Sunday, May 28, 2006

My first wine festival

Beautiful weather…great music…good food…awesome wine.

The 2006 Fiesta de Primavera at Mountain Cove Vineyards ended late this afternoon. Having seen the festival information on a campaign calendar for Al Weed, we decided to attend his annual Memorial Day weekend event. I, for one, wasn’t disappointed at all.

It was good to see Al in a different venue—at home this time. There were no campaign signs, bumper stickers, or staff members. No itinerary, phones or cameras flashing (although we did take some pictures for our own use.) Just a pretty laid-back affair with live music, pork barbecue, some local vendors and plenty of wine to taste. (And obviously a little R & R for everyone else in the campaign!) Other than support stickers on some fellow attendees and visiting cars with Weed bumper stickers today, you’d never know that Al is actually running for Congress.

Al Weed explains the winery operation during a tour at Mountain Cove Vineyards.
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During a hiatus for the band, Al personally lead a tour of the winery operation to a group of about 20 people and explained the setup from planting the vines (eight acres of white and red grapes) to the wine cellar. The wine business is a very complicated and amazing operation—at the whim of the weather and science (think chemistry!) more than I imagined. Having been in business since 1973, the vineyard has had its share of hurricanes, late frosts and, even more devastating to the crops, droughts. Most of the vines were replanted in 1996 and are just coming back into full production. Al’s learned from experience what makes the best wines from his grapes and how to utilize other materials in the area (apples, peaches, and blackberries) to supplement his own crops. He is now one of the foremost producers of fruit wines in the state.

From its beginnings as a one-man bottling operation (with seasonal help for harvesting grapes) to an operation that now employs a full-time staff, Virginia’s oldest winery has grown as the wine industry has expanded in not only Virginia, but also Nelson County (with six other vineyards). I plan to visit more vineyards in the future and see what they have to offer. Looks like I’ve missed out on a whole lot of fun over the years.

NOTE: While I was talking to his wife about the grounds today, Mrs. Weed was telling me about one worker’s comment about a flower bed we were near. As she repeated the statement (including his use of “Senora”), she turned to me and said, “He is a legal immigrant.” I had to laugh--there was no doubt in my mind that Al Weed would use nothing else to work his operation. As a matter of fact, many 5th District farmers use legal immigrants to work their farms. Cumberland County farmers use them with their truck crops and in their chicken houses.


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