Archive for March, 2011


Wineries Unlimited 2011

Posted on Mar 31 2011 | By

35th Winery Rendezvous Meets All Expectations

The largest winery conference east of the Mississippi was held March 29 to April 1, 2011 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center.

The annual confab was attended by over 1,600 winery personnel and hundreds of vendors.  With the USA’s new title of “world’s largest wine consuming nation,” wine making and its marketing have become big business in the eastern United States.

On March 30, I accompanied the owner and management staff of Rappahannock Cellars as we headed south to The River City.  At the convention center, our team fanned out and took in all aspects of the event in blitzkrieg fashion. Based on the show’s hyperactivity, new services and equipment will soon be gracing wineries throughout the mid-Atlantic region.

During my stroll of the exhibit area, I was fortunate to briefly chat with legendary winemaker Randall Grahm, owner and winemaker at Bonny Doon Vineyard in Santa Cruz, California.

On this road show, I left my reporter’s pen and pad at home and grab my video camera.  If you’ve never attended this mega trade show, spend a few minutes seeing what transpires on the convention floor and in the seminars. The array of products is impressive.

[vsw id=”_cDQ1MizZXc” source=”youtube” width=”425″ height=”344″ autoplay=”no”]

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Desert Rose Winery Blooms

Posted on Mar 10 2011 | By

High Desert Country and a Glass of Wine Comes to Western Fauquier County

Bob and Linda Claymier travelled the world during his career with the Federal Service.  Yet, they always felt an urge to return to their roots in eastern Oregon’s high desert country.  What they didn’t count on was falling in love with Fauquier County.

The solution?  Create the horse ranch of their dreams in Virginia when they retired.  But retirement did not mean slowing down.  Within a few years of purchasing eighty acres off Hume Road and stocking it with purebred Arabian horses, Claymier had become a nationally known horse trainer.  He collaborated extensively with the renowned “Horse Whisperer” Frank Bell, and produced his own horse training DVD.

So how did wine enter the picture?  “My family made wine when I was a kid.  It was mostly fruit wines.  But I enjoyed the hobby and wherever I was stationed I made grape wine for my family and friends.  When we moved to Fauquier and saw what was happening in the wine industry, we thought we could take the hobby to the next level,” he says.

Bob & Linda Claymier

Today, the Claymiers have created one of the more unique wineries in Virginia.  Horses are an integral part of the atmosphere with a small corral at the front of the property and a ranch pond just below the wrap-around deck. Could that be a cowboy saddling up an Arabian in a nearby pasture?  Most likely it’s Claymier getting ready to exercise one of his prized horses.

As you enter the winery itself, you are transported out west with earth tone colors, a stone fireplace and the de rigueur caribou horn rack hanging above the fireplace.  A large tasting bar—with a counter top displaying an impressive collection of international coin and paper currency collected during Claymier’s career—is the focal point of the spacious ranch-like tasting room.

“I want a down-home atmosphere here. This is not so much a business as an extension of my home.  Linda and I love entertaining and guests at the winery will be treated like family.  We have a “Kiddies Korner” and family dogs will be welcomed,” he emphasizes.

Fred Furtado, a long time friend and colleague recalls, “I’ve known Bob for over thirty years.  He embodies the ‘rolling stone gathers no moss’ philosophy. His energy level is amazing.  Folks are going to be impressed with what he has created at Desert Rose.”

John Delmare, owner of nearby Rappahannock Cellars, echoes the sentiments, saying, “Bob and Linda are good friends.  We couldn’t be happier to see them realizing their hard earned dream.  His winery will be good for the industry and good for us.  A rising tide does float all boats and we’re excited to be recommending a new local winery to our guests. Especially one that’s making very good wines.”

Very good indeed.  Opening day will see six wines on the tasting sheet. Two whites, one rosé, two reds and a dessert wine.  Some of the wines will be whimsically named, such as “Ole Moo Moo”, an off-dry blend of Seyval Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier and Vidal Blanc, and named in honor of a beloved cow who endured numerous hardships.  One of the reds is called R.E.D.—Retired & Extremely Dangerous—in reference to the thrill the Claymiers experienced during their first months of retirement.  And the dessert wine is labeled “Starboard”.  If it’s not Port, then it must be Starboard, hey?

The Claymiers are committed to being good stewards of both the land and their local community.  “We will not be an event-focused winery.  We will not host tour buses and there will be no outside amplified music.  A visit to Desert Rose will be like calling on friends and neighbors.  We’re going to build our business one customer at a time.  Our goal is to have each guest planning their next visit as they leave the ranch,” Bob explains.

So head ‘em up and move’ em out to the Desert Rose Winery.  It’s not often you can travel out west and never leave Fauquier County.


Desert Rose Winery is located at 13726 Hume Road in Hume, VA.  The tasting room is opened Friday through Sunday and all Monday holidays from 1pm to 6pm. 540.635.3200.

Desert Rose Winery

Published in the March 9, 2011 edition of the Fauquier-Times Democrat.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

“We’re having rack of lamb tonight,” my wife, Jean, advises.  It’s my cue to select a wine from our cellar and get the fireplace going, both enjoyable tasks that will culminate in a cozy evening at home.

