Gems Along the Chesapeake Bay’s Eastern Shore

We have all heard about the Eastern Shore. Area natives, especially, know it as a conglomeration of vacation destinations along the eastern side of the Chesapeake Bay. Tourist spots. Fishing villages. Colonial towns. Communities that thrive in the summer months but are deserted for the rest of the year. While there might be truth to some of these notions, there is infinitely more to say about the diverse areas of Maryland and Virginia that constitute this collective waterfront region. The Eastern Shore is composed of distinct locales, which house residents and host visitors with their inimitable personalities. They are undoubtedly recognized for their summer appeal but should not be completely discounted leading up to the heat. Many of these towns are celebrated for their historical significance, tranquil quality and distinguishing identity – you should consider exploring some of them in the coming months. Featured towns: Eastern Shore, Md. CHESTERTOWN, KENT COUNTY, MD. This colonial town on the Chester River entices travelers to experience its historic homes, shops, arts scene and restaurants. As part of Kent County, it is surrounded by the Chesapeake Bay’s estuaries and farmland, and holds annual events and holiday functions throughout the year. Chestertown is also home base to the Schooner Sultana, “a replica of a Boston-built merchant vessel that served four years as the smallest schooner ever in the British Royal Navy,” according to its website. The ship is known as the “Schoolship of the Chesapeake,” as it offers educational programming through sailing tours. The Chestertown website offers additional suggestions for visitors, including self-guided tours, museums, theaters, scenic views and recreational activities. There are more than 40 lodging options in the vicinity, though it is known for its bed and breakfasts. ST. MICHAELS, TALBOT COUNTY, MD. You are likely familiar with St. Michaels, as its Bay presence has become less subtle over time, and it is now better known for its tourist draw. Its marina and boating opportunities contribute to its charm, but St. Michaels is equally beloved for its memorable attractions, dining, spas and special events. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the St. Michaels Winery, War of 1812 reenactments, the St. Michaels Fresh Farm Market, various cruise lines and fresh seafood meals are among the services that continue to bring visitors to the area. Vacation rentals and quaint hotels provide an array of lodging alternatives, and the website’s suggested itineraries aid with planning the ideal vacation. EASTON, TALBOT COUNTY, MD. This seaside village invites people to discover its character year-round. In addition to crabbing, sailing, kayaking and canoeing, Easton is a relaxing town with outlets for exploration and enjoyment – despite the weather. Its buildings represent a fusion of Colonial and Victorian architecture, and the town is renowned for its displayed appreciation of art and music. The Avalon Theatre presents comedy, art shows, theatrical performances and assorted concerts that make it a staple venue for both vacationers and locals. Antiquing in downtown Easton, stargazing in the countryside and watching wildlife are just some of the many activities highlighted on the website. Other components of a visit might involve walking tours, community coffee shops, public golf courses, annual festivals and Victorian bed and breakfasts. An events calendar, which consistently outlines a plethora of activities for tourists, can be found on the website. CAMBRIDGE, DORCHESTER COUNTY, MD. Situated on the Choptank River is Cambridge: it was settled in 1684, and is now