Archive for February, 2020


To sell or not to sell

Posted on Feb 29 2020 | By

Emotions can swirl when seniors consider selling their home

The memories may be decades deep. A litany of holiday and family celebrations, neighborhood friendships, favorite nearby shops and restaurants and a deep connectedness that comes from the bond forged between couples and their home.

But time moves on and often owners are compelled to move with it. Yards that need regular attention, maintenance of living spaces larger than needed, and health issues making navigating stairs, rooms and basements a challenge; all can dictate a move.

For many couples, the decision is delayed as long as possible. Understandably so. The mere idea of tossing away years of accumulated stuff, packing endless boxes of possessions, and relocating to a smaller home or townhouse can force a decision to the backburner.

But there are alternatives.

A growing strategy for maintaining the status quo is aging in place. Some researchers believe that employing relatively modest changes can keep older homeowners nestled next to their hearth for years.

Advanced planning can start with an assessment of major home repairs that are looming. Is the roof over 20 years old? Are the heating and air-conditioning units pass their prime? Are some rooms ready for a new paint job?

The point is to invest in the home with the goal of not having to face large expenditures in the later years. This has the collateral benefit of emotionally reinforcing that the home will continue to be a safe and sound refuge.

Next, consider the balance of selling at the expense of seeking outside help with home maintenance and personal care. It can be difficult shelling out money for yard and landscape work when it’s a task that’s always been the purview of the homeowner.

But eliminating the worry of maintaining an attractive home can be worth the added expense of a seasonal contract for property maintenance.

Employing in-home caregivers and housekeepers may seem like a luxury but if the money is available, it may be worth spending. Commercial maid services cover the gamut of cleaning services ranging from dusting, vacuuming, washing dishes, cleaning bathrooms, and more.

While cleanliness is next to godliness it’s also next to happiness. Employing outside and inside home services strengthen the commitment to age in place.

One example of personal care is Visiting Angels, a private duty network of reasonably priced non-medical home care agencies providing in-home care, respite care, personal care, and companion care. An office of the unique business is located in Culpeper.

Betsy Walker, a northern Culpeper County resident, recently employed Visiting Angels to help her and her husband Fred during her recovery from hip surgery. “My caregiver has been my lifesaver. The moment she enters the house she gets busy working. She has adapted to my routine. It’s a wonderful local service. We are lucky to have such caring people to call upon,” says Walker.

The budget for such expenditures may come from previous expense items. Vacations, auto travel, and dining out tend to lessen as folks age. These monies can shift from the pleasures of the past to the pleasures accrued by having increasingly stronger in-home support systems.

Beyond any additional expenses, there may be opportunities to have family and friends pick up some of the slack. Is there a friend, son or daughter that might swing by occasionally to wash hair, give a permanent, clean gutters, etc.? One should not feel guilty calling on people who they’ve supported in the past.

Finally, online shopping for home-delivered groceries prepared meals and the ubiquitous Amazon one-click world are other strategies making life easier during the golden years.

When it’s time
When declining health increasingly takes a toll on daily living, a move may be inevitable. Work together as a couple to make sure there is agreement on what the next move will be. The goal is to make the shift on your terms and not be forced into a quick or ill-considered decision.

While choices may seem to be limited, there are options:

Moving to a small home, condo or apartment.
Choosing to live in a retirement community.
Selecting a continuing care retirement community.

The third option has the benefit of a move that can accommodate an eventual nursing home environment if the need arises.

Once a decision is made to move, prepping is important. Begin by making a room-by-room assessment of what needs to be moved, what can be sold and what can head to the dump.

There are services that are available to make the process easier. Home junk removers are plentiful and can make the odious task as easy as pointing and saying, “That goes, that goes, and that goes.” Boom. Done.

An effective way to brace for the ultimate day is to start pitching stuff today. Start small. Regularly look for opportunities to toss out what’s not needed. If you have not worn a garment in over year, there’s a good chance you will never don it again. Donate it.

Begin with cleaning out the garage, closets and the basement. These can be difficult areas of the house to tackle since often they contained years of accumulated detritus. Momentum builds when discarding; the more you do, the easier it gets.

Regularly donating clothing items to charitable organizations along with serviceable home furnishings creates a mindset that if it’s not being used, it needs to be moved out. It also makes the ultimate move easier since there are fewer things to deal with.

