Day: December 29, 2015

Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

Virginia’s Favorite Wineries Announced

By Frank Britt What makes a tasting room special to winery visitors? According to subscribers of the Official Virginia Wine Lover on-line publication who voted for Virginias Favorite Tasting Room, the answer is (1) Friendliness of the tasting room staff, (2) Attractiveness of the tasting room location, (3) Staff’s knowledge of wine, (4) Proximity of the winery, and (5) Price of a tasting. The Official Virginia Wine Lover just released the results of its 2015 Visitors’ Choice Awards for Virginia’s Favorite Winery Tasting Rooms. The Awards are particularly significant as many wineries sell up to 90 percent of their wine to visitors in their tasting rooms. November readers of the online publication selected the following winery tasting rooms (listed alphabetically) as their Top 10 Favorites. (To assure accuracy and fairness, all duplicate votes were removed before the final count.) BARBOURSVILLE VINEYARDS (Barboursville/Orange County) CASANEL VINEYARDS                 (Leesburg/Loudoun County) CHATEAU MORRISETTE              (Floyd/Floyd County) COOPER VINEYARDS                   (Louisa/Louisa County) DOUKENIE VINEYARDS              (Purcellville/Loudoun County) FIRST COLONY WINERY            (Charlottesville/Albemarle County) NARMADA WINERY                                   (Amissville/Rappahannock County) ROSEMONT VINEYARDS                        (La Crosse/Mecklenburg County) SAUDE CREEK                                            (Lenexa/New Kent County) WINERY AT BULL RUN                  (Centreville/Fairfax County)   The Official Virginia Wine Lover reaches some 50,000 subscribers, including wine festival attendees, visitors to wineries, tasting rooms and a targeted list of Virginia wine enthusiasts. The online publication is celebrating 10 years of supporting and promoting Virginia wines, the people who make them and those who enjoy them. Each month the electronic newsletter directs readers to festivals and events, featured wineries and travel destinations across the Commonwealth. For a complimentary subscription and additional information, visit Publishers Note: The Old Town Crier is happy to partner with Frank and his lovely wife, June, at VA Wine Lover in promoting our Virginia Wineries and Vineyards. We here…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Road Trip

2015- What a Ride!

By Bob Tagert For those of you who read us on a regular basis know that each month I write a Road Trip article as I venture away from Alexandria and explore what this region has to offer. As is my custom, each January I recap the places visited last year, so climb on board and see where went.   Tucker County, V   In February of 2015 I wrote about a three-hour trip to the highlands of West Virginia…Tucker County. Located in Tucker County is Canaan Valley, one of the premier winter destinations where recreation and relaxation options are plentiful. Downhill skiers and snowboarders of all levels will love the 43 slopes and trails of Canaan and Timberline mountains. Canaan Valley has a vertical drop of 850 feet and more than 180 inches of average annual snowfall. The resort also offers cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, ice-skating and snow tubing at the new tubing park. Although this time of year it is all about the winter activities, Canaan Valley is a four-season destination and a showpiece for the State of West Virginia and the West Virginia State Park system. Last year the state had just finished remodeling and adding on to their 32 million dollar, 160-room lodge complex. For those hearty souls who like to cross-country ski, there is White Grass. Originally built as the Weiss Knob Ski Area in 1959, today former Alexandrian Chip Chase and his staff maintain over 60 km of trails. Twelve miles from Canaan you can find Blackwater Falls State Park in Davis, WV. Blackwater Falls is named for the Blackwater River whose amber-colored waters plunge five stories then twist and tumble through an eight-mile long gorge. The black water is a result of tannic acid from fallen hemlock and spruce needles. The falls are one…

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Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

From the Vault

By Miriam R. Kramer From the Vault The president’s hair is much grayer and his problems and detractors have multiplied since I wrote the column below in January 2009. Much has changed. For example, in 2009 I had not yet experienced the overwhelming opportunities for knowledge and distraction embodied in the iPhone and iPad: devices that continue to change the world. Yet I still believe in this last year of the Obama presidency that we should clarify our beliefs. The charming This I Believe book series has continued and is still available, often focusing now on specific subject areas. We want to read these and other anthologies of personal experience to help realize our desires and hopes not just as we enter this New Year, but at any time we are able. Books That Believe in Our Future January can be dreary and anti-climactic after we make merry with friends and relatives throughout the holidays. This month will be electrifying, however, for those near Washington, DC and others worldwide. President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration promises to be a singular event that will attract millions to the metropolitan area. People will arrive from all over the country and the globe to attend parties, balls, and the event itself. Together we are turning a page in the American history book, and the world is eager to watch us do it. Our president-elect was chosen partially because he mobilized millions of volunteers and voters through updating them on his positions and various developments via text messaging, e-mail, and online social networks. As an American of international heritage who spent time growing up overseas, his message consistently focused on the ways in which we are connected as Americans and as global citizens. It has been all too evident recently that we are profoundly dependent on…

