The Renaissance of Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia is VERY easy to love.

We are often pleasantly surprised and rarely disappointed by places in the world where we travel. However, our return to the historic Richmond, Virginia area completely overwhelmed us all. Our team enthusiasm was echoed by the group who had accompanied us.

For four days, we witnessed first hand the vibrant vibe that is the renaissance of Richmond first hand for over a week. It was only enough time to know that we cannot wait to return to experience more history, art, food and wine.

We all were fortunate to participate in a private tour of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (it will reopen in the spring of 2010). The Special Collections area at the Library of Virginia provided us a rare look at some of George Washington’s original documents, along with original works by Patrick Henry. As the curator captivated us with numerous original works of our Founding Fathers, he provided a sense of their lives and their commitment to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You can make arrangements to see items in the Special Collections with an advance appointment.

A catered luncheon at the Edgar Allen Poe Museum and tour was interesting-especially with 2009 being the 200th year celebration of his life. We also visited St. Paul’s Church, famous for Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech in 1775.

These are only a few places in Richmond’s history.

We also found time to drink wine at Can Can, dine at the Hanover Tavern and experience the farmers market in Shockoe Bottom. We enjoyed a cooking class at DoubleTree, where there was a focuses on local Virginia favorites and local wine. Next, a special dinner at the cooking school, Mise en Place, with local purveyors and farmers, was a special treats for our culinary team. Everything Misen en Place presented was fresh, easy and delicious and so was the company.

We even met Buz, of Buz and Ned’s fame, by his real, green-wood smoke pit. The flamboyant Buz had slayed Bobby Flay in the barbecue competition, the Food Network’s Throw-down.

A big delight to many to wine writers was the many new and state-of the-art vineyards and wineries popping up in the greater Richmond region. One taste of the sparkling, whites and reds and we understood the reasons for the local wine popularity.

Even after a whirl wind time of l5 hour days our team did not want to leave. We even called airlines in hopes that we were bumped.

We were fortunate to have stayed in two of Richmond’s historic properties. First, we loved the quaint, old world feeling of the Linden Row Inn, a true inn in the heart of town. This establishment was like being at home with a tea and coffee room in the parlor, spacious rooms, topped of by a warm and friendly staff. Its amiable manager welcomed us in person with hot tea in the secluded court yard terrace. The next day, he gave us a behind the scenes peak at the renovated suites and fascinating history of the Linden Row Inn.

The historic Jefferson Inn, an American Landmark since l895, was without any doubt one of the finest hotels we have experienced anywhere in the world. This 5 star and 5 diamond hotel’s renowned true southern hospitality will be featured in depth in several upcoming articles.

On our last evening, we enjoyed the ambiance of the historic river district. We sadly bid a fine farewell, not good by, to the Richmond area at a very special spot called Julep’s, noted for 40 years of old fashioned warmth and new southern cuisine.

One of the beauties of the Richmond historic triangle is ease of transportation. It is a short hop off route 95 when driving, and then picturesque and easy roads help you find your way.

We came by train, plane and rented car. We loved the train, the airport was a modern joy, and Enterprise picked us up with a few minutes notice, on time, at our hotel. Yet, no car was needed to get around in Richmond. Some rode the self balancing Segways all over town one afternoon, while others walked miles to discover vintage shops and other hidden treasures in Carytown. Others visited the Virginia Historical Society. By all of us going different directions, we discovered why we need to return.

Our whirlwind and behind the scenes tours were thanks to the Richmond Visitors Bureau at http://www.VisitRichmon.com

Virginia’s Surprising Wine Industry

My Marine son transferred to Quantico, Virginia last year and my wife and I were planning a trip to see him and our grandchildren soon. One of our favorite activities is to investigate wine growing in each state that we visit. My wife did live in Falls Church when her father was at the Pentagon and I have visited the Washington D.C. area many times on business. However, neither one of us knew much about the wine production of the state. Before our trip I knew some research would be needed. What I found out about Virginia’s wine industry surprised me.

Although grape growing first started in the infamous area of Jamestown in the 1600’s, the wine industry was pretty much a failure to begin with. Success finally started to become a reality in the early 1800’s. Notoriety for Virginia wines really came to light at the Vienna’s World Fair in 1873 when a Virginia Norton wine was named “Best Red Wine of All Nations”. The wine industry in the entire United States was drastically set back by Prohibition (1920-1933) and Virginia was no exception. Virginia commercial grape growing totaled only 15 acres in the early 1950’s. Since then, Virginia’s wine industry has experienced wide spread growth and now can claim over 190 different wineries in the state. Virginia is currently ranked 5th amongst U.S. states for wine production.

Virginia is divided into nine recognized wine growing regions. The Northern Virginia, Shenandoah and Central Virginia Regions have approximately 78 percent of all the wineries in the state. The Blue Ridge Highlands, Southern Virginia and Chesapeake Bay Regions account for another 17 percent of the wineries. The remaining regions, Heart of Appalachia, Hampton Roads and Eastern Virginia account for the remaining 5 percent of the state’s wineries. Annette Boyd is the Director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office. In her presentation to the Virginia Vineyards Association in 2009, Annette stated that “Total grape production was up 25% in 2008 from the previous year” and “Total grape production was up 22.8% in 2009” from 2008. The wine industry in Virginia is definitely quickly on the rise.