Life might be like a car transitioning through its gears. As one accelerates through the early years the shifts are fast and furious. But when a couple finally hits the interstate of retirement, they should consider dropping into easy-riding overdrive and ease off the pedal.

Enjoying the hard-earned expansive views is their ultimate reward.

Published in the January,23 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.


The success behind Claire’s is…Claire

Posted on Feb 29 2020 | By

Warrenton restaurant maven celebrates 15th anniversary at the Depot

One of Claire Lamborne’s first culinary achievements occurred at the age of 16. Her father had passed away, and her mother was a career woman. Someone had to handle the kitchen duties and feed the large family of 10.

“The first fancy meal I made was baked Spam. I scored the meat like you would a ham, placed cloves in the cuts and made a mustard and vinegar sauce,” says Lamborne. Given the size of a can of Spam, it must have disappeared in a blink.

Lamborne, the owner of Claire’s at the Depot, moved from that humble beginning to an eventual restaurant career spanning decades, both in years and the legion of restaurants she helped make successful. A rolling chef gathers no moss.

From her modest experience with home cooking, she went onto college, marriage, and the birth of two children. For 14 years, she taught school and gave little thought to cooking professionally. But a unique opportunity arose in her early 30s when she was offered a job to cook at a restaurant in Saint Thomas in the Virgin Islands.

During the stint, she purchased and lived on a sailboat and cooked at a well-known restaurant on the Caribbean island. “That was the beginning of my culinary career. I knew then that’s what I wanted to do for a living,” explains Lamborne. “I later moved back to Fairfax and attended culinary school and began working for several restaurants in the region.”

Not only had her desire for kitchen creativity been ignited, but an emerging entrepreneurial streak blossomed. She soon moved to Charlottesville and purchased a restaurant. “I made all the classic mistakes of someone getting into the restaurant business for the first time.” Lessons she pocketed for future use.

Next, she moved to San Francisco. “It was the food capital of the United States at the time. It’s where food was happening, and I helped open a restaurant there too.” Each year she was learning more each about running commercial eateries.

As her restaurant knowledge grew, she returned to Northern Virginia and began working at various upscale restaurants in Fairfax and Alexandria.

Then, a business acquaintance asked her to return to Charlottesville and bring her skills to bear in establishing The Ivy Inn, once part of a more significant estate known as the “Faulkner House”, named after William Faulkner, a southern aristocrat and distinguished writer in residence at the nearby University of Virginia. Today, the Inn is still a vibrant part of the city’s hospitality scene.

By now, a pattern was established. If a chef positioned offered a challenge and opportunity, Lamborne sprung. The next career catalyst was an ad seeking a chef in Warrenton. “I responded and ended up helping Angela Smith open the Legends restaurant.”

Soon after that, she was off to Marshall working at Marshall Manor, a high-end retirement facility. The owners agreed to let her cater on the side, which eventually led to a new business.

“My first big event was a benefit for the American Cancer Society held at the large estate known at North Wales, west of Warrenton. As a result, my catering career took off. I moved back to Warrenton and built a place with a commercial kitchen called Claire’s Too devoted to catering,” remembers Lamborne.

She labored for 11 years and became known as the region’s quality caterer, including a stint as the exclusive caterer for the Virginia Gold Cup races. Today, there are many similar firms in the area whose growth was driven by her early success.

After over a decade, it became apparent to grow to the next level she needed to significantly ramp up the business and purchase more extensive and pricy catering equipment. “I did not want to go in that direction,” says Lamborne.

Incredibly, about that time, another offer to return to the Virgin Islands surfaced, and the lady and her spatula found herself at a restaurant in Tortola, the largest and most popular island in the Virgin Islands.

After a brief two months near sand and sea, she returned to Warrenton at the age of 62, reflecting, “I think I have another venture left in me.” Gathering some local investors, she purchased the depot train station. She undertook a significant renovation of the aging building selling her catering business to help fund the purchase and its $400,000 update.

Claire’s at The Depot opened on February 3, 2005, and met with success until the recession of 2008 hit. With the restaurant faltering, Lamborne’s “guardian angel” Paul Rice, a successful tech entrepreneur, agreed to purchase the building for $1.2 million and pursue further renovations, if she continued to operate the business.

