Virginia: Shenandoah Valley in a Weekend

I love having family all over the country.  Of course I also wish everyone in my family lived next door, but it’s really nice to have a reason to go somewhere new and see something different.  A few weekends ago, hubby and I took off an extra two days and road tripped down to see our cousins in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.  They’re avid golfers and wine tasters, and basically the two greatest people you could spend a weekend with.

It’s easy when you’re in a transition period in life (with hubby graduating soon and anxiously wondering where he’ll get placed for work), to worry about where you’ll end up and how you’ll get there.  Our cousins, who are retired and have been through anything and everything, make it so easy to see the light at the end of that tunnel.  All of the concerns and fears that we voiced to them were met with optimism and excitement. They reminded us that not knowing is half of the fun and to look at life as an adventure.

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It was also nice to escape the stress of all of this with a weekend in the gorgeous mountains of Virginia.  Though Andrew used to live in Virginia when he was in the USMC, we’ve never taken the trip inland; we stuck to mostly DC and good old Quantico.  The Shenandoah Valley is wildly different than DC’s metropolis, but there’s still so much to do (and drink!).  Our cousins live in the Wintergreen area, which is just south of Shenandoah National park, and about two hours north of Roanoke.

Some Highlights:

Devil’s Knob Golf Course
Don’t tell Andrew, but I really think that being out on the golf course is one of the best ways to experience nature. Plus, driving the golf cart is fun. The views are absolutely gorgeous and, from hubby’s golf perspective, the course is one giant natural optical illusion.  Since the entire course in sloped downward on a mountain, reading the greens is next to impossible; greens that you think slope back to front actually slope front to back.  It’s not an easy course but wildly entertaining, even if you’re just watching.

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Wineries and Cideries
Like I said, there’s no shortage of places to drink in the Shenandoah Valley; they actually nicknamed it alcohol alley. In the 3 days we were there we hit up Afton Mountain, Pollack, and Veritas .  Though we only went to three wineries, we probably tried over 30 wines.  That’s because, unlike Long Island, where you pay $15 to select 4 or 5 wines at a tasting, you actually get to taste everything for about $7 or $8! And everything is about 12 wines per winery…vineyard heaven if you ask me! My favorite from our tastings were Afton Mountain’s Petite Verdot, Pollack’s Meritage, and Veritas’s Claret and 2012 Reserve. I’m partial to dry reds, can you tell?

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We also stopped by a French tasting at Basic Necessities, a European style restaurant and wine/cheese shop that values thoughtful food preparation, conversation, and relaxation.  The wines are obviously imported, but if you’re into French culture, it’s really an awesome place to stop by. The minute you walk through the doors, you feel as if you’ve been transported to a tiny French village…and you’ll never want to leave!

Bold Rock Hard Cider is also a must-see.  The cidery, tasting room, and resale shop all sit on a gorgeous 50-acre property right on the Rockfish River.  I definitely recommend tasting all of the ciders, then grabbing a glass of your favorite and taking a stroll down by the river.  You can also watch the bottling process through giant glass windows.  They’re ciders are on the drier side, and don’t contain a boat-load of added sugars.  They’re crisp and natural tasting.  My favorites were the classic Virginia Apple, and their Vintage Dry and Vat 1, which are champagne like ciders (which also make great gifts!).

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Food
The Wintergreen area is part of the “slow food’ movement.  Their weekly farmer’s market sources products from farms that are pesticide-free, organic, and from less than 90 miles away. Some of the vendors from which I brought items home were:

The Rockbarn pork products – I wish I lived closer to these people, because they offer a monthly pork share for $80 (that includes 7-8 cuts of meat!) and their meat is all free-range and from humanely treated animals. The Rockbarn butchers strive to elevate their craft by using the whole hog and respecting the animal.  According to their website, “connecting with the animals we eat can be difficult in the American food system, as factory farms, commodity slaughterhouses and plastic-wrapped grocery chains all work to put distance between you, your pork chop, and your pig.” Vegetarian arguments aside, I believe these guys have a great point when it comes to respecting animals that we eat.

Caromont Cheese – All Caromont cheeses are made right on the farm and come from what they refer to as “the principles of natural husbandry and grass-based management”.  Their milk comes from Virginia goat’s milk and Jersey grass fed cows. They hold a strong belief that great cheese can only come from the best milk.  I snagged their goat’s milk herb-marinated feta..and have been throwing it on salads, wraps, and eggs for the past week.

Greenwood Gourmet Grocery is a great place to stop for local Virginia fare. You can order sandwiches, salads, and boxed lunch specials, or pick up their ready made salads and snacks.  We grabbed their Italian tuna (made with olive oil and capers instead of mayo) with kettle chips and enjoyed it at the vineyards.  They also carry local meats, cheeses, wines, and hand-made crafts.

So basically I ate and drank a lot while I was in Virginia and loved every second of it.  And I think it was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time..because sometimes you need to just slow down, take in the scenery and drink a bottle of wine =)

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Cheers!

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