Virginia Spirits: Distilleries, Ciders and Wines for Winter

February 8, 2012

Just as a horse trots steadily across an open field in the Shenandoah countryside, the reputation of East Coast wines and spirits is gaining momentum in the rhythm of national beverage communities. Granted, there is a lot of ground to cover.

Many drinkers have yet to acclimate to the regional texture and character of East Coast libations. Our terroir—the flavor of our land, if you will—is still new to the cultural palette, as opposed to wines from France, Spain or California, whose tastes, textures and subtleties are engrained somewhere deep within us. The bodies and flavors of wines up and down the East Coast are quiet and subtle, more comparable to offerings from Oregon’s Willamette Valley than to the bright and peppery fullness of France or the dense richness of Napa Valley. But anyone with a passion to develop a taste for our regional beverages will find a beautiful, personal relationship with our fruit, our land and our distinct character, like close friendship born out of long, thoughtful conversations deep into the night.

Unlike many regions around the world, whose techniques have been honed over centuries and are well established, East Coast regions offer us the opportunity to grow with the very drinks we sip. As the idiosyncrasies of climate and soil composition are still being worked out by area distillers, cidermakers and winemakers, the flavors of the drinks are developing and maturing noticeably with each harvest. And, in Virginia, there is no better combination of beautiful countryside, dynamic beverage offerings and knowledgeable professionals to make a distillery or vineyard visit an unforgettable winter getaway. And if you don’t feel like leaving town, you can always just pick up a bottle of the good stuff at your local wine shop.

Castle Hill Cider

Hard cider from Charlottesville might seem a strange place to start a discussion on Virginia libations. With almost 200 operating vineyards in the state, and more than 20 within a stone’s throw of Castle Hill’s neighboring Monticello Wine Trail, this cidery stands almost on its own as a representative for the fermenting potential of apples. But when you see what cidermaker Stuart Madany is up to, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the quirk, history and flavors of traditional cider from Virginia’s heartland.

Originally built in 1764, Castle Hill was the home of Colonel Thomas Walker, guardian and mentor to Thomas Jefferson. The estate and its great barn, recently and beautifully restored, now stand as a cidery, tasting room and premiere venue for weddings and special events, bringing the character of the past together with the hospitality and luxury of today. Located on a 600-acre plot of rolling, endless hills, the land is still entrenched in the natural beauty of Virginia, and a young apple orchard budding eagerly before the Southwest Mountains looks as natural and inevitable as Jefferson’s rise to the presidency.

“We’re held to the same standards as farm wineries, and so we have to grow 51 percent of our apples for cidermaking on our own land,” says Madany. “Because our trees aren’t bearing fruit yet, we have leasing agreements with other orchards, more than 75 percent of which are Virginia orchards.”

Two years ago, Madany planted 660 trees on 4.5 acres of the Castle Hill estate. Comprising 28 species of heritage cider apples, their predominant variety is the Albermarle Pippin. “This apple got here by the hands of George Washington,” Madany says. “It was originally from New York, and Washington gave a cutting to Colonel Walker, who planted it on this very property.”

The cider is, frankly, outstanding. Most hard ciders that I’ve previously experienced taste watered down and homogenized — it tastes metallic and “apple flavored,” but not like an actual, distinct fruit with subtle, leafy undertones and its own characteristics. Castle Hill Cider is different. You taste the specific acidity and crispness of each glass, the earthy finishes and astringencies, as distinctly as you can tell a Gala apple from a Granny Smith.

The Levity, the flagship cider of Castle Hill, is made with 100 percent Pippin. It is aged and fermented in clay amphorae from the Caucasus Mountains, called kvevri, which are lined with beeswax and buried in the ground. This technique is one of the oldest fermenting techniques in history. Rested for four months on full lees — residual yeast and other sediment that collects at the bottom of the kvevri and imparts complex and layered flavors — this cider expresses a surprising depth with robust body and a refreshing minerality.
“The process has been amazing,” says Madany. “Cidermaking is still a learning process for me. When you already know something really well, you can tune into the nuances of it, which is what we’re working toward and have on many levels already achieved. But on the flip side, there’s something fascinating about the raw experience of taking something in right now from what it’s supposed to be. You’re freed from the preconception of having an ideal. Instead you’re just experiencing it.”

For more information, visit

Keswick Vineyards

It’s no coincidence that vineyards have been clustering around the Monticello and Charlottesville region. Jefferson envisioned this part of the country as a Viticultural Area (AVA) that stood with the great wines of the Old World. Today, Virginia is the fifth largest producer of wine in the U.S., and more than half of its 2,000 vineyard acres grow within the Monticello AVA.

If you’ve made the trip down to Monticello, Keswick Vineyards is a perfect stop to plan in conjunction with your visit to Castle Hill Cider. Just across the street from Castle Hill, its cozy tasting room, full-access winery and breathtaking views of the surrounding country paint the scene, and in the autumn you can observe the harvest activity firsthand. In the winter, it’s their selection of silky, bold red wines that will hold your attention.
Keswick Vineyards uses a minimalist approach in making their wines and have focused the bulk of their attentions on the vineyards to produce the best possible fruit to work with. Established in 2000, 43 acres are currently “under vine,” with the main grape planted being Viognier. Most of their wines are fermented using natural or native yeast, and all of their current red wines are bottled unfined and unfiltered, giving it a maturation period of five to 10 years. But don’t worry — there’s still a lot of good flavor if you drink them young. Try the Chambourcin. Its earthy aroma is intoxicating, and its rustic, hearty flavor with waves of dark fruit is the perfect winter drinking wine, whether served with beef stew or cheese, crackers and a roaring fire.

