Monday, August 15, 2016

“Puff, the magic dragon, lived by the sea . . .

. . .  And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee”.  Now you know where Honah Lee Vineyard got its name, but you'll have to travel there yourself to learn the story behind it.  Honah Lee was our most recent new winery visit, #221.

When we visit a new winery we do several things.  Generally, the first order of business is to check out the restrooms.  A unique bathroom is one we’ll record for posterity in one form or another, AND we drink an awful lot of water.  Next, we do our tastings.  In between pours, Mike asks a series of questions for our journal.  And, all the while Diane takes dozens of pictures. We always conclude our visit with a snapshot of the four of us.  Sometimes we will include a memorable owner or server.

We have survived 37 “official” PoLo wine tours.  Official means all four of us were together and we visited at least two wineries.  I am in the process of organizing the photos from those 37 tours.  As I go through them, I am reliving each moment.  Some of those moments are firmly etched in my mind, but many of them have gotten swept up into one big poorly-defined recollection of people and places.  Honah Lee has a uniqueness that will back it difficult to forget.

Unlike most winery visits, Diane and I had done a “recon” two weeks earlier.  This is Mike’s army term for any winery visit prior to the official PoLo event.  So, anytime we return to a winery, we’re more likely to remember it.  But there are other reasons Honah Lee stands out.

Honah Lee has an unassuming tasting room.  Although they have an area set up outside for events, the tasting room itself is a small cabin-like building on a road just off of route 15, James Madison Hwy. near Gordonsville.  When we drove up, we weren’t sure we were in the right place.  It’s natural to judge a book by its cover, but we have had some of our worst experiences at palatial, ornately decorated venues and some of our best in the most rudimentary shelters you can imagine.  The inside of the tasting room reminded me of a country store.  There was a small bar for tastings, but the room was filled with more than the various wine related paraphernalia we typically see.  There were bushels of fresh peaches picked from the owners' trees, mouth-watering homemade pies, and shelves of local jams and jellies.

The owners are Brandy and Eric Hopwood.  Eric is a young retiree from law enforcement, Brandy is a homemaker and loving caregiver to their adorable toddler Erica, and they are both farmers.  They also run BerryWood Crafters which makes and sells the afore mentioned pies but also other baked goods, sauces, jams and jellies, jewelry and crafts. 

Honah Lee does something that we love, something rare.  They serve five or six of their own wines, but they also offer wines from selected other wineries, such as Well Hung, Bluestone, and Gabriele Rausse.  The bad news is that you are asked to select six wines from their choice of about 20.  I don’t particularly like this practice, although I understand why they do it.  You can sample additional wines for a dollar a taste.  That may sound like too much for a single pour, but these people are not stingy with their samples.  That’s the good news.  Each couple shared their tasting, so we were able to try 12 different wines.

Our server, Haley, worked there on weekends.  During the week, she works at nearby Barboursville Vineyards.  Honah Lee offers a much more intimate experience than Barboursville, and Haley was certainly up to the task.  She did her best to answer Mike’s probing and provocative journal questions, such as “When did the winery open?” and “How many acres do you have under vine?”.  The tasting also included a sampling of Brandy’s jellies and jams.  They were yummy but be careful about the effect of the hot pepper jelly on your palate.

I generally don’t critique the wines we taste.  Everyone’s palate is different, and I don’t consider myself an expert.  I will mention one particular Honah Lee wine.  It is called De La Merce and is labeled as a red table wine.  It is a Merlot and Chambourcin blend, and you will get bacon on the finish.  Po and Lo don’t always get the same aromas on the nose or flavors on the finish, but we all agreed on this one.  It was both unique and delicious. 
I’ll conclude with our standard post-tasting portrait.  It’s four thumbs up for the Hopwoods, Haley, and Honah Lee.  See you on the wine trail.


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Who Do We Think We Are, Anyway?

Who Do We Think We Are, Anyway?
By Eric Postman

What is it that they say? “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  I established this blog in 2009 with the intention of posting regularly.  I’ll admit I didn’t even attempt to post regularly, but when I did, it rarely got finished.  As a recovering English major (37 years literate) and retired teacher, I let my need for perfection get in the way of sharing what I had to say.  So, excuse me Clayton Lewis*, but I’m going to plow straight ahead.

From the Beginning
We are PoLo.  No, we don’t play games on horseback.  The “Po” is for Postman and the “Lo” is for Loquasto.  Deb and Mike Loquasto were Diane’s and my next door neighbors in Yorktown, VA.  We met in 2001, the year our families moved into your houses.  We were an unlikely group.  Mike was a full colonel in the army, Deb a homemaker.  Diane and I were school teachers.  They were/are Republicans.  We were/are Democrats.  Deb was a rabid Yankee fan; as a Met fan since childhood, I despised the Yankees.  And on and on, but somehow we forged a strong friendship.

