Posts Tagged ‘week-end trips from Eastern Shore Virginia’

Charlottesville Uncorked– A Fall Week-end Sampling Blue Ridge Mountain Area Wines

Thursday, December 1st, 2011

Just before Thanksgiving we had an opportunity to take a week-end off  and decided to make a quick trip  to Charlottesville, VA.   Located at the foot of the  beautiful Blue Ridge mountain range, it’s only about a three and a half hour drive from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and it’s a drive through some of  Virginia’s prettiest countryside,  ever gorgeous in the fall.  We started out by heading south over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, deep blue waters of the  Bay glistening in the sun,  picking up Rt 64 west to Williamsburg, which is a lovely tree lined drive through slightly hilly terain,  a quick stop at the Williamsburg Outlet Mall for a pair of boaters at Bass Shoes,  lunch at the  Cheese Shop in Merchant’s Square in the Colonial historic area,  one of their delicious Virginia country ham sandwiches accompanied by a  little glass of chilled white wine.  Back on the road again, by-passing Richmond, heading  into even more rolling terrain until suddenly, from the top of  a  hill,  the  peaks in the distance now reveal themselves in varying shades of blue, the Blue Ridge Mountains,  a lovely sight, and then we’re  quickly in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville, C-ville, as residents call her,  is best known for  three things.  1.)  It is the home of  UVA,  the University of  Virginia, which in 2011 once again maintained its top rating,  tied with UCLA  as the 2nd best public university in the entire nation.  2.) It is the location of  Monticello, the exquisute mountain-top estate of the 3rd president of the United States,  Thomas Jefferson, and a named UNESCO World Heritage site and 3.) It is home to Ash Lawn, home of James Monroe, 5th president of the Uunited States.  And as if that were not enough,  among others,  it is also the  home of  author John Grisham and  Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band !


A word, or 2, about UVA.   Its  gorgeous campass,  with mostly classically styled  buildings nestled into a rolling terrain,  is sited on 800 acres of  land which had been part of a 3000 acre parcel owed by James Monroe.   The original concept of the University came from Thomas Jefferson, who rated his work in designing and establishing it as the primary achievement of his life,  more important even than his presidency.  The most revered building at UVA is its first building,  the Rotunda, designed by Thomas Jefferson himself,  a beautiful classical design modeled after Rome’s  Pantheon.  Fully completed only after Jefferson’s death, the Rotunda became the academic village that Jefferson had envisioned, containing the library, classrooms, faculty offices and student rooms.  Now, of course, the University is a huge affair, with an enrollment of  over 21,000 students  and a faculty of  nearly 1400– I’m sure that Jefferson would be tremendously  proud of all that has been accomplished by his successors in the last nearly 200 years.

Sunday morning,  after a relaxing brunch at Maya’s on Main Street in the C-ville’s quaint little downtown ( highly recommend the potato cakes with smoked salmon ), we set off for a day of exploration and wine tasting.  As it turned out, there was more exploration and less wine tasting.   Having driven by Ash Lawn, the home of president James Monroe, many times we decided that the time had finally come  to stop and take the tour– and so we did.  ( A little trivia on US presidents– 8 were born in the state of Virginia and 7 are buried in Virginia including  both Jefferson and Monroe.) Monroe purchased  an estate of over 3500 acres ( including the 800 that went to UVA)  adjacent  to Monticello  where his close friend Jefferson lived.  Jefferson helped Monroe select the exact location to site his future home which Monroe named Ash Lawn-Highland when it was completed about 1800. Although Monticello is a very grand home,  Monroe went in the opposite direction and built a very tasteful but much smaller home which he referred to as his “cabin castle” in the country.

