Month: September 2019

Grapevine & Vintner Profile, Wining & Dining

It’s veraison season. What could possibly go wrong?

It’s veraison season. What could possibly go wrong? By Scott Elliff By the time you read this, our DuCard Vineyards grapes will be in the ‘veraison’ stage of ripening, where the berries start to soften and turn color.  It’s pronounced ‘ver-ay-zon’ but most of us have Americanized it as ‘ver-ay-sion’.  No matter – sort of mumble it and give it a little French flair and we’ll know what you mean. It’s a great time of year as it gives us a major hint and nod that all the growing season work we’ve put in to date just might pay off.  During this period the grapes evolve from hard, light green pebbles to translucent yellow gold luscious globes with concentrated sugars and aromas (for white grapes like Viognier and Chardonnay) and to dark blue-purple orbs packed with distinctive varietal character (for reds like Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot).  White harvest is about 30 day away, and red harvests about 60 days out. Exciting for sure.  And hey, what could possibly go wrong ?? Well, rain for one.  A big rainstorm will dump buckets of water that grapevine roots will absorb and push out into the berries, diluting them and delaying ripening – in effect offsetting much of the work that’s been done to date during the growing season.  We are happy with a total drought, and recognize we’re not very realistic. Humidity for another.  Ah, August and September in Central Virginia.  Dripping with it.  The risk for us is mildew and rot and a potentially ruined crop.  So we’re constantly stripping off excess leaves to improve airflow in the vine rows and increase sunlight penetration on the berries. Weather that’s cloudy, or cool … or even super hot.  Not asking much there either.  This year in Bordeaux it’s been up to…

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Arts & Entertainment, High Notes

Taller by Jamie Cullum

By Ron Powers Taller by Jamie Cullum It’s been four years since Jamie Cullum released original music. Now he’s back with his 8th studio album “Taller”. Cullum’s new effort is made up of ten masterfully produced jazz-pop songs and is hands down some of the best work of his career. Each song flows effortlessly into the next all while maintaining a contrast that holds the listeners attention. In addition, it’s a well-rounded and balanced album packed with perfectly crafted melodies that have just the right mix of soul, pop, and jazz. Cullum’s vocal performance shines bright throughout as he delivers spot on toplines with his signature smooth yet raspy voice. The record kicks off with the title track and lead single “Taller”; A boom bopping hit with a big bad groove that reveals Cullum as both vulnerable and tough. Next we hear the up close and intimate “Life Is Grey”. On this tune we notice Cullum’s deeper and reflective side. Track three is called “Mankind”; an uplifting and hopeful song with an old-time gospel vibe. “Usher” is the fourth track off “Taller”. It comes along with a slamming groove dripping with so much funk magic that even the crustiest of IRS agent would be unable to resist moving to it. The fifth track (“The Age of Anxiety”) is the most touching song of the ten. You can feel Cullum baring his soul on this one. After that we have “For The Love”; an uplifting song about fighting through hard times and following your dreams. The amazing melodies roll on with the inspirational “Drink”. This song features tough-love lyrics and a melody that will make your soul soar. “You Can’t Hide Away From Love” is the eighth and most romantic song of the album. Listening to this song is like sharing…

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Caribbean Connection, Featured Post, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Old Willy T Gets New Life…..Underwater

The Old Willy T Gets New Life…..Underwater By Jenn Manes We have a very cool story to share with all of you. I’m sure you all know by now that the Willy T – the large steel ship that was anchored off of Norman Island and served as a bar/restaurant – was heavily damaged during Hurricane Irma. The vessel was so severely damaged that it could no longer be used, and for nearly two years, it sat smashed against the shoreline near Pirate’s Bight. A new Willy T was built – it was the third vessel that served as the Willy T – and it was first anchored off of Peter Island and reopened back in June 2018. The new Willy T finally moved back home to Norman Island last month where it remains today. Who says you can’t go home… Phew, that’s a lot of backstory! Ok, so now you’re probably wondering what happened to the old Willy T that was damaged during the storm. Well it recently received a new life… on the ocean floor. The old Willy T is one of the British Virgin Islands’ latest artificial reefs. How cool is that??! It all happened thanks to a nonprofit group called Beyond the Reef. The BVI organization is comprised of a group of collaborators who are passionate about the ocean and include an underwater engineer, an oceanographer, a metal sculptor and an environmental filmmaker. Their goal, with a little help from the community near and far, is to create the most impactful artificial coral reef system in the world. And in our opinion, they’re well on their way to doing that. Now this is clearly a cool thing. But makes it even cooler is how they turned the old Willy T into a pirate-themed wreck. Check out a…

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From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, To the Blue Ridge


