Where did we go in 2021?

As 2021 comes to a close, we’re looking at what a great year we had. We turned two this year and visited a total of 31 wineries – 28 in Virginia and 3 in Maryland. So where did we go? Check the list below.

  1. Stone Tower Winery
  2. Bluestone Vineyard
  3. Blue Valley Vineyard and Winery
  4. Merriemill Farm and Vineyard
  5. Albermarle Ciderworks
  6. Chestnut Oak Vineyard
  7. Barboursville Vineyards
  8. Early Mountain Vineyards
  9. Hazy Mountain Vineyard
  10. King Family Vineyard
  11. Glass House Winery
  12. Keswick Vineyard
  13. Mt. Ida Reserve
  14. Crosskeys Vineyards
  15. Barron Ridge Vineyards
  16. 12 Ridges Vineyard
  17. Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
  18. Wisdom Oak Winery
  19. The Reserve Tasting Room and Lounge
  20. Brix & Columns Vineyards
  21. Lazy Days Winery
  22. Creeks Edge Winery
  23. Eastwood Farm and Winery
  24. James River Cellars
  25. Mountain House Trading Company
  26. Stable Craft Brewing
  27. Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn
  28. Veritas Winery
  29. Orchid Cellar Meadery
  30. Olney Winery
  31. Red Heifer Winery

Ending a Year of Meet-Ups at The Reserve

For our last meet-up of the year we made the hour-long trek to Lynchburg to visit the Reserve Tasting Room and Lounge. If you’ve never been, it’s worth a trip. This cozy, well-decorated tasting room features wines from various Virginia wineries that you can enjoy inside or outside. If you want to sit inside, I highly suggest that you make a reservation as seating is limited. The tasting room also serves up amazing snacks, including one of the best boards we’ve experienced all year.

Photo credit: Courtnee Durrett

With a friendly and attentive staff and a prime location near plenty of resteraunts and shops, there’s honestly nothing bad about the Reserve.

Now, the wine. You can purchase flights, glasses, and bottles. Most of our group got the sweet flight or the featured flight. The sweet flight was nice because it included some favorites we’ve tried before like th Bluestone Bridgewater Gold and Cross Keys Joy White. Plus, these are by no means dessert wines or those with an elevated amount of residual sugar.

The featured fligt included a white, rose, and two reds. The Effingham Tannat and NV Reserve Jefferson Street Red were the standouts on this flight.

We’d defintely recommend a visit to Reserve and will be going back ourselves.

Christmas is a month away and for those with items still on their lists, time is winding down. Wine, cider, spirits, are all great gifts, but we know we all have friends and family members who do not drink, are too young to consume alcohol, or who live further away and we don’t want to ship liquids to. So, here are our picks for wine (and non-wine) gifts for everyone on your list. This list highlights Black and brown businesses (both big and small), as well as local, Virginia wineries and other businesses.

For your best gal pals

  • Unique, campy gifts from Faded Poppy Mercantile in Waynesboro, VA. Honestly, just support this business. One of the most respected businesses in the Valley, Sarah and Jason continue to be allies for LGBTQ, Black and other communities of color, and pride themselve on providing a covid-safe environment for customers and clients. Check them out for everything from fresh flowers to candles, mugs, bath and body items, and more.
  • Shop Shaniece B for candles. Black and woman-owned, this one-stop wellness shop is expanding into the growing luxury picnic arena in 2022.
  • Darling Boutique is a favorite in Charlottesville and it’s easy to see why when you step into this downtown shop. Woman-owned and operated, Darling offers a plethora of gifts and features Black and other small businesses and creatives of color frequently. It’s really a one-stop shop to pick up something for yourself and gifts for others. If you’re not already sold, it frequently helps raise funds for local nonprofits. Shop gifts online or in-store.

For your sister and your self

  • Renee’s Boutique is ready to meet all of your holiday season needs. Black and female-owned, this online retail destination has everything from holiday looks for you to great gifts for all of the important people on your list.
  • We hear a lot that there is no black-owned book stores to support in Charlottesville, and that’s true, but you can support the book shop in the Alumni Room at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center. You can check the website to see what items are available or visit the shop in-person.
  • Mim Beauty is located in Waynesboro and a great place to stock up on stocking stuffers. The staff here is great and makes the store all the more fun to visit. It also has a great selection of wigs and hair to get you ready for the holiday season or to gift to someone else.
  • If you have people on your list who love plants, check out WeGrow in Scottsville.
Photo by Marcus Loke on Unsplash

For the kiddos

  • Pufferbellies in Staunton is a whole destination. While this bright, fun space has some popular toy items, most of what you’ll find here are unique choices that will encourage learning through play. The store also includes a candy section.

