Virginia is for Lovers (Of Wine!)

Why I have not written this post before now is unclear to me; however, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that I am part of the wine lover’s club. To be fair, I get it honestly from my father and his brothers. Some assembly of our family goes to the Dry Creek Valley Passport weekend every year. One uncle has a cellar that is so full, he actually tracks his wine with a spreadsheet. Every cabinet in my dad’s house opens a new assortment of bottles, some with a very scientific color coding system. (At one point my dad tried to use those round color-coding stickers to categorize his wines – ok for us to drink, a bit nicer so we should ask and those to be saved for special occasion. He didn’t bother trying to explain the system to us and now can’t even remember it himself, so clearly it works.)

Needless to say, it’s no surprise that I have a wine problem. And by problem I mean, I don’t know which bottle to drink next because there are too many to choose from. I’ll admit we’ve gone a little overboard – we have another case coming in November! – and I’ve been wondering how we are going to drink all this wine just the two of us, but then I remembered that my dad is coming for Thanksgiving …

To get to the point , one of the best parts about living in DC is being close to Virginia wine country. I know what you’re thinking, “Virginia has wine country?” Ok, if you’ve read this far, you have probably at least heard of Virginia wines, but may not realize that many are actually very good. Virginia has several different wine regions across the state and hundreds of wineries. Continue reading

Getting Lost

Recently Dave and I had the pleasure of spending time in Lost River, West Virginia with some friends who own a getaway in the mountains. We turned the three day Columbus weekend into four for a much needed break from the hustle and bustle of DC! After a couple conference calls on Friday morning (for Dave) we packed up the pups and our bags and headed west. Our plan was to beat the afternoon traffic, but we got on the road later than we hoped and it seemed everyone else had the same idea.

Jackie was unhappy about the traffic

Jackie was unhappy about the traffic

Finally we made it out of the Route 66 “parking lot” and made our first stop at Valerie Hill Vineyard. We love going wine tasting in Virginia and try to incorporate a new winery (or old favorite like Aspen Dale!) whenever we can. A Valerie Hill, tastings take place in the old brick manor house, with many different rooms to sit and enjoy. We bellied up to one of the tasting bars and finally relaxed while taking our first sips. While we did not purchase anything, I actually enjoyed their 2013 Chardonnay and normally I am a red girl!

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Euroadventure 2014: The Hills are Alive

If you know me, you know I love The Sound of Music. As a child, I would watch it on repeat (along with Dirty Dancing and West Side Story). So you probably know what’s coming. Even if you don’t know me and you just read the title of this post (or my Liebster Award post), you can likely guess what’s coming. Before I make you wade through all the details, I will tell you that yes, we DID go on a Sound of Music tour. (!!!)

It was day #2 in Austria, and we were in Vienna. While planning the trip, neither of us were jumping up and down with excitement about Vienna’s sights, and we usually like to take time on our trips to get out of the “city,” wherever that might be. Unfortunately by the time we realized this, we could not cancel our hotel in Vienna, so we decided to use it as “storage” for one night and head west. We packed an overnight bag, rented a car and headed for the hills. Literally.

Making our way westward, we passed small towns and large abbeys. Soon the mountains were in sight and we eventually made it to Salzburg. I was a wreck the entire morning. It wasn’t until we checked into our hotel that I finally calmed down a bit. You see, we had a 2 p.m. tour and I was worried we wouldn’t make it.

After checking in we hurried over to the meeting point for the tour and luckily, since we had not eaten lunch, found a “hot dog” cart. Now these are not like New York dogs, which are great in their own way. No, these are delicious, curry-spiced little wursts wrapped in something like a flatbread. We shared a brew to wash them down and went on our way to the bus. It was honestly one of my favorite meals!

Feeling much more relaxed, I started to get excited for the tour. Other participants were dressed in costume, singing songs or talking about their favorite scenes. We loaded the bus and went on our merry way! The first stop was the pond where the kids come in on the row boats and end up falling in (apparently they had to film that scene a couple of times and the water was freezing). The pond is at the front of a home that was actually used as the back terrace. (Ironically the back of another house was used as the front of the von Trapp house in the movie.) The gazebo, which was built for the film, was originally on this property but some crazies kept disturbing its residents with loud singing (hmmm …), so it was moved and now sits on the grounds of the Schloss Hellbrunn palace. This gazebo was used mostly for scenes filmed outside of it, while another in Hollywood was used for the inside filming, like 16 going on 17.

We were experiencing a bit of a torrential downpour, so we ended up driving past some of the sights, including the abbey where Maria was studying to be a nun. Even though we had already been in a car most of the day, I was happy to continue riding along after all the walking we were doing in days prior. We drove through the breathtaking lake district, which is where the opening scene was filmed. They used a helicopter to get aerial shots, and Julie Andrews kept falling down because of the propeller’s winds! Along the drive the entire bus (except Dave and maybe one or two others) sang along to the soundtrack. Yes, there was champagne.

Our last major stop was in a town called Mondsee. The church there was used for the wedding scene as the interior of the abbey due to the small size of the abbey’s actual interior. We had a little time to shop and picked up a few souvenirs as well as pastries!

The tour concluded at the very beginning, in front of the very structured, lush Mirabell Gardens. This was also a popular filming location for the movie, particularly for the scenes of Do-Re-Mi around the fountain, on the stairs and through the trellis.


Dave was so patient and accommodating throughout the tour, I thought he earned a visit to nearby monastery turned brewery, Augustiner. Obviously he didn’t need to twist my arm; I was happy to oblige. Inside the beer hall it smelled a little sour, but the tree-filled outside seating area was a perfect place to sit and enjoy a couple steins. The process to acquire beer is an interesting almost self-serve system. Thanks to Rick Steves we knew what to do! (Grab a mug from the shelf, rinse it out at the watering station, hand to the “bartender” who pulls a draft and gives you a receipt, then take the receipt to the cashier and pay.) We sat and enjoyed the atmosphere while both recapping the trip to that point and thinking about our next stops.

The evening took us along the river, past Mozart’s residence and to Steingasse, a narrow, cobbled alley-like road with various interesting stops. First we noted #9, the birthplace of the man who wrote Silent Night. Next we made note of the wall just before the street narrows – it is gouged out in one spot where an American GI tried to drive a tank through. Steves says it was likely that he was trying to get to the brothel at #24! Even though our goal was to reach the Stein Terrasse for a drink and city vista, we were drawn in by a tiny Italian restaurant. Built into the side of a cave, Koechelverzeichnis, could seat about 20 people and the drink and food menus are written daily on chalkboards.  If I were to be a restaurant, this would be it. We drank wine, snacked and continued to explore, stopping at one other place on Steingasse to have a glass. After a couple failed attempts to order food (admittedly we had waited a little long to dine), we ended up at the restaurant next to our hotel for dinner and more drinks … when eventually we felt compelled to say goodnight!