An Apple (Wine) a Day

It’s the last day of summer.  I’m not really a summer person (summer is just an invitation for sunburns), so I’m pretty excited.  Graham’s the opposite.  He loves summer (side effect of growing up at the beach, I suspect), and late summer is his favorite part of the year.  My point is, either way you look at it, we should be drinking wine tonight – me, to celebrate, and Graham, to say goodbye – and so we are.  And to welcome the harvest season, we’re drinking apple wine.

Let’s get one thing out of the way, before I go any further:  I don’t like fruit wines.  I do like ciders, but not fruit wines.  I do like this one.

Moving on, I can’t tell you how many times we’ve passed right by Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg.  A couple of weeks ago, we finally stopped for a tasting.


Cana has a nice tasting bar and a large seating area, as well as a commanding view of the mountains (really, the best part).  They’ve built an inviting facility that’s perfect for events, and the day we stopped in they were closing early for a wedding.  We walked in about thirty minutes before closing time as they were starting to set up, and were impressed with the courteous, friendly service we received.  We weren’t rushed, and we even got a glimpse of the barrel room while we chatted with one of their employees about Virginia wines.  The whole experience couldn’t have been more pleasant, and Cana would be a comfortable place to relax for an afternoon.  Since we couldn’t do that, we walked out with a few bottles.


The apples for this wine are sourced from Winchester, VA, only about 45 minutes away from Middleburg, which is so famous for its apples that it holds an apple festival every year.  I was expecting this wine to be sweet, since fruit wines usually are (which is why I don’t usually like them).  This one, though, is dry and crisp – a slightly floral nose of apples and honey, a little bit of citrus and almost an effervescent flavor mid-palate, and a finish with just a hint of black pepper.  It’s refreshing and light, and the flavor profile is definitely different than wine made from grapes.  But it’s got the complexity and subtlety that you’d expect from a good Virginia wine.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m so looking forward to cooler days and changing leaves.  Fall is my favorite season not just for the weather and the scenery, but also for the food and festivities.  Who doesn’t love pumpkin pie and hayrides?  But I will say, to all my pumpkin spice loving friends (of which I have a fair number), if you get tired of all pumpkin all the time, maybe give something apple a try.  I mean, you know what they say about apples and doctors, and I’m sure that still counts for apple wine, right?  Right??


P.S. – If you’d like to check out Cana Vineyards and Winery of Middleburg, here’s their Facebook page: Cana Facebook Page.

P.P.S. – Apple cider is superior to pumpkin spice lattes.  There.  I said it.

A Little Something Different (or, Our Visit to Otium Cellars)

Sometimes, you’re just in the mood for something different.

Before I say more, I should note that I am a creature of habit, almost to a fault.  I eat the same salad every day for lunch.  I do the laundry on Mondays and Fridays.  I drink Irish Breakfast Tea at least once a day.  I read every night before I go to sleep.  When these things don’t happen, I get a little…anxious.  Graham would say hard to deal with, but I’m giving myself a break.

I’m not quite so particular about wine.  I like trying different varietals from different places, and I don’t really have a wine-drinking schedule (does anyone?).  But I do have a level of comfort with the grapes that are commonly used at Virginia vineyards and wineries.  I’m all about a peppery Virginia Cabernet Franc.  I love the way smoky Virginia soil brings out the minerality in a Viognier.

But sometimes, like I said, you’re just in the mood for something different.  Which is why Graham and I found ourselves at Otium Cellars last weekend.


You can probably tell, but this place is picturesque.  Otium is a Latin word for leisure, peace, rest, and tranquility, and it fits the setting.  Rolling hills, silos, mature trees, and even horses, because, you know, Loudoun County.  It’s conveniently located right outside of the town of Purcellville, and a fun side trip on the way is a quick drive through the historic village of Lincoln, a little gem in the Loudoun County countryside.

