Wineries and Vineyards

In the Wine Light – Linden Vineyards

In the Wine Light – Linden Vineyards

In the Wine Light is Linden Vineyards. On our return from our trip to the Finger Lakes this summer, we made a couple of stops in Virginia.  Our second stop was at Linden Vineyards in Linden.  

We first visited Linden Vineyards in October of 2019.  We had tasted Linden’s wines previously at an American Wine Society Conference in 2015.  Owner Jim Law led a session on “Site Specific Variations in Wine”.  During this session we tasted Chardonnays and Cabernet Francs from various Linden sites.

Hardscrabble Vineyard - Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

Hardscrabble Vineyard – Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA


Linden Vineyards began in 1985 with the establishment of the Hardscrabble Vineyard.  This site, once an apple orchard, had long been abandoned.  Eight acres were planted with mostly grafted and propagated in-house from budwood obtained from the few local vineyards in the surrounding area. The first planting consisted of Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, and Seyval Blanc as noted on Linden’s website.  The first commercial vintage was 1987.

There are currently 22 acres under vine across 3 vineyard sites:  Hardscrabble, Avenius, and Boisseau.  Avenius is a nearby site first planted in 1996.  Boisseau, a warmer site, is located in Front Royal, VA.  

Jim Law has been a well-respected member of the Virginia Wine community for decades.  That respect extends down to North Carolina as we have heard numerous people sing Jim’s praises.  Jim willingly shares his knowledge and expertise and is a mentor to many.

Barrel Room - Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

Barrel Room – Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA

Winemaking Philosophy

Linden Vineyards has a distinctive winemaking philosophy.  A recent social media post described it as palate-based winemaking.  Extraction decisions are made solely on taste. They note that taste is somewhat subjective, so the try to discipline their tasting regiment by taking two samples every two days from each lot. In Linden’s library, one of the samples is tasted alongside a sample taken two days previously. They can then taste the progression of extraction. This procedure continues every two days until they decide to drain the wine off its skins.

Another key philosophy for winemaking at Linden is around where the winemaker spends most of his time.  At Linden Vineyards, the winemaker spends more time in the vineyard than in the cellar.  As they say, good wine starts in the vineyard.

Tasting – Chardonnay

Visits to the Linden Vineyards’ tasting room are by reservation only.  Our tasting appointment was at 11am.  Jen greeted us and got us started. We began with the 2018 Village Chardonnay.  This Chardonnay is a blend of all three vineyard sites and spent 10 months in neutral French oak.  The nose gave notes of roasted banana while the palate had crisp pear with some flinty undertones.  The acids were pleasing.

Next up, we tasted the 2016 Avenius Chardonnay.  2016 was a warm vintage.  Again, this wine spent 10 months in neutral French oak which showed on the nose.  Lightly candied pear dominated on the palate.  With crisp acids, this wine was full bodied and very enjoyable.

Tasting – Red Wines

After the whites, we tasted three red wines starting with the 2014 Claret.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (44%), Merlot (34%), Cabernet Franc (20%), and Petit Verdot (2%), this wine presented a gorgeous nose with aromas of violets, blueberry, and spice.  The palate gave roasted plums, figs, and a hint of spice.  The tannins were medium with a balanced acidity.

Next was the 2014 Petit Verdot.  Made of Petit Verdot (88%), Cabernet Sauvignon (8%), and Carménère (4%) and aged in older French oak, this wine gave a smoky, toasty nose.  The palate was rich with flavors of blueberries, tobacco, and black tea and hints of violets.  The oak gave a spicy undertone.

We finished the tasting with the 2016 Hardscrabble Red made from fruit from the Hardscrabble vineyard.  A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (56%), Merlot (41%), and Cabernet Franc (3%), this wine was aged in new and used oak for twenty-two months.  Blueberries, black plum, and violets danced on the nose.  Roasted black figs, vanilla, blueberries, and a hint of violets showed on the palate.  The tannins were bold with a long, pleasing finish.

Bottled Wine - Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

Bottled Wine – Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA

Tour with Winemaker

After we finished our tasting, Linden Vineyards winemaker, Jonathan Weber, took us for a tour.  Jonathan has connections to North Carolina having studied at viticulture and enology at the program at Surry Community College.

We started on the crush pad, talking about the vineyard and harvest.  Typically grapes are harvested on day and processed the next.  Sorting tables a used to sort grapes saving the best berries for winemaking.  Recently, they have moved to more whole berry fermentation.  We ended the tour in the cellar further discussing the winemaking process.

View at Linden Vineyards - Linden, VA

View at Linden Vineyards – Linden, VA

Must Visit

If you are a serious wine enthusiast and haven’t visited Linden Vineyards, you should plan a trip.  We’re sure you won’t be disappointed.

We look forward to our next visit!

#InTheWineLight #VAWine

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, Top Pick Winery, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
In the Wine Light – Glen Manor Vineyards

In the Wine Light – Glen Manor Vineyards

In the Wine Light is Glen Manor Vineyards. On our return from our trip to the Finger Lakes this summer, we made a couple of stops in Virginia.  Our first stop was at Glen Manor Vineyards in Front Royal.  

Glen Manor Vineyards Sign

Glen Manor Vineyards – October, 2019

We first visited Glen Manor Vineyards in October of 2019.  We’d always heard great things about them and were super impressed with our visit, so it was a priority to visit them again.

Tasting Room and Winery at Glen Manor Vineyards

Tasting Room and Winery at Glen Manor Vineyards

Scenic Location

Glen Manor Vineyards is located just below Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park.  The vineyards are just beyond the tasting room on a steep hills.  Visits to Glen Manor are by reservation only – a feature that started during the pandemic and will likely continue thereafter.

Our appointment was a 4:30pm on an absolutely gorgeous day.  We were greeted by Kelly, one of the owners, who led us outside for our tasting.  We faced the vineyard with Skyline Drive on the mountain above. 