With the fire roaring, I turn my attention to the wine that will accompany our flavorful rack of lamb, roasted red bliss potatoes with rosemary and hericot vert green beans sautéed in olive oil with sliced almonds and a dash of crushed garlic.  My selection for the full-bodied repast verily jumps out of my wine rack: Chester Gap Cellars 2008 Cabernet Franc.

I’ve enjoyed Chester Gap wines from the day the winery opened. Owner and winemaker Bernd Jung produces clean, artisanal wines with depth and spot-on varietal character.  His ’08 Cabernet Franc is one of my favorites.  It pours an almost inky garnet in the glass and releases aromatic notes of mint, cherry, smoke and spice.  I force myself to swirl and sniff rather than just start drinking; easy boy, easy.

On the palate, the nose has faithfully interpreted the rich, mouth filling black fruit, mint and subtle coffee notes, all framed by smooth tannins.  We enjoy a glass before dinner and relish the rest of the bottle with the lamb.  With our food, the wine jumps into overdrive and we both exchange smiles of pleasure.  Is this Napa Valley in a Virginia bottle?  Not a chance.  This is Old Dominion wine at its best.

Published in the Spring 2011 edition of Virginia WineLover Magazine.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

On the Trail Again

Posted on Mar 01 2011 | By

Backpacking Maven Assembles His Faithful Followers

The packs are hoisted on the backs…hip belts cinched tight…hiking staffs clutched firmly in hand.  Then a voice calmly announces, “Pace yourself gentlemen. It’s a 2,500 foot elevation gain in the first four miles.”

Hmmm…2,500 feet?  Hey, wait a minute, that’s equal to climbing the Washington Monument almost five times. And we each have about forty pounds on our backs.

“Commander” Testerman has not changed his evil—but enjoyable—ways.  Welcome back to the fold.

Jeff Testerman

I’ve posted articles over the past few years about Jeff Testerman, the driving force behind the restoration of a civil war era cabin located just outside the park boundaries of the Shenandoah National Park, or SNP, near Elkton, Virginia.

The volunteer project took over five years of weekend work to complete and pulled Mr. T and his disciples away from their first love, backpacking.  When the cabin was finally placed into the rental system of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, or PATC, last October, Jeff vowed to hit the trail again.

His first trip was last November and my schedule precluded joining his band of weekend mountain men.  But when one of his emails hit my inbox last month announcing another adventure, I locked in the dates and began preparing for the ramble.

For years, Jeff had been encouraging me to hang up my heavy external frame pack and go with a modern internal frame backpack.  I couldn’t bring myself to part with my old mate, dubbed “The Refrigerator” by those who hiked behind me.  But time, and an increasingly cranky body, finally convinced me to switch gear. It was the best backpacking decision I had made in years.

Gregory Internal Frame Pack

The new pack—a Gregory Baltoro 70—is lighter, more flexible and fits like its grafted onto your back.  Hiking with this beauty almost makes you forget you’re carrying anything.

Most of our group spent the first night at the PATC’s Tulip Tree Cabin on the edge of the SNP near Luray, Virginia.  The next morning we were joined by a few more friends. When we left the cabin at 9:30 AM, ten trampers headed up the mountain.  We started hiking up Crusher Ridge Trail—aptly named—and ascended to the Appalachian Trail, or AT.  There, we moved south along the AT to Little Stony Man Mountain and enjoyed a lunch break with superb views on a mild winter day.

Rest Break

An hour later, we were gazing out over the Shenandoah Valley from the peak of Stony Man Mountain, 4,000 quiet feet above the maddening chase below.  The steady trail chatter heard throughout the morning subsided as we gazed out over the valley.  Only a soft breeze and silence embraced us.

The Summit

From there, we dropped down and crossed over Skyline Drive and descended the Corbin Hollow Trail on the morning side of the Blue Ridge.  Later in the afternoon we picked up the Indian Run Trail, arriving at the PATC Corbin Cabin around 4 PM.

Corbin Cabin

The rustic dwelling was built in 1910 by twenty-one year old mountaineer George Corbin.  A framed history of the cabin is mounted on the wall with details of his hard life, including the death of his wife in childbirth.  After he buried her in a cemetery behind his home, he walked several miles through a snowy landscape to purchase milk for his new born child.  It’s difficult to appreciate how harsh life was in certain parts of Virginia less than a century ago.

That evening our intrepid band was joined by a comrade who’s schedule did not permit her hiking the entire weekend.  An enjoyable evening of libations and camaraderie came to a close around 10 PM as the tired crew hit the rack for a night of sound sleep.

The following morning we climbed 1,500 feet up the Nicholson Hollow Trail, crossing back over Skyline Drive and down Crusher Ridge.  The “crush” had been taken out of the trail as we descended two and one half miles straight down to Tulip Tree Cabin, where we had begun the day before, a total of fifteen miles of backpacking under our belts.

Half of our band bid the group adieu and headed back to civilization while the rest of us spent a quiet afternoon sitting outside the cabin, swapping stories and listening to bluegrass music on one of the truck’s stereo system.  An early dinner was followed by a 9 PM bunk crash.  And get this, everybody slept soundly once again.

Tulip Tree Cabin

“Commander” Testerman has warned us that another mountain assault will occur within the next few months so I think my neighborhood walks will continue unabated. Throwing a pack up on your back requires a wee bit of conditioning.  But it’s an investment with a ten fold rate of return.


Corbin Cabin

Categories : HAGARTY TALES