Spring break is a gift from the heavens. The skies open up, the sun beams down among the people, and the gods grant teachers their one, true wish…a week off. Teachers have been counting down the days to spring break since the winter break, and the eagerness and excitement that they feel before that Friday dismissal bell rings is palpable. The happy dances that you see as the busses drive away are embarrassing, but there is nothing so joyous…except maybe the happy dances that you see on the last day of school. Don’t get me wrong. I love what I do (most days) and I love the students I teach, but I cherish these breaks as if they were, as I mentioned before, gifts from the gods.
This break, Mr. Grape Pairings and I went to VA Beach for a few days to go birding/hiking. We went to four specific places to see birds; Grandview Nature Preserve, First Landing State Park, Back Bay/False Cape State Park, and the Great Dismal Swamp’s Jericho Ditch. Each place’s environment was completely different, and it was amazing to see how vast and diverse Virginia is. Every day, we woke up at the crack of dawn, made packed lunches, and went out to be in the great outdoors.
Grandview was all beach, and we hiked for about 5 miles along the shore. We saw a lot of ducks, loons, Sanderlings, and gulls. Well, Mr. Grape Pairings saw all of those birds…I was watching the ground to make sure that we didn’t step on any Jellyfish, especially because I was barefoot!
At First Landing, the terrain was more of a woodsy path.
The trees were very high, which made it difficult to spot a lot of smaller birds. We did, however, see lots of osprey and heron.
Back Bay/False Cape State Park was probably our longest, yet most favorite birding/hiking adventure. There was a paved path, but it was along side a marsh, allowing us to see water birds and birds that live in woodsier areas. Ducks, Ibis, gnatcatchers, and warblers were seen everywhere, among other birds! We hiked around 12 miles that day, and our feet/backs were hurting by the end of the day.
Our last adventure was at the Great Dismal Swamp, which was exactly as its name described…dismal. It was buggy, humid, and creepy, as there was not a soul at the park. However, Mr. Grape Pairings saw numerous amount of warblers that he had never seen before. All in all, we saw over 60 species, and about 10 lifers!
Now, you may be wondering, what was in this trip for me? A spring break from the gods could not consist of that much birding and no wine. Of course not! I got to choose the dinner restaurants, which had fabulous seafood and wine options. One restaurant we loved so much, we went back the next night for dinner! We also went to Williamsburg Winery at Wessex One Hundred, a winery that is too far away to visit if we were home, but was on the way back from Virginia Beach to DC.
Williamsburg Winery is located just outside of Colonial Williamsburg. It is easy to get to, right off of I-64 and down a few side roads. You are greeted with quite an entrance. A colonial styled sign, wine barrel decor, and rows and rows of vineyards on both sides of the long, winding driveway took your breath away, especially on a gorgeous day like we were having. It was like driving through the vineyards of Tuscany; not like I have ever done that, but imagine it would be like that if I ever had the pleasure of driving through the vineyards of Tuscany.
Upon entering the main area, there are three buildings. The blue one is the restaurant that they have on site. If we didn’t have our lunches right before, we would have eaten there. The food smelled delicious just from passing by. The two yellow buildings are for the tastings and the café. For tastings, you enter the building right in the middle of the winery’s small store. Wines, wine accessories, and some colonial trinkets are some of the purchases that you can make. You purchase your wine tasting tickets at the cash register before going into the tasting room. Tickets are for either a regular or reserved tasting. The regular tasting ($10) allows you to choose 6 wines from about 15 of them. The reserved tasting ($15) gives you 7 tastings of Williamsburg’s finest. These are the most reserved/premium of their wines. Whenever I am able to get a reserved tasting, I always go for it. This gives you a taste of the best that the winery has to offer, and you can often detect more of the nuances that goes into each wine.
The main tasting room is a huge ballroom with wooden floors, knights, and old colonial tapestries. Long standing tables were in a circular position around the room. Michael was our taster that day, and let me tell ya, he was able to work a room. There were so many groups the day that we went, and he was the only person pouring, but he didn’t miss a beat. He knew which wine the groups were on, told us about each wine with great detail, made some jokes, and answered any questions that we had. Way to go, Michael! At each table, there was a basket of the yummy Pepperidge Farm crackers. You must know the ones I am talking about..the mixed party crackers. One is in the shape of a butterfly, some are rectangular, some large circles, some dark wheat, some butter flavored… I personally love the butterfly ones. The wines from the reserved tasting were:
- Wedmore Place Cremant de Loire: This bubbly used grapes from a friend winery in the Loire Valley of France. It was full of pear and honey with a refreshing texture. This would make a wonderful sushi pairing!
