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Twice a year, Mount Vernon Estates (the home of George Washington) becomes the site of the Wine Festival and Sunset Tours. It’s become a tradition for John and I to go whenever we’re in town. It’s a great was to spend a relaxing evening on the lawn overlooking the beautiful Potomac and listening to the jazz band.  And, better yet, we go with friends ~ makes for wonderful
memories.

Mount Vernon Estate

Friday night was our 4th visit. We’ve got it down to a science now: Get there early, stake out a good spot on the lawn (not too close to the band) and then hit the wine tasting as soon as possible. Elbowing people out of the way is essential ~ some set up station and continue drinking without a thought about the people behind them waiting for a sip. Once we find the wine we like, we buy a bottle (or three) and head back to the chairs to relax.  The Dixie Power Trio (there are really 4 members) played toe-tapping New Orleans-style jazz, zydeco, Cajun sounds. Loved their rendition of  “When The Saints Come Marching In” as festival-goers formed a conga line and danced around the lawn. 

Mount Vernon Estates is located in Alexandria, Virginia on the banks of the Potomac River.  It’s one of the country’s most popular historic estate and welcomes over 1 million visitors every year.  There’s the plantation house, many out-buildings and gorgeous grounds which include flower and vegetable gardens. I visit Mount Vernon as often as I can but the wine festival is definitely a highlight.

Wine Festival II

This year there were 16 Virginia Wineries represented. I enjoyed “Dog and Oyster” and “Sunset Hills” wines but we ended up choosing “Trump Winery” as our bottle(s) of choice (a tasty Merlot).

Wine Festival Glass Collection

If you decide to go, purchasing your tickets in advance is essential. The festival usually sells out on Friday and Saturday nights. They’ve added Sunday evening due to the popularity of the event. I’m tempted to go back tonight just to listen to the band. The fall Wine Festival is scheduled for October 3,4 and 5, 2014. Tickets go on sale August 25, 2014.

Helpful Hints:

  • Bring a folding chair and blanket for the lawn
  • Have valid photo identification
  • Outside food & beverage not allowed. There are concessions under the tasting tent.
  • There’s Wine Valet services if you decide to buy several bottles/case. The wine will be waiting for you at the exit.
  • The festival goes on rain or shine so be prepared if there are any clouds in the sky
  • There are plenty of cabs waiting outside in case you’ve imbibed too much.

Click here for more information about Mount Vernon Estates and the Wine Festival.

Don’t forget to get a photo with George and Martha Washington:

Wine Festival with George and Martha Washington at Mount Vernon
Spring Wine Festival 2011

Mount Vernon with Geroge and Martha Washington
Fall Wine Festival 2012

Wine Festivalwith George and Martha
Spring Wine Festival 2014

I realize there’s a photo missing ~ seems we neglected to take photos at one of the festivals. Guess we were too busy enjoying the evening! At least that’s the story I’m sticking with…

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It’s not quite Friday but I dug out this “Flashback Friday” from a few years ago. The recent snowfall in Virginia made me remember a magical snowy day in France many years ago…

Beaune and the Hotel Le Cep definitely rank as one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever spent Thanksgiving:

Beaune, Thanksgiving dinner

As we drove from Germany towards the Burgundy region in France,  it started to snow and by the time we arrived in Beaune, it was blanketed with a fresh dusting of snow ~ it looked magical. We splurged and stayed at the Hotel Le Cep which the Lonely Planet guidebook referred to asQuite simply, this is one of France’s very finest hotels.”  How could we pass up staying there after that kind of recommendation!?! We weren’t disappointed ~ the hotel was fabulous and the staff wonderful.

Originally, we were suppose to visit in early November but the riots were happening all over France and we didn’t want to take a chance since we were traveling with our young daughter. When I called to reschedule our reservations, the hotel was so accommodating and understanding about why we were changing our dates. Upon our arrival, we found they had upgraded us to one of their largest suites. It’s a great joy for me when I find I’ve been upgraded at a hotel.

Beaune, Logan at Hostel Dieu

Beaune, hostel-dien

One of the most interesting sights in Beaune is the Gothic Hotel-Dieu which was founded in 1443 and was considered a “celebrity rated” charity hospital. For its time, I’m sure it was state of the art but those blood letting instruments and the closeness of the hospital beds made me a little queasy.  There was also an 18th century pharmacy with flasks once filled with things such as vomit-nut powder.