For more information, visit

Catoctin Creek Distillery

Founded in 2009 as the first legal distillery in Loudoun County since before Prohibition, Catoctin Creek Distilling Company is a certified organic distillery in the heart of the Loudoun Valley. Often called the District’s wine country, Loudoun County now has a distillery to throw into the mix.

Catoctin’s grain and fruit, free of pesticides and chemical additives, are sourced locally when possible, and its quality is being recognized on a national level. Its whiskies have a laundry list of silver and gold medals from a number of different competitions, from Whiskey Advocate Magazine to the American Distilling Institute. A tour of its facilities, only an hour’s drive from the District, is worth the trip. Their Organic Mosby’s Spirit, a clear grain rye “white whiskey,” is incredibly versatile as a mixer, giving a new grainy sweetness to traditional vodka or rum cocktails. Their Organic Roundstone Rye, one of the only organic whiskeys in the nation, took home a silver medal at last year’s American Distilling Institute Whiskey Competition.

For more information, visit

Virginia Distillery Company

A small-batch, artisan distiller, Virginia Distillery Company (VDC) in Nelson County, just 25 minutes south of Charlottesville, has brought notoriety to the region with its award-winning selection of double malt whiskies. Its Eades Double Malt, finished in fine wine casks, demonstrate that two malts can create an experience that actually heightens and refines each region’s flavor profile. But as with all whiskeys, wines and spirits, the process does not finish overnight. And what is happening at VDC right now is a great way to be a part of a burgeoning culture as it is being forged. The company is working on a Virginia Single Malt whiskey, which will be available within the next three to four years.

Unlike blended double malts, a single malt whiskey is a pure expression of the land from which it comes. And so while VDC’s single malt is being traditionally produced, its taste promises to be unlike any whiskey to come before it. Whiskey production welcomes Virginia’s damp, sticky summers and cold, dry winters (which can be tough on the winemaking community). As whiskey ages inside the cask, the dramatic seasonal fluctuations in temperature and humidity cause the wood storing the whiskey to expand and contract. These dynamic forces will draw the whiskey into and out of the wood of the cask much faster than in a typical Scottish warehouse, where single malts are most commonly produced.

The first batch of their authentic, double-distilled single malt whiskey is now aging, and will hibernate and mature for a minimum of three years, turning from the clear spirit to the subtly aged amber whiskey we all know and love, but with the distinct characteristics of Virginia. In the meantime, keep yourself warm with VDC’s sweet, tangy Eades Double Malt.

For more information, visit [gallery ids="100458,115474,115467" nav="thumbs"]

Murphy?s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsJanuary 25, 2012

January 25, 2012

*Dear Stacy:*
*I am a 27-year-old, professional, single woman living in D.C. I also have a medical condition ? bipolar disorder ? which is well under control (meds and counseling). My diagnosis has had an impact on my relationships in the past, especially before I got a handle on it in college. I have had a few serious boyfriends since then, but it seems that once I reveal my situation, things start to go downhill. One guy began blaming all of our problems on my being bipolar, even though my highly trusted therapist and I truly believe this had no bearing on our relationship (e.g., I had no episodes during our time together). Another got angry that I hadn?t told him sooner and soon began to back away from me. My question is this: Do I have to tell potential love interests that I have this condition? If so, when is the best time to come clean? I am sick of worrying about this. I only want to find someone who accepts me through and through.*
*?Gun-Shy in Northeast*

Dear Gun-Shy:
First, congratulations on finding the right combination of therapy and medications to feel like you are in control of your diagnosis ? this is not a small feat, definitely something to celebrate. Next, please be gentle with yourself for not necessarily knowing when and where to offer this information to others. With so much misinformation about mood disorders in the zeitgeist, the term ?bipolar? has become a go-to adjective to describe the stereotypically unstable character on cop shows galore. The truth is that many people with bipolar disorder can have very few episodes throughout their lives. The diagnosis is something sufferers are able to manage with certain regular interventions, much like diabetes or panic attacks.

But the question of disclosure is not limited to those with bipolar disorder. When is the best time to tell a New Love that you have been treated for an STD in the past, that you have a degenerative neurological disorder or that schizophrenia runs in your family? Unfortunately, there?s no definitive answer. Some would say: You name it ASAP, and let the chips fall where they may, preventing yourself from getting in too deep with someone only to lose them due to something beyond your control. Others would say: Give yourself a chance to get to know the person first, let him know you and see if the makings of a strong foundation are already there before tremor-testing it.

The truth is that all relationships have disclosure moments (You aren?t a virgin? Your family pastime is passive-aggression? Your dream retirement involves an RV?), and these moments are what we use to size up the chemistry between us. You have a ready-made reliability test to see if you?ve found a good match. Eventually, you can recommend a good book about your diagnosis, e.g., ?An Unquiet Mind? by Kay Jamison). But first let?s reclaim this information as part of what makes you, you. As such, the right match will be with someone who finds it somewhat mundane, but mostly evidence of your strength and resilience.

*Dear Stacy:*
*It?s January, and I am trying my best to focus on new starts and fresh goals. I am struggling because my ex got back in touch with me over the holidays, and I just can?t keep her off my mind. We?ve been texting and she refriended me on Facebook. My heart flips when I see her name on my callerID, but we haven?t seen each other yet. Things ended two years ago because we didn?t want the same things (yes, she wanted to get married and I did not). Now, it seems she?s comfortable with keeping it casual, and I have to admit that I am really enjoying the flirting we?ve got going on. Is there something about the holidays that gets people to revisit failed relationships? Valentine?s Day is coming up, and I keep fantasizing about some amazing reunion between us. Am I being unrealistic?*
*-Mooning Over Her*

Dear Mooning:
You are absolutely right, it does seem that the holidays cause old flames to reignite ? maybe it?s the cold weather that puts some of us on the lookout for revivable embers. It is exciting to reconnect with an old love. With the variety of social media options available, it isn?t hard to imagine why a text from her offers you a charge when compared to watching your Facebook friends change their profile pictures to photos of their kids on Santa?s lap.