one of the Eastern Shore’s prime destinations. The historic downtown, centered around Cambridge’s Main Street, is more than “beautiful buildings” and “one-of-a-kind shops,” as the downtown touts itself. Rather, it has a powerful presence that stems from its rich history and is apparent to any visitor. Quirky celebrations add another dimension to the pulse: “Zip Code Day,” “Taste of Cambridge Crab Cook-Off” and “Summer Send-Off: Blues, Brews & BBQ,” to name a few. Cambridge is home to several noteworthy attractions – the Brannock Maritime Museum, the Richardson Maritime Museum and La Grange Plantation – and other galleries, boutiques and art districts. Great Marsh Park, Sailwinds Park and the Choptank River Fishing Pier are other area favorites. Featured Towns: Eastern Shore, Va. ACCOMAC, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VA. As the County Seat of Accomack County, this small but significant town attracts people with its history and charm. It was originally established as the Town of Drummond in 1786 and, subsequently, Drummondtown. It did not receive its present name until 1893. One of Accomac’s strongest tourist draws is perhaps its walking tour, during which people can gain understanding of the town’s evolution, through architectural changes in churches, cottages and houses. The Eastern Shore Public Library, Debtor’s Prison, Bloodworth Cottage and St. James Episcopal Church are among the notable points on the downtown tour. People live in the private residences, illustrating the community’s intimate nature and appreciation for historic preservation. ONANCOCK, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VA. Originally serving as a port town, Onancock aided transportation for steamboats between Baltimore, Md., and Norfolk, Va., with the Onancock Creek leading to the Bay. It is now one of the Eastern Shore’s more heavily populated towns, with more than 1,500 residents. Onancock has substantial marine- and wild- life populations and water travel opportunities. Whether you bring your own boat, take a guided trip or just want to get a full taste of Onancock, the Town Wharf is a must-see. And, the Ferry to Tangier Island, a nearby fishing village, lets visitors venture beyond the town. As a self-described “rural waterfront village,” Onancock’s visitor-friendly atmosphere and easily navigated downtown make it a desirable spot for tourists who enjoy biking and strolling. More information is listed on its website. WACHAPREAGUE, ACCOMACK COUNTY, VA. Wachapreague is an appropriately named seaside town – its website defines “Wachapreague” as “Little City by the Sea.” Bird watching and biking keep people coming throughout the year, as do the fishing and seafood. The Hotel Wachapreague, the town’s first hotel and one of the largest on the Eastern Shore, was constructed in 1902 and remains open today. A marine railroad and commercial fishing are some of the many draws to this charming fishing community. ([]. CAPE CHARLES, NORTHAMPTON COUNTY, VA. Cape Charles has a history that dates back to the 1880s. Following its colonization, it was predominantly comprised of farmlands and wetlands, but as stated on its website, it developed into a railroad region when the Bay Coast Railroad was constructed. It is the largest town in Northampton County with 1,000 residents and under 3,000 acres of land. The Historic District of Cape Charles displays a variety of architecture, including Colonial Revival, Neoclassical and Victorian style homes. Golf clubs, horseback riding stables, wildlife refuges, state parks – plus the water, beaches and fishing – make this town a great place to investigate. []( [gallery ids="101179,142801,142784,142797,142791" nav="thumbs"]