Beaune, Wine Caves

Beaune in the caves

After touring the hospital, we made our way to the Marché aux Vins wine cellars and went underground to the dusty wine-bottle lined caves. We had a personal tour guide and, after a history lesson on the winery and about the region, we were given a flat, metal, shiny cup to taste the wines we encountered as we self-toured the caves. Marché aux Vins, established in 1239, is one of the larger wine cellars in Beaune and the caves are lined with thousands of wine  bottles.  As we navigated through the cave, we stopped at each of the 13 candle-lit wine barrels to taste the wine which was a open bottle ~ we could’ve drank the entire bottle if we wanted.  I love the whole French attitude towards wine, food and living life in beauty.

Beaune logan on carousel
Enjoying the carousel

Beaune Saturday market
Saturday Market

Beaune walking around
Walking around Beaune

Beaune, Logan guidebook
Our guide

Beaune Fireplace

Enjoying the cozy, warm fireplace which was so welcomed after our cold walks around town.

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Mount Vernon Estate

With Mount Vernon Estates only a couple of miles down the road, we’ve been there many times since we moved to Virginia. I’m glad we purchased the annual entry passes ~ at only $28.00 per person for the year, it has saved us a lot of money.  Mount Vernon is very dog friendly and allows dogs anywhere on its grounds but not in the buildings.  We’ve been there with most of our visitors so I usually skip the house tour.  The regular house tour consists of the first and second floors but during the Christmas holidays, they open up the 3rd floor for viewing.

Recently, we attended the Spring Wine Festival and Sunset tours.  This time the basement/cellar, which is rarely open, was available to visitors. It was small and oh, so musty but I enjoyed seeing it.  The festival featured 17 Virginia wineries.  Unfortunately, I was the designated driver so I only tasted a couple of wines early on in the evening.  As we were leaving, there were lots of taxis waiting for fares so we will surely go that route next time.  Speaking of next time, that’ll be in the late September when they host the Fall Wine Festival.

The tickets cost $35.00 per person so it’s not an inexpensive evening but it sure was fun to attend with a large group. We set up our lawn chair in between the wine/food tent and the house.  Perfect spot with easy access to the wine tasting and we could still hear the band.

Here are some tips if you decide to attend:

  • The festival occurs rain or shine
  • The Mansion, Wine Cellar and outbuildings are open but the gardens, Wharf, Tomb & Museum are closed
  • Security will search backpacks/purses
  • No outside food/beverage allowed
  • Bring a blanket & lawn chair ~ folding tables not allowed
  • Pets not allowed during the wine festival (way too many people)
  • No smoking except at the designated area near the restrooms
  • Photo ID will be requested
  • The festival is an adult event
  • If you’re a designated driver, you’ll get complimentary soft drinks throughout the evening
  • Wine valet is available for case purchases.
  • The festival starts at 6:00 pm and ends promptly at 9:00 pm

Mount Vernon has a lot to offer and I highly recommend it ~ anytime of year.

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New Favorite Wine

I go through stages with wines. Were money not an object, I know exactly what I would prefer to drink, namely, Chauteauneuf-du-Pape (Clos des Papes), Cakebread or Grgich Hills. When I worked at a hotel in the Grand Tetons, our very informed Food and Beverage Manager, Dan, had a wine tasting for us much less enlightened wine drinkers. I learned so much at that tasting but don’t know if that was a good thing or not because it raised my level of what I wanted to drink but, not necessarily what I can afford to buy.  😉

Being price conscious, I continue to search for those wines which are an excellent value for my occasional evening glass of wine. For a few years, I went through a Chardonnay stage, then one favorite (Chateauneuf-du-Pape) was affordable because we lived in Germany and a bottle was BELOW $10.00. Talk about spoiled! Then, for a while, after a wonderful trip to Italy, I was into Chianti wines. It’s taken me a year here to find a new wine and I’ve tried a lot of different kinds. Here’s my new favorite:

It’s an excellent value ($12.00) and tastes yummy. Are you a wine lover? What is your favorite “value” wine?

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