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!

Virginia’s Forgotten Memorial

I’ve been thinking about how to usher in Memorial Day weekend this year.  For a lot of Americans, this is the first official weekend of summer, a three-day breather with cookouts, picnics, beer, and beaches.  But for many, many more, this weekend is about honoring those who’ve lost their lives serving our country.  I think it’s important not to lose sight of the real reason Monday is a holiday, even while we enjoy the long weekend with our families and friends (or, if you’re like me, the blissful, oft-elusive heaven that is bed).

Bedford is a small community in rural Virginia.  It’s surrounded by mountains.  It’s a nice town, idyllic even, as small towns in Virginia go.  A lot of people probably pass right by it, seeking the larger destinations of Roanoke and Lynchburg.  But they shouldn’t, because they’re missing one of the best monuments to courage and sacrifice that this country has to offer, and it’s right here in Virginia.  So, I’ll take a moment, before I explain why in detail, to say that every Virginian (or, you know, every American) should visit the National D-Day Memorial.

wall perspective

When I talk about the D-Day Memorial, the first question people usually ask is why a memorial for such a tremendous, painful, do-or-die undertaking would be located in a small town like Bedford.  Here’s why – Bedford lost more of its boys, per capita, than any other community in America on D-Day, and the survivors took pride in making sure this monument stands in honor of their fallen brothers, and in honor of all the men who died that day.  Nineteen men from Bedford – nineteen – lost within the first day of the invasion, and four more in the next several days of the campaign.


You can read about them here:  Why Bedford?.  Or, if you’d like a little more detail, you can purchase the book The Bedford Boys by Alex Kershaw.  I would encourage you to do so.

The memorial project was founded by Robert (“Bob”) Slaughter, a D-Day veteran and Bedford Boy himself.  It now stands on 88 acres overlooking the mountains.  It walks visitors through the D-Day invasion from its start, strategized and spear-headed by Eisenhower, to the Normandy landing, complete with simulated gunfire, to its finish, a grand display of the flags of all participating nations capped by a victory arch and watched over by the Lady of Trévières, a replica of a French World War I monument aux morts damaged by shrapnel.  Like her sister statue, Lady Liberty, she guards and protects, but she also mourns so great a sacrifice.


That’s the balance the National D-Day Memorial strikes, and strikes perfectly.  It celebrates a great victory, but also remembers the great cost.  It honors the dead, but it doesn’t glorify their loss.

That’s what Memorial Day is all about, isn’t it?  Some soldiers never come home.  They’ll never drink a beer on the beach, or eat a hot dog at a family barbecue.  The least we can do for them, especially on a holiday designed specifically for the purpose and regardless of our politics and other nonsense, is to celebrate their lives and honor their sacrifices.


**A couple of notes on this post:

  • If you’d like to learn more about the National D-Day Memorial, and/or (and?!) plan your visit, the website can be found here:
  • All of the photos in this post are courtesy of Dr. Thomas Carter, who kindly allowed me to use them in order to write something I don’t know if I would actually want him to grade…

National Wine Day!

It’s National Wine Day!  First of all, I didn’t know such a holiday existed.  Second, I’m not generally a fan of novelty holidays (though I have been known to carry a towel on May 25th, because it’s also Towel Day, and Douglas Adams is one of my favorite writers).  This one, though, I feel pretty good about celebrating.  Because I like wine.

It’s also only the second day in several that the sun is actually visible, it’s warm outside, and there’s not been a drop of rain.  So, out with the red wine, and in with something chilled!  I do love red wine, but now that it’s warm again, I’m ready for a change.

I’ve already featured The Vineyards and Winery at Lost Creek (here’s the post: Lost Creek Wine Selection).  We’re members at Lost Creek, so we’re there at least every other month to pick up our member wines.  Because it’s sunny and pretty and National Wine Day, I wanted to open a bottle I knew we’d enjoy tonight, so we selected Lost Creek’s 2014 Reserve Chardonnay.


