November 11 marked 2 years since my husband and I got married – for the second time. We married before deployment, in a quiet ceremony on a really cold and snowy day, and two weeks later he shipped off. Our second wedding was when he got back from deployment, on another cold, but wonderful day with the most beautiful sunset.
To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to go to Charlottesville. It’s been a few years since we’ve been there, the drive is easy, plus I had a list of places to try. I’ve been following Polina Chesnokova on Instagram and her blog Chesnok (Russian for “garlic”) for a while now, and I knew she had lived and worked there. I asked if she could suggest a few places to try and she went above and beyond with the detailed list.
We had planned on visiting one or two places ourselves the first day, on our actual anniversary – 11/11. We started by toasting at Trump Winery with our favorite Blanc de Blanc. The views were as scenic as we remembered and the setting sun highlighted our experience.
We had dinner at Mas which was on the list of places Polina recommended and I am so glad we decided to go there. Voted Best restaurant in Cville for many years, it certainly held up to its reputation. It was the best sangria I’ve ever tasted, along with incredible carne asada, smokey, grilled to perfection octopus, and seared tuna. And – obviously – Jamon Iberico and Manchego cheese.
We rounded out our meal with goat cheese cheesecake which had the most incredible “tang” to it. My favorite thing was, perhaps, octopus, which surprises me a little. I’ve seen octopus mostly on sashimi platters at our local sushi restaurant – and it was nothing like that. Don’t get me wrong – our local sushi restaurant makes the best sushi ever, but I am somewhat lukewarm to octopus. But the grilled octopus we had at Mas had the flavor and texture worth remembering and coming back for.
The next day brought us a wide range of wines and temperatures. It started in the 50’s and ended in 30’s. (Packing was NOT fun). Since we stayed downtown, we decided to purchase a wine tour with Wish Wish Wine Tours. If you are considering a tour, I highly recommend them. They have a really efficient planning tool on their website to plan your trip. Our driver Philip couldn’t have been nicer. We planned to be picked up at 11 which gave plenty of time to enjoy breakfast at the Common House. It actually is a members-only establishment, but if you stay at the Townsman, you can take advantage of dining there.
Our first stop was Albemarle Ciderworks. I’ve seen their Ciders at our local Fresh Market before and I’ve tasted it once paired with Gjetost cheese. To this day, it’s one of my most favorite pairings because it tastes like a caramel dipped apple.
We had the place to ourselves and two flights were a perfect, easy start to our day. Philip told us that Albemarle Ciderworks grows and preserve many heirloom varieties of apples. Beer and cider are often listed together, but cider actually has more in common with wine than beer. Both wine and cider are fermented, while beer is brewed. There are so many varieties of apples – much like grapes – that have their own distinct taste and aroma. And a lot of them are native and indigenous to North America.
We planned to have three stops that day to be able to relax and enjoy each one of them. Our next stop was our lunch at Pippin Hill. Our driver told us that he always recommends visiting wineries (Pippin Hill especially) on weekdays, because it gets too crowded on Saturdays. So crowded, they have to turn people around. Yikes.
Lunch had passed much too quickly, even though we left 1.5 hours for it. But so does anything, when you enjoy your company, view of the mountains surrounded by fall colored trees, delicious food, and wine. Cabernet Franc was a winner for us.
By the time we got to our third, and last stop, it had cleared up significantly and cooled down, too, significantly. Mount Ida greeted us with icy air, bright sun, and toasty fireplace. We both opted for flights there. I tasted the reds and my husband had the beer flight. That’s right, they also brew beer!
Having returned to downtown (and taken a nap), we ended the day at Fitzroy with dinner and lots of water. The next day we headed out early-ish with plans to have lunch in Richmond. A few years ago, as we were driving down I-64, we stopped at Tazza Kitchen for dinner. We absolutely loved it. If you’re in the area, look it up – they have a few more locations, fantastic drinks, food, and service. Now we stop there every time we’re in the area.
With that said, we did needed coffee before we left and since the temperatures had dropped to 20’s by then, The Pie Chest seemed like an obvious choice. We shared an egg, goat cheese, sausage, and honey hand pie and a slice of apple pie. Apple pie was the best I’ve ever had and the flaky crust on the savory hand pie caused me stop and write down a reminder to make a pie at home, and soon. A weekly reminder.
Now, as we’re back home we still have a bottle of Royal Pippin Albemarle Ciderworks Cider to share, new memories to look back at, and a second wedding anniversary successfully celebrated. Here’s to many more trips, wineries, pies, but most importantly – years. Cheers to that!