The property is a now a museum owned and operated by the College of William and Mary, with house and grounds very much as they were in Monroe’s day– formal flower gardens,  a large working veggie and herb garden, numerous out buildings including the barn, icehouse, smokehouse, etc., pastures with cattle grazing, all overlooking the beautiful mountains.  It was a most interesting tour with a few bits of  great trivia: back in the day wallpaper was extremely expensive and so was not actually glued to the wall as it would be today but rather attached by tacks so that if the owner moved the wallpaper could be packed up along with the other household furnishings.  Also, Monroe was the very first president to commission his own presidential china for use during his term in the White House- prior to that  presidents  were  expected to bring their own china  Washington with them. And of course since that time ever subsequent president has commissioned his own china pattern for official White House use.  But the most interesting couple bits  of Monroe triva offered by the tour guide were  that in the very famous painting  of General George Washington crossing the Delaware, then Lieutenant Monroe is shown in the boat standing  just behind  Washington, holding the flag.  However,  at the time  Monroe had actually already reached the New Jersey shore in an entirely different boat from Washington.   And talk about making a fashion statement, a replica of the deep rose colored wedding gown worn by Monroe’s glamourous wife, Elizebeth, stands in the drawing room,  made notable by the fact that has no buttons, snaps or fasteners of any kind whatsoever — she was literally sewen into the dress for the ceremony after which the dress was taken off by re-opening the seams !

From Ash Lawn we were off to the new winery acquisition by  “The Donald”.  The former Kluge Estates Vineyard is now  called Trump  Winery, no surprise there although the primary  wines for sale are  ’07,  ’08, ’09 and  ’10  bottlings  which still carry the Kluge label.   The tasting room is very much the same, still  attractive warm woods but an additional large outdoor seating area has been added in the back and a large screen TV in the main room offers a beautiful slideshow of the vineyard through the seasons. Sparkling wines were very much the signature wines of Kluge and I’m sure will be of Trump as well.  We ordered a small cheese plate and tastings of  all 3 of the sparklings, a Blanc de  Blanc,  Blanc  de Noir and the Rose’,  favorite hands down being the elegant  and beautifully colored  Blanc de Noir.

From Trump it was on to the only other vineyard we had time for, Jefferson Vineyard,  just a few minutes away from Monticello. It is well-known that Jefferson became a great connoisseur of wine  from the substantial amount of time he spent in France  when he succeded Franklin as the  American ambassador.

Jefferson was eager to establish vineyards on this side of the Atlantic and the land on which Jefferson Vineyards stands was at one time owned by by an Italian viticulturist who was prompted by Jefferson to try his luck in Virginia.

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Coming Full Circle- Lynn Summerall And The Hotel Paradise Roof Garden Orchestra

Saturday, May 28th, 2011
The band seated together for a promo photo

The Hotel Paradise Roof Garden Orchestra- Together Once Again !

It isn’t often that one can start a brand new career twice  in the exact same venue but that is what  the Hotel Paradise Roof Garden Orchestra did Sunday night a few weeks ago at the  Jewish Mother restaurant’s brand  new location at Hilltop  in Virginia Beach.  Taking a few minutes out to speak with me after the band’s last set for the evening,  Lynn Summerall,  its musical director,  reminisced a bit  about the orchestra’s debut in 1992…. at  Jewish Mother,   albeit in the restaurant’s  previous Atlantic Avenue location !   This was the band’s first performance since 2001  and Lynn had a lot of fun joking about getting everything down pat for this performance because in essence this is the beginning of a new career– getting the band back together,  playing a few gigs part-time.,  really just having some fun. (  Like  Jake and Elwood in  “The Blues Brothers”,  they’re putting the band back together but the mission more like having  some fun.  I should mention that the band will be playing at the Jewish Mother  again on June  12th and July 10th,  with more in the works after that,  possibly a  “second Sunday”  kind of thing. )

Lynn Summerall, Becky Livas and the Hotel Paradise Orchestra take a well-deserved bow