Wine gifts

  • Support a black-owned wine brand and try Harmony Wine. Founded by Matt Harmon, Harmony Wine offers six wine selections currently. You can order online so really sending to friends and family is hassle free.
  • Cheese board deck at Anthropologie. Honestly, I’m giving these to all of my friends this year. What could be more fun than a deck of cards all about cheesboard and charcuterie inspiration? Not much.
  • Gift cards to wineries are still great gifts. Give them to some favorites or to new ones you know friends and family want to try out.

One Wine Weekend in October

Over the past weekend, Black Women Who Wine explored three wineries never visited before.

On Saturday, we held our October meet-up at 12 Ridges Vineyard on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a high altitude winery focused on sparkling wines using the Traditional Method originating from the Champagne, France region. This winery opened in 2019 so is fairly new and the location was previously Skylark Farm, a popular spot for Christmas tree shopping.

The wine selection is currently not completely focused on sparkling and includes wine from other wineries and vineyards in and out of Virginia. 12 Ridges promises a unique experience and it delivered. The high elevation means you get beautiful views on your drive to the vineyard and once you arrive. We went on a rainy day, but this still didn’t stop people from flowing in throughout our visit to enjoy live music and a food truck, as well as wine. This vineyard is meant to be enjoyed outside and only 3 tables are available inside. Staff was pretty nice here and Leslie, the tasting room manager was excellent at making our group feel welcome and chatting with us.

Enjoying the views and sips at 12 Ridges Vineyard during our October Meet-Up

On Sunday, I moved from Central Virginia to Northern Virginia and checked out two of the Delaplane wineries – Aspen Dale Winery at the Barn and Blue Valley Vineyard. Aspen Dale was a surprise hit. It offered red, white and sweet flights, snacks and wine slushies. I had the sweet flight and a wine slushie. Don’t be fooled by the sweet flight, it included a sangria and a sparkling cider, but also a sauvignon blanc/viognier blend and a rosé. This winery was super family friendly with plenty of outdoor seating and open space for play.

Next I headed to Blue Valley, which was literally just around the corner. Blue Valley has been on my list to visit for a long time and it didn’t disappoint. Honestly, this was more my style than Aspen Dale. Beautiful and spacious inside and out, great snacks, and wine choices anyone can enjoy. I had the pre-selected tasting of 5 wines and also enjoyed trying the Sangiovese (which was excellent) and a blend called Remembrance (Chambourcin with a touch of Vidal Blanc. 2.4% residual sugar) that were not part of the tasting.

Of the three wineries visitied this weekend, Blue Valley was my favorite and I’ll definitely go back again.

Hello Skin Contact Wines

Skin-contact, also known as orange or amber wines because of their hue, are wines made from white grapes that are vinified in the same way red ones usually are. The longer contact with skin aplifies flavors and give the wine a bolder hue.

One, where do you get these wines from? Even though they are growning in popularity and trendy right now, skin-contact ones still aren’t exactly found wherever wine is sold. This weekend, Chisolm Vineyards in Earlysville debuted a skin-contact Chardonnay, so there’s that. But to find my first skin-contact wine to try, I went to Crush Pad Wines in Charlottesville. The day I visitied, only two skin-contact optoins were in stock. I went with what the staff member said was the most popular option.

Wanting to try more than one, I also ordered a skin-contact pinot grigio from Total Wine.

Having the two bottles inhand, I invited the Black Women Who Wine exective committee over to try these two options with me.

First, the bottle from Crush Pad. The Coenobium Monastero Trappiste Vitorchiano 2019 was an option from Italy. This white blend included Trebbiano, Malvasia del Lazio and Verdicchio.

Honestly, everyone agreed this wine was nasty. The mineral flavor shines through. Flavor notes include those of hay, wild herbs, humus and ripe white fruits. Unfortunately, the hay and humus are more prominent than the others.

Our next wine tried was Sun Goddess Pinot Grigio. This option is better for anyone looking to try skin-contact wines for the first time. Being that it’s not a blend, the Pinot Grigio flavor is familiar even if the production method is not. This is bolder than the average Pinot Grigio with notes of peach, melon and blackberriess.