Glen Manor Vineyards with Skyline Drive Above

Glen Manor Vineyards with Skyline Drive Above

Century Farm

This bucolic location provides a peaceful respite from today’s busy life.  Kelly walked us through the history of the estate beginning with the initial purchase of land by the family in 1901.  Fast forward to 1995 when Glen Manor Vineyards was born with the planting of a little more than one acre of Sauvignon Blanc.  

More vines were planted in subsequent years with the most recent addition in 2017.  There are now 17 acres under vine on the 212 acre estate.  In addition to the Sauvignon Blanc, varieties include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Petit Manseng, and Nebbiolo.

Tasting – Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé

We began our tasting with the 2019 Sauvignon Blanc.  Grapes on the west facing canopy were harvested on August 29, 2019, with grapes from the east facing canopy harvested on September 2, 2019.  Each harvest was fermented separately in stainless steel at 55 degrees for 30 days using two different yeasts. The separate batches were blended in October, 2019, and then bottled in January, 2020.  A grassy, lemony nose gave way to a palate of candied lemon along with a grassy, herbaceous note with a slight minerality.

Next up, we tasted the 2020 Morales Rosé, a blend of Cabernet Franc (45%), Merlot (22%), Petit Verdot (22%), and Nebbiolo (11%).  A well balanced wine that presented notes of strawberry and watermelon.

Front of Tasting Room at Glen Manor Vineyards

Front of Tasting Room at Glen Manor Vineyards

Tasting – Reds

Time for reds, so we started with the 2015 St. Ruth, a blend of Merlot (72%), Cabernet Franc (14%), and Petit Verdot (14%).  Each wine was fermented in small one ton bins with 14 days of post fermentation maceration and later aged for 20 months in French oak.  The 2015 St. Ruth had a nose of caramel, vanilla, and roasted plum.  The palate had nice roasted plum with leathery and spicy notes.

Fermented in the same manner at the 2015 St. Ruth, the 2016 St. Ruth was next.  A blend of Merlot (52%), Cabernet Franc (38%), and Petit Verdot (10%), the nose showed black tea and black cherry with more on the palate along with a bit of spice.

Next, we moved to the 2014 Hodder Hill, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (69%), Merlot (16%), and Petit Verdot (15%).  A caramel and toasty oak nose invited you in, but the velvety smooth palate of blueberry, black raspberry made you want more.  A hint of violets danced in the background as the Cabernet Sauvignon proved to be a star.

We ended the reds with the 2017 Petit Verdot which had spent 20 months in French oak.  Fresh baked blueberries on the nose and a rich palate reminiscent of blueberry pie with hints of vanilla and spice.  Glen Manor Vineyards certainly has some impressive reds.

A Fall View of the Vineyards at Glen Manor

A Fall View of the Vineyards at Glen Manor – October, 2019

Tasting – Petit Manseng

Finally, it was time for Petit Manseng!  We tasted three.  First, we tasted the 2019 Dry Petit Manseng.  Harvested on September 18, 2019, chilled overnight, whole cluster pressed the next day, fermented cold in stainless steel in two batches using different yeasts for 30 days, and finally blended together.  Bottled in January, 2020, this wine gave us pear and pineapple on the nose with candied pineapple and pear on the palate.  The acids proved to be nice and balanced.

Next up, the 2017 Petit Manseng which was fermented in a similar manner but had Petit Manseng juice added back to raise the residual sugar to 2.8%.  Candied pear showed through on the nose.  The palate presented golden baked apple and bit of pear.  Full bodied, the sugar, acids, and flavors were balanced.

We ended the tasting with the 2016 Raepheus, a late harvest Petit Manseng dessert wine.  Grapes were harvested on November 11, 2016, and placed in a walk-in freeze for 12 days.  Then, the grapes were whole cluster pressed.  The juice was cold settled for 24 hours with sediment racked off and the juice inoculated for fermentation in two thirds new French oak and one third stainless steel.  On March 5, 2017, the two wines were blended in stainless steel to age on light yeast lees for ten months.  Bottling happened in February, 2018.  What a delight this wine is!  Roasted pineapple on the nose led to a palate of candied pineapple and toasty oak.  A good acid backbone still shown through on the moderately sweet palate.

Wrapping Up

After we wrapped up our tasting, Kelly graciously gave us some recommendations for dinner.  We purchased several wines and ended our glorious afternoon at Glen Manor Vineyards.  We highly recommend you make a reservation and go visit.  You won’t regret it!

#InTheWineLight #VAWine

Posted by Joe Brock in In the Wine Light, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Reds Through the Years at Zimmerman Vineyards

Reds Through the Years at Zimmerman Vineyards

Reds Through the Years at Zimmerman Vineyards

We recently attended the “Reds Through the Years” event at Zimmerman Vineyards in Trinity, North Carolina. The theme for the evening was Bordeaux, tannins, and vintage wines.

Zimmerman opened on June 1, 2007 and has been producing top quality wines ever since.  Wines are made offsite at Childress Vineyards by Winemaker Mark Frizolowski from fruit grown in the estate vineyard. You can learn more about Zimmerman Vineyards in our episode of Cork Talk featuring owner Leslie Zimmerman and Christie Otranto.

Terrace at Zimmerman Vineyards with views of the Uwharrie Mountains

We had visited Zimmerman several times in the past and have always enjoyed our visits, the beautiful grounds, and the wine.  This particular event was our first visit since the pandemic began.  We arrived on a comfortably cool fall evening.  Tables were set under the permanent tent with plenty of room to spread out.

Cabernet Franc and Merlot

Vintage Reds at Zimmerman Vineyards

2007 Cabernet Franc and 2010 Merlot from Zimmerman Vineyards

We began with the tasting of the 2007 Cabernet Franc and the 2010 Merlot.  The Cabernet Franc was produced with secondary fruit only due to a freeze that happened after initial budbreak where primary buds were lost.  Paired with dried cherries, this wine is still holding its own.  It showed stewed cherries and figs with a hint of leather on the nose.  The palate gave notes of cherry and tobacco with medium tannins.  Next up was the Merlot which showed a leathery nose.  The fig flavors on the palate paired nicely with dried brown figs.  The tannins were grippy but not overpowering.  Of the two, the Cabernet Franc was the favorite.

