Day: September 2, 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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