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Go Fish, Pets, Places, & Things

Sea to Shore Activism

By Steve Chaconas   Covering fishing’s conservation issues for 30 years, Robert U. Montgomery has told the stories, others can’t or won’t, to preserve and protect the outdoors for future generations.   High school English/journalism teacher dabbling as a freelancer, Montgomery cranked out articles and sent them to every editor. In 1982, Southern Outdoors Magazine’s Dave Precht was the first major editor to take interest. Montgomery’s inaugural article about noodling for catfish, which today is a reality show fascination, which was illegal in many areas. Montgomery’s flair for taking a story and introducing the characters involved came through as he recounted noodler encounters with snakes and snapping turtles.   In 1985 Precht asked Montgomery to be Senior/Writer Conservation for B.A.S.S. Publications and he became the first and only conservation writer in the company’s history. Bassmaster Magazine articles covered the stuff outdoor writers refer as “hooks and bullets”, the technical side of fishing involving techniques and tackle. While writing hotdogs reported on pro bass fishing events to come up with 10 new ways to do this or that, Montgomery was on the cutting edge of the sport’s growth, covering women’s pro bass tournaments and kid’s events.   Taking a non-traditional outdoors view, Montgomery utilizes his journalism degree to pursue his personal love of nature and the resource. It’s all about conservation and protection. B.A.S.S. Times,, and Montgomery’s own site feature articles contemplating fishing’s future. A special talent is required to approach the outdoors through the eyes of the government rather than the angler. “It takes more work because you have to talk to the experts, biologists and put into terms the average person can understand. It’s more work and not as much fun and you have to be dedicated to it.”   Cataloging his travels across the country, Montgomery endeavors…

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Notes from the Publisher

Publisher’s Notes

Well we have made it another year. After 28 years in business, we begin year 29 with the issue that you hold in your hand. As a lot of you know, what started out as idle talk one afternoon at Bullfeathers Restaurant (where O’Connell’s is today), has become one of the region’s most widely read magazines. I think that I was a young man when we started this publication, but it seems so long ago, and just yesterday at the same time. Back in 1987 the Port Packet and the Gazette newspapers merged and Old Town lost their local little paper, the Packet. A group of us had gathered at Bully’s for afternoon cocktails and the conversation of starting our own publication. I called my friend Dave Underwood two weeks later to tell him that I think the idea might work. After hemming and hawing around for a few months we finally came out with our first issue in January 1988…with a full color front cover. We paid for that first print job with a credit card and haven’t looked back since. Dave passed away in 2007 and not only did I lose a good friend, but the rest of Alexandria did as well. I have been very fortunate to have a long list of people who have helped this magazine survive all of these years. I may have been out front, but it was those behind me who did, and still do, the heavy pushing. It is also because of our wonderful advertisers that we are still here and can bring these incredible writers to you each month. We have been very fortunate that we have had most of these advertisers involved with us for many years and a few that have been with us since day one, every…

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Wining & Dining

How to Serve Wine 101: Tips on Choosing the Right Glass

How to Serve Wine 101: Tips on Choosing the Right Glass Seems like serving a wine should be easy enough: Just open and pour. But anyone who has ever struggled with a crumbling cork, or listened to a debate over whether the Cabernet they’re drinking needs to “breathe” more, knows that sometimes it’s not quite so simple. Ever been handed a fine wine in a chunky water tumbler, a tiny glass or a plastic cup? You may have noticed that you’re just not picking up any nuances; it’s not you or the wine, it’s the vessel. Not everything that holds liquid is well-suited for wine. Glassware is extremely important to wine appreciation—it influences how you perceive the color, aromas and taste—so the quality is absolutely key. Fortunately, there are many wine-friendly options on the market so you can find a glass that’s right for you—one that balances aesthetic appeal with what you can afford and how much space you have in your cupboards. Size—and Shape—Do Matter In general, look for clear crystal with thin-rimmed, large bowls that hold 10 to 18 ounces, taper slightly at the top and balance well in the hand. The clearer the glass, the richer the wine’s color appears. The thinner the rim, the less the glass distracts from the wine as you sip. A large bowl and a narrow opening (but not too small to drink easily from) help magnify the wine’s aromas, providing plenty of space for the aromas to expand, but little room for them to escape. Many glasses are too small; few are too large. Hand-blown glass is generally thinner, especially at the rim, and balances better than machine-made glass. These days you’ll find quite a few “combination” wineglasses with hand-blown bowls and machine-made stems and bases. They can be a good…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Urban Garden