We wanted to try Otium Cellars because of their reputation for German varietals, and particularly German reds.  Uncommon in Virginia, and executed very, very well at Otium.  Their tasting is well worth the cost, as it’s pretty extensive and the tasting room is a comfortable spot to relax on a weekend afternoon.  There wasn’t a single wine on the menu we wouldn’t have bought.  We ended up bringing home bottles of 2014 Blaufränkisch, 2014 Dornfelder (both reds), and 2015 Grüner Veltliner (a white).

We opened the Grüner Veltliner tonight.  We figured this would be one of the last 90 degrees days of the year (please, oh please, let it be so!), and so a cold white wine seemed like the most logical choice.


I’d never tried this varietal before.  This grape is grown primarily in Austria, and the grapes for this particular bottle were grown in Washington State.  It’s robust, for such a crisp wine – a light, bright nose of citrus, with hints of apples and stone fruits (and I think just a touch of honey), light acidity and a bit of spiciness on the palette, and a delicate finish of white pepper.  Lovely, and absolutely perfect for a hot day like today.

I’ll feature the two reds that we bought a little later in the year.  I’m excited to pair them with some classic fall flavors (sage, cinnamon, cloves…how long until Thanksgiving?).  For now, I’ll enjoy my cold white wine, dream of cooler days and changing leaves, and heartily recommend a visit to Otium Cellars.



*If you’d like to check out Otium Cellars, here’s their website:  Otium Cellars

(The Last) Twenty-Nine Wine

Tomorrow, I am thirty.  I’ve mostly come to terms with thirty.  I’m even sort of looking forward to thirty.  Thirty will be okay.  But tonight, regardless of my accepting that thirty is imminent, I plan to thoroughly enjoy the last moments of my twenties in a way that will surprise no one (who knows me) – by drinking wine, writing stuff, singing songs (after the wine, of course), and watching cartoons.

I wanted to choose a special wine tonight, since this transition is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I looked through our collection, and decided on Domaine de Marie’s 2013 Viognier.  Spoiler…this is not a Virginia wine.


I opened it tonight because it brings back memories of the absolute best thing I did in my twenties.  Graham and I got married in 2013.  Marrying Graham is the best decision I’ve ever made, and the three years that we’ve been married (not to mention the nearly eight that we’ve been together) are my favorite years of all my twenties.  I’m looking forward to many more.  I think we’ll be fun old farts together when we get there, not that we’re in any hurry.  But I digress…

Moving on, La Bastide de Marie, a quaint, comfortable, elegant little hotel outside Ménerbes in the Luberon region of Provence, was the first stop on our fantastic French honeymoon.  Domaine de Marie is their attached vineyard, and I can’t tell you how many bottles of Domaine de Marie wine we enjoyed in those first few days of what turned out to be a romantic, unforgettable trip.  It feels appropriate to live in those memories for a little while tonight.

I love a good Viognier, and I’m in luck, since Viognier is grown prolifically in Virginia.  This Viognier, though, is a little different from one I could get here in the Old Dominion.  It’s bolder, richer, and sweeter, not quite as smooth, and with minerality that becomes a little more pronounced with each sip.  A nose of apples, honey, and hints of apricot gives way to honey, honey, and honey on the palate.  The honey becomes less prominent a few sips in, allowing for hints of apple, and there’s a pleasant pop of minerality, as well as a long finish.  Every time I take a sip, I’m right back in Provence, a newlywed again, excited to explore the countryside, enjoy hearty food and wine, and relax with my favorite human in the world (Graham, just to be clear).

There are those, I know, who will say that it’s silly to focus so much on the last days of my twenties and who will tell me that, in ten years, turning thirty will seem like just another day.  To those people, I will say this:  You have been where I am, and I will eventually be where you are, so let’s agree that in this thing called life, when it comes to aging, we’re pretty much on equal footing.  And hey, turning thirty in less than twenty-four hours is as good a reason as any to drink a little good wine and have a little fun.



Relevant Post Script – I’m certainly not trying to advertise, but if you’d like to check out La Bastide de Marie or Domaine de Marie, here’s the website: La Bastide de Marie.

Beaching and Wining

I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s no better accompaniment for relaxation than a good glass of wine, and there’s no better place to relax than the beach.  So, basically, Beach + Wine = Paradise.  Add in some family, board games, and good food, and I think we’ve officially made it into Heaven territory.