Lewisburg: Nestled in the Greenbrier Valley

I left my heart in Lewisburg because of a French goat. Actually, it wasn’t a French goat, but the French Goat — one of only...
A 60s-era use of pocket-watch fobs, several worn together as a bracelet.

The Charms of Antique Watch Fobs

In the mid-1700s, men’s waistcoats had several pockets and it was fashionable to carry a watch in each pocket ...

Wine Away the Winter In Charlottesville

While new wineries continue to pop up across the East Coast from New York to North Carolina, there is no region gaining more ground in both quality and recognition than the greater Charlottesville wine region. Farmers over the past 200 years cultivated the soil for fruit crops like apples and peaches, which set an ideal stage for what is now known as the Monticello American Viticultural Area. One major factor in its success, according to King Family Vineyards owner David King, is precisely its lack of newness. Time has already proven many of the rolling Blue Ridge slopes conducive to cool-climate fruit production, and with the help of Virginia Tech’s viticultural research department and some recently acquired expertise, Monticello has lived up to the wine-growing potential that Thomas Jefferson foresaw there centuries ago. As we stand on the precipice of winter, vineyards may seem low on the list of worthy discussion topics. Now, of course, is the time where vines begin to go barren and production comes to a standstill until the spring thaw. But while everyone else with the winter wonderland bug is waiting in line at the ski slopes, Charlottesville’s wineries offer intimate afternoon getaways off the beaten path. With the last of the fall wine festivals behind us, tours are down and crowds have dwindled, leaving true wine enthusiasts with a selection of world-class vineyards to explore without the fuss of traffic. And with more than 20 vineyards to choose from, it is just a matter of knowing where to start. Winter is the season to have long, intimate discussions with the winemakers, get nearly one-on-one tours of the cellars, and odds are, there are some great deals to be had. Underneath the brown landscape and the cold, bustling wind, there lies a world of winter wine, waiting to be discovered in Charlottesville, Va. Castle Hill Cider In 1998, a great barn was built in Keswick, Va., on the Castle Hill estate, just a stone’s throw from Charlottesville and Monticello. Located on a 600-acre plot of rolling, endless hills, the barn was designed to accommodate cattle auctions for the surrounding ranchers. Like much of Keswick, the land is undeveloped and still entrenched in the natural beauty of Virginia, with a prominent view of the Southwest Mountains. When architect and landscape designer John Rhett saw the abandoned barn in 2008, with its 8,000 square feet of open space and 25-foot ceilings, he had other plans for it. Rhett was approached to put a vineyard on the property and convert the barn to a winery, but his thoughts were a bit more interesting. “I prefer trees to vines,” he said. “I thought, why don’t we plant an orchard and start a cidery.” The Barn at Castle Cider is now a fully functioning traditional cidery and the area’s newest event space. What makes this cider so unique is its ancient production techniques, which go back to the origins of cider production. The cider is aged and fermented in kvevri, traditional amphoras from the nation of Georgia’s Caucasus Mountains, lined with beeswax and buried in the cool earth. “We are the only cidermakers in the world making cider in kvevri,” says cidermaker Stuart Madney. “We really have no idea how long it’s been since cider has been made this way — possibly thousands of years.” The apple varieties are all fermented individually to retain their unique flavors, and then blended to create different ciders. The apple orchard Rhett planted in the fall of 2009 is made up of 600 trees with 28 different types of apples. Its most prized variety is a nearly forgotten native breed, the Albemarle Pippin. “It’s an apple that became a favorite of Queen Victoria,” says Rhett. “She was given a basket of them, and she liked them so much that she removed the tariff from the apple just so it was cheaper to import them.” The Albemarle Pippin got here by the hands of George Washington himself. Originally from New York, Washington gave a cutting to Colonel Thomas Walker, Thomas Jefferson’s guardian and mentor, who planted it in Albemarle County. While cider production has been underway for over a year now, The Barn at Castle Hill Cider just celebrated its grand opening, and now is the perfect time for a visit. Keswick Vineyards Al and Cindy Schornberg founded Keswick Vineyards with a mission to listen to the land. Taking a minimalist approach to the winemaking, this family-owned and -operated vineyard focuses its attention on the vineyards themselves to produce the best possible fruit with which to make the wines. Using natural, native yeast, all of their current red wines are also unfiltered and unfined — meaning that all the natural sediment in the wine remains with it in the bottle, ensuring peak flavor and body. And while their wines are in top form right off the shelves, this process makes the wine age superbly. It will keep developing in depth and complexity for five to 10 years in the bottle — good news for the connoisseurs