Nevertheless, you ask the more important question last: ?Am I being unrealistic?? The conundrum actually has nothing to do with the time of year. You are asking if it?s realistic to think that someone who wanted to marry you two years ago is now happy to keep things casual. Not likely. But then again, you haven?t actually asked Ex, have you? The thing about reconnecting with old flames is that the timespan of the romantic phase of the relationship is vastly reduced. You already had that experience several years ago, and so this time around the honeymoon phase is going to be abbreviated. Once the initial experience of seeing her again, touching her again, being with her again, is over, it?s likely that you will return to the power struggle phase that broke you up two years ago.

But my advice is not to cut off all contact ? not when you have been given this incredible opportunity for growth and self-understanding (sorry, that?s probably not what you were hoping for). Meet Ex for coffee. Check in with yourself about how it feels to sit across from her. Ask some questions about what her life has been like in the last two years. Her answers might give you some insight as to whether she?s really in a more casual space or if you might like to return to where you both left off.

*Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is [](, and you can follow her on twitter @StacyMurphyLPC. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions. Send them confidentially to*

Between the SheetsJanuary 12, 2012

January 12, 2012

Greetings and welcome to 2012! I hope you have had a wonderful holiday and celebrated the New Year in your own unique savvy style. This is the 70th time I have ushered in a new year, though admittedly I can?t recall the earliest ones, and I can?t speak of the most fun ones.
At the start of this 2012, I have many wishes for all: the usual health, joy, fulfillment, prosperity and whatever your special family values might be. But this year, following on a year of so much upheaval and for many in economic pain, I especially wish for positive attitudes. As the saying goes, ?Don?t sweat the small stuff!? And, of course, reach out and remember to love. With or without sex, good relationships are best. Put effort into reaching out. We all need more connection.

Connections come in so many forms and can often be pleasantly unexpected. A young friend of mine attended a long-running holiday party in Florida hosted by two community icons … two artist-musician-hippy community icons. My friend related that he had finally discovered the secret to life. This excerpt is from an email he sent me the following day:

***The host was a musician who played several instruments, and his living room was set up to form a band stage. There were people seated along the wall and a makeshift VIP section on the upstairs walkway that looked down over the band. Six men, all pushing 60 or more, jammed out on guitars, drums, bass and piano, while one woman beat a set of conga drums. When the host, on electric guitar, broke into Stevie Ray Vaughan?s ?Pride and Joy? and started to sing the lyrics, ?Yeah, I love my baby … Heart and soul … Love like ours won?t never grow old … She?s my sweet little thang … She?s my pride and joy …? I looked up to see the hostess dancing her heart out, quickly followed by several other couples.***

***Dr. Dorree, I grew up with these people. I went to school with their daughter, and we?ve been friends all our lives. But when we were younger, we were convinced that our parents were crazy and that we, as a result of being raised by this village of hippy musicians and artists, were destined to be just as nuts. But there were three generations of people at that party, many of whom had been coming since the 1980?s, and every year it?s the elders who play the loudest, dance the hardest, and party the longest … there?s something uniquely amazing in their attitude toward life. Nothing slows them down. Here we thought they were crazy, but all along they?ve had the secret to true happiness.***

If my young friend can start to see a continuity of joy as evidenced by his elders, then we should all be able to learn a similar lesson. And he?s absolutely right: attitude is everything. Especially in a world where there are so many negative people and bad things happening every day, all around us, we can easily find ourselves miserable and unhappy. But attitude is something that requires a conscious, active effort — and, no, there is not an ?app? for that.

So I challenge all of my colleagues, friends, family and fans to just try. Think positively and remain open to new lessons in 2012. Maybe, just maybe, if we can learn to appreciate how others live, we can step out of our own judgments and just possibly make some small steps to understanding our rapidly changing world.

Murphy?s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsDecember 14, 2011

December 14, 2011

**Dear Stacy:**

**I am a working mom in her 30s. My marriage is strong. My family ties are good. I get an enormous amount of joy being a mother to twin 6-year-olds. But I?m also realizing that I am very lonely when it comes to female friends. I have a few close ones in this area who are just as busy as I am, and we have trouble keeping up with each other. More and more, I?m realizing that I am missing my ?girlfriendships? of the past ? women who know what?s going on in my life, who call or email regularly, whom I can count on in a crisis and so on. Making new friends at this stage in my life seems really difficult. I was hoping to meet some through the various ?mommy and me? groups I joined when my kids were little, but those relationships stuck pretty close to the kids and their development, not moving into personal lives or going much deeper. I am a supervisor at work: that makes it hard for me to bridge those relationships into anything more. I have tried to connect with some of my husband?s friends? wives, but we also have little in common. I miss the days when the world was structured to help me make friends: school, sorority rush, happy hours in my 20s. How do you make new, real friends as an adult?**

**- Needs a Ladies Night**

Dear Ladies Night:

I completely empathize with your situation. The post-mommy period is rife with opportunities to feel marginalized. Our culture?s new pastime of criticizing other moms? life choices (See the SAHM vs. working mom debate online? On second thought, don?t.) makes new friendships even harder to trust. Not all of us got pregnant at the same time, in the same town, and with the same post-partum work schedules that allow us to be in the same life stage as our best friends from high school. Sad but true.

The isolation, judgment, anxiety and frustration you are feeling right now is actually quite similar to that found in other life stages. You could apply the same adjectives to describe a new freshman in college, a 40-year-old transplant to a new town, the newly retired, the recently widowed ? in other words, you really are describing the human condition here. My point is not to ?Just deal because we?re all feeling it,? it?s to realize, ?Wow, we?re all feeling it, so maybe I can risk a little bit and put it out there that I am looking to make some closer friends.?