ICK. TOXIC ALGAE BLOOMS: TOXIC TO DOGS, SICKENING TO PEOPLE About the time dire warnings about dog deaths from blue-green algae hit social media, we had an unusually thick mat of algae in the pond closest to our house. We knew the pond was not draining correctly because of a collapsed drainage culvert that needed an expensive repair, and because of the algae, we tried to keep the dogs out of it, but we never worried about toxicity. Then, in early August, we had a massive fish kill. Hundreds of bass and bluegills floated on the surface. Turns out, our fish kill was because the thick mat of algae on the surface was starving the fish of oxygen and coupled with the July heat wave, killed all but the catfish. Ours was fortunately not, however, the dog-killing blue-green algae. It’s common in late summer for ponds and lakes to become covered with algae blooms and aquatic vegetation that can be unsightly and form large, smelly mats on the water surface. Most is unattractive and smells disgusting but not harmful. Some can be deadly to dogs. These blooms of algal overgrowth tend to become worse after heavy rains and excessive periods of higher than normal temperatures, both of which we’ve had this summer. Recently reports have surfaced that dogs have died after exposure to a toxin commonly referred to as blue-green algae. Reports of dog deaths from the harmful algae blooms or HABs in North Carolina, Georgia and Texas have made headlines nationally and people have become scared for the safety of their pets. As did we after our fish kill, but testing revealed ours was just an overgrowth of run of the mill algae. The toxin that is harmful to dogs (and humans) is not actually algae, rather it’s a…

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Behind the Bar, Wining & Dining

Behind the Bar: Steve Bork

Steve Bork RT’s Restaurant 3804 Mount Vernon Avenue Alexandria 703-684-6010 Steve conjures up RT’s Creole 75 #1 – House made rosemary and pear infused gin, ginger and lemon shaken and strained, topped with champagne and a lemon twist. How did you get started in the bartending business? While in college I got a job as a server and ended up being pretty good at it so when a bartending position opened up they asked me if I was interested. My “regular” job is writing code and I luckily get to work from home so being a nerd with social skills I feel like they will go away if I don’t use them. The extra money surely doesn’t hurt as well. What is your biggest bartender pet peeve? My biggest pet peeve as a bartender is actually (some) other bartenders. If you are going to be surly while behind the bar then DON’T BE A BARTENDER. Go sit in a cubicle and be miserable. You don’t necessarily have to be entertaining but you at least have to be pleasant and affable. If a guest annoys you laugh it off and let it roll off of your back, most are at the bar to have a great time so don’t take it out on them. Tending bar should be fun. End of rant. What is the cleverest line anyone has tried on you in order to garner a free drink? A rather disheveled gentleman approached the bar and asked for a drink and then explained that he had no money but told me if I bought him one he would “pay it forward”. I spent the next 10 minutes explaining to him how that wasn’t how paying it forward works but he didn’t get it. Buying him a drink would have…

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Business Profile

A Family Affair

By Bob Tagert A Family Affair With all of the interest about Amazon moving into Crystal City we thought it a good time to talk to some real estate people about the ins and outs of this booming market. There is no better place to start than talking to Lori Windsor, local Alexandrian and real estate professional for Craftmark Homes. Lori’s husband, Eric Yakuchev, and her son, Matthew McGinley, who also sell for Craftmark, joined us in the discussion. Growing up in Springfield, Lori has spent most of her life in Alexandria so she knows the area well. She has sold over 60 communities in her career in Northern Virginia with 37 being in Springfield, Arlington and Alexandria. Before Craftmark, she sold for Pulte at the Potomac Yard project. Eric has sold for Syntax before joining Craftmark, and they both met at Potomac Yards. Matt naturally went into real estate sales and is currently a pre-sales expert for the Craftmark projects. Together, these professionals have a lot of knowledge and skill. As is the case with these new home sales, when one project is nearly completed, like The Crest community, the sales managers are relocated to a new property. Lori is now the sales manager of Towns of South Alex, which is where we met for this meeting. The name Craftmark is relatively new to me so Eric explained, “Craftmark is a 25 year old privately held company. They have built over 8,000 homes and numerous communities throughout the Northern Virginia area. Their claim to fame was luxury and estate single family homes so they were definitely upper end but lately have become more diversified.” During the conversation, they all agreed that the Northern Virginia area is one of the top five housing markets in the United States. “I think…

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History, History Column

1957 Textbook-Fake News

Old Town Crier Written by ©2019 Sarah Becker Copyright ©2019 Sarah Becker 1957 Textbook-Fake News                                                                                   In 1950 the 81st Congress convened; government scientists worked on a hydrogen bomb and Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy condemned Communism.   Soviet-armed North Korean troops invaded South Korea; the U.S. Supreme Court upheld black Americans right to attend a state law school, and segregated Virginia ranked thirty-fourth in its financial support of education.  In Virginia education was mostly “neglected,” except for a 7th grade state-listed history book written to appeal to a “conservative rural audience.”    “What is most distressing about the product of the 1950 Virginia Textbook Commission—and the Virginia General Assembly that created it—is not the over-glorifying of Virginia’s heritage, but a lack of confidence in it or her people,” The Virginian-Pilot wrote in 1965.  “The concept of an arm of the government supervising the writing of history is precisely the sort of statism to which Virginia politicians object so vehemently in their own Federal Government.” President Donald J. Trump (R-NY) defines fake news as not true.  “False stories created to be shared or distributed for the purpose of…promoting or discrediting a public figure or political movement.”  Commission Chairman, former Virginia Delegate and a top-ranking member of the Byrd Organization Cecil W. Taylor, of Lynchburg, admitted the 7th grade textbook—Virginia: History, Government, Geography by Francis Butler Simkins—was “written with bias, glorification, and political cant.” In fact, the 7th grade history text was “‘purified’ by state censors” in an effort “to appeal to conservative Virginia’s point of view.”    “Dixie [the South] is…