Sometime around 2006 Diane began having health problems, and for about a year and a half she could not consume alcohol.  Through countless trips to doctors, many who specialized in futility, she couldn't find out what was wrong.   Finally, one doctor -- who did NOT specialize in futility -- told her she had suffered esophageal damage from an anti-inflammatory drug.  He told her to stay away from beer and hard liquor.  Wine was her only option.

None of us were wine drinkers, but we didn’t want to appear unsupportive.  So, the four of us attended a wine festival in Williamsburg, VA.  We learned many things that day.

1.      Wine was good.
2.      We preferred sweet wine.  (That would change.)
3.      Virginia was an up and comer in the wine industry.
4.      We didn’t like wine snobs.
5.      Wine was fun.

One of us came up with the idea of spending a weekend in the Charlottesville area visiting wineries.  We didn’t have much of a plan, but our main goal was to visit Horton Vineyards, maker of our favorite fruit wines.  We learned many things that weekend.

1.      Wine was really good.
2.      Dry wine could be good.
3.      There were about 185 wineries in Virginia.  The VA wine map said so.
4.      We still didn’t like wine snobs.
5.      Wine was really fun.

We had such a good time that weekend, laughing and tasting, tasting and laughing.  You never really know if you’re traveling-compatible with another couple until you go on a trip together.  We certainly were. 

One of us came up with another idea.  This one was more ambitious: visit every winery in the state.

And so our journey began.  The number of wineries in Virginia has grown from 185 to 250ish, but it’s a moving target.  Every year we eagerly await the publication of the wine map.  That’s when we discover which wineries have closed, which ones have changed hands, and which ones are new. 

In 2009, the Loquastos moved to State College, PA, and we thought we’d never reach our goal. 

But, one of us had an idea.  We could meet halfway and do “wine weekends” in Northern Virginia.  With only 25 wineries under our belt, we were naïve but fearless.  The dream would not die.

At first we strove for quantity.  On one early trip, we visited nine wineries in one day (big mistake).  Then, we went beyond Northern Virginia, and explored other regions of the state.  We let #50 pass unnoticed, but when #100 was within reach, we carefully chose a winery we thought we’d all like (Gray Ghost) and had a grand celebration.  We made our own t-shirts, started a journal, met dozens of interesting people, developed more sophisticated palates, and grew a little older.  It took us about six years to hit #200. 

When we planned our most recent trip, we didn’t even realize that the four new wineries we’d on our itinerary were the same four new wineries we DID visit on the previous trip.  Instead we mostly made revisits, returning to standout wineries we liked or those we couldn’t remember.  We went to only one new one, Honah Lee (think “Puff the Magic Dragon” who frolicked . . .).  That was #221.

Now you know the back story of PoLo.  Many things have changed since 2008.  Our four boys have all grown up to be men.  When the “Lo”s moved, Mike retired from the army.  Diane left preschool and became an elementary science teacher.  I had already left the classroom to be a technology specialist, but I moved to another school district.  Then, Diane retired and started her own business (Training Wheels Consulting -  Mike has been working at Penn State and just graduated with his second Masters just yesterday.  This was a bucket list item from his youth.  I just retired from teaching/technology at the end of this past school year.  Deb and Diane lost their mothers.  I lost my father.

As our journey continues, I will try not to let perfect be the enemy of the good.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Wineries Visited Updated (alphabetical order)

Adventure Farm - Earlysville

Arterra Winery - Delaplane

Blue Valley Vineyards & Winery - Delaplane

Cardamon Family Vineyard - Leesburg

Cedar Creek Winery - Star Tannery

Chestnut Oak Vineyard - Barboursville

Crooked Run Cellars – Mount Jackson (Closed)

Dog and Oyster Vineyard – Irvington (Former Vineyard White Fences)