Committing to having coffee, lunch or drinks with at least one female friend ? new, old or marginal ? each week can do wonders to increase your confidence about connecting and give you the chance to feel like someone else knows what you?re going through. It wouldn?t be a ?Murphy?s Love? column if I didn?t put in at least one plug about therapy ? so perhaps a support group for moms (not one masked as a playdate) would be a good place to explore your feelings about friendship in this stage. Therapy groups are not places to make friends, mind you, but one might help you get clear about why this particular developmental stage is so difficult right now. Email me for some specific suggestions in your area.

**Dear Stacy:**

My wife and I have been married for 20 years. We have two high school-aged kids and have enjoyed the experience of being parents, watching them grow and change, and basically structuring our lives around their care and wellbeing.

At the same time, we both are really looking forward to sending them off to college so that we can start traveling and spending more time following our own personal pursuits. My concern is this ? we have been a ?low-sex? couple for the last 10 years or so. For us, this means that we have sex about once every two months. I would like to have sex more often, but my wife has not been interested for a long time. I am starting to realize that my visions of us being together in our empty nest include a lot more sex. I am just now recognizing that this has been part of my fantasy about this stage of our lives and am starting to worry that she may be caught off guard by my high expectations.

I know you?re going to suggest therapy, and I think it?s a good idea. We had some several years ago when we were dealing with one of our kids? learning disabilities. I just don?t know how she will react when she is the named patient, and we?re there to address her lack of sexual desire. How should I approach this topic?

**- Counting the Days in D.C.**

Dear Counting:

Yes, we both agree that counseling is a good idea, but let me elaborate on that point.

The purpose of inviting a third party (Read: the therapist) into this conversation is to set some ground rules about how the communication is going to go. If we were all capable of speaking to our spouse in that calm, safe and connected manner already, this problem already would be solved. Most of us don?t have these skills right out of the box (or even after 20 years). So, instead, we use other methods to try and get what we want. We argue. We badger. We ignore. We use passive aggression. We manipulate. These are the unconscious tools we use to get our way. Yes, they are ubiquitous, but they rarely work without costing a price of some kind: long-term resentment, emotional isolation or foggy denial ? take your pick.

A good couples counselor can help you feel comfortable enough to say what you need to say and help Wife be comfortable enough to hear it. Plus, employing an entirely new conversational paradigm might mirror the entirely new life paradigm you?re about to enter: Empty Nesting. I applaud the effort to be proactive as you start this very new chapter.

I do have one caveat. My guess is that you already employ some of the unconscious methods of getting what you want or convincing yourself that you don?t need it. Otherwise, you wouldn?t be 20 years into a ?low-sex marriage? that you admit is dissatisfying. Before you bring Wife into the counseling room to talk about her low libido, consider your own side to this story. How is it that you have fantasies about having more sex after the kids are grown, yet she doesn?t know about it already? How have you been hiding this from her? I guarantee this kind of conversation will be part of any couples therapy. So, in the interest of you not finding yourself blindsided, try a little more introspection about why you?ve maintained a dissatisfying sex life for so long, whether your frequent-sex fantasies do include Wife, and what your real goals are. When you?re clear about that, please approach her by saying, ?I think counseling would help me with XYZ, will you come with me?? Avoid naming her as the ?patient.? In other words, the phrase, ?Let?s deal with your low-sex problem,? should never be a part of your script.

*Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions. Send them confidentially to*

Murphy?s Love: Advice on Intimacy and RelationshipsNovember 30, 2011

November 30, 2011

Dear Stacy,

My younger sister just announced that she is pregnant, following a short relationship with a guy she is no longer dating. She lives across the country, while the rest of our family is in the D.C. area. My parents and I were shocked by this turn of events but are starting to get excited about the idea. I know it will be hard for her to raise a baby alone so far away from us, but she has not said she wants to move home yet. I?m getting a lot of questions from our extended family like ?What is she thinking?? and ?Why aren?t you making her move back?? While I see their point and definitely agree that it could be easier on her if she lived near us, that?s not my decision to make. I don?t know how to respond when people ask me so many questions. I know they wouldn?t dream of being so blunt with her directly. What to do?

**-Auntie to Be in D.C.**

Dear Auntie,

Congratulations! Not just on your soon-to-be aunt status, but also on your restraint about telling Sister what she ?should do? next. It can be hard to keep your mouth shut when you see someone making choices you wouldn?t have made ? just look at all those dear extended family members who can?t seem to exercise the same self-control.

You are right, it will be hard for her to raise a baby alone, and she might decide to move close for some extra support and babysitters. But she won?t make that decision any faster if she?s pressured to do so. In fact, your extended family knows this as well, which is why they aren?t pressuring her to move, they?re pressuring you to get her to move. When some of us are faced with a ?crisis? (whatever the definition may be) we move into fix-it mode in order to manage our own anxiety about the situation, usually without being asked. It sounds like the extended family is trying to fix it for Sister, hoping that you will be the messenger. That?s a particularly challenging position ? you might feel like Sister?s mouthpiece, Grandma?s confidant, and Uncle?s sounding board all at the same time. It?s a narrow space: On one side you are the press secretary, on the other you are at risk of being pulled into the sticky business of family gossip.

If you can tolerate the extended family?s good intentions (there are good intentions under there, I promise) and hold the anxiety, keeping it away from Sister, fantastic. If you can?t, or don?t want to, or notice that the price is too much to bear (hair falling out, nail biting, road rage, the usual signs), set your own limits with those good intentions. For example, ?Thanks for your input, but I?m not talking about this anymore,? or the like, is a short, to-the-point way of saying, ?Keep me out of this.? Even if she never knows about it, Sister will benefit from your boundaries. And she?s going to need you on her side.

