Shenandoah Weekend

Great news: our dear Talula is no longer afraid of water! This past weekend was full of fun, dog-friendly adventures that Talula must have thought our entire weekend in the Shenandoah Valley was planned just for her. To let us know that she appreciated our participation in Talulafest, Talula put aside her fear of water and her aversion to being wet. She courageously entered the cold streams during our hike and even seemed to enjoy it after a while.      
Behold Talula! Queen of the not so deep, rather small pond. 

At first, she stood on the edge of the water and seemingly calculated the smallest distance that she can cross to get to where we were standing, taking into consideration the large rocks that she can step on to remain mostly out of the water. When she realized we weren't moving from our spots and that it required actual submersion to get to us, she began to take small steps, gingerly, towards us. She stopped at the deepest part where she could remain standing and any further would have required her to swim. Unfortunately, she doesn't realize that she has this ability, so she wasn't able to make it all the way to where we were down the stream. I felt so bad, but I'm not quite sure how to tell a dog that it can swim, much less assure one who is just beginning to get over its fear of water. Nonetheless, she stayed in the water, trying to figure out another way to get to us, and just played around, trying to catch the bugs and small fish around her. In the end, we were so proud of her achievement.  
Shenandoah Valley, view from Afton vineyards. 
I love wine tasting, and I was really looking forward to my first vineyard/winery trip in this part of the country. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that there are close to 200 wineries in the Virginia area, so we definitely had a variety to choose from. We visited Afton, Veritas, Wintergreen, Cardinal Point, and Rockbridge. All of them are located on beautiful, scenic hills, but our experience and eagerness to buy wine varied at each. The customer service wasn't anything to boast about at Afton, and their wines weren't particularly memorable. Veritas is gorgeous inside and out. This is a lovely place to stop for lunch because scattered around the grounds were adirondacks of every kind, picnic tables and chairs, and lots of trees for shade. The charming vine-wrapped and lamp-adorned pergola covers the walkway leading to the tasting room.  
Awesome pergola.  Now if only I could reach those grapes... 
The Veritas tasting room is a large, chateau-inspired, open area  with a 20ft ceiling, full of warm and inviting dark leather sofas and enormous oak tables.  It is huge and can fit quite a crowd. And it did. I would have enjoyed this place more if there were less people and service wasn't diluted, although their wine was generally good. Wintergreen is a smaller, more intimate winery.  Their tasting was free and offered a generous variety, which were all reasonably priced. The best part of this place is its delightful location practically begs you to have a picnic and dip your feet in the enticing creek. 

Picnic by the creek outside of Wintergreen.  And Talula's tongue. 

Cardinal Point and Rockbridge were our favorites.  Both places insisted that we bring Talula into the tasting room so that she can play with the resident doggies.  The service was impeccable, especially at Rockbridge, where we were being served by the owner herself who is also the vintner's wife.  The wines at these places were also much more to our liking because they were generally less sweet and used varieties of grapes, e.g. Norton, that we haven't tried before. 
Betsy, Rockbridge Vineyard's resident canine, and Talula.  Huckleberry, another pup on the premises, not featured. 

We learned about a handful other vineyards that have been added to our To Go list, including Blenheim, which is owned by Dave Matthews, Shenandoah, one of the oldest vineyards in the mid-Atlantic area, and Horton, founded by Dennis Horton who re-introduced regional grapes that were forgotten during the prohibition. I can't wait to try check them out (looking at you Casey)! 

We finished off the weekend by blackberry picking at Orchardside Farm.  I've never gone fruit-picking at a farm before, so this was a lot of fun for me, despite the immense heat and humidity. 

Hubs taking his sweet time picking blackberries.  Notice the empty bucket. His standards for pickable berries are quite high.
I think I'm officially ready for the fall weather.  The morning and nighttime weather treated us quite well this weekend, providing cool breezes, light rain, and calming, shady clouds.  But the severity of the midday heat was totally unnecessary, much like the annoying, attention-seeking person in class incessantly spouting off their worthless perspective.  Uggghhh.  I'm so over it!  (Notice, I did say fall weather, NOT winter, so I reserve the right to complain about the extreme harsh cold when I'm snowed in a few months from now, wishing for the hot, sweaty summer.= ))

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