Morpheus – Heir of Hypnos

Treats paired with Heir of Hypnos

Treats paired with Morpheus, Heir of Hypnos

Tasting notes for Morpheus, Heir of Hypnos from Zimmerman Vineyards’ Website

Next, we moved on to a small food plate with cheese and crackers, an olive medley, and paninos.  These treats were paired with Zimmerman Vineyards’ newest red wine Morpheus – Heir of Hypnos.  The new wine is stellar.  A non-vintaged Bordeaux style blend that is NOT oaked, proved to be a hit.  This wine showed violets and red cherry on the nose with a hint of pepper.  The palate burst with fresh red fruits with an underlying note of darker fruits.  This would be a perfect wine for your Thanksgiving table!

Cabernet Sauvignon

Vintage Cabernet at Zimmerman Vineyards

2005, 2006, & 2007 Cabernet Sauvignons at Zimmerman Vineyards

Next up on the tasting list was Cabernet Sauvignon.  There were three Cabs to taste 2005 – the first commercial vintage, 2006, and 2007.  The 2005 did show its age but was still very drinkable.  With caramel, black cherry, and fig on the nose, the palate gave more of the same.  The 2006 was more fresh and had more classic Cab notes.  With black fruits and a hint of spice, the tannins were firm but not overly bold.  Inky dark, the 2007 proved to be the favorite of the vintage wines we tasted.  With soft black cherry, blackberry, and smooth tannins, it paired beautifully with a chocolate truffle.

Yummy Dinner at Zimmerman Vineyards

Yummy way to close out the evening at Zimmerman Vineyards

We ended this wonderful evening with the tomato soup, a delightful roast beef crostini set off with caramelized onions, and classic pumpkin roll for dessert.  Thanks to Leslie for inviting us and our table mates for wonderful conversation.  

If you haven’t visited Zimmerman Vineyards, we highly recommend a visit.

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Summer 2018 Visit to Blenheim Vineyards

Summer 2018 Visit to Blenheim Vineyards

Our group with Kirsty Harmon at Blenheim Vineyards

We recently had the pleasure of traveling to Charlottesville, VA.  We met up with fellow bloggers, wine tourists, and oenophiles, Brian and Dax Yost.  Brian and Dax are known for Wine Tourist Magazine.  Brian also writes The Virginia Grape wine blog.  Both are big advocates for East Coast wines.

Brian was able to arrange some tours for us.  We started with a visit to Blenheim Vineyards.  We had the pleasure of meeting Blenheim’s winemaker and General Operations Manager, Kirsty Harmon.  Kirsty is a respected Virginia winemaker.  She describes her wine style as fruit forward and approachable.

Blenheim does have a famous owner.  Singer Dave Matthews who has ties the Charlottesville area owns Blenheim.  Dave and Kirsty have an agreement.  She sticks to the wine and he sticks to the music.  Dave does provide artwork for some of Blenheim’s wine labels.  Otherwise, Kirsty has pretty much free reign to create the wine she wants.

Blenheim is unique in that all of its wines come in bottles with screw caps rather than the traditional corks.  Some folks turn their noses up to screw cap wine, but it has a much lower failure rate than traditional corks.

A view of Blenheim’s Vineyards from the back deck

Blenheim is a 30 acre estate with 17.5 acres under vine.  They produce around 8,000 cases of wine a year.

Kirsty picks her grapes for acidity rather than sugar.  This is typically between 21 and 22 Brix.  She also makes picking decisions by tasting the grapes.

No wine is overly oaked.  Ten months or so is about all a particular wine might spend in oak.  Kirsty uses a combination of French, American, and Hungarian barrels.

Grapes are harvested by hand.  They’re also sorted by hand.  A sorting table is used to find the best berries for wine making.  The 3 ton bladder press is used to press the juice from the grapes.  Kirsty using punch downs during fermentation.  The winery sits just below the tasting room.  Glass enclosures allow for a bird’s eye view of the activity of the winery.


Tanks in the Winery at Blenheim Vineyards

Kirsty let us taste a number of wines from the 2016 and 2017 harvests.  Stand outs were the 2017 Albariño and 2016 Painted White.

The Albariño was whole cluster pressed, fermented and then filtered. It had notes of peach and pear.  The nose was soft and floral.

The Painted White whose label features a painting by Dave Matthews is a blend of 59% Sauvignon Blanc, 31% Viognier, and 10% Chardonnay.  It spent 10 months in predominately French oak.  It had notes of peach and honey with just a touch of oak.  The finish was crisp and clean.

We highly recommend a trip to Blenheim anytime you’re in the Charlottesville area.  They’re always one our of favorite stops.

Thanks to Kirsty for taking the time to show us around and taste some great wines!  We look forward to visiting again soon!

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Raffaldini Vineyards Tour

Raffaldini Vineyards Tour

Prior to the first ever #NCWine Bloggers Summit, Thomas Salley of Raffaldini Vineyards offered to host a behind the scenes tour and tasting for bloggers who were attending the event.  We graciously accepted Thomas’ offer.  This led to additional tastings that day in the Swan Creek AVA.









Our Raffaldini tour began on a cold Sunday morning at Raffaldini’s winery.  There was a bit of snow on the ground from the night before.  The mountains of the Blue Ridge were covered in snow.

Thomas walked us through some of the history of the estate.

  • The site was an abandoned farm and was one of around 60 sites looked at by the Raffaldini family during their search for vineyard land.
  • The data collected from scouting the land was used in the case for the creation of the Swan Creek AVA.
  • The estate includes 120 acres with about 36 currently under vine.
  • Over 30 different varieties have been planted over the year.
  • The current estate grapes are Vermentino, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, Sagrantino, Petit Verdot and Nero D’Avola.

