Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thanksgiving: The Always Overshadowed Holiday

In recent years, Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday. This is partly because we have started a new Thanksgiving tradition. As avid Hokie fans, during the years Virginia Tech plays University of Virginia, we stay home to host friends and family throughout the holiday weekend. On the years, VT play in C'ville, we travel to the beautiful Outer Banks for the week. Last year, we rented a wonderful home facing the sound. The sunsets were so amazing. So much so, my brother-in-law proposed to his fiance. This year the Hokies will be home in Blacksburg, so we will enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving Day dinner, the madness of black Friday shopping and the battle for the Commonwealth Cup on Saturday.

More than our new tradition, I have found that Thanksgiving is a relaxing holiday for me. There is no pressure about finding and buying the right gifts for others. The only pressure is to have a great meal and take a moment to reflect on what you are thankful for in life. In an effort to help us take that moment, I have also added a craft project for the kids and adults. This year we are turning a small terracotta pot in a turkey. Each feather must represent something we are thankful for this year. I’m not crafty, but admittedly, this is kinda fun. It seems I always have to start this craft project from scratch since the retail industry maintains only a small section of Thanksgiving related items, barely to be found between the massive Halloween and already present Christmas d├ęcor. This week, I’ve rummage around the stores trying to find anything Thanksgiving-ish to add to our table setting to no avail. If that wasn’t bad enough, the neighbors have already ripped harvest wreaths down to put up their Christmas decorations. We look like the Jehovah Witness house and it’s not even December yet! I have great memories of watching the Macy’s day parade with my grandmother anticipating the arrival of the real Santa Claus to START the holiday season. But, I kinda like the reduced societal pressure of Thanksgiving. The real showcase is the meal. As a child, I remember that in addition to Turkey, Thanksgiving dinner is the time mom served every great side dish all in one meal. And don’t get me started with the day after turkey sandwich with Duke’s mayonnaise! Its then you realize that that deli meat turkey just doesn’t cut it!

I can remember as a college student, we were always excited about the ‘turkey meal’ served in the dining hall, sure it wasn’t like home, but it was a nice warm-up event. I guess, you could say we paired ours with Natty Light. This year I am excited about serving Virginia wine with our meal. I'm sad to say we'll start with a California sparkling wine, but if I didn't already have this on hand, I would definitely serve a Virginia Sparkling Wine. For our white fans, we'll have Pollak 2009 Pinot Gris. Our red fans, King Family Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2009. I can't wait to open this one! Tonight while we cooked and prepped for tomorrow we enjoyed Willowcroft 2009 Chardonnay. Terrific. So even if the turkey flops, we'll still have great wine and maybe even a few natty lights on hand to enjoy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Yes, Virginia Wine Country can compete!

I returned from Napa with a renewed excitement about my wine hobby. This hobby can be challenging and takes a lot of practice! I'm still not discerning tastes and smells very well. If I glance at tasting notes or just reading the bottle label, I might pick up on something, but I'm afraid it is more of a subliminal thing than me actually smelling and tasting the hints of plum and cherry. Sans tasting notes, I find myself at a loss of words to describe the taste. While this has been a bit frustrating, I feel like I need to remain patience and most importantly keep drinking. Secondly, this hobby will never get old because there is always something new to taste and new regions to explore!

Prior to Napa, the specific grape growing regions (American Viticulture Area AVA) was concept that I understood theoretically, but I think Napa allowed me to wrap my brain around the importance of different regions. Our free visitor center's map clearly showed the appellations and with everything being in such a small concentrated area, we managed to travel and taste something made from many of their appellations. Virginia's AVA is more spread out and perhaps because of this I ignored the importance of how this might assist me in learning more about wine, taste variances, and personal preferences. Wine blogger, Dezel Quillen, recently discussed Virginia's AVA regions in what I found to be an informative post. He does a much better job breaking this stuff down for you than I could.

Many of the factoids I discovered about the Napa Valley region were fascinating and I can bore you to tears with them next time we share a glass of wine together. Napa is...well Napa...and it's hard to think of anything new to say about this beautiful part of our country. But what I know for sure is that Virginia can absolutely compete with Napa's Wine Country!
We have so much to offer in terms of great wine and inspiring tourism. You can visit great wineries in a beautiful countryside setting, taste some terrific wine, and have a great dinner in a local restaurant. Sounds like Napa right? But, Virginia has such rich history to share throughout the Commonwealth. Virginia's historical sites both large and small are such an added bonus along the way to winery excursions. Obviously, there are the well-known sites such as Monticello, but sometimes just taking the time to read the roadside historical markers along the way can be an interesting way to remind us of the importance our Commonwealth played in shaping our nation. If you are not sold on by my argument, then get out to one of the Virginia Wine Trails and experience it yourself.