Saturday, May 31, 2008

Where's Waldo - Virginia State Bird edition.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend was visiting from the Pacific Northwest, and noted that it was a treat to see cardinals, because there aren’t any out there. So I felt obliged to take a photo of one to memorialize the occasion.

It turns out that it’s a lot more difficult than I thought to center the camera on a really small object when the bright sun is shining directly on the viewing screen you’re using to aim the camera with. I was convinced that this photo was centered on the bird. Apparently not.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Wine festival report.

Went to the annual James River wine festival last weekend. Located nowhere near the James River, naturally. (A decade ago, it was on an island downtown in the middle of the river. No idea why it’s not there: can’t possibly be the ambiance of this empty field next to parking lots in a nondescript office complex.)

The winery I usually pour for at this festival chose not to attend this year, so I got to go to the festival as a civilian for the first time in three or four years.

An okay festival – 20 wineries, ranging from the very good (e.g., Barboursville) to the … well, let’s be charitable and call them “new and still figuring out what they’re doing” and not name them here. Even though some of them aren’t remotely new. But the real reason I go to this festival (as a civilian) is that it’s only about 6 miles from my home.

Beautiful weather on Saturday: mid 80s, not a cloud in the sky. Somewhat crummy weather on Sunday: low 60s, completely overcast, sometimes windy, and constantly threatening to rain. And sometimes actually raining.

Which day did I attend the festival? Sunday, of course. Far fewer people, which means shorter lines or no lines at all, the opportunity to try more wines during your stay there, and the chance to chat at length with winemakers.

Didn’t really discover anything terribly new and exciting. Fabbioli Cellars had some good reds, of which their Bordeaux blend was the best. And clearly very few of the wineries making a Traminette (hybrid of Gewurztraminer and Riesling) know how to make it well. (One or two wineries had good ones there, so it can be done, but most of the others had an odd metallic finish that ruined any enjoyment of the wine.)

Friday, May 02, 2008

Charlotte airport wine bar.

On my various trips to Florida over the past few months, I’ve connected a couple of times in the Charlotte airport. While waiting for my connection (or, usually, for its replacement), I’ve had plenty of time to wait.

At some point I looked at the airport diagram, and discovered that Carolina Beer was listed, with a pub “under construction.” Well, no telling how old the listing was, so maybe by now they have finished construction and had opened it. If so, I was going to have an Endo Pale Ale or two before my next flight. Purely for medicinal purposes, you understand.

The pub was located a fair distance away: a long walk up the terminal arm I was in, across the main hub of the airport, and all the way out a different terminal arm. (Nothing wrong with a long walk. I had plenty of time before my connection.) Alas, when I got there, I discovered that the pub was, in fact, still under construction. (Well, as “under construction” as it could be, given that there were no workers to be seen anywhere around it. In any event, it was both unfinished and not open, sufficient to dash my hopes.)

Heading back to the terminal where my flight was getting more and more delayed, I spotted this wine bar. Well, okay: a glass or two of medicinal New Zealand sauvignon blanc or Oregon pinot noir would probably hit the spot.

As I walk into the bar, though, I realize I’m not going to get either one of those: this wine bar has only wines from the Yadkin Valley viticultural region of North Carolina.

Fine. I’m willing to try some North Carolina wines. You could do a tasting – six wines for, I don’t recall, four bucks. And they had around 25 wines to choose from: Ten to twelve each of reds and whites, a couple of dessert wines, and a “port.” I decided to pass on the reds and dessert wines, and just tried some whites. Three each of viognier and riesling, as I recall. The viogniers were forgettable: not bad, but there was also nothing to recommend them. The rieslings were, respectively, horrid, almost passable, and reasonably decent. I was delighted to find the last one, and had a glass of it. Enjoyed it enough that I lost track of time and got back to the boarding area while they were midway through the boarding process.

Interesting enough marketing gimmick: the bar showcases the wines of a viticultural area in North Carolina, to a fairly captive audience (people waiting for their planes) who – if they get to try something they like – will tell people back home about the wines, thereby setting the stage to build future demand.

And interesting enough that it would be a neat idea for someone to do for Virginia wines at a Virginia airport. Probably only Dulles or National airports would have enough traffic to justify such a specific wine bar, and neither one is as much of a regional hub as Charlotte is, which gives people the time to spend in a wine bar. Still, I think Dulles has enough flights connecting through it to give such a wine bar a decent amount of patrons with time on their hands.