Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Heart of Virginia Wine Trail

If there is anyone in the Central Virginia area that likes to tour wineries then they need to get out there and hit the Heart of Virginia Wine Trail!  This last weekend the trail had a special offer.  For $15 dollars you could go to each of the four wineries on the trail and taste the wine at each.  You also got to partake in a chili "cook-off" and you got to keep the souvenir wine glass with the Heart of Virginia logo on it.  The four wineries were Lake Anna, Cooper's, Grayhaven and James River Cellars.  And what would make touring four wineries even better?  Tour those wineries with a bunch of friends!  Tonya was a happy girl needless to say.

Our group met up at the first winery on our list, James River Cellars Winery (JRCW). Located about 45 mins from our house this winery is in Glen Allen, Virginia.  I've passed by it several times....and I did try to stop here once....during a hurricane (long story) but have never gotten to actually tour the winery.  It's a two story building with a bar and tasting area on the bottom level and a large room that can be used for special events up stairs.  The chili tasting qualified for a special event I guess because we were upstairs.  They had tables set up for tasting: table one with whites, table two with reds and table three with the dessert wines.  I think we tasted somewhere around 15 wines all together.  The chili was also in this room and with lots of seating it was more than enough for our large group plus others.  They have a small balcony on the front of the second story and a larger outdoor patio on the ground level.  During the summer they host several outdoor events and wine festivals....that we WILL be taking part in :)

Their wines.

First level bar.

Winery and patio.

This is half of the up stairs room.

A nice spot to sit and sip our wine.

After leaving JRCW we headed off to stop #2 on our tour, Grayhaven.  This winery is located in Gum Spring Virginia and was a little more off the beaten path.  The winery itself might also be described that same way.  The tasting room was small and quaint with one tasting bar and a large table with seating in the main room.  Their is a small bridge and coy pond just in front of the winery that catch your attention with a patio and a few seats/tables if you care to sit outside and have some wine.  Their are 15 wines advertised on their website but at the tasting we only had three.  They also offered a mango sangria made from one of their wines.  Here we had the option of trying two chilies.....one was vegetarian and the other.....honestly I forget.  Mostly because I actually like the vegetarian chili so much.  I was a little disappointed that we only had three wines to taste but I knew we were moving on to other places with plenty more wine to try. 


Crossing over.

The coy pond.

I loved these doors.

Part of the main room.

Before long we were moving on to our 3rd stop of the tour, Cooper Vineyard.  There is a small place in my heart reserved for Cooper Vineyard.  I've been to this place before and always have enjoyed their wines.  In fact their sangria was what we served at our wedding :)  Mark has little memory of the later parts of that night thanks in part to the sangria but it makes for great stories.  Since my last visit here they really have made huge improvements.  They now have a large tasting room, with a long curving tasting bar and plenty of outdoor seating.  It looked like a second story with even more room maybe for private events but we didn't get up there to check it out.  After finding a small opening at the end of the bar we did our tasting of 13 or so wines.  A lot of people go crazy over their Noche wine which is a Norton wine with Chocolate infused into the wine.  Ok....well it IS good.  But my favorite was the Sweet Louisa....that's why we got two bottles of that and only one of the Noche.  We took more time here to sit out on the deck and I walked around with Emma for a bit to let her burn off some energy. 

Cooper Vineyard.

Yea that's a lot of peole around a LONG bar.

The long bar did allow for serveral hosts to be pouring at once.

An outdoor tasting area. 
By the time we left this was full too.

Cozy on up to this baby.

The outdoor deck.  They kept the heat on for us ;)
I think I was trying to get a pic of the ceiling.

After our stay at Cooper it was time to make our way to the last stop on the tour.  The last stop was at Lake Anna Winery.  By the time we got here the chili was gone but never fear they still had plenty of wine ;)  The tasting area is large with a lot of open space for tables.  The tasting bar has two sides and lots of room for several hosts to be pouring at once.   A small deck on the side has a couple tables and then a lower patio on back has picnic tables for when the weather warms up.  With 11 wines to taste, Mark and I were able to find a few Lake Anna wines to add to our collection.  This winery is close to Lake Anna in Spotsylvania County and I'm sure in the summer plenty of people are picking up some wine on their way to play at the lake. 

The front of the bar.

The back of the bar.

See what I mean about open space.

The side deck.

Looking back at the bar.

It was a long day with lots of laughs, lots of wine and great new memories to add to our collection. 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Monday Love

Now THAT is tiered.

Wow.....what a weekend.  It felt a bit like a roller coaster on high speed!  Friday night I took the older kids and a couple of their friends to the movies and then Mark and I did a little shopping.  Saturday got off to an EARLY (I'm talking 5:30 a.m.) start when I had to pick up Christy from a sleep over.  It really wasn't planned that way but it worked out for the best.  The rest of the Saturday was spent touring the Heart of Virginia Wineries and then a birthday party to finish off the night.  Sunday was our day to just stay in and recharge for the up coming week. 

Some Instagram pictures from the weekend. 

Taken at James River Wine Cellars.

Grayhaven Winery.

At Cooper's Vineyard and Winery.

I'll share all the details on the wine tour this week.  Hope your Monday is off to a fabulous start.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Shirley Plantation

You would think that living in such a historical state like Virginia all of my life that I would have been to see every nook and cranny the state has to offer.  And I think it's fair to say I have seen a good part of it.  But it seems that what I most often overlook are the things in my very own back yard.  I have been much better about that in the last couple of years and I'm so glad about that.  Sunday Mark, Emma and myself went on a little morning trip to Charles City County.  Our destination: Shirley Plantation.  I have passed this site at least a few dozen times and each time I think to myself "I really want to go there sometime". 