I am completely in love with the music of the 1930’s and 1940’s– in fact, when I think of popular music,  that’s what comes to mind for me,  the great sounds of  orchestras like the Dorsey brothers,  Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw,  Harry James, Count Basie.  ( I’m probably telling my age  but I am particularly partial to music which actually includes more than 5 notes and a real variety of instruments,  not just 3 guitars,  a drum and a keyboard !  )  Lynn Summerall’s  group specializes in  20’s  and ’30’s  swing music and on Sunday night the audience was wowed with a number of old favorites including  Guy Lombardo’s  hit recording  “Someone To Watch Over Me” ,  Cole Porter’s  “Begin The Beguine”  ( a personal favorite of  my husband )  and  that lovely old tune, “Stormy Weather”,  so beautifully sung by Becky Livas, the orchestra’s original vocalist back in the day.  ( If you live in the Hampton Roads area you will  remember  Becky Livas,  well-known from her news work at  TV Channel 13  some years back. )   Summerall himself treated us to a fast-tempo vocal  of  “Yes, Sir That’s My Baby” and got a huge round of applause for his efforts, then sent folks into peals of laughter by telling the story of the customer who had just come up to him during intermission to suggest that he not wear black suspenders under his white tux jacket next time.

Couples dancing to the Hotel Paradise Orchestra music

Dancing Once Again To Those Smooth Sweet Sounds

Co-incidentially, I had heard about this performance during pledge week on our favorite  radio stations,  WHRO/WHRV ,  the National Public Radio stations broadcasting from Norfolk, Virginia.   Lynn Summerall’s  “real”  job is manager of volunteers for the station and copies of  a  Hotel Paradise Orchestra  CD entitled ” Bye Bye Blues”  were on the gift selection list for a pledge.  During that program it was mentioned that the band would be reuniting for its first live performance in 10 years on May 8th at the Jewish Mother. ( In fact, he indicates that the full-time responsibities of his job at WHRO  were what made him give up the band.)   I made my reservation that night and  was glad that I had done so  because  Sunday the place was packed,  fortunately they had valet parking.  One of the great things about this kind of music is that it is so eminently danceable and a number of  couples were dancing– in fact,   one couple,  Jane  and  Ed Martin,  who had noticed me taking photos came up later to tell me that they used to go to the Chamberlain Hotel in Hampton,  (so fabulous in its day,  now divided into luxury apartments ),  to dance to the live music of the Hotel Paradise  Roof Garden orchestra which had played there quite frequently.  The Martins  were thrilled to be dancing once again to lilting tunes from this old familiar orchestra,  hadn’t imagined they ever would again until they heard about this performance.  They are delightedly looking forward to the June and July performances,  as am I.     P.S.  Talk about a small world and only 6 degrees of separation,  Lynn mentioned that although they had never played a gig on the Eastern Shore  he knew all about the renovation of the historic Palace Theatre in Cape Charles,  that in fact William  Neill  ( who is the musical director for the Palace )  will be playing  in the orchestra’s  June performance.  ( see the  April, 2011  post on Art’s Enter’s   production of   Oliver !  The Musical  at the Palace Theatre which mentions  Neill’s  outstanding work ).  Just another good reason for me to be there on June 12th, reveling in those  smooth, sweet sounds !

(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

Where In The World Is The Eastern Shore Of Virginia ???

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Virginia's Eastern Shore has a prime address- the corner of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean

One of the most frequent questions we get from people from out of the area who are responding to  our  ads  is  “Where exactly is the Eastern Shore of Virginia  ? ”   Mother Nature has  created this remarkable little  slice of the earth as a slender peninsula, bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean , on the west by the Chesapeake Bay,  to the north bordered by southern Maryland  with access to  mainland Virginia via the engineering marvels of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel complex   (  ) .   Being at the corner of the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean is  a truly primo address,  clearly.  But when we moved here  nearly twenty five years ago,  almost nobody I knew had ever heard of  the Eastern Shore of Virginia,  period– except people who lived here, obviously.  About twenty years ago Blue Heron Realty Co.  sponsored  a  “meet and greet”  booth at  the annual Homarama  builder show   in an effort to raise greater awareness  in the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area of the real estate possibilities here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  It was funny,  in a sad sort of way— people would stop for a brochure and comment  that  they  had never heard of the Eastern Shore,  although  we are less than an hour away from almost anyplace in Virginia Beach or Norfolk.   That experience  and a few others  like it led us to write a little book  in 1989  (out of print now),  replete with lots of photographs,  about life and real estate on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore.  Back then the Shore was an extremely rural area and definitely not for everyone,  no shopping centers, almost no restaurants, no world class golf,  just exquisite waterfront property.  Having the book enabled us to lend out copies to people who were thinking of coming to look real estate so they could get a feel for the area,   in advance of making a trip,  see if it matched up with their needs,  contemplate whether or not this was an area for them. 