I’ll write more about white wine in the future, I’m sure, since summer is on its way, but for now, I’ll just proclaim, loud and proud, that I love Chardonnay.  I love Chardonnay like I love Red Velvet Cake.  I could eat a whole cake…I could drink a whole bottle (but I won’t…).  I’m pretty sure both are a lifelong love affair.

There are those who don’t enjoy a big, heavily-oaked Chardonnay.  To be fair, it is a robust, flavorful, heavier white wine.  Well, this particular Chardonnay is a big, heavily-oaked Chardonnay.  It’s got a nose of oak, butter, and honey, and a hint of burned toast (I promise this is a good thing).  It tastes of oak and butter, as well, but it’s not gimmicky.  It’s just real and unpretentious – a traditional Chardonnay that will absolutely appeal to those who, like me, believe that Chardonnay should be aged in oak, just like rain is wet and sugar is sweet and cake is good.

Now that I’ve spent a long time going on about wine on National Wine Day, I feel, as a writer and a reader, I ought to give a moment to Douglas Adams for Towel Day.  What kind of writer/reader would I be otherwise?  So here you go, a little something courtesy of the great Mr. Adams to get you thinking while you’re drinking this evening:

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.”

This One Time, We Tried to Go Hiking…

So, this happened on Sunday:


You know that feeling, when you go on a hike and you get to the top and you look out at an amazing view and realize your place in the universe?  Yeah, we didn’t quite get there.

We’re heading to Alaska in June, and we’ll be hiking a lot.  Graham has always really loved to hike, and I was an avid hiker in college, so when our friends let us know they were planning a hike on Sunday and asked if we’d like to join, we agreed without any hesitation.  We decided to head to Keys Gap on the Appalachian Trail, and had a good laugh at the possibility of hiking seven miles in the torrential rain.

Sunday dawned, gray and wet and windy.  It rained.  A lot.  We trudged our way up the trail anyway.  About ten minutes in, Graham discovered that one of his hiking poles was jammed.  Not the best start, but he managed, and overall it was actually quite peaceful in the woods – there was mist, it was quiet, the trail was empty.  We walked and chatted and took some good pictures.  And then the sole of Graham’s left boot peeled off.  Really peeled off, like a banana.  I was concerned, since the trail was wet and slippery, but Graham’s a trooper, and he wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.

Not five minutes later, about a mile in, sopping wet and beginning to wonder if this was actually a good idea after all, the sole of Graham’s right boot peeled off.  And, that was that.  I pretty much insisted that we turn around.  There’s never a good reason to risk an injury three weeks before a big trip.  Or any time, really.

So, we didn’t make it to the top of the mountain, and Graham’s trail name is officially “Sole-less.”  I suggested “Inspector Broken Gadget,” but it’s a little too long, I think.  The good news: since we didn’t actually spend all day on the trail, we snagged some great barbecue for lunch and enjoyed an afternoon sipping wine and chatting with our friends at the Aldie Peddler (one of my favorite places on Earth).  So it wasn’t all bad.  Sometimes, really, it’s better when the adventure doesn’t go as planned.

Graham got new boots and poles yesterday, but I think we’ll always remember this beautiful moment:


A Cozy Wine for a (er, Another) Rainy Day

Guess what?  It’s still gloomy!  After a brief glimpse of the sun on Monday, we’ve returned to what people are beginning to call “Seattle weather.”  I’m going to Seattle in June, so I’ll be interested to make a real comparison.

Graham and I are getting pretty tired of constant clouds and rain, but we’re dealing as best we can.  By drinking alcohol.  We’re doing other things too, of course (cards, chess games which I hesitate to call games because Graham beats me in five minutes, cartoons, etc.), but sometimes all you can do is raise a glass and laugh at your new “indoor” complexion.  Yesterday, we made Dark and Stormies.  Tonight, we’re drinking wine.