Small Drying Room

Large Drying Room

Racks used for Drying Fruit

It was appropriate that our tour began outside of the Fruttaio Grande.  Raffaldini’s is known for the Appassimento process for drying fruit to concentrate flavors.  This leads to more complex and structured wines.

The racks used for drying were self made and each holds about 5 pounds of grapes.  The grapes are laid in a single layer.  The room is pre-heated to 85 Degrees with about 20% humidity.  Four to five days of drying removes about 30% of water from the fruit.  In a typical year, around half of the harvest is dried.  Raffaldini is one of the largest winery dryer of fruit in the US.

Large Tanks Inside the Winery










Raffaldini also uses a sorting table to sort the fruit harvested.  This helps remove green berry and other undesirable items.

Production at Raffaldini is around 6500 cases per year.

Large Oak Fermenter










Raffaldini is one of the first wineries in the state to us a large oak fermenter.  Currently grapes/juice spend about 30 days in the fermenter before moving to a barrel.  Eventually this will change as barrels are phased out for the more cost effective oak fermenter.

Large Barrel Room

Smaller Barrel Room










After all of this information, it was time to taste wine!  The first sample was the base wine for Raffaldini’s upcoming sparkling wine, Auguri (Cheers/Best Wishes in Italian).  This wine will be made in the traditional method, but it will use encapsulated yeast yeast during the second fermentation.  This means the traditional riddling method will not be required.  This wine is set to be released in August, 2018.

We then moved to the barrel room. We first visiting the larger room and then moved to a second room to finish our tastings.  We sampled 2017 Sagrantino with a bit of Nero D’Avola which had big gripping tannins.  Next was a co-fermented 2017 Petit Verdot and Montepulciano which was inky and dark as well as tannic.  Finally, we tasting a 2017 appassimento Petit Verdot.  It was stunning already!  Dark fig, cocoa and tart blueberry were the flavors.

Bottling Line










We ended the winery portion of the visit with a look at the bottling line.  Then we moved to the villa.  We made a quick visit out to the edge of the vineyard for a discussion of growing degree days and soil types.  Growing degree days is a measure that predicts when fruit will be ripe.  Raffaldini practices leaf pulling after bloom to provide as much sunlight for the grapes as possible.  This is common throughout bunch grape growers in the state.  Finally, we took a look at rocks in the vineyard.  The soil consists of schist mica and granite with a loam topsoil.  This is ideal for grape growing.

We concluded our visit with a private lunch and a tasting of current releases in the upstairs of the villa.  We want to thank Thomas and the whole Raffaldini team for hosting our group and providing this in depth tour and tasting.  It was much appreciated!

Be sure to go visit Raffaldini and see for yourself!




Posted by Joe Brock in Top Pick Winery, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
#WBC17 Wine Dinner at Thomas George Estates

#WBC17 Wine Dinner at Thomas George Estates

On Friday night of the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we decided to take part in a wine dinner excursion at Thomas George Estates in Healdsburg.  Thomas George is located in the Russian River Valley AVA of Sonoma County.  They were founded in 2008 and focus on small production vineyard designated Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

We loaded on our bus and headed out.  After a twenty plus minute drive in the darkness which included a wrong turn by the driver and a trip across a one lane bridge over the Russian River, we made it up the hill to Thomas George Estates.  As we arrive the tasting room was on one side and the wine cave was on the other.  Dinner was being served in the wine cave.

Cave Entrance at Thomas George Estates


Immediately upon entering the wine cave, we were greeted with glasses of the 2014 Brut Blanc de Blancs, Starr Ridge Vineyard, Cooper Block.  The grapes for this wine were sourced from the Russian River Valley AVA.  Starr Ridge Vineyard is located a few miles to the east of the winery.  To accompany the sparkling wine, we were served house-made cured meats from the Black Pig Meat Company.  The Black Pig is meat company owned by the evening’s chef, Duskie Estes.  Duskie is co-owner of Zazu Kitchen + Farm with John Stewart.  Duskie has also appeared as a judge on Guy’s Grocery Games on the Food Network.  In addition to the meats, there were roasted vegetables, spreads, and crostini.

Table is set for dinner inside the Cave at Thomas George Estates

First Course

After reception, we took our seats at the long table.  The first course was a roasted Brussel sprouts salad.  The salad included bacon from the Black Pig, Asian pears, Marcona Almonds, aged sherry vinegar, and  Capriago from Bohemian Creamy.  The paired wine was the 2015 Chardonnay from Sons & Daughters Vineyard.  This vineyard is located at the border of the Russian River Valley and Chalk Hill AVAs.  This unoaked wine was aged sur lie with no malolactic fermentation.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts Salad


The featured wine for the entrée course was the 2014 Pinot Noir from Baker Ridge Vineyard.  This vineyard is on the winery site.  Duck is, of course, a perfect pairing with Pinot Noir.  This Star Anise Liberty Duck also included Cracklin’ Pork Belly with black rice, estate grown pomegranate and watercress.  This was perfectly paired!

Cracklin’ Pork Belly & Star Anise Liberty Duck


We were allowed some time to finish our Pinot Noir after dinner before dessert was presented.  Dessert was a Quince and Apple Tartin with Bourbon Gelato.  The 2012 Late Harvest Viognier from the Baby Block of Baker Ridge Vineyard was the wine of choice.  The grapes for this wine are always hand harvested by the staff at Thomas George estates.  This block is closest to the driveway leading to the winery.  It was a beautiful wine!

Backyard Quince & Apple Tartin with Bourbon Gelato


Following dinner, Chef Duskie Estes came out to introduce herself and talk about her meal.  She’s quite the accomplished chef including appearances on Iron Chef and a 2001 James Beard Award.

We made a few purchases and loaded the bus to head back to the hotel.  If you’re ever in the Russian River Valley, be sure to go check out the Zazu Kitchen and Thomas George Estates!



Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards – Lodi, CA

Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards – Lodi, CA

We visited Acquiesce Winery & Vineyards during the 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference in Lodi, CA.  Fellow bloggers recommended it and since we’re big fans for Rhône Valley style wines we had to go.  We thoroughly enjoyed everything we tasted.  For more on that trip go here:  Lodi Adventures after 2016 Wine Bloggers Conference.

Since we were returning to California for the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference, we decided to allow for some time in Lodi again.  We emailed Sue Tipton, the owner of Acquiesce, to see if she would be willing to let us come in for a tasting.  Acquiesce is normally closed on Wednesdays, but Sue graciously agreed.


We arrived just before 11am.  Before going in we took a look around the vineyards closest to the road.  Below are some of the pictures we took.  Sue grows only Rhône Valley white varietals and Grenache for making rosé.  This is because Sue only makes white wines and a rosé.  She ripped out Zinfandel, Lodi’s signature grape, to plant these Rhône Valley grapes!  Also, Sue is small production.  She opens for the year in March and is usually sold out of the previous year’s vintage by early to mid-November.  Sue is now closed for the season and will reopen in March, 2018.

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After checking out the vineyard and snapping pictures, we headed inside.  Sue was already behind the bar waiting for us to arrive.  We exchanged greetings.  Then Sue proceeded with the tasting.  Here are out notes:

  • 2016 Grenache Blanc – This wine had notes of green apple, apricot, and lime on the nose.  On the palate, it had a crisp, minerally undertone with good apricot fruit.  The finish was slightly minerally too.  Sue paired this with a thyme cracker which provided perfect balance with the wine.
  • 2016 Belle Blanc – A blend of 45% Grenache Blanc, 45% Roussanne, and 10% Viognier, light pear showed on the nose.  Mildly ripe pear with some light mineral notes showed on the palate.  Sue paired this wine with a manchego with a violet flower confit.  This brought out the mineral notes in the wine along with a lightly floral undertone.
  • 2016 Roussanne – A nose of honey and pineapple lead to a palate also of honey and pear.
  • 2016 Viognier – This wine presented a floral peach note on the nose.  Peach and apricot predominated on the palate along with a slight mineral undertone.  Its pairing was a Moroccan spiced cracker with a mango chutney.
  • 2016 Grenache Rosé – Picked at 22.5 Brix and whole cluster pressed, this showed light strawberry on the nose.  Watermelon and lime showed on the palate.


After we finished the tasting, Sue took us out to the winery.  A fairly new building, it was filled with several tanks of various sizes.  But unlike most wineries, there were no barrels.  Sue’s wines are only done is stainless steel.  She had a few more things for us to taste.

  • 2017 Picpoul Blanc – We tasted this straight from the tank.  While not the finished product, this will be a great wine.  It was highly acidic with notes of pineapple and pear.
  • 2017 Bourboulenc – Sue said we were some of the first folks in the country to taste an American grown Bourboulenc.  Again, this wine will be great.  It had notes of pear with some light pineapple in the background.  Sue has the only known planting of this grape in the US.
  • 2017 Clairette Blanche – A floral nose along with notes of pear showed on the nose.  There was more pear on the palate along with some herbal notes.  Again, it was an interesting wine.

We look forward to tasting these wines again in their finished state.

We headed back to the tasting room and selected wines for shipping home to us.  We thanked Sue for taking the time to host us, and we know we’ll be back to see her.  If you’re ever in Lodi, you should do the same!




Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, Wineries and Vineyards, 1 comment
Cypress Bend Vineyards

Cypress Bend Vineyards

We recently had to a chance to visit Cypress Bend Vineyards in Wagram, NC.  Cypress Bend is located near the Lumber River in Scotland County and opened in 2005.  Dan and Tina Smith are the owners.  The area is known as Riverton Farm and has been in the family since the early 1800s.  They have been featured on North Carolina Weekend and Flavor NC Presents From the Vineyard in North Carolina. Continue reading →

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
June, 2017 –  Visit to Burntshirt Vineyards

June, 2017 – Visit to Burntshirt Vineyards

In mid-June, we planned a weekend getaway.  We headed to the Hendersonville / Asheville area.  The trip allowed us to relax, visit a “new to us” winery, and revisit other wineries in the area.  Here are some of the highlights from our visit to Burntshirt Vineyards, our first stop of the weekend. Continue reading →

Posted by Joe Brock in Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
NC Wineries Perfect for Summer Picnicking!

NC Wineries Perfect for Summer Picnicking!

Summer is the perfect time for a picnic!  It’s also the perfect time for wine.  Why not combine the two for a wonderful afternoon of fun?  Just pack your picnic basket and head to any of these wineries (or others in the state).  Here are some of our suggestions (in no particular order) for great wine and picnic adventures. Continue reading →

Posted by Joe Brock in Food, Wine, Wineries and Vineyards, 0 comments
July Tour of Five Yadkin Valley Wineries

July Tour of Five Yadkin Valley Wineries

The first weekend in July, we decided to make our way to a few Yadkin Valley wineries.  Although we didn’t get to wine each day of the weekend, we were able to make it on Friday and Saturday. Read on for a recap of our visits to Hanover Park Vineyards, Childress Vineyards, Junius Lindsay Vineyards, RayLen Vineyards, and Misty Creek Vineyards.

Empty bottles at Hanover Park

After an evening of tasting library wines, there’s bound to be a few empty bottles.

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Holiday Dinner at Hanover Park

Holiday Dinner at Hanover Park

Another weekend, another wine dinner.  This time we had the pleasure of attending the annual holiday dinner at Hanover Park Vineyard.  Each December, Hanover Park throws a holiday celebration for its wine club members as a thank you for their loyalty and for always being there to support the winery.

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Flint Hill Vineyards Autumn Wine Dinner

Flint Hill Vineyards Autumn Wine Dinner

This past weekend, we had the pleasure of attending the Autumn Wine Dinner at Flint Hill Vineyards.  There are several reasons why you should consider going to events like these.  Not only do they offer a unique experience of the winery after hours, they also give you the opportunity to see what the winemaker feels would be a good pairing for their wines.  This dinner didn’t disappoint on either expectation.