And now,  22 years later,  the Shore has changed a lot,  we have amenities galore.   But even in 2011,   many  people still have never heard of the Eastern Shore of Virginia  although they probably recognize the names of some of our little towns,   Cape Charles,  Onancock or Chincoteague  ( the Shore’s  great tourist area and home to the famous annual pony swim and auction  It’s easy to see where we are on the Eastern Seaboard from this  little map graphic– about 3 & 1/2 hours from Philadelphia, about 4 & 1/2 from most of New Jersey,  about 6 hours from New York City,  about 4 hours from the  Washington DC/Baltimore area,  1 & 1/2 hours from Williamsburg, 3 1/2  hours from Charlottesville and from Cape Charles,  less than a  1/2 hour from Virginia Beach and Norfolk.   Our area is really so close to a great many major metro areas– easy for friends and relatives to visit or  to visit them.   Better still,  not only is it easy to get here but when you live here it’s so easy to access wonderful events and attractions in other areas !   The Eastern Shore of Virginia is  “easy trip”  paradise.    Hankering for the mountains ?   Zip to Charlottesville.   Nordstrum’s having a big, big sale ?   Zip to McArthur Center in Norfolk.   Want to visit Capitol Hill,  the Library of Congress,  the amazing National Zoo or go to the annual National Book Festival  ?   Zip to Washington D.C. .   Annapolis Boat Show calling ?   Zip, zip.  Longing  to see Wicked on Broadway ?  Zip, zip, zip, pass go,  have dinner in Chinatown,  then on to the Great White Way.  Like State Fairs  ?   Zip to Richmond,  just 2 & 1/2 hours away.   You get the picture….    Virginia’s Eastern Shore  has a fabulous central location,  with easy access to and from some really great places.

  So  that’s  “Where In The World”   the Eastern Shore is located  — right in the middle of  many of  the good things of  life !

Out Of The Kitchen And Onto The Door— Williamsburg, Virginia Holiday Decorations

Tuesday, January 4th, 2011

What do apples, lemons, pomagranates and boxwood sprigs have in common ?    They are all part of the grand Colonial Williamsburg tradition of decorating the doors in the Historic Area with wreaths, sprays and swags that  glow with the colors of   citrus fruits and apples, brilliant reds, yellows and orange set against the dark waxy green of  boxwood or pine sprigs.   And not just fruit laden wreaths appear– in the many years that we have visited Williamsburg, Virginia  during the  Christmas season we have seen a tremendous variety of  herbs,  dried plants, cinnamon sticks, seed pods of all kinds, magnolia leaves, etc. all used to create  the delightful door decorations which  grace the  Historic Area homes each year.   One of the most memorable was a very large wreath decorated with just about every type of shell that is common to our coastal area– oyster shells with mother-of-pearl interiors showing,  pink scallop shells,  swirled whelk shells, ribbed clam shells, dark bearded mollusks, long razor clams,  tiny periwinkles combined with boxwood, holly berry sprigs and long pine cones to create a  really  interesting decoration, one that really commemorated our magnificant  Atlantic Ocean-Chesapeake Bay region.

Just about every year we make a day trip to Williamsburg over the holidays.  It’s a relatively short drive from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, about an hour and a half or so depending on traffic,  and is such a holiday treat.  ( Actually, one of the nice things about living on the  Eastern Shore of Virginia  is how many fun events are so near by and easily accessed.)  Normally we make a  day out of it,  leaving  the Eastern Shore  in time to have lunch at  The Cheese Shop or The Trellis before walking down Duke of Gloucester Street to see all the creative displays.  Everything on every single wreath is natural, no plastic red apples, no golden styrofoam pears, no water-proof  ribbons, no silk ivy — it’s back to the basics,  real items,  things that were actually grown on land,  sea or air ( lots of feathers sometimes). 