**Dear Stacy,**

**My wife routinely falls asleep in our 5-year-old daughter?s bed. When this happens ? about five nights a week ? she usually crawls into our bed sometime in the night and we wake up together. It frustrates me that she thinks this is okay. How can I get her to understand that this is not okay behavior?**

**-Sleeping in a King Bed Alone**

Dear Sleeping King,

Well, I don?t have a lot to go on here, but let?s summarize. You want help in getting her to understand that falling asleep in your daughter?s room is not okay. But see, it might actually be okay.

It might be okay if there is a compelling reason for your daughter to need mom in her room at night (e.g., a medical condition). It might be okay if you and Wife are able to have alone time, intimacy, and connection, elsewhere. It might be okay if everything is going well in your relationship already. It might be okay for this behavior to continue if these conditions are met. But from what you?ve said, and more so what you haven?t said, I?m going to surmise that you are unconvinced by her reasons, and that you might be feeling neglected yourself. As one with two small kids at home, I know from personal experience that the blessed time between their bedtime and ours is precious, fleeting and crucial to a happy partnership.

Does she know how you feel? What I mean by ?feel? is how you feel, not how you judge her behavior, or what you believe about her decision-making. How you feel might be abandoned, lonely, sad, embarrassed or worried about what this means for your relationship. When we start the conversation by naming how someone?s actions make us feel in this way, it often makes it easier for the other person to really hear our concerns, and not get caught up in defending her behavior. If she knows that you are missing the connected feeling of being next to her when you fall asleep, she might realize that she is missing that as well, and make more of an effort to resume your bedtime routine.

*Stacy Notaras Murphy is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. Her website is This column is meant for entertainment only, and it should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. We really do want your questions. Send them confidentially to*

In With the Old

November 21, 2011

The notion of “antiquing” in quaint outskirt towns might seem like a bit of a cliché. It does tend to conjure up images of a Sunday afternoon spent rummaging around bins of old photographs, trying on estate jewelry and looking for that perfect mid-century hallway bench. Some might say such activity is best left to the ladies in fanny packs.

Yet antiques have taken on a whole new place in our culture. Now partnered with the green movement of recycling goods and appreciating local markets, having a piece of the past adorning one’s home or office has become a requirement for stylish decor. A modern kitchen without reclaimed tins and crates for storage? Unheard of. And where would the new metal bed from CB2 be without the oil portrait circa 1932 hanging above it?

So it’s not exactly a unique notion to spend weekends choosing from history’s glorious remains. What breathes whole new life into the activity, however, is throwing antiquing into the frenetic culture of the fast approaching Black Friday.

Black Friday. Those two little words strike fear and dizziness into the hearts of holiday shoppers everywhere. Just watching those department store commercials surrounding Thanksgiving is cause for high blood pressure. Three floors of anxiety-ridden super-shoppers with armfuls of swag and hearts full of vengeance are enough to make the most focused and determined of us assume the fetal position. When did a loving, thoughtful tradition become grouped into the category of dreaded annual events like dentist appointments and tax season?

It happened right around the time large corporate chain stores decided to turn the process of shopping – at its best a slow, thoughtful, even cathartic process with lunch scheduled somewhere in the middle – into competition. Mark-ups then mark-downs are planned to reel in rowdy crowds for that terrifying annual Friday. But do the gifts really mean anything? Do your in-laws really need another set of matching pajamas from Sears? It’s simply not worth it.

This year, forget about it. Antique shopping is the new Black Friday.

Antique shopping requires a more heartfelt approach than clearing off a shelf of scented candles at Bed Bath & Beyond. There’s a sense of quiet victory in finding a tea set for your favorite aunt. And perhaps, if you strike antique gold, she’ll turn the saucer upside down to discover it was made the same year she got married.

With the perfect gift-giving accomplished, it’s okay to be a little self-serving while scooting delicately through the aisles of fragile relics. For those hosting a Thanksgiving dinner, go ahead and look for that perfect mid-century hallway bench. Who cares if it’s going to be covered with coats and hats for most of the weekend? You’ll be using the Victorian pie server you found as an excuse to show off your new estate ring.

Must-Browse Antique Districts


1) East Washington and Madison Streets
Middleburg, Virginia
With the Middleburg Antique Emporium, Hastening Antiques, Ltd., JML French Antiques and the like, downtown Middleburg is a worthy hour-long drive on 50 West for some quality relic-hunting.

2) King and Market Streets
Leesburg, Virginia
Historic downtown Leesburg has an impressive collection of collectibles stores tucked into its main cross streets. Its proximity to the old (and still in-use) courthouse gives shoppers a taste for Federal-style finds.

3) East Main Street/North Massanutten Street
Front Royal, Virginia
This town has two main neighborhoods for vintage goods. East Main Street hosts treasures like Vintage Swank and Helen’s while North Massannutten is home to Strasborg Emporium, Bull Run Relics and Heirloom. Make time for both stops.

4) Caroline Street
Fredericksburg, Virginia
No need to wander if antiques are the mission in Fredericksburg. Every storefront waits right on Caroline Street so it’s a straight shot to places like Beck’s Antiques and Books, Market Square Antiques and Picket Post.


1) South Carroll and East Patrick Streets
Frederick, Maryland
Downtown Frederick is easy to find from route 270…and so are the stores. The highest concentration of old goods is found at the intersection of South Carroll and East Patrick Streets, where mainstays like Cannon Hill and Old Glory await.

2) Main Street
Ellicott City, Maryland
This old suburb of Baltimore is like-minded to Fredericksburg in that they keep their antiques together on display. The row of vintage retailers goes in a straight line up Main Street, starting with Retropolitan, Ltd. to the west and ending with Vintage Girls to the east.