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Piccione Grand Opening

Piccione Grand Opening

This past weekend was the grand opening for Piccione Vineyards.  The newest vineyard in Wilkes county is keeping it close to their Italian neighbors (Raffaldini Vineyards, that is).  Established in 2010, Dr. Bill Piccione of Chicago decided to embrace the red clay terrain and plant primarily Italian varietals.  With 16 acres under vine and plenty of room to expand, Piccione Vineyards has helped expand the Little Italy of the Appalachian foothills.

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Sunday Adventures #5

Sunday Adventures #5

Sundays are wine adventure days for us. We typically invite a few friends to join us as we expand their horizons of the NC wine scene. Although we did invite a friend, we didn’t get a confirmation. So instead of letting a Sunday go to waste, we continued on ourselves. 

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Summer Wine Pick Up at Raffaldini

Summer Wine Pick Up at Raffaldini

This past weekend was the wine pick up for Raffaldini Vineyards. Over the past seven years, Raffaldini has grown a loyal following. This is due not only to the great wine that they produce, but also because owner and winemaker Jay Raffaldini shows such passion for what he does.   Twice a year, Jay and his team holds a wine pick up party for his wine club members. At each pick up there are six bottles of wine, a sampling of new releases paired with authentic Italian food, and a short info session about the happenings at the winery and what’s next.

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Burntshirt Vineyards

Burntshirt Vineyards

Western North Carolina is surely one of the most picturesque regions of the state.  The Blue Ridge Mountains tower over the western part of the state creating an isolated feel that is truly relaxing.  One of the many benefits of the mountains is that it also creates a unique climate that sees moderately short winters with long summers.  The summer days are hot, but the evenings are cooler making this a great area to grow wine grapes.  Burntshirt Vineyards is one of the few that are taking advantage of this unique area.  We recently received an invitation to visit the vineyard and winery to take a detailed look at their process and taste their offerings.

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Virginia Adventures Day 4

Day four brought us to the close of our journey in
Virginia. As we made our way back down the highway from Northern
Virginia through the Appalachian Mountains in the Shenandoah
Valley, we decided to make a few last stops. Although we didn’t
stop at many wineries, we were still able to make it to three.
 All three are great locations and you should plan a visit
if you’re in the area.  Our first stop was Cave Ridge Vineyard.
 There we were presented with two tasting options. We
could either taste the standard offering, or we could extend the
tasting and enjoy their port-style and dessert wines. Being port
lovers, we naturally decided to try it all. On the standard
tasting, there were a few wines that stood out. One of our
favorites was the 2013 Viognier. This particular wine was barrel
aged, which gave it a nice oaky nose and flavor with a drop of
vanilla. Also notable was the 2013 Riesling. This French style
Riesling was slightly carbonated, giving it a crisp and dry body.
There was a bit of acidity to the wine that gave it a nice firm
backbone. The port-style wines were tasty as well. They offered a
red made from Chambourcin and a white made of Viognier. Both were
quite tasty and complex with the red showing toasty butterscotch
and the white being smooth and tropical.  Our next stop
was just down the road at the Winery at Kindred
 Still slightly young, this winery is
doing well. They offer a wine tasting as well as a cider tasting.
We opted for the wine tasting and were eager for the first pour. On
the menu were two Chardonnays.  The first was bright and
acidic with a hint of oak and a mellow buttery flavor. The second
was more traditional with a bigger oak nose and a creamy and nutty
flavor. Our favorite was the 2013 Malbec. This light red had cherry
and vanilla on the nose. It was slightly jammy with a red currant
finish. The light tannins were vibrant and playful and lingered for
only a minute before finishing cleanly.  Our last stop of
the day was a bit farther down the highway in Staunton,
Virginia. Ox Eye
 Ox Eye Vineyards is one stop we will
always try to make whenever we’re in the area. Their new releases
are coming soon, but their current offerings are at also great. The
2013 Dry Riesling is ripe with a honey nose and has really mellowed
out since the last time we tasted it (just last year). It has a
good balance of acids and honeysuckle with a light citrus finish.
Their 2012 Pinot Noir was mild and jammy with a hint of
strawberries and black cherries. Finally their 2012 Cabernet Franc
had a rich nose with a delicate spice on the mid-palate. With each
sip, the spices continued to build until it faded into a long and
lingering finish. 

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Virginia Adventures Day 3

Virginia Adventures Day 3

Day three brought us to familiar wineries once again.  These were the wineries that we marked on our “go back to” list.  We were in the northern part of Virginia with Winchester as our base.  All of the wineries were within an hour drive from Winchester and if you were to drive the whole circuit without stopping, it would only take about three hours.  We made our way to a fair number of wineries.  Below are the notes of our journey.  The next time you’re in the area, you should make it a point to check out these great wineries.

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Virginia Adventures Day 2

Virginia Adventures Day 2

Day two brought us to five wineries before ending up at our final destination. We started in the Charlottesville area and made our way northward. After our second stop, we quickly found oursves in the middle of the mountains with no cellphone service in sight. The only saving grace for communication with the outside world was the free wifi that the wineries offered. 


The view from Moss Vineyards.

Stop one was at Stinson Vineyards. We arrived right at opening and were the first ones in the tasting room.  Our favorite wine here was the 2014 rosé made from the Mourvèdre Grape. The wine was dark in color with a outstanding earthy nose. The flavors were deep and complex with a mild mushroom flavor. Also worth noting was the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, showing a grapefruit nose and citrus flavor with a nice mineral finish. 

Stop number two was just around the corner from our first stop. Grace Estate Winery had just opened their new tasting room the day before we arrived, and it is coming along nicely. The furniture should be arriving within the next week or two, but they have wine and glasses so that’s enough to keep the tasting room running. They had six wines up for tasting. We particularly enjoyed the 2012 Cabernet Franc which had about 10% Petit Verdot blended in. The finished product is a dark red wine with a good tannic structure. There is a nice pepper flavor on the mid-palate and it finishes almost sweet with a hint of caramel. 