Greenhill Winery and Vineyards - Middleburg

Greenwood Vineyards – Vernon Hill

Grey Horse Vineyards - Midland
Hamlet Vineyards - Bassett

Hartwood – Fredericksburg

Hickory Hills – Moneta

Hidden Brook Winery – Leesburg

Hiddencroft Vineyards – Waterford

Hill Top Berry Farm and Winery – Nellysford

Hillsborough Vineyard – Purcellville

Holly Grove Vineyards – Franktown

Honah Lee Farm Winery - Barboursville
Horton - Gordonsville

Hume Vineyards – Hume

Hunters Run Wine Barn - Hamilton

Hunting Creek Vineyards – Clover

Ingleside – Oak Grove

Hunt's Vineyard - Stuarts Draft

James Charles Winery and Vineyard - Winchester
James River Cellars – Glen Allen

Jefferson – Charlottesville

Jump Mountain Vineyard – Rockbridge Baths

Keswick Vineyards – Keswick

Kilaurwen Winery, Stanardsville

King Family Vineyards – Crozet

Kluge – Charlottesville

Knight's Gambit Vineyards - Charlottesville
Lake Anna – Spotsylvania

Lazy Days Winery – Amherst

Leaves of Green Vineyards - Middleburg

Leo Grande – Goode

Lexington Valley Vineyard – Rockbridge Baths

Linden Vineyards – Linden

Little Washington Winery - Washington
Lost Creek Winery and Vineyards – Leesburg

Loudoun Valley Vineyards – Purcellville

Loving Cup Vineyard and Winery - North Garden

Lovingston Winery – Lovingston

Maggie Malick Wine Caves - Pursellville

Magnolia Vineyards & Winery - Washington
Marterella Winery – Warrenton

Mattaponi – Spotsylvania

Meditteranean Cellars – Warrenton

Meriwether Springs Vineyard, Charlottesville

Mermaid Winery – Norfolk

Miracle Valley Vineyard – Delaplane

Molliver Vineyards and Winery – Nathalie

Molon Lave Vineyards – Warrington

Montdomaine - Charlottesville

Morais Vineyards and Winery - Bealeton

Moss Vineyards - Nortonsville

Mountain Cove Vineyards – Lovingston

Mountfair Vineyards – Crozet

Muse Vineyards - Woodstock
Naked Mountain Vineyard - Markham

Narmada Winery – Amissville

New Kent Winery – New Kent

North Gate Vineyard - Purcellville

North Mountain Vineyard and Winery – Maurertown

Notaviva Vineyard – Purcellville

Oak Crest – King George

Old House Vineyards - Culpeper

Otium Cellars - Purcellville

Ox-Eye Vineyards – Staunton

Paradise Springs Winery – Clifton

Peaks of Otter (POO!) – Bedford

Pearmund Cellars – Broad Run

Philip Carter Winery of VA – Hume

Piedmont Vineyards and Winery – The Plains

Pippin Hill Farm and Vineyards – North Garden

Pollak Vineyards – Greenwood

Potomac Point Vineyard and Winery – Stafford

Preston Ridge Winery - Martinsville

Prince Michel – Leon

Pungo Ridge Winery – Virginia Beach

Quattro Goomba – Aldie

Quievremont Winery - Washington
Ramulose Ridge Vineyards - Moneta

Rappahanock Cellars – Huntly

Rebec Vineyards – Amherst

Reynard Florence Vineyard - Burnley

Rock Bridge Vineyard – Raphine

Rogers Ford Farm Winery - Sumerduck

Rosemont Vineyards and Winery – La Crosse

San Soucy Vineyards – Brookneal

Saudé Creek Vineyards – New Kent

Savoy Lee – Huddleston

Sharp Rock Vineyards - Sperryville
Shenandoah Vineyard – Edinburg

Skippers Creek Vineyard - Powhatan

Stanburn Winery - Stuart

Stinson Vineyards – Crozet

Stone Mountain Vineyards – Dyke

Stone Tower Winery - Leesburg

Sugarleaf Vineyards – North Garden

Sunset Hills Vineyard – Purcellville

Swedenburg Estate – Middleburg

Tarara Winery – Leesburg

Terra Nebulo Vineyards - Waterford
The Barn at Hamilton Station Vineyards - Hamilton

The Hague Winery – Hague

The Homeplace Vineyard - Chatham

The Winery at Bull Run – Centreville

The Winery at La Grange – Haymarket

Thistle Gate Vineyard - Scottsville

Three Fox - Delaplane

Tomahawk Mill Winery - Chatham

Trump Winery (was formerly Kluge) – Charlottesville

Twin Oaks - Bluemont

Two Twisted Posts Winery - Leesburg
Unicorn Winery – Amissville

Valerie hill Vineyard and Winery - Stephens City
Valhalla Vineyards - Roanoke

Vault – Kinsale

Veramar - Berryville

Veritas Vineyard and Winery – Afton

Villa Appalachia Winery - Floyd

Village Winery – Waterford

Vint Hill Winery – Warrington

Vintage Ridge – Rectortown

Vintners Cellar – Newport News

Virginia Mountain Vineyards – Fincastle

Virginia Wineworks – Charlottesville

Well Hung Vineyard – Charlottesville

Weston Farm Vineyard and Winery – Louisa

White Fences – Irvington

White Hall Vineyards – Crozet

White Rock – Goodview

Wicked Oak Farms & Vineyards - Star Tannery
Williamsburg Winery – Williamsburg

Willowcroft - Leesburg

Winding Road Cellars - Markham
WindSong – Columbia

Winery 32 - Leesburg

Wintergreen Winery – Nellysford

Wolf Gap Vineyard and Winery – Edinburg

Woodland Vineyard - Midlothian

Zephaniah Farm Vineyard - Leesburg