Sippin’ Up The Mountain

Welcome to the second installment in our Sip Happens Series!

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Cabin fever is the real deal. Does anyone else struggle with it? Every winter I vow to be content with putzing around the house on the weekends, doing a few DIY projects that I’ve long neglected or catching up on the half read stack of books in my nightstand drawer. Inevitably I get bored, the restlessness builds and cabin fever rears its ugly head.

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Compared to last year, the cabin fever seems to be worse than ever. Last year I spent most of the winter running and therefore didn’t have much of a chance to get bored. I set a lofty goal to run 2,015 miles in 2015. I had heard of other people doing it and it seemed doable so I declared my challenge on Instagram and set off to prove the skeptics wrong. It was a valiant attempt that landed me with a serious injury and a bruised pride. Let me preface this by saying that I am actually a runner! Just in case you thought I was totally insane, I’m not. Just a regular amount of insane. I’ve ran a number of races and have even laid down some respectable personal records. However, it is purely for fun and exercise. I like to race because I like the post-race party and the free swag. I like to run because I like to drink wine and eat brownies. At the time I declared my 2,015 goal I was running thirty, okay fine twenty, OKAY FINE fifteen miles a week. When I’m training for a race I’ll log around 30-40 miles a week but after the race is over, I settle back into running 15-20 miles a week with other types of various exercises peppered in. I’m sure you’ve already done the math but to break it down: 2,015 miles. 52 weeks in a year. That’s 38.75 miles a week, which far exceeds my casual 15 miles a week running regiment.

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I lasted for almost 6 months. The last month was brutal and I was in serious pain but competition runs fierce in these veins and I was not about to go down without a fight. Even if I am the only competition and it’s to my own demise. In late April I began experiencing severe pain in my right foot. I’ve always had pain in my heels when I wake up in the morning but this time the pain didn’t go away. It lasted all day and continued to get worse over the next few days and weeks. I continued to run through it for another month before deciding to take a break from running. This cycle repeated two more times before eventually calling it quits on the running scene altogether. Walking became impossible, especially in the mornings or after sitting for long periods of time. I took my standing desk down at work and switched to strictly tennis shoes. I had full blown plantar fasciitis in my right foot and no amount of stretching, Tylenol, special socks or ice was helping it get better. I finally went to the doctor – two weeks before my wedding. He took a look at my foot, ran an X-ray and did a very scientific plantar fasciitis test which consisted of simply pushing his thumbs into my heel as hard as possible. After jumping out of my skin from pain and nearly kicking him squarely in the jaw, he officially pronounced me screwed, gave me a cortisone shot and a walking boot to wear for 4 weeks.

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Fast forward: Four weeks in the walking boot then four weeks off then another bout of walking boot for four more weeks. Some incredible shoe insoles (hallelujah) and a lot of tough love with myself (no impact cardio, no walking unless necessary, no jumping, no shoes other than tennis shoes, etc) and I am happy to report that I am doing much better.

This brings us to January 2016 with a much more realistic fitness goal (one unassisted pull up, anyone?) and a serious case of cabin fever. Which is why Matt and I decided to head to the mountains and go for our longest hike since the boot officially came off.

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It was a cold and cloudy day with a chance of flurries in the forecast. We love hiking in the snow and were so excited when we got to the top of the mountain and found a lovely dusting of snow waiting for us.

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We hiked at a Virginia state park called Sky Meadows. There’s a $5.00 entrance fee per vehicle, miles of trail networks and backcountry camping. The trails were beautifully kept and we were both impressed – well marked and well maintained. I could see where parking would be an issue if it was a busy day but we had no difficulties finding a spot since the weather wasn’t ideal.

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Showing off his Jedi Master skills with my walking stick

After climbing down the mountain we found our way to Miracle Valley Vineyards. When I visited their website earlier in the week, I happened upon a coupon for a, ‘buy one get one free tasting’, which made going here a no-brainer. The snow was coming down pretty hard at this point (but not sticking to anything) which made for the perfect day to cuddle up and enjoy a glass of vino.

 

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Miracle Valley Vineyards

There was a local band setting up to play some music while Matt and I enjoyed a glass of Viognier (his) and Cabernet Franc (hers). The wine was good but not the best we’ve tasted. I would visit here again, however. Our taster was so friendly, easy to chat with and very knowledgeable about the wines. She took her time helping us and never made us feel rushed, which is my number one annoyance whence tasting at a vineyard. Let. Me. Take. My. Time.