3) West Howard Avenue
Kensington, Maryland
The West Howard Antiques district has become something of a legend since its establishment 40 years ago. As a large tourist attraction for the town of Kensington, the area doesn’t disappoint with its tiny maze of stores. Finding each address takes a little exploring, so don’t ignore the alleyways and staircases.

4) Dorchester Avenue
Cambridge, Maryland
The Packing House, a giant warehouse situated on the Eastern shore, is a mega-mall of antique dealers – more than 100, to be exact, in the 60,000-square-foot facility.

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Thankful to be Thankful

November 16, 2011

Thanksgiving is the time of year when we are reminded to give thanks for the wonderful things in our lives and for all of our blessings. With so many varying cultures, at every age and stage in life, what we value to give thanks for will naturally differ from person to person. Turning 70 this year has given me a new perspective on thankfulness: it’s one thing to be thankful for something or for someone, but I would have not the chance if I were not here to be thankful in the first place!

One gift of living longer is appreciating the ability to be alive in new ways. With age comes the loss of so many near and dear. Thus, it’s only in recent years that I understand and appreciate what I heard from elders when I was young, “As long as you have your health…” Therefore, I’m most thankful to be thankful to still be alive and healthy.

As a child, I was thankful for other happenings and things: parents who tried their best to give me opportunities. In my twenties and thirties, I was thankful for education, marriage, and ultimately freedom to adventure beyond my wildest dreams and to travel the world; trains, planes and automobiles, and yes, boats too were all fabulous experiences. So was the opportunity to meet with spiritual leaders, seek my own way, and become a licensed pilot. Bumps, bruises, excitement, challenges—I was thankful to be alive to experience it and thankful to have survived the adventure!

After many losses and some challenging times, ultimately I was thankful to have a family of my own and to succeed at a profession that I loved. The next decades brought new creativity as I began to write, speak and appear on national media programs. I learned that I was an educator at heart and that in between would be illnesses and losses that would knock me down time and time again. Through it all, I was thankful to have just gotten through, to have laughed, loved and lived.

Now, at 70, I’ve decided I’m just thankful to be thankful. I’m not dead, I’m not sick, I’m not bound to a wheelchair and I still have my wits. Just to be alive, to live another day of opportunity, to share more hours with my daughters and grandsons…I’m thankful to be thankful. Oh! And to have the energy to continue learning and adventuring—if it’s true that comfort and stagnation tends to kill, I’m bound to be around for another hundred years!

In “these tough economic times” it can be hard to find things to be thankful for. Millions of Americans are suffering with bank accounts that cannot support the weight of the upcoming holiday season. Many Americans cannot support the weight of tomorrow. These are the times to be most generous and grateful.

If we have enough to eat and are still in our homes and can manage a wry attitude change, some may even manage to ultimately be thankful for the recession because it has taught us what not to take for granted and allowed us the ability to appreciate what we have when we have it.

Whether you are a Republican or Democrat or Tea Party or Muslim or black or white or African or Chinese, atheist or Roman Catholic, be thankful for the opportunity to interact, to share, to grow together, to learn from one another and to affect positive change in our world. And be thankful for the challenges we endure that educate us about ourselves and the world we live in, because these are our lessons to learn in order to teach those who follow us.

What’s New In Wine Country?

November 3, 2011

We in the greater D.C. area have been fortunate enough to be involved in the growth and expansion of our own wine country. Virginia now boasts about 160 wineries, with more on the way. Maryland is at about 30 now and growing as well. This industry is agriculture based and therefore has a lot of advantages and challenges. Vintners spend a lot of capital getting started through learning the process, acquiring land, planting and training vines, constructing buildings, purchasing barrels, tanks and equipment and setting up tasting rooms to present our wines. The great thing about all of this investment is that these businesses — and the industry as a whole — should be here for a very long time.

Planning for the future is a very important thing. As I get a new customer in our tasting room, I always feel that if we do things right, we will see them again. Good quality, hand crafted wines at a fair price, polite and personal service focusing on education and comfort, and appealing grounds and décor make a difference to people. They may return or look for our wines in their local wine shop or restaurant. This objective is shared by many wineries across Virginia, and the customer base continues to grow. People that buy my wine will purchase many other wines as well, both locally and from around the world. Because we all invest so much up front, we have to stick around a while in order for this thing to make sense. The best way to continue is to always work to improve quality. Exciting wines are being made everywhere that people focus on quality. As you visit a winery, be sure to let them know how you like their wines and the visit in general. This new sport of winery hopping is really catching on.

Here are a few thoughts about what is actually going on in the vineyard and cellar of our winery and probably most of the wineries in the area. The fruit in the vineyards has just set. The berries are about the size of small peas, but are growing every day. The leaves around them are getting rather thick, so our task today is to pull some leaves and some small lateral shoots to open up the area around the fruit, increasing sunlight and air flow. This will prevent mildew and other fungi from developing on the fruit and help it develop deep, rich and ripe flavors at harvest time. We may come through the vineyard two or three times to open up the fruit zone, depending on how much rain we receive during the growing season. The other main job is hedging. As we tuck the long, green shoots into the trellising wires, they will continue to grow towards the sun. We will trim these so they will not flop over and shade the fruit they are supposed to ripen. Warm days, sunshine and rainfall all add to this dance we call canopy management. The work is very labor intensive but also very therapeutic. Knowing that the time you spend will greatly increase the quality of the wine made is a great feeling.