We’ve opened several bottles of wine since we got here on Monday (what can I say…we’re a family of wine lovers), but I set aside a bottle of Breaux 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon for today.  I wanted to make sure everyone got a chance to taste a good Virginia red.


A little bit of history on this one – we’re going back in time today.  A couple of years ago, Graham and I were members at Breaux Vineyards.  Breaux is a large(r)-scale operation located just outside of Purcellville, VA.  Their tasting room is always busy, but they have a wide variety of wines to taste, and their sommeliers are knowledgeable and friendly.  The grounds are also lovely, and they have lots of outdoor seating to use on nice days (you know…if you can’t make it to the beach).  We dropped our membership in an effort to cut some costs before my big writing adventure, and also because we were members at over ten wineries and it was time to cut back a little.  We’re still working down our bottle backlog, so a Breaux wine was a natural choice for our beach week.

This particular Cabernet Sauvignon went over really well with everyone.  It’s got a robust nose of black cherry, black pepper, and hints of smoke and tobacco.  It’s smooth, though, with notes of smoke and plum on the palate.  As Virginia Cabernet Sauvignons go, this one is done much more in the Bordeaux style than others – smooth, structured, lightly tannic, and it’s aged very well.  It would pair nicely with red meat, or with pretty much anything grilled.  It would be great for a cookout on the beach.  Then, you could have both wine and smores, and wouldn’t that be awesome?

It’s just too bad that time flies when you’re having fun (read: drinking wine), because I don’t think I’m ready to head home yet.  Like, ever.


Wine is the Best Medicine

Said no doctor, ever.  But tonight, it’s exactly what Graham and I needed.

We’ve been searching for some time for a historic home somewhere in Loudoun County, and this week, we found the perfect place.  Unfortunately, another buyer did too, and, though we put our best foot forward, their offer was accepted.  We’re both disappointed, because this was pretty much our dream house – perfect location, perfect front porch, casual with character, and ready for our personal touch to make it a really beautiful, comfortable Virginia farmhouse.  But we’re getting through it.  There will be another house for us one day, and in the meantime, there’s Virginia wine.

Tonight, we opened a bottle of 50 West 2015 Rosé of Sangiovese.


I know, I know…I featured 50 West just a few weeks ago (here’s the post: 50 West Post), but this past weekend, we stopped by again to check out their newly renovated clubhouse.  It was definitely worth the stop, because it’s awesome.  The care and time they’ve put into making this mid-century modern house into everything it should be is, at the very least, admirable.  But, really, it’s more than that, because they’ve put the same effort and attention to detail into this house as they put into making their wines (which is to say, impeccable and impressive), and it shows.  While we were there, Diane, one of the owners, was kind enough to show us around the house and around some of their new grapevines.  They’ve just planted Albariño and Suavignon Blanc.  I expect great things in the future.

The rosé we opened tonight was light, crisp, and perfect for a hot summer day – a refreshing nose of strawberries and citrus with leafy notes, citrus and fruitiness on the palate that give way to a pleasant sweetness and fresh strawberries on the finish, and just a hint of minerality.  This one is a staff favorite at the tasting room, and I can see why.

Sometimes, life hands you lemons.  If you’re Graham and me, you take those lemons and…drink wine instead.  It’s not been a good day, but that’s okay.  We might not have our dream house, but we do have each other.  And wine.


Hot Day = Cold Wine

It’s hot tonight.  It was hot today.  And a hot day calls for a refreshing drink.  And in our house, that means cold white wine.

Summers in Northern Virginia tend to be somewhere between sweltering and Death Valley but humid.  A friend of the family describes this kind of weather as “close,” which, as I understand it, means “it’s so hot I feel like I’m crammed into a sauna with 1,000 other sweaty people who like hugs.”  I’m happy to be home after all of our travels so far this summer, but man, I hate the heat.

I’d actually picked out a red wine for tonight (welcome to our house…red wine everywhere), but when Graham got home, I felt the heat coming through the door and changed my mind.  I was also baking a pie, and the kitchen was hot, so white wine it was.  We opened a bottle of Greenhill 2014 Seyval Blanc.