From there we needed to grab some lunch before heading to our final vineyard. We had munched on popcorn and Clif bars on the trail but it wasn’t going to hold us over! We always ask the locals for restaurant suggestions and the Red Truck Rural Bakery did not disappoint. They have grab-and-go sandwiches, fresh coffee and pastries, and delicious homemade soups. Matt and I each grabbed a sandwich and a cup of soup but we definitely should have either split the sandwich or split the soup – it was a lot of food. Which is good considering the bill was $30. A bit steep for your local bakery but the food was delicious and plentiful. I would go back in a heartbeat.

Our final stop before heading home was Delaplane Cellars. The interior of the building was impressive on its own but the wines blew us away. I felt a bit out of place here in my flannel shirt and hiking vest but our taster was attentive, knowledgeable, quick and kind. I’m sure they’re used to receiving guests who have spent a day on the trails and she made us feel right at home.

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View from Delaplane Cellars

Matt and I both enjoyed a glass of the Left Bank which is a Bordeaux-style blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. It was full bodied with blackberry and a hint of tobacco on the nose. Smooth as butter and a finish that just wouldn’t stop. If it wasn’t $50 a bottle we would have come home with some.

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We ended our day feeling grateful to be so blessed and with tired legs, happy bellies and lazy grins to boot. My foot felt great the next day and we can hardly wait to get out and do some longer hikes and camping once the weather warms up. Cheers!

Sip back and relax…

Matt and I are so jazzed to bring you the first installment in our ‘Sip Happens’ series. For our debut we headed out to the beautiful Fauquier County, VA which purportedly has more horses than people. I don’t know about all that but it does have over 20 wineries which is reason enough for us to battle I-66 traffic and make our way out to the countryside.

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The weather could not have been more perfect for a day traipsing through local vineyards. The fall air was crisp and cool but the sun was shining bright – beautiful autumn weather.

Our first stop was Three Fox Vineyards.

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Ambiance & Setting: The location is easily accessible from the highway and plenty of parking is available. Upon arriving we noticed some construction happening outside the tasting room. We later discovered they are building a cigar/wine lounge outside – how fun! It will have TV’s inside, a full tasting bar and a lovely selection of cigars. This is the first time I’ve seen anything of the sort at a vineyard and I have to say that I find it intriguing and a classy way to expand the clientele. I would categorize this vineyard as a ‘fair weather’ vineyard because the tasting room is fairly small but there is ample outdoor seating. Luckily we were there on a Wednesday so it was quiet but I can see how it would get crowded and fill up quickly on a Saturday or Sunday. If you’re up for a short walk there were hammocks down by the river and tables and chairs spread out all over the large property. My favorite seating feature was the table and chairs in between the rows of vines! Many vineyards keep their vines blocked off to prevent visitors from accidentally damaging the grapes so I found it refreshing to be up close and personal with the vines that produced my beverage.

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The view from our table in the vines…

Munchies: Matt and I are staunch believers in snacks. I always have snacks stuffed in my purse, in the glove compartment, in Matt’s pockets, etc. I believe this to be an important, nay, fundamental pillar in our relationship. A handful of trail mix can, if used properly, solve an impending, ‘It’s-11AM-on-a-Saturday-why-is-only-one-checkout-lane-open’ grocery store debacle or perhaps a brewing, ‘I-can’t-believe-you-thought-going-this-way-would-be-faster’ argument. This is why we never visit a vineyard without bringing our own sustenance. Almost every vineyard in Virginia will allow you to bring your own food onto the premises although most require that you eat it outside or in a separate room. We typically bring half a baguette, olive oil for dipping, cheese, and olives. Sometimes we’ll get fancy and bring salami and chocolate or sometimes we’ll go bare bones and only bring Clif bars. Typically that’s when we’re camping or backpacking. We have also been known to pick up entire meals along the way and tote them in with us. At Three Fox Vineyards they offered the usual rundown of winery snacks: packaged crackers, cheese, and chocolate. This is the norm at almost all Virginia vineyards although we have visited quite a few where they really take the food game up a notch. At Three Fox, I suggest you bring your own.