This year was no exception,  the decorations looked terrific.  A bit pressed for time, we ducked into  The Cheese Shop for a quick bowl of  potato and leek soup  (definitely a favorite Colonial recipe)  and one of  their delicious Smithfield ham sandwiches before setting out to view this year’s crop of  decked out doors.  Pineapples, the traditional symbol of hospitality in Virginia, were in plentiful supply on both wreaths and swags.  Several wreaths featured the tiny but very sweet Virginia apple called the Lady Apple,  pale yellow  with a rosy blush.  A very clever wreath decorated with large lemons featured a clay pot below, looking for all the world like a miniture lemon tree affixed to the door.  But our very favorite decoration this year was a simple but elegant wreath of  fraser fir with an overlay of a wreath made from puffs of raw cotton,  dried cotton bolls and stalks,  burlap swags plus  pink pods of some type,  all  fashioned together most ingeniously.   Tracking  back towards Merchants Square we did a quick look-see into  the holiday windows in some of  their unique shops– the  Toy Shop and the Pewter Shop looked especially grand this year.  And then zip-zip,  back home to the Eastern Shore after having enjoyed immensely yet another holiday trip to Williamsburg.



From Virginia’s Eastern Shore To The Charlottesville, Virginia Mountains- Our Annual Trek For Apples

Saturday, October 30th, 2010

Three hours is all it takes to travel from our sandy seashore to the top of Carter Mountain outside  Charlottesville, Virginia but what a change in scenery and pace,  folks just zipping around those mountain curves like the blazes. ( Me,  I  just drive  along at a good pace but not trying to set any records either. )  It’s really beautiful on top of Carter Mountain this time of year,  off in the distance the Blue Ridge peaks look very blue.  Close up,  the mountain foliage  is almost past  its peak whereas  back on the Eastern Shore,  a lot of the trees are just slowly beginning to turn.

When my kids were small they loved cider and a little song called Sipping Cider Through A Straw.  Now that they’re adults they still love sipping cider and Carter Mountain Orchard is an excellent place to do just that.  The week-end before Halloween is a busy time at the orchard,  it seemed  like their winding  mountain road was bumper to bumper,  both going up and coming down,  cars chuck full of pumpkins, apples and apple cider.  But nobody was  impatient or honking,  they were  just enjoying the crisp fall air permeated by the sweet smell of apple pies baking in the orchard’s little bakery.  Actually,  we like Carter’s  apple cider donuts just as much as their apple  pie– if you’ve never had one,  let me say that it’s hard to beat a fresh cider donut ( or 2 ) paired with a cup of  hot spiced cider as an autumn treat.

Anyway, the plan was to meet up with our son and crew to have lunch atop the mountain and then pick apples.  BBQ sandwiches and real french fries  ( not frozen mushy things so often served)  washed down with fresh-pressed apple cider,  a tasty lunch for sure,  just close the eyes to the calories !   But the rest of the  plan was to work off some of those calories by picking apples.  After the kids enjoyed a ride around the orchard on a tractor-pulled hay-wagon,  we all set off  for the U-Pick section of  Fugi apples.  In my opinion,  Fugi’s are a  perfect apple for both eating and cooking.  Picking was the easy part– toting about 100 pounds of apples down the mountain while corralling 3 little running, laughing  grandkids was a challenge but we managed it.   By then the time had finally come to pick the Great Pumpkin.  After much searching,  evaluating and advocating for a particular favorite,  the kids at last  found a pumpkin upon which they could all agree,  thank Heavens for that !

