Homecoming (to Wine!)

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks for Graham and me.  After a week and a half in Seattle and Alaska (the post is coming, I swear), we were home for less than a week before heading to New Jersey for a beautiful wedding (congratulations, Andy and Dan!), and we’ll head out again this Saturday for a trip to Mobile, Alabama to see family and celebrate a 50th wedding anniversary.

I like to travel.  Wanderlust is real, and I’ve got it.  But I also like coming home again.  I feel secure in the world with my feet on Virginia ground.  It’s always nice to sleep in my own bed after spending time away, and I miss cuddling with my giganti-cat, Gatsby, when I’m gone.


He requires a lot of attention.  And purrs like a monster truck motor.  And makes coming home worth it.  And I’m definitely not a crazy cat lady.

Moving on, this is the first week in several that we’ll be home for five whole days(!).  So, we grilled some steaks, and we’re celebrating with wine.  (Of course.)

50 West Vineyards opened back in the fall, and it’s owned by the same people as Sunset Hills, where Graham and I have been members for years.  I’ve featured Sunset Hills before (here’s the link: Sunset Hills Wine Post), and I’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to write about 50 West.  It’s located, no joke, less than ten miles from our house, so it was the perfect choice for our brief homecoming.

A lot of effort went into opening this vineyard.  After purchasing the property, the owners renovated the facilities, pulled up dead vines (it had been a vineyard before), and planted new ones.  They’ve paid attention to every detail, and you’ll feel welcomed by the team once you step up to the tasting bar.  Even the name, simple as it is, was carefully chosen – Route 50 West is an old thoroughfare with lots of history, dating way, way back before it became a paved, named highway.

The best thing about 50 West Vineyards, aside from the wine, is the view.  From a table on the patio, you can look out at rolling mountains and pastoral countryside while you enjoy a glass of something cold in the summer sunshine.  It’s a little piece of heaven.  The staff are friendly, the wine is good, and the location is unbeatable for Graham and me, given its convenience and amazing views.  That’s like the holy trinity for Loudoun County wineries.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 2013 Aldie Heights Cuvee, a red blend which won a gold medal in the 2016 Governor’s Cup, Virginia’s foremost wine competition.


This is a good wine, and it should be.  A blend of Petit Verdot, Tannat, and Cabernet Franc, it’s got a robust, aromatic floral nose with hints of black pepper and blackberry.  It hits the palate with notes of black currant, black pepper and green bell pepper, and cloves.  The finish is rich and round, and almost a little chocolate-y.  Truly delicious!

It’s nice, after so many busy days and so much travel, to spend a quiet evening at home sipping a glass of wine and chatting about our next adventure.  See you soon, Mobile!  Cheers!

*Brief but useful Post Script: I read an interesting article about 50 West around the time that it opened, and if you’d like to read it, too, here’s the link: Loudoun Times 50 West Article.  One thing to note as you read the article, 50 West has since released their label, and the wines are fantastic!

A Virginia Writer Goes to Alaska


Markets, ferries, orcas, haunted soda machines, freestyle poets, lots of seafood, beautiful scenery, and good people!  What’s not to love?


Thank you for everything, Seattle!  Stay amazing!


Now off to Alaska on my very first cruise with some wonderful friends.  Sadly, Wi-Fi on the boat costs about a dollar a minute, so posts will resume once I’m back on Virginia soil, because I’m a writer who makes stories not money.  But, you know, what’s a little Wi-Fi when there’s adventure to be had?  Onward to the Last Frontier!


“Where forlorn sunsets flare and fade
On desolate sea and lonely sand,
Out of the silence and the shade
What is the voice of strange command
Calling you still, as friend calls friend
With love that cannot brook delay,
To rise and follow the ways that wend
Over the hills and far away?” –William Ernest Henley, “Over the Hills and Far Away”

This Wine Post Brought to You By…

…the Space Needle!  Did you know they have a wine bar at the top of the Space Needle?  I sure didn’t!

Let me back up a little bit.  We woke up at about 4:30 this morning, caught a flight out of Dulles, and headed to the Great Northwest.  We didn’t quite have a full day in Seattle today, since our flight landed in the late morning, but we did have enough time to stroll down the streets a little bit, walk through the Olympic Sculpture Garden, and see the Space Needle.

I’d been debating for most of the day whether to worry about finding a wine for my weekly post, so I was really happy (and excited!) to find a little wine bar once we got to the top of the Space Needle.  And…there’s a Space Needle label!