Stop number three took us slightly off the beaten path. Mountfair Vineyards produces red blends and caters to a dedicated group of followers.  Their current offerings are the 2013 Epiphany and the 2013 Complicated. The Epiphany is a Cabernet Franc blend that is light and even with an ample display of dark fruits. The Complicated is a Petit Verdot blend that is dark in color and flavors with notes of cherries and spices. In addition to their own wines, they offer a great selection of wines and ciders from smaller producers who don’t always have tasting rooms. One of the ciders that we enjoyed was the Potters Farmhouse Dry. It was bright and fruity with a crisp finish. The concept here is great and the setting ales you feel like you’re tucked away in the mountains (because you are!). 

Stop number four was around the base of the mountain and further into the heart of the cell phone dead zone. Glass House Winery is so named because of the large glass conservatory that is onsite. The owners are not only winemakers, but they are also a certified chocolatier and a conservatory enthusiast. They pair the dessert wine with a handcrafted espresso chocolate that melts in the mouth. Our favorites here were the 2013 C-villian (Chambourcin)  and the 2013 One Lane Bridge (Lemberger). The Chambourcin was fruity with a light pepper spice. The Lemberger was dark and fruity with hits of clove and cinnamon. After the tasting, we hopped on the wifi for a quick second and then we were back on our way. 

Our final stop for the day was at Moss Vineyards. Although this winery is truely off the beaten path, down a winding gravel road and up a mountainside, it’s worth the visit. We had a few favorites that we sampled. The 2013 Viognier had a nose of lightly toasted honey with a big honeysuckle flavor. The 2012 Vino Rosso was soft and smooth with a tomato jam nose and a smokey finish. Our overall favorite was likely the 2010 Achitectura. This red blend was immensely dark in color with a rich nose and a well developed flavor. It was full in body and had a great complex flavor that lingered in the mouth for a good long while. 

All of the wineries we visited on day two were part of the Monticello Wine Trail on a smaller trail called the The Appellation Trail. For more details and to plan a visit, head to the trail’s website or click the wineries above to go directly to their sites. 

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Virginia Adventures Day 1

We’re back on the road again, this time heading to the wineries in northern Virginia. On the way we stopped in Charlottesville to visit a few new locations. 

Day 1 took us to five wineries and two breweries.

Our first stop was Lovingston Winery. Located just outside of Lovingston, Virginia this winery provides a quiet escape from the daily hustle and bustle. The winery is a small family run operation. Their tasting room is right in the middle their gravity fed production room.  (When I say right in the middle, I mean you climb a half flight of stairs to get to the tasting bar that’s at the same level as the tanks. The experience was quite unique.)  The tasting usually consists of six wines, but we also had a sneak peak of two new releases. Here are the notes for the verticals.  The 2013 Seyval Blanc offered a bright and crisp profile with a great citrus finish. The 2014 was a bit lighter on the nose settling in the honeysuckle family. The flavor was also more mellow with a bigger mouthfeel. The finish was clean with a great mineral note.  The 2013 Petit Manseng was done in more of an off dry style with big tropical flavors and aromas while still keeping a nice acidic finish. The 2014 was a bit different in style, but still slightly sweet. The flavors teetered on smokey with hints of herbs and spices on the nose. Also of note here are the 2013 Pinotage and the 07 Reserve Merlot. Both were full in body and flavor and had a lot to offer. 

Stop two was somewhat unexpected and was the result of us looking for lunch. Our food plans changed somewhat last minute (I’m not the best navigator sometimes). So we had to hunt for an alternate. Luckily for us, a new boutique winery just popped up on the way to Charlottesville. Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards is just a quick turn off highway 20 and is worth the slight diversion. They’re tucked away on the side of a hill with an unobstructed view of the blue ridge mountains and all of its little valleys. The setting is gorgeous, the wines are quite good and locavores will love the food as well. Of interest here was the 2014 Sauvignon Blanc done more in the New Zealand style rather than New World. It was grassy and balanced with a nice profile of minerals and fruit. Also worth noting is the 2013 Petit Verdot, a dark leathery wine with hints of spice, smoke and cherries. Stop in, wine, dine, and enjoy the view! 

Stop number three was the Virginia Wineworks. The winemaker, Michel Shaps, is regional presence in the Virginia wine making world. He produces wines for several vineyards in the area as well as running a custom crush operation. There were several wine tasting options available. We decided to stay local and go for the Virginia tasting.  The wines were all delicious, but we particularly liked the Odette, a white blend that was light and balanced. The unique thing about this wine is that you could almost taste every grape in this wine. It started with an appley Chardonnay, moved into a floral/tropical Viognier which rounded into an acidic Petit Manseng before finishing with a note of Riesling. The winery itself is picking up on a new trend in the industry: growlers and boxes. Many of the wines here are for sale in a 64 oz growler. The Chardonnay also comes in a 3-Liter box. New things on the horizons here, worth keeping an eye on. 

Stop four took us to Blenheim Vineyards. The setting is rustic barn meets modern tasting room. They also have hopped onto the growler bandwagon and offer a few of their wines in a larger size. They have two white blends that use a good amount of red grape in them. They didn’t impart any color, but it did add to the flavor and body of the wines. Of interest here was the 2013 Grenache, a GSM blend that was full of pepper and dark fruits. Also worth noting is the 2013 Painted Red, a blend of Petit Verdot, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot. It was bright and fruity that quickly moved into a smooth and even texture. 

Our final winery of the day was Jefferson Vineyards. Conveniently located just outside of Monticello, this winery should be on your list if you’re in the area. The winery itself has been family run for over three generations. Many of the red wines shared similar characteristics of toasted caramel, but each was unique in its own right. Our favorites were the 2012 Petit Verdot which was dark and fruity with a nice toasty finish and also the 2012 Meritage which was smooth and silky with a delicious flavor.  