The long drive leading to the plantation


The Shirley Plantation stakes claims on being the first Virginia Plantation and dates back to 1613.  It also boasts that it is the oldest family owned business in North America.  Cool!  The plantation is located on Rt. 5 in Charles City County and only about a 20 minute ride from Richmond.  You travel down a very long drive to get to the home site and pass through crops of cotton along the way.  In the winter you see only the remnants of the crops from the previous season.  The construction on the home began in 1723 with the Hill-Carter Family.  Over the years as various family members took ownership changes were made.  Some added things to the grounds and house, while others removed things.

To start the tour you need to purchase a ticket in the gift shop.  The gift shop is run out of what was once the "laundry house".  Like most plantations that were built back in the day things like the kitchen, laundry, cellars and even guest rooms were kept apart from the main house.  You will get a map of the property when you purchase your touring ticket.  We were given a small card with a time on it and instructed to meet our tour guide on the front porch of the mansion at the time on our card.  Tours run everyday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  They are closed major holidays.  Tours were $11 per adult and children are $7.  Emma was free :)

The drive right before you reach the mansion.

The main house and a two of the out buildings.

The main house.

Just a closer view.

Our tour guide.

You can't take any pictures once inside the house.  So I will just have to tell you the house was beautiful.  The first thing you notice is that you can on the first floor and look up all the way to the third floor.  The stairs are not circular but built so that it's open to the top.  There were cute stories that our tour guide shared with us about the families that have lived here and events that have taken place.  There is so much history in every inch of the house.  The top two floors are still occupied by the family and are not available for touring. 

The back of the house.

A view of the James from the house.

Now that is an old tree!

After the tour of the house we were free to walk around the rest of the grounds on our own.  The other buildings include an ice house, kitchen, laundry house, stable, and a few other buildings.  The majority of the buildings are symmetrical and built to have a matching building.  If you check out the website to the plantation you can get a view of the grounds from the air and understand what I mean about matching building.

The kitchen.

Can you imagine having
to cook with that oven?

The ice pit in the ice house.

Some farm equipment on display.

There are gardens on the property but being the middle of the winter it is not in it's prettiest state.  And from what I understand there is a small cemetery on the property but not on the tour.

The gardens.

We probably went on our tour on the coldest day of the year!  But even so it was an enjoyable visit and I'm so glad we finally made time to stop by. 

One last look at the mansion before leaving.

This weekend we are looking forward to going on the Heart of Virginia wine tour and then going to a birthday party for a good friend.  As always it will be a busy weekend for The Busy Bryants.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wine Country....continued

Today I wanted to share a little bit more about my adventure with Stephanie into Northern Virginia (NOVA) this past weekend.  I blogged about the first part of our journey here.  Picking up where that left off with wineries II and III. 

Our second stop on this wine tour was to Hartwood Winery.  Owned by Jim and Beverly Livingston, it is a smaller winery with more of a down home feel.  The tasting room was large with a long bar and tables with seating for about 15-20. This winery has been around since 1989 and they are more than proud of that fact.  Tasting was $5 per person and the tasting glass was extra if you wanted to keep it.  The wines were all very good (you know by now I like almost anything) with their Deweese White being my favorite.  There were picnic tables outside and a covered area outside for when you just have to be outside on a rainy day.  On the day of our visit there was snow/ice covering the ground but it didn't seem to stop anyone from getting out for a tasting.  I imagine in the spring and summer this would be a pretty winery to stop at and sit outside and sip some wine.

The vineyards.

In the tasting room.

Beverly Livingston serving up some wine.

Hartwood winery.

Our final winery of the tour is a new comer on the list of Virginia Wineries.  Morais Vineyards and Winery opened it's doors in September of 2011.  It is so new they don't have the usual "grape" sign out front so beware if you are traveling down the road expecting to see signs advertising it.    You drive up through the vineyard to get to the winery....and then you see it.....gorgeous!  At first glance I would of described it as Italian design but then after talking to our host she told us the owner was actually Portuguese.  This winery seems built more as a venue than to make wine, don't get me wrong the wines are wonderful, but I do get the feeling they want to be the place to host your next....everything.  They have two tasting rooms (in case a party is using one of them they have a back up) and a large ballroom.  The ballroom comes with a balcony inside overlooking the room and then one outside (think Buckingham Palace and the newlyweds kissing).  There is a pond on site with a fountain to boot.

Tastings were $7 per person and you also got a plate of olives, cheese, crackers and bread.  I enjoyed all the wines and left with three bottles.  I would have left with all of them but then where would I store them all?  Our host was sweet enough to give us a short tour and it truly is a beautiful place.  We didn't get to see the cellar as they were using it as storage at the time being.  We did get to see pictures of it and I hope that we can see it on a return visit one day.  They do have an events coordinator on staff if you want to plan to have your wedding or a function on site. 

Driving up through the vineyard.

See what I mean....beautiful!

Enter here.

The tasting room/bar.

The fireplace in the tasting room.

The stage in the ballroom.

Looking up at the indoor balcony

Looking out from the outdoor balcony.

Looking out over the ballroom from balcony.

A shot of the stage from the balcony

Another take on the tasting room.

Did I mention this winery had it's own chapel?  Yep.  We didn't get to peak inside but it's located very near the main tasting room and ballroom.  I really enjoyed our visit here and suspect to hear more about this winery in the future. 

With all three wineries tucked in our memories for future reference Stephanie and I headed home.  We are already making plans for another wine tour in the not too far off future :)