Virginia’s climate, topography and soils allow growers to cultivate a broad range of great grapes. The combination of these special characteristics that affect wine helps vintners create wines that are especially tasteful with food. Standard wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet France, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Virginia Norton, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. Virginia Viognier is now recognized as an acceptable term among wine fanciers. Virginia Viognier wine, along with Virginia Cabernet Franc and native Norton, are fast becoming the state’s most notable wines. You will most probably find a Virginia Wine available to enjoy in many upscale restaurants.

If you like to tour various areas that produce wine, Virginia offers an extensive choice of “wine trails” to explore. Bedford County, Blue Ridge, Chesapeake Bay, Loudoun, Monticello, Mountain Road, Shenandoah Valley and Tuskie are just a few of the wine trail names. The character of Virginia abounds with American history and small scattered communities across the state that will make any wine tour you decide to try a truly enlightened experience.

I intend to try some Virginia wines when I visit my son on our next trip. I am sure that I will find one or more to my liking. I am betting, given the broad range of grape varieties found in Virginia, that you also will find one to your liking. As I always say, buy the wine that you like, store it properly in a wine refrigerator and then serve it at the perfect temperature. Your enjoyment of that favorite vintage will be enhanced.

Vacationing in Virginia

Virginia is full of history that reaches centuries back into the history of our country. There are several historical sights that can be visited throughout the year. There are also several events that take place in the month of February and are great if you are looking for something fun to do on the weekend or on your family vacation. The Mid-Atlantic Sports & Boat Show is an annual event that is held in Virginia Beach at the Virginia Beach Convention Center. The event is the largest boat show in the region. You can see the latest boat models as well as other related marine equipment that you need for your boat. The convention center is new and features 150,000 square feet of exhibition space.

The Annual Polar Plunge is found on the Oceanfront at Virginia Beach as well. This event has raised more than $2.5 million for the Special Olympics in Virginia. Over 17,500 people have plunged into the Atlantic Ocean. The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center is an educational adventure you will not forget. They are one of the top ten most visited aquariums in the country. They feature 800,000 gallons of aquariums, live animal habitats, 300 hands-on exhibits, ½ acre aviary, a 1/3-mile nature trail and a 6-story IMAX movie screen.

Head down to the Shenandoah Valley for a romantic dinner at the winery for a romantic Valentine’s experience. Local chefs cater the gourmet dinner and the winemaker himself presents the wines that are served with each course. The North Mountain Vineyard Wine Maker’s Dinner is located in Maurertown. In Gordonsville, you will find the Horton Vineyards Mardi Gras and Gumbo Celebration. Dress in purple, green and gold and don’t forget your masks and hats. There will be traditional Mardi Gras games and prizes.

The Chocolate Lovers Festival is a two day chocolate celebration. Chocolate vendors sell their products to taste and purchase. There is also a chocolate arts extravaganza where the medium of choice is, of course, chocolate. Don’t miss the Kiwannis Pancake Breakfast with chocolate chip pancakes, historic re-enactments, children’s activities, craft show and the open house at the local historic by buildings. The event is held in Downtown Historic Fairfax. Visit Colonial Williamsburg for the Annual Colonial Williamsburg Antiques Forum. You will find furniture, silver, ceramics, textiles, paintings and maps that were made or used in the early South.

Condos in Virginia

Virginia has a booming economy thanks in part to being home to the worlds largest naval base. The Federal Government is a major employer in the state of Virginia giving it a stable economy that weather the ups and downs or recessions better then many other states. Virginia is home to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, and the National Science Foundation. The technology industry is the second largest employer and they rely on Virginias many colleges and universities to supply their well educated workforce. If you are looking to relocate to Virginia there re many options available to you in terms of Virginia condos.

History buffs love Virginia’s Historic Triangle, composed of Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg. Travelers come from all over the country to visit the birthplace of America. Virginia was the site of the first European colony in the United States and its historic sites are a big draw to tourists. This influx of tourists make Virginia condos a great investment opportunity.

Virginia has a wildly diverse population. In recent years it has see enormous influxes of both Asians and Hispanics. Northern Virginia currently has the largest Vietnamese population on the East Coast and this influence can be seen in many of Virginias great restaurants. Virginia is known for its festivals and state fairs, and in recent years has seen many new annual traditional pop up that celebrate the heritage of it’s diverse population.

Farming is still an important industry in Virginia. Cattle, tobacco, peanuts and tomatoes are some of the states largest exports. The state has started to revitalize its poverty stricken Blue Ridge Mountain area with vineyards. Wine tastings in this part of the state are big draws and the area has seen in influx of tourists, many looking for Virginia condos to rent while in the area, who come to sample the still relative novelty of a Blue Ridge Mountain wine.

Virginia condos can put you in the heart of this diverse state. Whether you are looking to live near the military naval bases along the eastern shore, in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, or in one of Virginias booming cities there is a Virginia condo that’s right for you.