After a long day of winery stops, we headed to our hotel and looked for dinner options. We decided to eat in downtown Charlottesville. But first, we made a quick stop at Champion Brewing Company where we had an overly delicious imperial coffee stout. After our beer flight, we went on to South Street Brewery for some DIY Mac & Cheese and another beer sampler. The kolch and the red IPA were very good and worth searching out. 

If you’re thinking about a trip to Charlottesville, the numerous wineries and breweries definitely make it worth it. 

[su_gmap address=”Charlottesville, VA”]

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Sunday Adventures #3

Sunday Adventures #3

Sundays are wine adventure days for us. We typically invite a few friends to join us as we expand their horizons of the NC wine scene. Today were joined by our friends Susan and Candyce. 

On the schedule for today, we have Lazy Elm, Hanover Park Vineyard, and Medaloni Cellars. More updates later on. Check back often!

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Sunday Adventures: Part 1

Sunday Adventures: Part 1

Today, like most Sunday afternoons, we’re headed out to visit a few wineries. Our destination is part of the WNC Wine Trail, specifically the Tyron area wineries, previously reviewed during NC Wine Month. We’re taking a different approach today as I plan to make live updates (as cell service allows).

Our first stop is Mountain Brook Vineyards where we will be joining up with some friends for a birthday celebration. From there we plan on going to at least two other wineries, possibly three, ending at Parker-Binns Vineyard to relax with hot woodfired pizza.

Keep coming back for more updates!

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High Country Wineries — Winery Reviews

High Country Wineries — Winery Reviews

Today we traveled to the High Country Wineries of North Carolina to visit three unique wineries, each with stunning vistas and delightful wines.  The wineries, Linville Falls Winery, Grandfather Vineyard, and Banner Elk Winery, are located in the western North Carolina mountain area nestled in with the ski resorts and smaller mountain towns.  The journey to get there is full of winding roads, steep inclines and fantastic views.   Continue reading →

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Medaloni Cellars — Winery Review

Medaloni Cellars is a small winery on Shallowford Rd in Lewisville, NC.  The winery is just outside of Winston-Salem and makes for a nice detour when you’re on the road.  Medaloni has around 22 acres of land which is positioned on a very hilly plot, perfect for growing grapes.  The wine trail offers visitors a chance to walk around the property and takes you through the vineyard and past some of the cabins they offer for rent.  The business concept at Medaloni is simple, offer great quality wine in a relaxed atmosphere.  Continue reading →

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Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery

Baker Buffalo Creek Vineyard and Winery

In North Carolina there are a number of wineries that are also considered century farms. Baker Buffalo Creek is fortunate enough to be on that short list.

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A tale of three Yadkin Valley wineries…

This past weekend, we visited three wineries in the Yadkin Valley. We were fortunate enough to sample a few new releases on this trip as well. The weather was cool enough that we were able to bring our dog Amy. She always enjoys our wine adventures and is mostly happy to just be along for the ride.

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Junius Lindsay Vineyard

Junius Lindsay Vineyard

Set in the middle of their vineyard is the tasting room for Junius Lindsay.  The open air tasting room allows visitors to feel like they really are out in the vineyard enjoying a glass of wine.  One of the main perks of this tasting room is that there is often a nice breeze that will come across the grapes and will fill the area with the subtle sweet smell of ripening fruit.

Michael Zimmerman is the proprietor of the vineyard.  His estate wines are made in the Northern Rhône style meaning they are full of vibrant flavors and have a certain complexity to them that make for an enjoyable wine.  The nine acres under vine allow for Michael to run a smaller scale vineyard and really focus on the quality of his wines over the mass quantities some larger wineries produce.

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Virginia Wine Trip Day Five

Day five brought us to our final day in the Virginia wine regions.  We were headed back south, so we decided to stop at a three of our favorite wineries from our stop last year plus one new winery.  First on the list was Shenandoah Vineyards.  This winery is the second oldest in Virginia with vines planted back in the late 1970s.  The walk way up to the tasting room is a living vine covered staircase (a ramp is available in the back) that was full of fruit while we were there.

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Virginia Wine Trip Day Four

Day four took us to 13 new wineries. It’s a good thing we were splitting our tastings otherwise we would end up like Sarah, a local we encountered at the last stop of the day. We started out traveling down yet another dirt road and arrived at the charming Notaviva Vineyards where they pair their wines with different music. Stop number two is the sprawling Breaux Vineyards estates. The wines there were refined and full of complexity. 868 Estate Vineyards was next. Here they were offering their tastings both inside and on their gorgeous patio. They also have a restaurant on property that was offering paella. Although we passed on the food, it did smell delicious.

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Virginia Wine Trip Day Three

Day three had twelve wineries on the schedule for us to visit. Now, I know what you’re thinking, 12 is a lot to visit in just one day. Well, let me assure you, we were splitting tastings and in some cases, we actually had to dump *gasp* some wine.

Day 3 started at Tarara Winery. The grounds were expansive at around 470 acres with 50 under vines and another 50 soon to be planted. The winery hosts several music festivals throughout the summer season and let me tell you, any festival here would be quite fun. Next on the list are Lost Creek and Hidden Brook Winery; two wineries that neighbor each other and provide two completely different tasting experiences.

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Virginia Wine Trip Day Two

Day two had nine wineries on schedule for us. It was definitely a very busy day and it had us driving more than any other day on our schedule. We started our day at 10:30 AM with a tasting at Pearmund Cellars. Melissa conducted our tasting and gave us quite an education on the oldest Chardonnay vineyard in Virginia. When we were finished, we made our way to Molon Lave Vineyards. This unique winery offers a few Kosher wines (one of the few on the east coast) as well as non-Kosher offerings.

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Virginia Wine Trip Day One

The first day of travel took us through the Blue Ridge Parkway where we met our first stops. Lunch and a beer flight was first on the list at the Blue Mountain Brewery.

Blue Mountain Brewery

The beer flights were $9 for a 2.5 oz sample of ten different beers. Continue reading →

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