Then they were off to make a couple other stops,  leaving my husband and I to settle down and relax at one of the picnic tables to enjoy the long view out to the Blue Ridge and to have a wee bit of dessert….. an apple cider donut and a cup of cider,  of course.   We wrapped up the afternoon by selecting a few other varieties from the pre-picked bins, some Jonathans,  a few Granny Smith,  some McIntosh,  some Staymans, etc. .  When cooked together into an applesauce,  the flavor of a mixture of different varieties of  tart-sweet apples like these is incomparable.  ( Why the only so- called applesauce you can buy in grocery stores is some thin,  runny,  no- texture,  flavorless  stuff which has no relationship to what real applesauce actually is if you make it at home,  I truly can not understand.  Really,  how hard should it be to make a decent, delicious commercial applesauce ?  Some company should make that their calling– bringing real applesauce to the market ! )

Last item on our Carter Mountain Orchard to-do list was to get a bushel of  Pink Lady apples.  Having had our fill of apple picking for the day,  we  opted for a pre-picked bushel of these beautiful apples,  each one sporting a wide pink blush.  For staying power in a refrigerator,  a Pink  Lady is hard to beat.  They are a wonderful all- around apple for  eating,  Waldorf salads,  frying,  etc.,  etc.   So,  loaded up with apples,  apple cider, apple cider donuts and jars of apple butter,  we were ready to say goodby to Carter Mountain Orchard ( )  until next year’s  apple trek from Virginia’s Eastern Shore to Charlottesville, Virginia.

From Virginia’s Eastern Shore To Blue Ridge Mountain Wineries — A Wonderful Trip !

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

From the seashore to the mountains in only three and a half hours of travel through beautiful scenery — that was the essence of our  trip from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to Charlottesville, Virginia last week-end.  October is wine month in Virginia,  no better time to take a little break to follow the Monticello  Wine Trail  ( ) and to have fun visiting a few of the 25 wineries on that Trail.  Question:  What do Dave Matthews,  Thomas Jefferson and an extremely wealthy Virginia family have in common ?   You’ll see.

Visiting The Big Apple

The first stop on our trip was up Carter Mountain where we hooked up with my eldest son and family for some apple picking,  cider sipping and  hayride tripping but more on that in another post.   Carter Mountain Orchard has added a wine tasting room where we tried several different wines from the Prince Michael Winery,  including a particularly good  Chardonay.  I ended up getting a bottle of the Chardonay for a friend who is having foot surgery on Friday — if you are confined to the sofa for a week or more,  what better than a good glass of wine to liven things up.

Jefferson Vineyard

Our next stop was Simon’s Market which specializes in picnics and sandwiches for the many winery visitors in the area and is located just around the bend from Jefferson Vineyards.  We popped in for two of their cream cheese,  kalamata olive spread,  roasted peppers  and Genoa salami sandwiches to enjoy with a glass of Jefferson’s excellent Viognier out on the vineyard’s  patio,  overlooking the  beautiful views of  the vines and the Blue Ridge mountains.  Only a mile from Monticello,  this land was the site of Thomas Jefferson’s first vineyard,  planted in 1774 .  Jefferson became very interested in wines from his time in France and the winery website, ,  offers a lot of detail on the interesting history of this property.  Jefferson has a very attractive tasting room and the wines here are delicious,  especially the velvety  Cabernet Franc and their  Viognier,  which is particularly crisp and refreshing.

After a good dinner at the Boat House,  a restful night’s sleep and a late breakfast at Brodo’s Bagels,  it was off  to  a trio of wineries,  all near Monticello.  We wanted to visit the tasting rooms of  First Colony,  Blenheim and nearby Kluge.  We had thought about  Keswick Vineyards because we had read about their interesting  tradition called  “Yappy Hour” where on Sunday afternoons from noon till closing, doggie  loving customers can bring their canine pals and socialize with other dog owners.  Even though our dogs were not with us,  it still  sounded like fun but Keswick was too far away from other the three vineyards we had already decided to visit  and still depart Charlottesville by 5  pm.

