Sunday, June 04, 2006

Day 1: The Drive (Avoiding I-95 at all costs)

Last year when we drove down to Myrtle Beach in August, we made the mistake of thinking Interstate 95 between Washington and Richmond would flow like the Autobahn. Instead it felt like we were driving an Amish buggy. Actually, a buggy would have been faster. It was a parking lot, and even though Ally was in diapers, she still got quite fussy around lunchtime and we were just around Fredericksburg. Plus it was raining. And the directions (courtesy of Mapquest) sent us along some two-lane back roads that, while shorter distance-wise, robbed us of valuable time and we didn’t get to our resort until about 10 PM.

Since this year’s vacation spot was closer, we decided to take a detour and make a stop at Horton Vineyards. Not to say the trip to Horton was flawless; we did make a couple of wrong turns on the way to the winery, located in Gordonsville. Once there, we were greeted by a crowded tasting room. We shoehorned ourselves in close to the bar and scanned the tasting sheet. We were overwhelmed by the number of varieties of wine Horton produces, all of them apparently available to taste. There must have been twenty wines on the list. Then we noticed those were only the whites! The flip side of the sheet contained just as many red wines. According to their web site, Horton has over 40 wines to choose from, including fruit wines, port and dessert wines. I counted and that’s a pretty accurate number, including several vintages of their flagship Viognier. We tried all of them and decided their 2005 was the best, so we bought one. The Eclipse (a semi-sweet blend of several grapes) and their Vidal Blanc also seemed like good summer “deck wines”, so we picked up one of each of those. Although the Vidal Blanc, a 2001 vintage, was getting a bit long in the tooth, it was still holding its own.

The reds were being sampled at a table in the middle of the room, so we made our way over to try a few. Among the ones we liked, well, I guess you could say Y2K was a good year: the 2000 Cabernet Franc, a varietal that does well in Virginia, the 2000 Nebbiolo, a hard to grow grape of Italian heritage that not many wineries are willing to try, and the Bin 2000 Stonecastle Red, an unusual blend of Mourverde, Carignan, and Syrah, among others, some of which are quite obscure, at least in this country.

About the large number of wines Horton produces: I find it hard to believe all these grapes produce high quality wines, and I’m not sure they are all grown in or around Gordonsville. Some are good, most were ho-hum. I guess the philosophy is to throw enough mud against the wall and see what sticks. But Horton has a dedicated following and, at the end of the day, making and selling wine is a business and having a satisfied customer, who is willing to keep buying your product, is paramount. And a few of the wines, particularly the Viognier, were excellent.

Before leaving, Ally made a quick potty break and proclaimed the facilities “excellent”. There are a couple of picnic tables and there’s some room for kids to run around outside, so if we visit again we’ll probably pack some sandwiches.

We made it to Kitty Hawk around 6 PM (not bad) and had dinner at Mama Kwan’s, a local favorite with sort of a Hawaiian theme. We didn’t eat until around 8, but the food was worth waiting for. A nice relaxing way to end the day, although the brief rain showers gave us reason to be concerned, they were the only ones we’d see until the day we left.


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