Last night, I made what I call a lazy man’s gumbo – onions, garlic, green bell peppers, tomatoes, andouille sausage, and red beans.  And lots of cayenne pepper.  It’s a little (read: melt your face off) spicy, so we opened a bottle of Chambourcin tonight to accompany the leftovers.  For those unfamiliar with Chambourcin, it’s a French-American hybrid grape.  It produces a deep-colored wine that can be made either dry or sweet, and it grows really well in Northern Virginia.

We opened a 2013 bottle from Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, a small, family-owned operation not too far from our house.  It’s a beautiful place, the owners are friendly and talkative, and the tasting room is in an old house that is absolutely packed to the gills with antiques.  Ask about any item, and they can tell you its story.  And chances are good that it’ll be a pretty interesting story.


The last time we did a tasting at Zephaniah, we learned that their real goal is just to make tasty wine.  They want to produce wines that are drinkable and enjoyable, and if they also win medals, that’s cool too.  They’ve really succeeded with this Chambourcin.


The nose is heavy on the berries, with a hint of cherry, as well.  It’s a very fruit-forward wine, but the initial sweetness gives way to smoke and a really balanced minerality.  It’s not the most complex red wine – Chambourcin, in my experience, usually isn’t – but it’s good.  Because it’s a little bit sweet, it pairs well with spicy food, and I think it would also pair nicely with smoked meat or with barbecue.  It’s a great table wine…good for sharing with others at a fun party.

We’re not having a fun party tonight.  But maybe we will once the sun finally makes its long-awaited reappearance.

Drinking Wine on Cinco de Mayo

It’s Cinco de Mayo!  And here’s a secret – I don’t actually like going out to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.  I prefer my chips and salsa and margaritas without a side of holy crow why are there so many people here?!  So, unless my friends are heading out somewhere, I usually stay in and enjoy an adult beverage in the (relative) peace and quiet of my living room.

So, I delayed my weekly wine post by one day, because I knew I’d be having a glass tonight.  I know, I know.  It’s Cinco de Mayo and I should be drinking tequila, but I just don’t want to. And I believe there’s not really an occasion for which wine is not appropriate.  It is a holiday, though, and I wanted to open something special.  It’s also a little chilly outside, and has been for most of the week, so we went for a red tonight.

Here’s the bottle we opened:


Greenhill Winery and Vineyards is right on Highway 50, a straight twenty minute shot from our house on the way to Middleburg.  It’s a beautiful, convenient location, and this is one of the only wineries I’ve been to in Virginia that’s brave enough to make a sparkling white wine, and a Riesling, for that matter.  We decided on the 2010 Philosophy, a robust red blend, because Graham remembered really liking it when we tried it a while ago.  I wish I could remember the exact blend, but I think they changed it after 2010.  That’s why this bottle is special.

This wine is gorgeous.  It’s almost purple.  Blackberry, cloves, and cinnamon on the nose, with just a little bit of pepper.  It’s got a smooth, peppery finish, and hints of blackberries and holiday spices.  I tasted a little bit of fennel.  Graham tasted a little bit of vanilla.  Either way, it’s just a touch herb-y.  I would say that this is solidly a red-drinker’s wine.  It’s full-bodied, though not as much as some, and might be too much for someone just starting out with red wine.  But, try it anyway.  Because it’s good, and pretty to look at.

I know it might be a little odd to choose wine over tequila on Cinco de Mayo.  Feel free to judge.  I’ll just be here with my wine.  And the cheeseburger I plan to order for dinner.  In my pajamas and not out with the madding crowd.  So there.


Wine on a Leftovers Night

I like to cook.  I’m always coming up with new recipes when I’m bored.  I can make mac and cheese in about fifty different ways.  I love to experiment with flavors and wine pairings, and I find creativity in the kitchen both relaxing and rewarding. I also like to eat.  I find it really distressing that food has calories, particularly cake.  But that’s another post for another day.

