueline, the media manager from Mountfair) waited to pull us (and the rest of the caravan behind us) out of the car so we didn’t drown should the car get swept into the river.  I’m writing this, so we obviously made it, and waited and cheered for those behind us.
All of us accounted for, once again we headed to our final stop. Until two scared, wet dogs decided to wander into the road looking for help. Seriously, I can’t make this stuff up. The caravan stopped, and one of the dogs hopped into the lead car. Dog number two was less sure, but I think the eventually got it in. Off they went to return the dogs (who were wearing collars, fortunately) to their owners, while the rest of the caravan carried on.
Still wet and more than a little thankful to not have had to swim to safety, we arrived at Glass house, where the caravan got a table and swapped fish stories about the day. And, it all ended with this:
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6 responses to “Grab Your Life Jacket, And Triple A Card, We’re Going Wine Tasting!

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