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Arts & Entertainment, Last Word

The Nickel Boys

The Nickel Boys By Miriam R. Kramer Two years ago Whitehead authored The Underground Railroad, a retelling of history in which the passage north for African-American slaves was a real railroad. In plumbing our racial history, he created a symbolic work with surrealist touches reminiscent of William Faulkner and Ralph Ellison. Winning the 2017 Pulitzer and National Book Awards for this novel, Whitehead untangled and rewrote one thread of the malignant history of racism in America. The Nickel Boys tells a similar but more realistic tale, relating the story of two Black boys sent to a reform school in Northern Florida in the early 1960s. One, Elwood Curtis, is an idealist, a straight-A student who worships the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and believes in the possibility of eventual equality between the races. Another, Jack Turner, is a cynic who has had to bounce from member to member of his family, taking odd jobs to survive. When arrested by the police, Elwood is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Turner has dropped his usual detachment and rebelled by throwing a cinder block through a white customer’s car window. According to its mission statement, their destination, the Nickel Academy, a segregated juvenile reformatory, provides “physical, intellectual, and moral training” so that its “pupils” can become men with integrity and honor. In reality it might as well have the words Arbeit Macht Frei nailed above the front door. Reformatories, concentration camps, and for-profit penitentiaries have long delighted in lofty, absurd proclamations that bear no resemblance to such institutions’ effects on the human beings contained within. After Elwood arrives, he naively applies his ideals to conditions within the system. Standing up for a black inmate who is being bullied, he falls victim to Superintendent Maynard Spencer, the very picture…

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Personality Profile

Rick “Cardo” Casey aka “Spring Break”

By Bob Tagert Rick “Cardo” Casey aka “Spring Break” Many of you may remember our friend Rick Casey from his days of writing “My Favorite Places” in the Old Town Crier. Rick had established himself within the hospitality business with his company Capitol Representation, and we shared office space at 112 South Patrick for many years. He was an Old Town resident back then and brought a lot of spontaneity to our gatherings on our popular patio and at our favorite watering holes. Rick was in town recently and I had the chance to reminisce with my friend and finally write about him. His path to the hospitality business was possibly predetermined since he grew up in Covington, Virginia, just 18 miles from the Homestead in Hot Springs and Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, which would one day both become his clients. When I asked what he learned in high school, he responded with that famous grin…”the three R’s: Readin, Rritin, and Road to Roanoke!” While in school Rick was a talented musician and began playing at the Homestead and would also work as a “Walker”. “I would escort the daughters and granddaughters of wealthy families to dinner.” At the time, Rick was only 15 and getting ready to go to college. “Sometimes I would get very interesting offers and on one occasion a family wanted me to marry their daughter,” he said. In 1973, Rick went to Madison College where he majored in pre-med. “Well, that lasted ten days”, he says, “I then changed my major to undeclared. I had 3 science labs and classes every day at 8:00…that wasn’t my style, especially organic chemistry, so I learned “drop-add”, and to stay on scholarship, I took badminton, racquetball, handball, Marriage and Family Relations and Military Science.” While Rick…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet Declared Marine Sanctuary

By Chesapeake Conservancy Mallows Bay Ghost Fleet Declared Marine Sanctuary Local community partners, national conservation and preservation groups, and recreation and education advocates celebrated the designation of a new national marine sanctuary at Mallows Bay in the Potomac River. The sanctuary will take effect by the end of 2019 and will be the first designated in 19 years. This new sanctuary in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will protect the “Ghost Fleet” of more than 200 shipwrecks. “Mallows Bay contains the greatest, richest and most vibrant maritime artifacts of America’s ascendancy on the international stage,” said historian Donald G. Shomette, author of Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay. “It is a virtual calendar of over 250 years of history, including the very ships that made America the greatest shipbuilding nation on the planet. It is truly a national treasure.” “Mallows Bay is a unique place where we can immerse ourselves in our natural and cultural heritage by getting up close to history,” said Kim DeMarr, owner of Atlantic Kayak Company. “As someone who takes people out on the water every day, the national recognition and attention that comes from having a national marine sanctuary creates new opportunities to connect our community and visitors alike to the Chesapeake Bay watershed through fun, educational experiences while growing our outdoor recreation economy.” “Marine sanctuaries are our nation’s underwater living laboratories and outdoor classrooms,” said Diving With a Purpose Director Jay Haigler. “In partnership with students from Ocean Guardian schools in the area, we are already seeing young leaders empowered to become environmental stewards, to educate and engage people throughout their communities, and to inspire action and appreciation for our shared maritime heritage. That’s the true power of sanctuaries.” “This is a great day for the Chesapeake Bay. The first National Marine Sanctuary in the Chesapeake…

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