Winter Wonderland

It doesn’t quite feel like Christmastime in my community until the Christmas Lighting Ceremony has taken place at the Bedford, Virginia landmark formerly known as the Elks National Home.  The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks is the fraternal organization that has operated the facility for over a century.  The Elks National Home was recently sold and the new owner, English Meadows, has promised to continue the Christmas light tradition.  Although this icon of Christmas has a new name, to those of us who have passed through those festive gates countless times over the years, it will always be ‘The Elks Home.’ This spectacular presentation of lights and scenery has been a tradition every December except one since 1953.  Creating this winter wonderland is a monumental task.  Beginning the first week of November, the Home’s maintenance crew as well as residents work many hours to hang tens of thousands of light bulbs and display numerous pieces of scenery.  According to the Elks National Home, there are upwards of 20,000 vehicles that pass through the grounds each Christmas Season. Here’s the thing:  I wanted to share a Christmas tradition that I’ve delighted in since childhood.  I hope you enjoy this little tour through ‘The Elks Home’ winter wonderland, and may your holidays be merry and bright! If you would like to enjoy a bit of festive music while touring the Christmas light display, just click on the link.  🙂 “Winter […]

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Food, Wine, and Fellowship

Photography:  Courtesy of Douglas Frassa   “Let us celebrate the occasion with wine and sweet words.” –Plautus   “I love everything that is old; old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wines.” –Oliver Goldsmith, The Vicar of Wakefield   As a wine enthusiast and someone who’s recently completed the Level 3 Award in Wines with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET), I’ve grown to enjoy different kinds and styles of wines as well as learning how and where they’re made.  Not only do I delight in a glass of wine from an exceptional vintage, but what is truly great is when wine is paired perfectly with food; both are better for the pairing.  In my opinion, it’s the same thing when people get together for a meal–the fellowship makes the food more pleasurable, and both are better because of the pairing.  When all of these elements align, a transcendence occurs; and, the act of eating becomes much more–especially, when a talented chef, gracious staff, and good friends are involved. A number of years ago, I experienced dining out as an artful experience in a nearby town.  The restaurant, located in Roanoke, Virginia, was called Horizon Bar and Grill.  Don’t let the location or the unassuming name of the restaurant fool you. The chef and our friend, Scott Lockhart, was the artistic talent and creative energy behind the weekly/ monthly wine dinners and beautiful seasonal menus at his family’s […]

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Ankida Ridge Vineyard: Where Heaven and Earth Join

Ankida Ridge Vineyards Amherst County, Virginia October 2018   With an elevation of around 1800 ft, a steep southeast aspect, and weathered granite soils over 500,000 million years old, Ankida Ridge’s name is befitting its breathtaking splendor—“Ankida,” an ancient Sumerian word which means where heaven and earth join. It’s definitely one of the most stunning vineyards I’ve visited.  Located in […]

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Tuesday Tunes: The Grapevine

Meadows of Dan, Virginia  Blue Ridge Parkway   Recently, Farmguy and I participated in the grape harvest at a local winery just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Southwestern Virginia.  Located in the Rocky Knob American Viticultural Area (AVA), Chateau Morrisette Winery sits at an elevation of nearly 3500 feet.  Boasting spectacular views, it’s amid one of the most rugged and mountainous parts of the state.  Although the winery is at 3500 feet, most of its vineyards are down the mountain at 1600 feet. Chateau Morrisette Winery was founded by David Morrisette in 1978, making it among the oldest wineries in Virginia.  It has 13 acres of land and produces approximately 70,000 cases of wine each year. Chardonnay, Viognier, Chambourcin, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng, and Vidal blanc are among the varietals used in making Chateau Morrisette’s wines.  Besides growing many of its own grapes, the winery also buys grapes from other vineyards in Virginia.  Due to the state’s climate and growing season, Viognier and Cabernet Franc are some the winery’s most successful varieties. In the photos, Farmguy and I are harvesting Niagara grapes—a variety of the North American grape species Vitis labrusca.  Niagara grapes are one of the few grape varieties that can grow at such a high elevation. These green grapes are table grapes and are also used in making jams, juices, and wines.  They are mainly used in Chateau Morrisette’s sweet/dessert wines—Sweet Mountain Laurel and Red […]

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A World Class Wine from Virginia

    The dream of a world class Virginia wine began with Thomas Jefferson.  Although Jefferson knew that Virginia had the weather and terroir for grape growing and winemaking, he never saw his dream come to fruition. This is, in part, due to Phylloxera—an aphid-like insect that feeds on the roots and leaves of grapevines.  However, Virginia grape growers now understand that to successfully grow European grapes, they must first graft the vine onto phylloxera resistant American rootstock.  This was the first major hurdle to realizing the dream of a Virginia wine, the next, proving the viability of grape growing as an agricultural endeavor. Officially, the wine industry in Virginia began in 1976 with the Zonin family, one of Italy’s largest wine producers. They bought Barboursville in Orange, an area near Charlottesville, with the hopes of starting a vineyard.  Underlying this decision was the belief that European grapes could thrive in the Commonwealth of Virginia.  After the purchase of Barboursville, the Zonin family invited Gabriele Rausse, an Italian winemaker, who is currently the Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, to assist in making the dream of a Virginia wine a reality. Today, the Commonwealth boasts hundreds of successful wineries and vineyards, many producing award winning wines–including Barboursville Vineyards, Virginia’s first commercial winery.  And, Gabriele Rausse is partially responsible, having consulted on 40 vineyards and 10 wineries in the Commonwealth, including his own.  He is considered the father of modern […]

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Tuesday Tunes: Peace

Blue Ridge Parkway Meadows of Dan, Virginia   With the holidays right around the corner and all of the hustle and bustle, peace may not be something a lot of us are feeling these days. That’s why I thought I’d share one of my favorite songs from Elvis Presley’s 1957 Christmas album.  It’s not traditional Christmas music or even one […]

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Tuesday Tunes: Along the Crooked Road

The Crooked Road is a place of beauty and a place of song.  It’s also known as Virginia’s Heritage Music Trail which winds through almost 300 miles of scenic terrain in Southwest Virginia.  Here, music is woven into the rich tapestry of tradition.  Passed down from generations, these mountain ballads and toe-tapping, old-time dance music continue to echo across the […]

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Remembering

Originally posted on The Off Key Of Life:
I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its stupidity. DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, January 10, 1946 We sometimes have a tendency to glamorize war in books and movies. Those who have been there understand it’s much worse than anything that’s…

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