At Fabbioli Cellars, we are preparing to bottle wine next week. The 2009 Cabernet Franc blend was first made on the bench level. Samples are taken from each of the barrels and then tasted for attributes and characters that will add to the blend. Then the wines are measured using graduated cylinders and pipettes to make an accurate sample blend of the wine. This process can be done numerous times, adding or removing barrels or parts of barrels for the blend. To season a wine to perfection, many winemakers will use a little wine made from other varieties, bringing some more character to the aroma or smoothing out the finish. Legally a winery can use 25 percent of other varieties in a blend and still use a single varietal name on the label. But it is always important that the name on the label reflect the character of the wine in the bottle. Once we finalize the blend, we pull out the pump, clean the tanks and pump the barrels to make the blend. Most wineries in the area use one of four mobile bottling lines in the area. These are basically an assembly line inside of a truck. We schedule these well ahead of time and can bottle about 1200 cases of wine per day. It’s one big piece of equipment that we do not have to invest in ahead of time.

Many wineries offer different opportunities to experience the winemaking process. Check Web sites, calendars of events and ask about how you can learn more. We are all in this business for the long haul and we appreciate all of the loyal customers we have gained over the years. Be sure to buy local and visit your local winery or farm for a taste of nature’s bounty. Cheers.
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Forever Alchimie

Georgetown is known for having many gems and specialty stores, and Alchimie Forever is not one to be forgotten. Located at 1010 Wisconsin Ave., tucked away next to Poltrona Frau, Alchimie Forever provides women and men with a line of noninvasive yet effective skin care products. Dr. Luigi Polla, a leader in the field of cosmetic laser therapy, with the help of his wife Barbra Polla, a biomedical researcher, realized the benefits of antioxidants and stress proteins for many of his patients. In the winter of 1997, Dr. Luigi converted his practice into the Forever Laser Institute. With the combination of spa-like services and medical treatments, Forever Institute became the center of having visibly improved skin results without the need of extreme skin care procedures.

In 2000, the Alchimie Forever skin care line was born. With the lack of harsh chemicals and use of natural products such as blueberries, grapes, and synthetic acids, (all extremely beneficial for their antioxidant properties) all helped in the maintaining and clarifying of one’s skin.

In 2003, surrounded by the knowledge of skin care and maintenance, their daughter Ada Polla made it her mission to develop the line’s brand and visibility. To further the spa’s mission, the family launched Alchimie Forever in 2003. Becoming the CEO of a successful skincare line at the age of 25, Ada took on the challenge with a team of eight who’ve made the products available and used in popular spas like Hela Spa (3209 M St.), Somafit (2121 Wisconsin Ave.), Grooming Lounge (1745 L St.) and various locations throughout New York and overseas. ?

When asked why she decided to open the flagship location in Georgetown, Polla explained that she “felt like a big fish in a smaller pond in the world of skincare” in the District. She goes on to explain that D.C. was such a niche market, and besides her love of the city, she feels this was the perfect market for her products.

When asked about Alchimie’s philosophy, Polla was quick to stress the importance of care for the entire self. As she quoted her father, “you can always tell a woman’s age by her hands and her décolleté (chest).” It is clear that one must care for more then just the face. Though they specialize in facial care, Alchimie’s body care products are clearly meant to nature and heal the skin. Alchimie will not make promises (and no product can) of creating a face 10 years younger or giving you the skin of a 16-year-old, but will promise to improve and make the best of what you are giving. By making the best of what you have and “achieving the best skin possible,” a person can not help but to be beautiful.

To learn more about Alchimie Forever, visit,
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Great Escapes

Summer is here, and for many, that means a much-needed break. Think fun in the sun, foreign flings, films, food and a chance for the exotic to become the exciting every day.

But before your body joins your imagination for a stroll along some foreign street or an adventure abroad, remember that a great escape isn’t all that far away.

This feature celebrates the sophistication and spirit that is to be found in a summer spent in New England. Travelers will discover a genuine hospitality and warmth that is all-American and all-welcoming. The Northeast also does not see nearly as much tourist traffic as other top summer destinations, meaning you’ll have more traveler elbow room. I found that the area has a way of accommodating anyone’s tastes and interests. New England boasts a rich history and an active gourmet and wine scene, promising summer performances, scenic beauty, friendly people and an unhurried, unharried atmosphere.

More than ever, the inn has enjoyed a revival that goes beyond the typical hotel room. Many innkeepers are celebrating the character and charm of their historic “inn-stitutions” while giving their guests the pleasure of an excellent culinary experience. The three inns featured below each have a gastronomic master leading the kitchen, and each has earned its share of awards and recognition from top reviewers. Bon appetit.

The Bramble Inn
Brewster, MA
Rooms from $158, Average Entrée $28

Centered in the historic section of Brewster, the Bramble Inn is best known for its owners Cliff and Ruth Manchester, who have kept the charm and character of the inn at its peak for 26 years. The inn-keeping magic runs in the family. Cliff grew up in the hospitality industry working with his parents before he and his wife began managing inns. Each of their daughters worked at the Bramble growing up, with one daughter and her husband now managing an inn that Ruth and Cliff used to own. There is an undeniably familial air about the place.

A major component to the inn’s character is its age. Built around 1861, the inn is a noted historical landmark, and Ruth and Chris cherish its history. Interior renovations and decoration are continuous in an effort to keep up with the times, without adversely affecting the inn’s antique charm. Guests are also enjoying a new bar addition, which attracts a younger and more local crowd that loves the bar menu and a cozy familiar place to have a drink. Modern additions, though, haven’t stamped out its heritage: the closet of room three apparently plays host to a benevolent female ghost the owners believe was a baker. The closet always smells of fresh bread and stories of a calm presence have been shared among the staff.

Of course, the inn would be nothing without its restaurant, which “reflects that of a sea captain’s home and what would be served at a sea captain’s table,” says Chris. Here there is a love for the local bounty of fresh seafood — Ruth admits to having a “fish fetish,” New England lobster being her favorite ingredient.

