I think I will write a series about wine, since most people who know me immediately think Cherie=Wine. To be more specific I would like to focus mostly on the wine and winery experience. Access to beautiful wineries is one of my very favorite things about living in Virginia. I will not plan to rate wines because I am non-discriminatory. I will leave rating wines to others who swish and sniff and talk about notes of chocolate and peach, wine needing to breathe, and legs (who knew wine had appendages?) I pretty much like it all; I am in it for the happy. I associate wine with fun and friends, nice dinners, and lovely drives down sun-speckled stretches of country road to a gleaming winery on a hill. To those places where we share more than wine, we laugh and talk and confess and ordered the cheese plate and are…. girls together. Or a couple together on a rare and special adults-only outing, where my husband (who does not drink) is always the DD so I never have to behave myself. These memories are wine to me.
My love affair with wine started in Italy, and how could it not? As college students studying abroad, my pack were solid beer drinkers, or the drinkers of grain alcohol punch at the fraternities. God, how awful in retrospect. No, wine wasn’t the thing in college. At Penn State it was pony bottles of Rolling Rock at the delightfully seedy underground bar known as the Rathskeller.
In Italy though…. wine was freely poured and no one ever asked for ID. A late lunch with delicious pasta and a carafe of wine, and we were happily buzzed for afternoon classes. I can admit this now, all these years later, and I’ve never told my parents: Sometimes I didn’t even make it to class. We were in Rome, for goodness sake. What we had been seeing in the art history books was now right in front of us. Glorious. The Vatican and St. Peters Basilica were within walking distance. I daresay learning doesn’t get any more real than standing before the Pieta and pondering life, religion and art.
Wine was cheap and easy to come by; you would take your own jug to the vinioli and get it refilled just like a beer growler nowadays. To be drunk was not the thing there. Europeans don’t seem to get drunk at lunch, it isn’t done, and I saw none of it. We would have looked like young American fools if we stumbled out of a restaurant, and we only wanted to be sophisticated like all those impossibly chic and beautiful Italians.
It was at that point that wine became my thing. It was there during that Roman spring that I started to associate wine with some of the best moments of my life, and so it remains.
So, on to the experience…
Just last weekend another great wine memory was made. My husband and I toured a few of the famous plantations along the river between Richmond and Williamsburg. A new winery has opened in that vicinity called the Upper Shirley Vineyard; it is adjacent to but not owned by, America’s oldest plantation, Shirley Plantation. So as a delightful side trip before or after your tasting at the winery, you can tour the plantation, or the others along Route 5–Plantation Row. I recommend right after so you can be happily buzzed like I was, wandering around the historical ruins of Rome. But believe me this plantation is not in ruins, it is gorgeous and chock full of history, and here is the really amazing thing: It has been continuously occupied by generations of the same family. In fact, as we toured, we heard voices on the third floor and the cries and cooing of the 12th generation: twin babies, a boy and a girl who will inherit the legacy of this Virginia treasure.
Upper Shirley Vineyard is Fab-U-Lous. It has quickly become my favorite and it is conveniently one of the closest to me geographically (about 20 minutes from Richmond) so I can, and do, show it off to all who come to visit us. I can gloat about how lucky I am to live in such a place that offers this experience.
You can do the basic tasting of 7 wines ($10) or the Reserve tasting ($14) which includes all the wines. I advise you to do the latter as it involves the bubbly. I’ve said I don’t rate wines, but of course while I love them all, I also have favorites. Upper Shirley’s 2015 Blanc de Blancs 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine is the one I would make the trip for.
The winery’s tasting room is within the restaurant, so you can wait for a table while you enjoy the tasting. Menu is great, view is gorgeous. The stunning building has huge front and back verandas to take in the sweeping fields and vineyard in front and James in back.
So go ahead, get out there and make some memories.