First Colony Vineyard

First to First Colony.   The driveway approach to the tasting room winds around the 12 acre vineyard with the mountains as a familiar back-drop.   Once inside,  the main room is lightfilled and airy with a separate dining area for special events.   We tasted  several whites as well as the reds.  My favorite red was  the Petite Verdot and I loved the Zephyr,  a bright white wine with flavors of pineapple.   Just off the tasting room at First Colony is an elevated deck surrounded by large hardwoods dressed in their intense fall colors– a good place to rest with a glass of wine and some of the available cheeses.

Blenheim Vineyard's Tasting Room

From there to Blenheim Vineyard not far away and owned by, you guessed it,  Dave Matthews of the famed Dave Matthews Band.  The land was owned by his mother before Matthews decided to begin the vineyard and it is a family run operation.  The tasting  room is in a handsome timber-framed building which features a full glass south facing wall overlooking the vineyard and the mountains and includes a large outdoor seating area for a picnic with a bottle of Blenheim’s excellent  wine.  The most interesting part of the tasting room however is the floor– or rather,  lack of floor.  As you walk in the door,  the center portion of the tasting room floor is made of clear plexi-glass so customers can see into the barrel room below.  That’s a very unique feature in my experience and one that I’m sure everyone  “oo’s and ahs”  about — I know we were impressed.   The wines were impressive as well and we ended up with several bottles of  the spicy Cabernet Franc.

Wine And Cheese In The Garden At The Kluge Estate Vineyard

From Blenheim we were off to Kluge Estate Winery and Vineyard just a few minutes  away.   The Kluge family is a very wealthy family and the vineyard and winery established by Patricia Kluge in 1999  are located on a tiny portion of their  very beautiful 2000 acre farm.  The tasting room is nestled in a grove a mature hardwood trees and features outdoor seating on the patio and in the garden area as well as indoor seating surrounded by warm hardwood paneling.  Kluge’s tasting proceedure is also unique– instead of  small pourings into commemorative wine glasses,  Kluge  has a custom upright tray with 6 slots for tall cylindrical vials.  Customers select from two tasting flights of  six wines each,  approximately $10-14/flight,  select a cheese plate  if desired and then find a quiet spot to sip and evaluate  the wines.  We picked the flight that included two of their superb sparkling wines,  a rose and three different vintages of their  “New World”   a luxurious blend of Cabernet, Merlot, Malbec and Petite Verdot.  Needless to say,  as we left  Charlottesville and these four fine vineyards behind,  jumping  on the interstate to head back to home- sweet- home  on Virginia’s  Eastern Shore,  we were well armed with red, white  and sparking wines  for the upcoming holiday season !

P.S.   Back to the  question of what Thomas Jefferson,  Dave Matthews and the Kluge family all have in common.  The answer is of course, a love of  good wines  and the creation of memorable vineyards as testiments to  that love. See these wineries on the web at : and .

It’s An Easy Day Trip From Virginia’s Eastern Shore To Washington D.C. So I’m Looking Forward To Going To The 2010 National Book Festival

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

Virginia's Eastern Shore's Location On The Eastern Seaboard

One of the nice things about living on the  Eastern Shore of Virginia  is how easy it is to go elsewhere.  Sort of an oxymoron thought process– it’s good to be here so I can go elsewhere.  But it’s true !   Virginia’s  Eastern Shore is actually within a half day’s drive of many of  the great spots  on the East Coast,  it’s the perfect place to buy a property which is a home base for get-a-way trips to lots of exciting events and places.   About six hours from my office door  to emerging  from the Holland Tunnel onto Canal Street in Manhattan.. ..  dim sum in Chinatown is calling to us.  ( And we love the roast pork buns and coconut buns at Maria’s Bakery on Mott Street. )  About three hours to Charlottesville  and the beautiful vistas of  the Blue Ridge mountains and some of Virginia’s finest wineries (  ).   About  four hours to Baltimore,  site of Inner Harbor and its fabulous aquarium  and of course,  Annapolis is nearby.  And let’s not forget about Virginia’s Golden Triangle,  the  historic towns of  Jamestown,  Yorktown and  Williamsburg,  so close,  only an hour and a half away  ( ),  always lots of interesting things going on there.  Over the Christmas holidays we nearly always visit Colonial Williamsburg  (  )  to enjoy the  bonfires,  fife and bugle corps , the nightly  Illumination of the Christmas  Tree,  the stunning  all -natural decorations,  topping it  off with  a fabulous dinner at  the Regency Room at  the Williamsburg Inn.