If you’re in the Charlottesville area looking for skin-contact options, try Crush Pad or The Workshop at the Wool Factory.

Fall Winery Tour 2021: A Recap

On September 18, we embarked on our first ever Fall Winery Tour. Eight Black Women Who Wine visited three wineries – Barboursville Vineyards, Chestnut Oak Vineyard and Early Mountain Vineyards.

We received excellent transport service from A&A Limousine based out of Charlottesville.

First stop: Barboursville Vineyards

Our first stop, Barboursville Vineyards, was a fan favorite and has a unique tasting experience. Pay a tasting fee of $15 for six one ounce pours self-dispensed by automated Winestations. The selection of reds here stand out. The Merlot, Sangiovese Reserve and Nebbiolo Reserve were favorites with our group. As for whites, the 2019 Vermentino Reserve stood out and the Philéo was liked by sweet wine lovers.

Second stop: Chestnut Oak Vineyard

Chestnut Oak was the only stop on our tour that none of us had visited before. Well, it definitely will not be the last time we visit this vineyard. Customer service was excellent and we all had flights. We enjoyed the 2017 Ascension Petit Verdot, 2015 Petit Manseng, and 2017 Sparkling Wine.

Last stop: Early Mountain Vineyard

Our last stop was Early Mountain for lunch and more wine. The great thing about Early Mountain is that it offers wines from wineries across Virginia. It is currently offering three different flights to choose from as well as wines by the bottle and glass.

Black Women Who Wine Experience Pippin Hill

Pippin Hilll ranks among the most visited and lauded wineries in Virginia. Known for its picturesque entrance, mountain views, and cuisine, it is a popular choice for weddings, wine tours and foodies.

Over the weekend we got to experience Pippin Hill. Nine Black women in non profits and Black business owners came together for a day on the hill and it met all expectations. For some, it was a return to Pippin Hill, for others it was their first time visiting. Ani, our guide for the day greeted us with sparkling wine. That was followed by a tour of the grounds, a guided tasting and a picnic on the lawn that included a glass of wine of our choice. Ani was knowledgable, friendly, and answered all of our questions. We also tried the frose and one member of our party ordered a salad to go.

Now for the wine. Our tasting included 6 wines – 2 whites, 3 reds and a port-style wine. The favorite white among the ladies was the Chardonnay. The reds were what really stood out though. We got to taste the Cannon Red – a blend of Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin, Merlot, Tannat and Viognier; Cabernet Sauvignon; Easton Blue – the winery’s signature red blend of Petit Verdot,Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Tannat; and Bin 21 (the Port).

Of these 4, the Cannon Red, Easton Blue, and Bin 21 all got rave reviews. Everyone noted how pleasing both the Cannon Red and Easton Blue were on the nose. At $60 a bottle, the Easton Blue ranks up there in VA wine prices, bit it really is amazing. The notes of cherry and tobacco are immediately detected and the medium finish is why many love an excellent red blend.

Some tips for visiting Pippen Hill? Go on a weekday or make a reservation if you don’t wish to sit on th lawn. It has always been well populated on weekends when I’ve been. Other tips, take lots of pictures! It really is beautiful.

This was a great partnership with the winery and we are so happy we could organize this trip for this special group of ladies.

Navigating Dog-Friendly Wineries When You’re Not a Dog Person

Wineries seem ideal for dogs. Wide open spaces and outdoor seating means dogs can run and play and owners can enjoy wine while getting their dogs out of the house. Some wineries even offer dog treats and water. But not everyone goes to a winery to hang out with pups. In face, some people don’t enjoy dogs. Period. And they certainly don’t enjoy them while trying to enjoy a nice glass of wine and views.

Wineries are becoming better at stating up front whether dogs are welcome or not. However, not all give guidance and visitors’ judgment varies about this just as it does about kids at wineries. Some people carry their kids everywhere. Some people carry their dogs everywhere. And some people don’t. If you’re one of the people who don’t (writer of this post included) here are some tips.