among us. The Schornbergs chose the historic Edgewood Estate as the site for their dream vineyard after searching the country, recognizing its potential of producing world class wines. It’s also a downright gorgeous property, and with a fine winter frost blanketing the dormant grape vines and the grey hush of the mountains looming in the distance, there is hardly a more beautiful spot in Virginia to warm up with a bottle of vintage Petite Verdot. They’re also not bad if you like white wines. Their 2002 Viognier Reserve was voted Best White Wine in America at the Atlanta International Wine Summit. They have a slew of other awards from across the country, and they keep raking them in. Give them a visit — we’re sure you’ll agree with the judges. Barboursville Vineyard Barboursville Vineyards, quite frankly, has it all. Founded in 1976, the winery has been a leader in establishing the credibility of the Virginia appellation with an array of wine varietals, cultivating wines of a European heritage best suited for the regional terroir, or land. Luca Paschina, the Italian-born winemaker of Barboursville Vineyards, came to Virginia in 1991 after years working in Italy and California, and has since been producing some of Virginia’s fully ripe and high-quality grapes. Paschina got his viticultural training in Piemonte, the renowned winemaking region in Italy. And in good years in Charlottesville, he says that he sees little difference from its growing season and Piemonte’s. And you can’t go wrong with their wines. From their Cabernet Franc to their Sangiovese, and the Chardonnays and Pinot Grigiots in the whites, Paschina has developed the portfolio of Barboursville wines into a world-class achievement. Their crowning viticultural achievement is surely Octagon, a seamless blend Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. This award winning wine, with a dark, rich garnet color and an intense aroma of plum, cassis, coffee and berries, was woven together in barrel for a phenomenally full and silky palate. The tannins are resplendent and graceful. This is not a wine you want to miss. And beyond the wines and the vineyard, the Barboursville Estate also maintains the 1804 Inn, a converted 18th century vineyard cottage and residence, and the world class Palladio Restaurant, which even offers cooking classes and wine dinners with Barboursville wines. Combined with some of the region’s finest wines, Barboursville Vineyards is an ideal location to while away a wintry weekend. King Family Vineyard King Family Vineyards is a family-owned and -operated boutique winery located in Crozet, just 15 minutes from Charlottesville at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winery specializes in small productions of ultra-premium wine that showcase the remarkable qualities of nearly 100-percent, estate-grown fruit. Founded in 1998, the winery’s first vintage was only 500 cases. Today, the winery produces approximately 5,000 cases of wine per year. But David King, owner of King Family Vineyards, is on a larger mission: to make local wine more accessible in the state of Virginia. “We sell everything we make,” says King. “Yet wine made here is only 4.5 percent of the wine consumed in the state. Our biggest goal right now is merely to make more wine.” There is a large local market in Virginia and its bordering states that has yet to be developed, he says, but with the state legislators helping to promote local wines in more shops and fine dining establishments, consumers have more opportunities to support local growers. King hopes for more wine lovers to discover the burgeoning industry right in their backyard. During the summer months, the veranda, expansive lawn, or brick patio are perfect for outdoor picnics. In the winter, however, the winery’s tasting room is home to a warm stone fireplace and rich, family-friendly seating areas. Bring your own goodies or pick from the tasting room’s gourmet assortments of chocolates, cheeses, salamis, spreads, and hot French bread. Blenheim Vineyards In 1730, John Carter, Secretary of the Colony of Virginia, obtained a patent for 9,350 acres in what is now Albemarle County, Va. In the 1790s, John’s son Edward built the first Blenheim house. It was at Blenheim where Thomas Jefferson and his bride, Martha, are said to have rested and warmed themselves after their coach stalled nearby during a snowstorm. Hopefully, you will have better luck with your vehicle than the Jeffersons, but in whose footsteps would it be better to follow in the historic Blue Ridge tradition of fending off the winter chill than the author of the Declaration of Independence and his brilliant, lovely wife? Blenheim Vineyards is located on the foothills of Carter’s Mountain in southern Albermarle County, and their varieties include Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Viognier and Petit Verdot, among others, and all are outstanding examples of the varietals. Their wines reflect the climate, soil and beauty of the surrounding Piedmont landscape. The tasting room offers a peak into the barrel room below and a breathtaking view of the southern vineyard. On the adjacent property, a historic home has been refinished with a freestanding Library, complete with a wraparound porch and fireplace. Try the wine, take in the sites, and don’t forget to thank Mr. Jefferson for finding it first.