Indoor Plant Health

By Jimmy Deaton   This month we are going to focus on the health of your indoor plants.   Keeping your plant healthy goes a long way toward keeping pests and diseases at bay. A majority of the time those little buggers and diseases will attack a weak or stressed plant before a healthy one and a healthy plant that is attacked has a much better chance of surviving.   Plant Health Tips:   Choose plants suited to your growing environment. The indoor plant environment can be fine-tuned with the help of grow lights, humidity trays and fans but it’s up to you to decide how much you’re willing to take on. You’ll soon learn that some plants can do well with your degree of attentiveness and some won’t. If a plant fails despite your best efforts, don’t take it personally, and don’t beat a dead horse. Learn from your mistake and move on.   Monitor the health of your plants: Daily care allows you to monitor closely and make timely adjustments. Note any changes in your plant and its environment.   Provide the right amount of light: An ideal indoor location should offer consistent light whether that is natural, artificial or a combination of both. For example, the light that comes in through a bright southern or western window might be enough to keep your plant alive in the winter whereas a day lengthened to 12-14 hours with the help of artificial light might actually help it grow.   Provide Ventilation: Air circulation provided by a fan especially a ceiling fan can help tremendously with the exchanges of gases that a plant needs as well as keeping mold and mildew in check. It also helps the plant to take up more water and promotes the drying of the soil…

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Pets, Places, & Things, Points on Pets

Why Adopting an Older Pet Makes Sense

By Sarah Liu & Cindy McGovern “Blessed is the person who has earned the love of an old dog.”- Sydney Jeanne Seward   While the quote refers to dogs, the same can be said of cats and for that matter, any animal. Who can resist an adorable kitten or puppy? The ball of fur sprinting across the house one minute and curled up asleep, totally spent, the next? But what about the muzzles speckled with gray, the senior citizens who find themselves in shelters across the country? Senior animals comprise the largest population at many shelters and are often at the head of the line for euthanasia as they languish in shelters. Puppies and kittens are cute and adoptable while seniors are stressed, fearful, and overwhelmed by the situation in which they find themselves. Veterinarians say that dogs start to fall into the category of ‘seniors’ around the age of seven. However, it depends on size. The smaller the dog, the later in life the dog becomes a senior. But a dog in a shelter can be as young as five and still have trouble finding a new home. A ‘senior’ cat is normally considered over the age of seven. Many assume a shelter animal has a behavioral issue or was a problem pet. Older animals lose their homes for many different reasons and most of them have nothing to do with problems the animals have, but rather with those of the person or family surrendering the animal. The death of a guardian, with no family able or willing to take in the pet, is a common case. Imagine an older pet that just lost their human and home, maybe the only one they’ve known, finding themselves in a shelter. While being in a shelter is stressful for any animal,…

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Beauty & Health, First Blush

Winter Beauty Care

By Kim Putens The holidays are over and the winter blues have set in.  You looked fabulous getting through the holiday parties, the trips to see Santa, and the late-night shopping adventures, but the hectic schedule and craziness have left you feeling blah.  So, here’s how to survive the winter blues and look good doing it. Take care of your skin.  When your skin looks great, your makeup looks even better.  During these cold, drab winter months, it’s easy for our skin to start looking dull and lifeless.  A couple of ideas to jumpstart the appearance of your skin – apply a mask, experience a deep exfoliation, and apply a richer moisturizer.   Try a mask that has rejuvenating properties.  Masks that rejuvenate the skin work to exfoliate off dead skin and bring back its natural glow.  These masks specifically get the blood flowing to the surface so that the skin looks youthful and glowing.  A deep exfoliation will get rid of the layers of dull dry skin that have accumulated as a natural winter blanket on the skin.  Most over the counter physical exfoliants – the granular ones – will do the trick.  Chemical exfoliants with glycolic acid are also very effective.  Finally, make sure to apply a richer moisturizer than usual.  These winter months are incredibly dry and impact the skin’s natural moisture levels.  Using a proper moisturizer is important in providing relief and in diminishing the look of dry, aging skin. Take care of your hair.   For many of us, our mood and how we approach the day is dependent upon the way our hair looks.  Frizzy hair, split ends, and lifeless locks are consequences of the dry winter months.  Frizzy locks are very common.  There are many ways to help the hairs lay flat.  Try…

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Events, Pets, Places, & Things

January King Street Cats Calendar

King Street Cats Adoption Calendar for January 2016   For details please see our Website:   Or contact us via email at:   King Street Cats 25 Dove Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 Every Saturday and Sunday from 1.30pm-4.30pm   Pro Feed Bradlee Shopping Center, 3690 King St, Alexandria, VA 22302 Every Saturday and Sunday from 1pm-4pm   Petco Unleashed 1101 S Joyce St, Arlington, VA 22202 Saturday, January 2 from 1pm-4pm Sunday, January 16 and Saturday, January 17 from 1pm-4pm   The Dog Park 705 King Street, Alexandria, VA22314 Saturday, January 9 1pm-4pm   Indy & Ally 321 S Washington St Alexandria, VA 22314 Saturday, January 23 and Sunday, January 24   King Street Cats is looking for foster homes! You provide the spare room and TLC and we can provide food, litter and all vetting. Please email for our Kitten Fostering FAQ at:

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