Wordless Wednesday: WineFest at Sotterley Plantation, Maryland

Wine glass

Crowds at Sotterley

Wine pouring


Spence and Bethany

Through the trees

Sun on porch

Fun at the Riverside WineFest at Sotterley Plantation in Southern Maryland on Saturday. Though our “fall” temperatures peaked in the 90s, we had an enjoyable — albeit slightly sweaty — afternoon!

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A drink for the non-drinker

Wine slushie

Though I’ve never been a drinker, I’ve found a new passion.

Out at the Grape Discovery Center in Westfield, N.Y. (photos coming next week), I was recently introduced to the incredible elixir known as the wine slushie. The place is teeming with wine tastings, exhibits and gorgeous vineyards right outside the door — and all in celebration of the Lake Erie Concord Grape region. Lots of good stuff comes from here, including the grapes used to make Welch’s products.

We smelled grapes. We sipped wine. We talked about grape stuff. A bunch of us ordered grape slushies, and then I tried the boozy version . . . which was just pretty fantastic.

A drink for the non-drinker, if you will.

Until I met Spencer, I can’t say I’d ever really thought about — or even tried — wine. Though we’re far from connoisseurs, we decided to learn something about vino. Through trial and error, we’ve deduced that we both like sweet wines, mostly whites, and can tolerate the occasional red. With his scientific mind, my fiance started making his own wine last year . . . and won “best in show” for one variety at the county fair! (Yes, we totally rock out at the county fair. It’s next weekend and I will so be there.)

We went to Napa Valley last year, swilled wine like pretend fancy people and wandered vineyards dreaming about a different life. I think I like the ambiance of wine — and wineries — even more than drinking the beverages themselves, as evidenced by how much I loved vineyard hopping for a good friend’s bachelorette years ago.

Wine is fun. It’s tasty. It’s a little bit fancy. And though I know hardly anything about anything, I like knowing I can confidently order a white without looking like a total geek.

Other alcohol? Not so much.


In planning my sister’s bachelorette (for this weekend! EEK), I realized just how little I know about, um, partying, bars, shots, etc. I didn’t have the “typical college experience” extolled by coeds everywhere; I commuted to college all four years and wasn’t all that interested in debauchery. (You’re not surprised, right? I mean, I’m a total book nerd. I’m in bed with a novel by 11 p.m. most nights.)

I don’t exactly aspire to being a proficient drinker, but I am 28 years old . . . it looks a little silly when I stand awkwardly at a bar, wishing I could just order a diet soda and be done with it. I’m probably in the minority, but I live by the one-drink-and-out rule: I have a glass of something or other, then quit. Nursing a lone Blue Moon or Sam Adams is usually my M.O., but I go for the wine when I want to look sophisticated.

I usually fail, but I try.

So we’ll see how this goes.

And in the meantime, I’ll keep daydreaming about that wine slushie. That I could chug all day.


Side note: As I was snapping this picture, another guest at the bar joked, “You know, uh, you’re actually supposed to drink that.” Which is a pet peeve. Maybe because I’ve heard it a million times, and some folks don’t take kindly to people photographing food and drink? It offends them? I don’t know. “Don’t worry,” I said, “I’ll get there.”

Virginia vineyard hopping

When my friends Erin and Matt got married in September, they’d accounted for most things leading up to the big day — but not Hurricane Irene, who made her debut on the East Coast the very day we were due to celebrate Erin’s bachelorette party. As torrential rains kicked off a month-long battle with rain and flash flooding in the D.C. area, we were forced to change our plans and reschedule our Virginia vineyard hop for this past weekend.

So Erin wasn’t a bachelorette any longer, but we still had an awesome time partying with a married lady! The rain held off long enough for us to get some great photos of the Shenandoah Valley as we sailed around in our giant Hummer limousine. Just being in a “party vehicle” took me straight back to high school prom, and Rifat and I were in charge of the music — which further made it feel like high school prom. We “threw our hands up in the air sometimes” and generally reenacted our all-stops-pulled dancing from Erin and Matt’s wedding. Just as I’m not much of a singer, I also struggle to not embarrass myself while “dancing.” But it’s nice to know people who will just . . . let you be dumb and not laugh at you. (Thanks, Rifat!)

Our first stop was Sunset Hills Vineyard in Purcellville, Va. — the location of which I’ve only learned while writing this post. With plenty of wine flowing in the limo and an hour’s drive in some direction, we arrived at the gorgeous and expansive barn with nary a clue where we’d wound up. Sunset Hills was in a beautiful spot and their wines were delicious — some crisp; others robust. The renovated barn where we had our tasting featured great natural light and high ceilings, and the staff was very friendly. They had no trouble telling us what was awesome and delicious.

And after sampling almost a dozen of their products, I was feeling super delicious myself.

From Sunset Hills it was off to Bluemont Vineyard, a picturesque spot that boasts an elevation of almost 1,000 feet above sea level. On a clear day, our host told us, you can actually see the Washington Monument on the horizon! I was thrilled to see pumpkins and other fall decor out front when we arrived, though I wish the leaves had been a little more vibrant. It’s still very summer-like in our corner of the world.

Bluemont’s wines were definitively less sweet than Sunset Hills, which meant I liked them less — but the staff was very accommodating, and Bluemont’s view of the vineyard and valleys below was incredible. Hanging out on their veranda would be an awesome way to spend the day . . . provided its not drizzly, gray and pouring rain. But even then, it was pretty breathtaking.

Our final stop was Breaux Vineyards, which was the busiest and loudest of the three destinations. Though we were traveling with a large group ourselves (nine women), the tasting room was buzzing with activity, chatter and a guitarist struggling to be heard above the good-natured din.

By the time we reached Breaux, we’d collectively consumed quite a bit of drink — so, you know, we weren’t quite as enthusiastic as we were when we got to Sunset Hills, say. Still, another beautiful stop with delicious beverages. I sampled as much as my tender stomach would allow and spent the rest of the time chatting. I did so much chatting, in fact, that I really didn’t take any photos here!

Our limo was waiting to whisk us all home like the little Chardonnay Cinderellas we were, and I walked away with a vast knowledge of what I do like (sweet whites) and don’t like (bitter reds), which is useful when you’re 26 and would like to not look like a total idiot as you attempt to swallow some disgusting drink you’ve ordered because you don’t know what distinguishes a beverage you like from one that makes you gag. Wine tasting made me feel very pinkies-out-fancy, you know? Like I wasn’t a frizzy-haired writer from suburbia.

Although that’s exactly what I was. And am.

It’s fun to step outside yourself sometimes — to do something different, let go and relax. Time with girlfriends really is restorative for the soul, and I headed home full of wine, photos and memories.

Have you ever been to a wine tasting or gone vineyard hopping? Are you a wine fan — or more the margarita type? Do you dig whites more than reds, or am all alone with my sweet wine fandom (or, heaven forbid, dessert wine?)