- 2015 Vintage Reserve Chardonnay: This was probably my favorite white. This Chardonnay was unlike any other that I have had before. The taste had a lot of pineapple and banana, and had an interesting gravely texture. It made the wine much more savory than fruity. I rather enjoyed it! It was also Mr. Grape Pairing’s favorite, though he tends to go for sweeter whites. Pair this with any kind of curry, and you are sure to have a winner!
- 2014 Wessex Hundred Merlot: This merlot had a much spicier aroma than I was expecting, especially for the fruity mouthfeel and taste that it had. The taste was mostly dark cherries and strawberry. It had a smooth finish with a medium low tannins from the oaky spice I sensed in the bouquet. A chicken with cherry/plum chutney would go well.
- 2014 Wessex Hundred Petit Verdot: For the rest of the wines, Michael said that from here out out, it was more intense flavors of the Merlot, aka “More-lot” (ha-ha). Basically, as you go down the list, you will get more dark cherry/strawberry/spicy notes that were detected from the Merlot. This Petit Verdot, a grape Virginia has learned how to produce well, has those same characteristics, but I had some added toast and blackberry flavors. This wine is great for pork, such as pulled barbecue pork or brisket.
- 2014 Trianon: 75% Cabernet Franc, 25% Petit Verdot. I very much enjoyed this wine, not only because it was “More-lot” than the Petit Verdot, but because of how the spicy and bitter flavors (sassafras, cola, black tea) with the plum and blackberry fruity flavors produced an amazingly smooth wine. Beef tips or Beef and Broccoli would make a great pair. Substitute Portobello or Seitan for the beef if you are vegetarian.
- 2014 Gabriel Archer Reserve: 33% Merlot, 33%Petit Verdot, 34% Cabernet Franc. All of the wines that we just had are now blended into this beautiful, Bordeaux styled red blend. It had a fruit forward nose with a full body. All of those berry flavors from the reds that we had previously were enhanced by notes of figs, anise, and cocoa. This wine is a wine pairing dream. It can be paired with almost any dish you throw in front of it, due to the light, fruity nose and the heavier, spicy body. A roasted lamb or Eggplant Parmesan are two examples I thought of right away.
- 2014 Adagio: The star of the afternoon; 74% Petit Verdot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 9% Merlot. This wine is so fabulous that they actually use a completely different bottle. The bottle is 3 pounds alone, and that is so that the light does not destroy the wine as it cellars. The wine’s color alone is breathtaking. It is a garnet color that should be made into a piece of jewelry. All berries you can think of (straw, blue, black, cran, rasp…) are crammed into this bouquet with a subtle hint of violet and bark. Date and figs appear on the palate, with a vanilla oak finish. While tannic, the wine was still somehow smooth. I don’t care how you pair this wine. It was amazing enough that even if not a good pairing, it would be a good pairing.
- After the tasting, I bought a glass of the 2015 Dry Rosé to drink while sitting outside at a picnic table. Made from Cabernet Franc and Vinot Blanc, this wine had oodles of citrus. I mostly had pineapple and strawberry flavors. It was crisp and dry, with a very light body. I enjoyed this on it’s own, but I could see oysters going very well. As we were sitting, Mr. Grape Pairings saw a Cooper’s Hawk, the 61st species he saw on our trip 🙂
I very much enjoyed the Williamsburg Winery. While there were a few picnic tables, most people were enjoying the wine at the restaurant where they had patio seating. Including us, there were only two groups sitting on the lawn, which was somewhat small. You can bring your own picnic food, and children are welcome. This winery, to me, seemed better fit for couples of small groups of friends, though you can reserve one of the tasting rooms for larger groups. Williamsburg Winery often has events with their restaurants, which I would love to go to one time. The winery is open 11:30-5:30 Monday-Thursday, and 11:30-6:30 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. For more information, please visit their website, Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. As always, let me know if you go and what you think!