I’ve featured Greenhill before (here’s the post: Greenhill Wine Post) so I won’t go on about the winery.  I will say, though, that it’s a nice place with good wine and a pretty view that’s worth a visit or several.

If you’re unfamiliar with Seyval Blanc, it’s a hybrid grape used to make white wines, and it grows particularly well in cooler climates.  It’s widely grown in Virginia, though I’ve heard upstate New York grows it, as well.  This particular Seyval Blanc was pretty on character for the grape – a delicate nose of citrus, with honeysuckle, sweet citrus, and black currant on the palate, and a sour citrus finish.  It was light, yes, but with a minerality that added some complexity and depth.  I can think of few better wines for a hot summer evening, and we certainly enjoyed it.

I checked the forecast earlier today, and it looks like we’re in for a heat wave for the foreseeable future.  Knowing us like I do, I predict there will be more cold white wine in our future.  So, damn the heat, and bless the wine, and thank God for air conditioning.  Cheers!

Bob Dylan Wrote Every Song and Wine Is Good

One of these statements is true.

If you’re like me, the last thing you want to do when you get home from a trip, especially if the getting home has been hectic and tiring, is get ready, rush to make it to something on time, and sit for several hours (airplane flashbacks, right here).  But that’s exactly what Graham and I did last night, and it was the best decision we could have made.

We spent a lovely weekend in Alabama with family, and getting home on Tuesday turned out to be an epic journey.  A three hour delay in Mobile, a mad dash through Atlanta to catch our connecting flight home, unpacking at midnight.  Then, Graham picked up the Annie-dog at 6:00 a.m. yesterday and worked all day.  When he got home at 5:00, we packed a bag in a hurry, for what felt like the millionth time.  But this time, we packed it with bread, cheese, salami, and wine.  And this time, we drove just thirty minutes away from home to see Mavis Staples and Bob Dylan at Wolf Trap in Vienna, VA.

A couple of obligatory wine photos, since I missed my Wine Wednesday post this week and attended a concert instead (worth it, obviously).


For me, we opened a bottle of Butter Chardonnay.


For Graham, a bottle of Sunset Hills Sunset Red.

Both are good for a picnic, and both will please a crowd. (Though…we didn’t share.  Don’t judge!  Our friends brought their own wine!)

I don’t know what better “welcome home” there is than a picnic with good wine, good food, good friends, and good music.  Travel is one of my greatest pleasures, but I’m grateful and lucky that coming home is wonderful, as well.  Cheers!


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’m suffering from 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 spent a lot of time renovating the facilities, pulling up dead vines (it had been a vineyard before), and planting 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.  It sits on top of a tall hill, and from a table on the patio, you can look out at mountains and 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 spice (cloves, I think).  The finish is rich and round, almost a little chocolatey.  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 released their label, and the wines are fantastic!

Waterful Wednesday

It’s Wednesday!  You know what that means?  It means I’m drinking…water!  Yes, friends, as it turns out, after a week and a half of this:


I really just want some of this:


I know this might be hard to believe, but even I have my limits.  (Go ahead…shake your heads in disbelief…I’ll wait.)  And if there’s one thing to say about cruises, it’s that there are no limits.  Alcohol is readily and easily available pretty much all the time.  I think that’s awesome, but I also think it’s important to know when to stop.  Moderation in all things, after all.  Even wine.

So, I’ll resume the weekly wine posts next week.  For now, I’ll enjoy this delicious water with some nice apple slices while I mindlessly watch cartoons and continue to recover from a wonderful but tiring vacation.  Why do I need so much recovery time?  Well, I pretty much kicked my own butt exploring the Great Outdoors of the Last Frontier.  But I did get to eat a peanut butter sandwich on a glacier around this time last week, so that’s a fair trade, I think, for a week of wine.



P.S. – There will be vacation photos and a lengthy summary in the coming days, as soon as we pull the photos from Graham’s camera and get them cleaned up.  You have been warned.

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 nice 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!