Moonlight Illuminates The U.S. Capitol and The Festival Tents

I  could wax on and on about places to visit within a half day’s drive but this post is supposed to be about going to the 2010 National  Book Festival.  This year marks  the 10th anniversary of the Festival,  held annually in Washington D.C.,    sited out on the National Mall,  organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress.  It  will be the second time we have attended,   having had a marvelous time at last year’s Festival we are really looking forward to going again.   I  had learned  about the Festival some years ago but as September is a busy month in real estate,   it’s really a difficult time to get away for several days.   But last summer when I read about the  2009 Festival,  so many authors,  fiction and non-fiction,  that I truly love and admire were scheduled to appear that it was simply impossible not to go !    ( Actually,  once I discovered that  Ken Burns,  John Irving  and John Grisham would be there,  speaking and autographing their  books,  I can assure you that  wild horses couldn’t have dragged me away. )   Irving’s novels, especially Garp,  Owen Meany and Cider House,  have long been favorites.  ( Couldn’t really get into  Son of the Circus  but I met a fellow while standing in the long,  long Irving book signing line who thought it was his best work and had re-read it six times.  So I’m going to give it another shot this winter.)    And who doesn’t like John Grisham — his work is so popular  that  he must be a multi- billionaire by now !    My husband and I both admire Ken Burns and so I toted four copies ( one for  us,  three for gifts )  of  Burns’  then brand new National Parks book  to be autographed — trust me when I say that after standing for almost two hours in his book signing line, ( in a light drizzle,  no less,  thank Heaven  I brought those little yellow rain ponchos ),   those  four copies of  National Parks seemed  to weigh four hundred pounds and my arms had stretched four feet.   ( I know it is better to give than to receive but the three people who got a signed Ken Burns book for Christmas owe me a new arm. )  

The 2010 National Book Festival Poster

At any rate,  the 2009 Festival,  which was a two day event,  also featured acclaimed authors Nicholas Sparks, Lee Childs and Daniel Silva  (both of whom I particularly enjoy ),  Michael Connelly,  James Patterson,  Judy Blume,  Sue Monk Kidd,  Jon Meachum ( whose book  American Lion  I had just finished reading  ) and Gwen  Ifill,  the excellent  moderator of  PBS’   Washington Week,  plus many other novelists,  poets and non-fiction writers.   About a  thirty-fecta of  literary talent,  all in the very same place on the very same week-end.  Can you believe it ???   Thank-you,  Library of Congress !!   Anyone who truly loves books and reading can appreciate the real  thrill of attending the 2009  National Book Festival and seeing,  hearing  speeches by and getting books autographed by some of ones favorite authors .  So although,  for me,  the 2010 Festival doesn’t have the same star power,  my husband and I,  a daughter and a friend are all looking forward to leaving the Eastern Shore,  making that easy trip to spend the week-end in  Washington DC  and hearing  Ken Follett,  Scott Turow,  Anchee Min,  Michelle Norris of NPR  and   David Remnick  speak and getting them to autograph their  books for us — and yes,  I’m thinking Christmas as well. ( A  signed,  first edition copy of a book  by the  giftee’s  favorite author makes  a great Christmas present,  especially when it comes with the story of  how the giftor stood in line forever in the sun/rain/dark of night,  feet aching,  just  to get it autographed especially for them. )  So let’s hear it for books,  authors and the brick and mortar book stores like Barnes and Nobles and Borders who hold the world within their four walls !   And let’s hear it for living on the Eastern Shore of  Virginia,  so centrally located that a whole other lifestyle dimension is opened by the ease with which you can get away to so many other places !   Applause, applause,  applause,  ad infinitum !