We tried a red blend, and got a couple of glasses of the Cabernet Sauvignon.  Both were smooth and easy to drink, and both were pretty full-bodied.  The red blend was a little fruitier – cherries and cherries on the nose – and I think we both liked it a bit better.  But the Cabernet was nice, as well.  I asked the talkative young man working at the counter what he liked best about it before I took my first sip, and he said “The fact that you’re drinking it at 520 feet!”  It was good wine, certainly worth buying and drinking, but I kind of have to agree.  It’s not every day you find yourself sipping wine and looking out at the Puget Sound from one of America’s most recognizable landmarks.


Tomorrow, we’ll head out on the San Juan Clipper to see some islands and (hopefully also) some whales.  Friday, we’re hoping to explore the markets and museums.  I’ve always heard people say that Seattle is an amazing city, and they’re right.  Cheers to new adventures!

“The world is a book…”

“…and those who do not travel read only one page.”  –Augustine of Hippo

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This is one of my favorite quotes.  When I was young, I used to sit on my front porch swing and read books.  My family didn’t travel often, and never too far from home, so books were my way to see the world.  I imagined that I would be best friends with Tom Sawyer.  I wanted to be courted by Genji (and then punch him in the face).  I cried for Tess Durbeyfield.  More than anything, I knew that reading about them, reading about where they lived, was my window to a world I may not ever get to see in person.

Fast forward several years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to a few interesting places.  I’ve got so many more on my list.  I think about them, all of them, any time I’m packing for a trip.  I think about them any time I’m buying plane tickets.  Honestly, I think about them when I’m running errands or doing laundry.  There are so many places to visit in this big, beautiful world, and I want to see them all.

I think traveling is important.  I think it’s essential to go to different places, meet different people, eat different food, listen to different music, see different things (drink different wine!).  There’s no better way to understand the world than to go live in it.  And sometimes the smallest things surprise you…or, you know, how small you are surprises you.


If the whole world is your home, and you never go out and see it, it’s like you’ve never left your bedroom.  And I would like to think everyone moves past that phase once they reach adulthood.

So, for now, see you soon, Seattle and Alaska.  After that, who knows?

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate,
And though we pass them by today,
Tomorrow we may come this way
And take the hidden paths that run
Towards the Moon or to the Sun.”
–J.R.R. Tolkien



Blah Day, Fun Wine

It’s been kind of a blah day.  After a busy (but fabulous!) Memorial Day weekend, it turns out that two days of quiet is both nice and a little bit boring.  But that’s okay.  All you need to take a day from meh to magnificent is a fun wine! (Did you see what I did there?  I bet you did.  And then I bet you shook your head and thought “Really, lady?”  And I’m right there with you.)

We opened a bottle tonight from Tarara Winery, which is located right outside of Leesburg, VA.  I would, without hesitation, recommend a visit to Tarara.  The tasting room is in a cave under the owner’s house, and there’s a deck with a nice view for warm, sunny days.  They also host a series of concerts over the summer.  A side-note and plus for all those who struggle with corkscrews – all of their wines have screwcaps, rather than corks.

Tonight we opened a bottle of 2013 Long-Bomb, Edition 7.


Long-Bomb has been a staple at Tarara, a red table wine that speaks to their winemaking philosophy of “less is more,” and their drive to make “wines with soul.”  You can learn more on their website, if you’re interested: Tarara Philosophy.  The story behind the Long-Bomb name (quoting from the bottle here):

“Our founder, Whitie Hubert, once told a story that years later depicted his character and the inspiration for creating Tarara.  During his college years at Catholic University, he was a Hall of  Fame wrestler who was never pinned until the State Championships.  Whitie was a year-round athlete and played quarterback for the football team.  His team was not noted for their victories but Whitie proclaimed football as the greater sport.  He would rather be part of a team than a winner alone.

Whitie used this philosophy to create Tarara Winery, blending his passion for people and wine.  We are players on Whitie’s Winning Tarara Team and with every glass, we invite you to share in our victory.”

I couldn’t remember what grapes were part of Edition 7, so I did some poking around online and found a review for it that lists: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Tannat.  I would say this is a fairly light-bodied red, and it would be great for a summer barbecue.  I would pair it with smoky, dry-rubbed ribs or a really good cheeseburger right off the grill.  Hints of blackberry and new leather on the nose give way to a really bright flavor – strawberries, cocoa, and cinnamon on the finish, but almost tangy.  Really perfect for a warm evening on the patio.

Or, you know, just to brighten up a boring Wednesday evening.  Cheers!