“After Paul bought the building in 2009 and completed the second renovation, it turned the business around,” says Lamborne. “We put in beautiful wood floors and created the tavern section with a bar while keeping the white tablecloth section in the back. The white table cloth scene is fading today, but we have the best of both worlds with formal and casual dining.”

The restaurant seats 80 with 40 additional seats on the patio for seasonal dining.

Then in March 2018, another financial curveball came hurling toward Lamborne’s home plate. Paul Rice had retired to Florida and wanted to sell the building. Not having the money to purchase the structure, it looked like Claire’s was again on the butcher’s block.

But a second “guardian angel” appeared in the person of Bobbie Crafts who operated a horse rescue sanctuary in Marshall. Knowing the value of the town icon to the community, Crafts purchased the building from Rice and lifted the pressure off Lamborne, who doubled down on continuing to operate the popular restaurant.

Today the restaurant is busier than ever. Drop by any evening without reservations, and you’re taking a risk on seat availability. From the She Crab soup, fried oysters, daily fresh fish, the tenderest of steaks, and more, the menu never fails to satisfy.

What does the future hold for Warrenton’s premier restaurateur? “I’m 77 years old, and I’m certainly not going to be at the restaurant when I’m 80,” says Lamborne smiling.” But I’m going to make sure when I retire that Claire’s will continue as a quality restaurant.”

So, rest easy northern Piedmont. Both casual and elegant dining will continue at 65 South 3rd Street into the foreseeable future. Thank you, Claire.

Published in the January 29, 2020 edition of the Fauquier Times.



Posted on Feb 11 2020 | By

Celebrating the legacy of brunch

It’s was a brilliant October day in 1772 in Northumberland England. Mounted riders cantered across a high meadow surrounded by a pack of eager hounds. All at once the master of hounds cried out, “Tally-ho!”. Eighteen riders and 23 foxhounds rose as one and surged toward a nearby forest.

The hunt was underway. Within two hours spent riders, horses and hounds slowly ambled homeward. With or without a fox.

But the assembled upper-class Brits did gather for a decadent late morning repast of meats, eggs, cheeses, and breads. Oh, and adult beverages.

Welcome to the likely earliest vestiges of brunch.

More than a hundred years later, in 1895, a publication called “Hunter’s Weekly” first published the unique word that represented a dining experience positioned between breakfast and lunch. The following year the popular British periodical “Punch” reprinted the article and the tasty concept spread, reaching America by the late 1920s.

Stateside the first brunches weren’t offered in trendy New York or Los Angeles but Chicago. Movie stars who worked on both coasts and traveling by rail would stopover in the Windy City.

Cinema greats such as John Barrymore, Helen Hayes, and Clark Gable dropped by for brunch at the legendary Pump Room in the Ambassador Hotel. Word spread and the mid-morning repast grew in popularity.

The concept was so well-conceived it spread worldwide. Today travelers can experience Ackee & Saltfish in Jamaica, Bubur ayam in Indonesia, Hvevos Divorciados in Mexico, Dim sum in Hong Kong, Pets de Soeurs in Canada, Pongal in India, Tortilla Espanola in Spain and much more.

Many of the strange-sounding dishes are unfamiliar to Americans but are the go-to brunch victuals in their native countries. All thanks to yesteryear’s Brits.

Here in the U.S. brunch has evolved into a somewhat standard repast of scrambled eggs, omelets, hash brown potatoes, bacon, sausage, toast, and Bloody Mary’s.

Perhaps it’s time to scramble things up a bit more. Fortunately, there’s is a unique destination spot that accommodates that goal.

Upper Shirley Vineyards
There are over 300 wineries in the Old Dominion today. An impressive leap in numbers since the first one opened in 1978. Moreover, the quality of the wine has garnered Virginia vinous respect and catapulted it up to the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the Nation.

Yet its quality far exceeds its quantity. National distribution has been held in check because there is simply not enough of the exceptional wines to go around. The rascally Virginians drink most of it.

But as rare as finding a bottle of Virginia Viognier in New York City is, try locating a winery in the Commonwealth that has a restaurant. Much less one offering an exceptional dining experience.