The menu changes monthly and is Ruth’s brainchild, but there is continuous inspiration and collaboration from a newly hired kitchen staff. As seasonal as the menu is, there are two dishes that have remained on the menu as consistent favorites: chicken in paper with lazy lobster and the seafood curry. Ruth’s tastes have been influenced by her travels and her love for interesting spice is alive in the seafood curry. The sauce is vibrant and flavorful and adds a new dimension to the perfectly cooked seafood while tying in jasmine rice and the textural intricacies of the crunchy toasted coconut, almonds and grilled banana.

Bouchard Inn & Restaurant
Newport, RI
Rooms from $179, Average Entrée $35

Welcome to the Bouchard, nestled in the heart of Newport’s busy shopping and dining area. Also successfully run by a husband and wife team, Sarah and Albert Bouchard love what they do and have earned the praise and esteem of the Newport community — guests, diners and critics alike.

The Georgian-style inn was originally built in 1785 and the original beams are still visible. It was at one point a brothel and, naturally, a frequent haunt of sailors docked nearby. Later, it was attached to a greenhouse and thought to be used by the Vanderbilt family. Under multiple owners, the lower level became a restaurant in the ’60s and ’70s and underwent a renovation in 1990.

The Bouchards ensure the inn’s status as the “happening place,” catering to a crowd of guests that can range from the elderly Newport old guard to young visitors to foodies or guests from abroad. At the inn, guests will find a wooden folding tray against the wall by their door, solely for the purpose of breakfast served at their leisure. The fabulous landscape mural along one wall shows France’s Saint Tropez. It’s easy to be entranced from the get-go.

But as Albert and Sarah say, “once they’ve tried the restaurant, they are ours forever.” I believe them. Crafting what he calls “creative classic” cuisine, Albert — a Cordon Bleu-trained chef — takes inspiration from the great Joel Robuchon, the classic technique and small plate presentation that he learned while in France. His passion for food shows. Everything is made on site, including the bread. Sarah is the baker and I was lucky enough to enjoy a roll hot from the oven. Bliss.

The menu is Albert’s work, inspired by seasonal ingredients. The widest menu variety can be seen in the specials, but certain dishes, such as the Dover sole with sorrel sauce or the coffee-encrusted duck breast, have become popular classics. Albert is also known for his soufflés and mousses. Overall, the menu is well balanced, with some dishes sporting oriental influences and an impressive haul of Newport’s freshest seafood. Small wonder the inn is booming and the restaurant continues to draw rave reviews.

The Maidstone (and The Living Room)
East Hampton, NY
Rooms from $495, Average Entrée $30

Our final destination is all famous and all posh: the Hamptons, or East Hampton, to be exact. The crowd that frequents this area mingles with a social elite where haute cuisine, haute couture and haute heels are on constant display throughout the season. The cream of this high-society crop is East Hampton’s largest hotel, The Maidstone, a historical building that dates back to the 18th century and is remarkably well preserved, at least on the outside. However, the interior and concept has been reworked under its new owner, Jenny Ljungberg of Sweden, and is introducing a new an exciting experience to the guests.

Ljungberg imports a Swedish influence to the hotel, a concept she calls “Scandinavian cozy.” Renovations began in 2008.

The hotel is entirely dog-friendly, even offering a menu for any canine companions. Bicycles are provided for guests, along with room amenities that stay true to the luxurious and natural theme that can be seen throughout the hotel. Each room’s interior design is inspired by historical personalities of Scandinavian heritage. Artists, authors, botanists, and even the famous Alfred Nobel each have their own rooms, giving guests another way to learn from their experience.

But the real highlight is The Living Room restaurant, based upon the slow-food movement (that is, dining antithetical to America’s fast food culture) and led by the enthusiastic, talented and friendly Executive Chef Jonathan Carpenter. The slow-food movement focuses on preparing dishes with local and sustainable ingredients that support local farmers and artisans, giving diners an appreciation for local, fresh products that celebrate the ingredients’ natural flavor. The menu is Scandinavian-themed, introducing a cuisine that is, for the most part, not widely known in the United States. Overall, the hotel gives guests a taste of Swedish culture while paying attention to detail and anticipating every guest’s needs.

Also important to the restaurant is the descriptive aspect of the menu. Diners are given information about the history of a certain dish or where a particular ingredient comes from. The Living Room’s bread, for instance, comes in from the Blue Duck bakery, famous throughout the region.

Carpenter has been in the Hamptons for 12 years, after working mainly in the American South. His slow-food philosophy has been formed over the years through his work under great chefs at great restaurants, where he learned about celebrating and respecting the ingredients being used. He has great relationships with local farmers and artisans, and is always excited to be “putting our best in our guests’ dinner.” The Living Room is becoming the benchmark for restaurants hearkening back to high-quality standards with a leisurely pace. Fresh seafood is guaranteed. A few Swedish products are imported specifically for certain items on the menu, such as herring and lingonberries. Try the home-made gravlax or a Capatano Farms goat cheese tart paired with a homemade lingonberry sorbet, or the ever-classic toast skagen. As Chef Carpenter puts it, “The freshness and locality of the ingredients speak for themselves.”

Full-time sommelier Kelly is a recent addition to the team and oversees all wine pairings and management of the hotel’s wine club. Membership in this club allows members to keep wines in the Maidstone’s top facilities and access the extensive resources and wine lists that cater to all tastes from all parts of the world. The culinary team was actually sent out to Sweden to visit Ljungberg’s other hotels, truly experience Swedish culture and cuisine and bring it back to The Maidstone. This great restaurant pairs perfectly with the Maidstone, which looks to become the new hot spot in the already-haute Hamptons.

Driving along the many New England roads and taking in some scenery, any summer vacation spent in New England has the same magic as any trip abroad. Sometimes the best times can be beautifully simple and so very, very close. Enjoy New England, my fellow leisure lovers — I know I did.