  1. Do your research and avoid wineries that are dog-friendly. This is the most obvious way to navigate this issue. A visit to a winery’s website or Instagram can usually let you know whether dogs are welcome. If you still really want to visit the winery though, go during off-peak hours or times when less people will be there.
  2. Choose the inside option. If there is an option to sit inside, do it. Most dog lovers will want to be outside. Sitting inside will allow you a chance to enjoy the winery minus the pups.
  3. Politely draw a line. Most dog lovers at wineries are aware their experience is not for everyone and are fine with moving their dog or attempting to quiet it down.

Winery Review: Red Heifer Winery

This weekend some black women who wine had the pleasure of visiting Red Heifer Winery in Smithsburg, MD. Smithsburg is a little under 3 hours from Pennsylvania and about 3.5 – 4 hours from Virgnia. Red Heifer is one of the wineries included in those that are part of the Maryland Wine Pass.

The winery is close to the Catocin Wildlife Refuge and Zoo and some national forest/park areas and about 30 minutes from Frederick, MD, – where we enjoyed brunch before heading to the winery.

The winery is smaller, but has ample space for larger groups and groups of just two or three. We reserved a cabana, which in my opinon was worth the $30 it cost to do so, especially on a hot day. The cabana offers privacy and shade that otherwise isn’t easy to come by. There is no indoor seating available. Red Heifer is 21 and up, so it is a pretty peaceful spot. On Sundays there is live music.

Now for what you really care about, the wine! Eight wines are available to taste via custom flights and others available by the glass and bottle. Since the wine pass offers BOGO flights, we got two flights that included all of the offerings available via flights, so basically a dry flight and a sweet flight. The dry offerings included a vidal blanc, the Chardonel, a 2017 Cabernet Franc, and the 2018 Red Heifer Red. First the good. The Vidal Blanc was a winner and the Chardonel, which is a hybrid grape varietal of Chardonnay and Seyva, was nice as well. The Red Heifer Red is a dry blend of 90% Cabernet Franc and 10% Chambourcin aged in French oak. This was probably one of our least favorites. This was a bold red, but not a good blend.

The sweet flight we got consisted of the Blueberry Wine, Sweet Heifer, Catawba, and Red Heifer White. The Blueberry and Sweet Heifer are semi-sweet, while the Catawba is sweet and the Red Heifer White is a dessert wine. Of these 4, the Catawba, a sweet rose, was the favorite. We picked up the strawberry and lemon notes easily.

The Blueberry was a nice surprise. It was semi-sweet and tasted like a light, mild red table wine.

While there we also enjoyed wine slushies and tried the chacuterie board, which included watermelon, wasabi peas and some other unique offerings.

One thing I love about Maryland wineries is that they really offer a different experience than Virgnia wineries. They often offer more varietals, are often less kid-friendly (which I like), and in many ways just all around more casual. Red Heifer is worth if a visit if you want a fun outdoor experience at a winery with a large variety of wines.

Worth a Trip? Stable Craft Brewing

Wineries and breweries can be far away. They need space after after all. So before committing to a trip to what sometimes turns out to be the middle of nowhere, it is good to know if the trip is worth taking.

Over the past weekend, we visited Stable Craft Brewing in Waynesboro, VA. As with many wineries in the remote, rural localities of Virginia, you’ll definitely pass some Trump signs to get to this location. However, once there, the trip is worth it. Stable Craft is known as a spacious event venue and brewery that offers everything from stables you can visit to corn hole. There is plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. We went around 1 on a Sunday and the inside seating area was empty when we first arrived, as most patrons were outside.

First, understand the setup. You order everything at the register area as you come in and get your drinks there, while food is brought to your table. The drink menu included beer, sours and ciders. We tried a pretty good sampling and standouts included the watermelon sour, Brazen cider and blueberry blonde ale, and Just Peachy cider. Food members of our party had included the pulled pork nachos, grilled chicken salad, pulled pork sandwich, shrimp and crab hoagie and All-American burger. First, the portions of both food and drink are substantial. The shrimp and crab hoagie and pulled pork nachos won raves. The menu also includes some unique desserts. The banana pudding was a hit, while the bread pudding was topped with too much of a cream that we found took away from the dish. However, if that’s the only thing that could be improved during this weird time of dining out, we’ve got nothing to complain about.

It was pretty hot, so we didn’t explore too much, but we did play some cornhole and walk around the property. You are also able to rent a suite to stay the night, brew your own beer and take tours of Stable Craft, which would probably be a lot of fun. All in all, this is a wonderful place to have in our neck of the woods and we recommend it if you’re looking for a brewery that has something for everyone.