The reason? Wineries and restaurants are two completely different businesses. Creating such a twofer takes smarts, skill and the rare trait of embracing risk. The owners of Upper Shirley Vineyards qualify on all three counts.

Suzy and Tayloe Dameron are the proprietors. They built the winery in 2013 on their 100-acre property that also showcases their historic private home and equestrian operation. It is located on rural Shirley Plantation Road, or Route 5, situated between Richmond and Williamsburg.

Asked if he had always had a dream of owning a winery, Tayloe Dameron’s response is disarmingly frank.

“The romantic answer would be yes, but it’s not true. We brought this historic property 20 years ago to raise our two kids. It was a beautiful, historic home but it wasn’t relevant and self-sustaining.

“So, we decided to plant a vineyard and make the highest premium wine we could,” said Dameron.

And where did the hubris arise to think he could accomplish that goal? Pedigree.

His family dates to the early 1700s in Virginia. He graduated from the Virginia Military Institute and served in the Army’s 8th Infantry Division in Germany. He went on to obtain a University of Virginia Darden School of Business MBA and subsequently launched a successful 22-year career in finance, mostly in Manhattan.

Early word on the street was to keep an eye on this guy.

Along the way, he purchased and moved into the private home on the winery’s property. Built in 1867 from bricks salvaged from a circa 1660 house that once flanked the manor house at nearby Shirley Plantation, the property came with built-in bona fides.

When you visit the winery, you can also call on one of the most historic homes in Virginia that are located nearby, Shirley Plantation. Its construction began in 1723. Tours are available year-round and if your visit to the winery is a first-time experience be sure to carve out time to see the mansion, or “Great House”.

Shirley Plantation is largely in its original condition and owned, operated and lived in by the direct descendants of Edward Hill I who lived there in the late 1600s.

The restaurant
Focusing on brunch, the winery’s restaurant is opened from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. six days a week with its midday menu in play. From 3 p.m. until 5 p.m. the menu is trimmed to shared plate offerings. Dinners focus on a series of special events, not nightly service.

The food is prepared by two chefs with burnished reputations: Partner & Executive Chef Carlisle Bannister and Chef de Cuisine, Ernie LaBrecque.

“We are all about sourcing food locally, rooted in a Southern-style using fresh ingredients”, said Dameron. “Carlisle has a great twist on our menu items and he’s not going to let anybody go hungry. His burger is the best on the East Coast and his shrimp and grits are to die for.”

A quick perusal of a late winter menu includes truffle frites, crispy fried oysters, warm brie, caramelized mushroom flatbread, San Marzanto tomato bisque, house-cured salmon, eastern shore crab bisque, and a host of salads with or without protein.

Focusing on a bit heavier fare will reveal specialties such as chargrilled chicken wraps, high- end burgers, cast iron quiche, southern fried chicken and more.

Accompanying the food are wines of exceptional quality. The Dameron’s work in collaboration with Michel Shaps who produces all of winery’s 3,800 annual case production.

The 22-acre vineyard is planted in popular varietals such as chardonnay, viognier, merlot, petit verdot, tannat, and others. Shaps is one of the preeminent winemakers in Virginia. This year his wines won one-third of the gold medals awarded in the Governor’s Cup competition.

Shaps has been lauded by numerous publications, including Saveur, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Washingtonian, Washington Post and more. He holds a degree in Enology and Viniculture from Lycée Viticole de Beaune, France.

“Upper Shirley is a marathon, not a sprint,” explains Dameron. “We do not serve large tour bus groups, bachelor and bachelorette parties, and other noisy and distracting groups. We are not going to allow ‘disruptors’ to ruin our guests’ visits.”

Sitting on the winery’s covered back deck with an exceptional lunch and glass of wine arrayed before you and gazing at the expansive lawn and James River beyond, one is grateful for a hospitality strategy that is centered on individuals, not crowds.

Embrace the “new brunch” and one of the most unique and wineries and restaurants in Virginia. Guaranteed future visits are triggered by the first one.

For a cornucopia of beautiful photography, delicious menu and wine selections and impressive staff profiles, climb the virtual stairs of Upper Shirley Vineyards and take the full tour at


Published in the April 2019 edition of Dine Wine & Stein magazine. 

Categories : WINE ARTICLES