Modern Country: Middleburg

When we think of residents inside the Beltway going to live full time in the country, Middleburg, Virginia, comes immediately to mind. The historic...

Artisanal Foods and Products Await in Virginia

With its sprawling countryside and 46,000 farms, Virginia is home to dozens of shops filled with local and organic products. These country stores are tucked away on the quaint main streets of small-town Virginia, offering fresh, homegrown foods to those in the know. Here are a few shops in Northern Virginia offering artisanal cheeses, meats and sweets: Back Creek Farms has been making pure maple syrup in Monterey since 1838. The family-owned farm got its name from its traditional production process of collecting sugar water from the trees that line the surrounding creeks. Buckets and open pans are used to make syrup, along with modern pumps. Back Creek’s products are sold throughout Virginia at stores such as the Little House Green Grocery in Richmond and the Monticello Gift Shop and Virginia Made Shop in the Shenandoah Valley. Considered a go-to in Middleburg, The Home Farm Store is Ayrshire Farm's butcher shop and grocery store, selling a variety of products made by Virginia artisans and others. Among the store’s many weekend events are “Sips and Snacks” on Friday evenings and cooking demonstrations on Saturday afternoons. Down the road, The Whole Ox is an artisanal butcher located in The Plains. Derek and Amanda Luhowiak opened the shop, housed in an old trading depot, in 2011. Prior to opening The Whole Ox, the couple owned and operated Local 647, a food truck that traveled all over Northern Virginia. The truck was famous for its half-pound grass-fed burger, featured on the Today Show. Today, The Whole Ox sells ethically produced products, the majority of which are sourced from Virginia. The shop’s mulberry vinegar comes from Lindera Farms in Linden. Ol’ Red Eye hot sauce is made from smoked habanero peppers aged in oak barrels from Marshall. One of the all-homemade sausages is the “Sammy Davis,” made with juniper, coriander, bay leaf and pork. Heading southwest, The Market at Grelen in Somerset boasts a full community calendar, complete with lunch series, dinner and concert combos and workshops. Grelen has a seasonal farm market, garden shop and café offering a variety of treats made from local ingredients. Favorites include molasses cookies, Grelen ice cream and sorbet made with Grelen fruit and local cream and local cheeses from Caromont Farm in Esmont. Just outside of Charlottesville in Free Union, farmers (and couple) Erica Hellen and Joel Slezak started Free Union Grass Farm on Slezak’s family land in 2010. According to their farming philosophy, “Free Union Grass Farm is a holistic livestock operation that utilizes modern techniques as well as pre-industrial, timeless ecological principles to produce nourishing food for our community.” The farm’s products are sold mainly in Charlottesville and Richmond, but there are plans to expand. “Having a presence in D.C. is definitely a goal for the near future,” Slezak said. Out west, Polyface Farms is another pasture-based meat and dairy producer in Swoope. Since 1961, this multi-generational business has provided top-quality non-industrial foods, including beef, pork, poultry, and rabbits. The farm’s objective is to heal unethical practices and thoughts surrounding food. Their products can be found in a number of shops across the state, including Rebecca’s Natural Foods in Charlottesville, Ellwood Thompson’s in Richmond, Off the Vine in Williamsburg and The Organic Butcher in McLean. As you venture out this spring, enjoy the artisanal foods found in our own bountiful “backyard.” [gallery ids="101694,143938,143936,143932" nav="thumbs"]

Quebec City to New York on Queen Mary 2

My husband and I needed a recharge. Not for our computers, for ourselves. Our Rx? An eight-day Queen Mary 2 luxury ocean-liner voyage from...

A Winter Escape to the Greenbrier

A Swedish massage at the famed resort is only a train ride away. The multiple restaurants, casino and massive parlor fireplace will keep you warm and entertained.