During the week, I tend to cook meals that make leftovers.  I’m home all day, but Graham isn’t, so I don’t want to spend every night working in the kitchen when I could be spending time with him.  Tonight, we had leftover pasta with sweet pea and basil pesto, roasted red peppers, and melty chunks of fresh mozzarella cheese.  Delicious, right?  But still leftovers.  So to jazz up our second-night pasta dinner, we opened a bottle of wine.  I’ve already mentioned that wine has magical powers, and one of those powers is to make any meal just a little more special.  Even leftovers.

We decided on a rosé tonight, because it’s Spring and because the subtle sweetness and hint of pepper in the pesto sauce could handle a little bit of acidity in a wine.  Here’s the bottle we opened:

Sunset Hills Rose 1

Sunset Hills is a Virginia vineyard and winery located not far from Purcellville in a beautifully restored classic red barn.  The owners are lovely, interesting people, and the staff are always friendly.  The tasting room can handle a crowd.  Graham and I have been members there for a few years (it was the first wine club we joined!), so we’ve accumulated a lot of Sunset Hills wines.  This one might be my favorite.

I’d never seen rosé made from Cabernet Franc before we picked up this bottle. I love Cabernet Franc, and I think it does particularly well when grown in smoky, tobacco-y Virginia soil.  This is a fun wine.  It’s a delicate pink color, with just a little hint of copper – it looks gorgeous in a glass on a sunny day (not that today was sunny).  It has a delicate, floral nose with some subtle notes of strawberry and melon.  The best part, though, is that it’s delicious.  It’s not as bright or acidic as a classic rosé, and it’s not very sweet.  The Cabernet Franc doesn’t manifest as tobacco, or smoke, or green bell pepper.  It just gives the wine a roundness and a fullness, and even a meatiness, that you don’t find in an average rosé.  This wine is a study in balance – brightness with fullness, body with subtlety.  It’s a red drinker’s rosé…if you like a medium-bodied red.

Wednesdays are tough.  It’s the middle of the week, you’re starting to get tired of waking up early, and Friday still feels really far away.  But leftovers and wine can make any humdrum Wednesday just a little better.  Because like I said, wine has magical powers.


Kurt Vonnegut and a Cup of Coffee

Or, how I started my morning…

I’ve been a fan of Kurt Vonnegut since high school.  I cried the night he passed away.  I think he wrote about the world in a way that was true enough to be illuminating, but gentle (and funny) enough to be palatable.  I’d call him a modern Mark Twain.  So I was excited when I heard that a book of his personal letters would be published, and I’ve been reading it, and taking my time with it, this week.

Titled just Letters, the collection is vivid Vonnegut.  Witty, self-deprecating, and sarcastic, but also kind and insightful.  There are introductions and notes by Dan Wakefield, who knew Vonnegut personally, throughout the book that provide context, and it’s so interesting to read Vonnegut’s thoughts on his own books while they were in progress.  He spends time on other topics, as well (politics and world events, his family and friends, his career), though I’ve enjoyed his thoughts on writing the most.  He was as sharp in his personal letters as he was in his published works.

Reading Letters this week, I now firmly believe people don’t write enough anymore.  Not that I didn’t before.  The truth is, I was appalled when I learned that “tl;dr” was a thing.  What do you mean, “too long; didn’t read?”  If you took the time to write something for me to read, then I’d read it, because that’s what respectful people do.  And if I wrote something for you to read, I would be careful to say only what I needed to say, because that’s what good writers do.  William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White told me so.

What I’m getting at here is that writing is important.  Writing, even just letters to family and friends, helps you find your voice.  Once you’ve found it, you’ll feel comfortable and confident expressing what you have to say.  It’s true that everyone has an opinion, but if you can express yours coherently, persuasively, and ultimately in a voice that is true to who you are, you’ll rise above the noise and you’ll be heard.  Finding your voice gives you power.  So do it!  Write notes on napkins.  Write a few quick lines about your day before you crawl into bed.  Write a letter to your mom – I’m serious, Mother’s Day is coming up.

Or, if you’re crazy like me, write a novel that keeps you awake at night like a screaming newborn.