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The Folks: Upon arriving, we were greeted by one of the owners which is always such a treat! She was very gracious in welcoming us to the vineyard and was the one who clued us in on the new cigar/wine lounge being built outside. The tasting bar inside the entrance had a couple folks already nestled in so we walked down a few steps to the bigger tasting bar where there was only one gentleman enjoying a tasting. We saddled up to the bar and was greeted by a lovely woman whose name I can’t remember for the life of me. I try and make it a point to learn our wine educators’ names because, for me, tasting wine is such a personal and unique experience. Alas, next time!

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My favorite part about visiting a new vineyard (aside from enjoying a glass of vino with my partner in crime) is the tasting. It’s such a great opportunity to not only taste and compare different wines but also to get to know the person pouring (wine educator/tasting room associate), meet other wine lovers at the bar and maybe learn something new. Our tasting room associate was friendly and well educated about the wine. She lived in Italy for years with her children and husband so it was fun swapping stories about our recent trip to Italy. Although we mentioned (more than once) that we stayed in Tuscany and tasted at several vineyards in the Chianti region it did not deter her from repeating her script which included notes regarding where the Chianti region was and what varietals make up a Chianti wine. It appeared that this was the script she used for everyone since we not only obviously knew where the Chianti region was but we had just heard her saying, verbatim, the exact same thing to the gentleman next to us. I should note that this was a good script! It included basic information about the grapes and varietals as well as strong tasting notes. My disappointment stemmed from the fact that she didn’t seem to put much effort into tying Matt and I’s knowledge of the wine into her script. This is understandable when it’s a high volume time or a busy Saturday but it seemed a little odd and out of place when the tasting room was basically empty, leaving plenty of time for natural conversation to occur. I was also underwhelmed with the quality of the pours of wine during the tasting. Some people say that you should be able to get three sips of wine in order to properly taste. I have no idea what the proper technique is but I find that two sips is sufficient. Unfortunately the pours at Three Fox were so small that I was barely able to get one sip. For loud and rambunctious groups who have clearly had too much to drink I can understand if the tasting room associate quietly lessens their pours (or refuses to serve them altogether), but in our case we genuinely wanted to gather some notes and experience the differences in the wines. This was extremely difficult to do given the small pours and unfortunately most of the red wines all tasted the same to us because of it.

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So how much did the above paragraph affect our visit? Not much! At the end of the day the staff were extremely friendly, welcoming and were knowledgeable of their wine.

The Vino: Let’s get down to the juicy stuff! A tasting was $10.00 each for 12 wines. There was a ‘Guest Wine’ which you could taste for an additional $2.00. We chose not to taste the guest wine. All wines at Three Fox are Italian varietals produced in the Virginia style. That’s fancy talk for, “If you went to Italy you would see similar grapes at their vineyards”. Matt and I didn’t do much research before we arrived so we were pleasantly surprised at this finding, since Italy has a special place in our hearts. My favorite white wine we tried was the Calabrese Pinot Grigio – a perfect summer wine as I found it to be quite light and citrus-y! My favorite red wines were the Volpe Sangiovese, which I found to be very smooth, the Alouette Cabernet Franc would be trés delicious with some chocolate, and the La Trovatella Merlot had a beautiful mocha finish and was a rich, full body wine – perfect with a juicy steak or by itself on a chilly fall/winter night! Three Fox had one Rosé, the Cano Pazzo Rosé, and it was nice but it wasn’t my favorite that I’ve tasted in Virginia. I have been on a huge rosé kick the past couple years as Virginia has been producing some seriously gnarly ones. This particular one was a bit sweeter than I like (think cherries) and a tad heavier than I’m used to. A glass of wine will run you about $8.00 here and the bottles average around $25-30.00.

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The Verdict: We truly enjoyed ourselves at Three Fox! With so many incredible vineyards popping up in Virginia it can sometimes feel overwhelming – like everyone is competing or climbing over each other. Three Fox did not feel that way at all. They keep it simple by sticking to what they’re best at and they preserve the small business feeling that makes you feel like you’re part of the family when you walk in. I would recommend this vineyard to my friends although I would tell them to be bolder than I and ask for a better pour if they feel they’re not able to get a proper taste. If we’re in the area, I wouldn’t mind stopping in again for a glass – and maybe a cigar once their cigar lounge opens!

 

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