One Stylish Weekend With Carleton Varney at The Greenbrier

Nestled safely within the Allegheny Mountains in the small community of White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., lies one of this country’s most venerable and longstanding luxury resorts. Since 1778, The Greenbrier has hosted distinguished guests from around the world, setting the standard for luxury accommodations in the United States while managing to continually reinvent itself for each new generation. Once known by the Southern elite as the “Queen of the Watering Places,” this sprawling estate in the lush foothills of the Appalachian Mountainsis one of the premier getaways on the East Coast. With the very best of comfort and accommodations, spa treatments, leisure pursuits and worldclass cuisine, The Greenbrier brings together all the luxuries of the world’s finest resorts with the distinctive history and character of the region. In 1948, The Greenbrier teamed with another national institution, Dorothy Draper & Company, one of the country’s oldest and most established interior design firms, named for its founder, a doyenne of interior design from the 1920s to the 1960s. With Dorothy Draper, The Greenbrier once again reinvented itself, reconstructing its image at the forefront of haute design to meet the postwar era head-on. As the Greenbrier evolved, so did Dorothy Draper & Co. The two institutions have been working and growing together for over 60 years to ensure that guests receive the very best. Along the way, they have enjoyed a relationship immersed in bold colors, elegant patterns, and The Greenbrier’s signature green and white stripes. During the weekend of Jan. 24-26, guests will have the opportunity to go behind the scenes of The Greenbrier’s signature style with one of the most highly regarded interior designers in the country, Carleton Varney. Owner and president of Dorothy Draper & Co., Varney is a protege of Draper herself. During this landmark event, the first-ever Carleton Varney weekend, guests will have exclusive access to Varney. The weekend schedule includes seminars and talks, private walking tours, book signings, afternoon tea and an exclusive cocktail reception with “Mr. Color” himself. With Varney on hand, guests will discover why The Greenbrier’s look is truly one of a kind. “We are thrilled to launch our new Discovery Series at The Greenbrier, which will allow guests to experience a different side of the resort while learning from, and interacting with, our diverse group of assembled experts in the fields of art and antiques, design, food and wine and more,” said Jeffrey Kmiec, president of The Greenbrier. “It’s only fitting that we should inaugurate this exciting new annual series of fascinating personalities with a weekend with Carleton Varney, the legendary interior designer and our good friend, who has been with The Greenbrier for 50 years, carrying on the extraordinary legacy of Dorothy Draper.” The Varney design philosophy stresses “the use of bright colors and the rejection of all that is impractical, uncomfortable and drab.” Here is a listing of weekend highlights, sure to attract the attention of any and all tastemakers, from those looking for inspiration to redecorate their living room to design-industry professionals. Friday, January 24 6-7 p.m. – “Cocktails with Carleton” in the State Suite Carleton Varney invites guests to join him for cocktails in The Greenbrier’s highly acclaimed State Suite. The State Suite boasts one of the most impressive entrance foyers found anywhere on the estate, showcasing The Greenbrier’s traditional black and white marble tile. Cocktails and dry snacks will be served as guests mix and mingle with Varney. Saturday, January 25 10:30 a.m. – “The Decoration History of The Greenbrier” in the Upper Lobby The elegant interior and exterior décor of the current hotel is traced from its 1913 beginnings during this fireside chat hosted by Varney. Though the hotel is well known for the dramatic transformation of the 1940s, contributions to the unique dimensions and ambience have been witnessed each decade. 4 p.m. – Afternoon Tea with Carleton Varney in the Main Dining Room Live piano music and dancers will provide entertainment as guests savor tea and delicacies. Varney will be available to sign copies of his books, CDs and DVD. 6-10 p.m. – “Happy Birthday Carleton Varney!” Dinner Party Guests will celebrate in style in the Main Dining Room with Varney and his family members and friends. The Greenbrier’s timeless classics will be served beneath Dorothy Draper’s dazzling custom-made chandeliers. Live music and dancing complete the evening under the stately columns and magnificent arched windows that bring the ambiance of a dignified Southern mansion to life. Sunday, January 26 10:30-11:30 a.m. – Interior Tour with Carleton Varney Carleton Varney’s design philosophy continues the tradition of Dorothy Draper, embracing the imaginative use of vibrant colors, floral patterns and bold contrasts. Varney and Brinsley Matthews lead this Sunday morning tour through the hotel, discussing all things Dorothy Draper. For more information about the listed events, call 877-684-5060. [gallery ids="101603,147109" nav="thumbs"]

At Home With Sheridan-MacMahon

A FAMILY BUSINESS BUILDS ON FAMILY MEMORIES IN THE HEART OF HUNT COUNTRY It’s easy to be seduced by Middleburg, Virginia — the grand estates...