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Front Royale, Virginia
This morning we traveled to a beautiful rural setting one hour east of Washington D.C. Our destination was the home of Brian (Ben’s brother) and his wife Sharon.
We had really enjoyed our stay in the College Park area of Maryland.
The traffic was thick but flowed smoothly on the highway ring-road that circles Washington D.C.
The spires of the Washington D.C. Mormon Temple rose majestically above the trees.
We crossed the Potomac River into Virginia, and soon left the traffic behind us.
These intriguing stone walls were next to the highway.
They turned out to be the walls from the historic Chapman’s Mill, and they are currently being stabilized in an extensive renovation project. The mill was originally built in 1742 and enlarged to seven stories in 1858. During the Civil War, the Confederate army used the mill to cure and store more than 2 million pounds of meat; herds of cows and pigs were kept in pens around the mill. When the Union troops were advancing after the Battle of Manassas, the Confederates abandoned the mill, burning both the mill and the meat to keep them out of the hands of the Union army. The mill was restored in 1876. It purportedly has ground cornmeal and flour for troops during seven wars: the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
Brian and Sharon live an hour away from Washington, D.C. Two years ago, they moved from Arlington, Virginia, to this wonderland of rolling hills in order to fulfill their dream of starting a winery. In May 2008, they opened Barrel Oak Winery (www.barreloak.com) and have gained a reputation for having not only award-winning wines, but also being a magnet for the community, with live music, fund raising events, art exhibits, and many other activities on the weekends.
We arrived on a Tuesday, which is the only day that the winery is “closed” to the public. (Brian and Sharon, however, generally work 7 days a week.)
We drove up the long driveway to the house.
The pond reflected the beautiful sky:
Brian and Sharon’s home:
We walked down to the winery, where Brian was busy working.
The winery has wonderful architectural details (in addition to producing exceptional products):
Brian gave us a tour, explaining in detail how the grapes are harvested, crushed, and then transformed into wine.
We learned that white grapes are harvested in September, and red grapes are harvested in October. After the seeds and stems are removed, the grapes are placed in the hopper and then the juicer. The juice is then placed in stainless steel tanks, and yeast is added for the fermenting process to make the wine.
Here are Ben’s mom (JoAnn) and her husband (David) with a few of the stainless tanks.
The tanks are imported from South Africa and hold 500 gallons of wine. The winery is continuing to expand; three new tanks will be installed soon, the largest holding 3400 gallons.
The barrel room.
The winery offers membership opportunities in various “clubs”, including the sponsorship of wine barrels. A member’s label on one of the barrels had the following quote by Aristophanes: “Quickly, bring me a beaker of wine, so that I may wet my mind and say something clever.” (Some human conditions remain constant throughout time!)
Ben took the kids up and down on the wine barrel lift—woo hoo!
The doors to the downstairs wine-making room are humongous!
We sat outside in the beautiful sunshine and shared some wine together.
Ben, Sharon and JoAnn:
The kids played paddle ball on the lawn.
On weekends, the grounds here are quite lively, teeming with happy customers who bring their children and dogs to enjoy the spirit of hospitality and camaraderie that flourishes here.
Sharon generously offered to show us the vineyards. We all climbed aboard the “mule.” Genevieve and Sebastian called “dibs” on the open back.
A view across the vineyard, with the winery in the distance:
The vines were covered in fruit:
Genevieve and Sebastian asked if they could sample some of the grapes. Sharon laughed and warned that the fruit was not yet ripe—the harvest was still two months away.
Well, Sebastian . . . how was it?
As we headed back to the winery, we passed a batch of newly planted vines, lined up in neat rows beside their older siblings.
A vine reaching for the warm Virginia sun:
Brian and Sharon’s winery and home sit on land that once was part of a larger parcel (Oak Hill) belonging to John Marshall, who was the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court from 1801 to 1835. Oak Hill was built by his father, Thomas, in 1773. John lived there for two years when he was 18 and 19 years old. He became the owner in 1785 when his father moved to Kentucky. John resided primarily in Washington D.C. and Richmond, Virginia, and used Oak Hill as a retreat.
Oak Hill’s barn and residence were visible from Brian and Sharon’s property.
Sebastian loved the large lawn that surrounded Brian and Sharon’s house—it was perfect for flying his airplane.
Brian with Genevieve and Sebastian:
On the second day of our visit, we ventured into the nearby town of Front Royal to see the movie “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.”
The morning sky:
The winery was open to the public today.
Entering Front Royal:
The downtown area had some historic markers that celebrated the 1861 battle in which Stonewall Jackson, the leader of the Confederate troops in Shenandoah Valley, retook the town from the Union soldiers.
The Confederate soldiers moved from building to building, gaining control of the town. One plaque said that the local women ran jubilantly into the street, welcoming the Confederate soldiers; heedless of the flying bullets, the women pointed to where Union soldiers were hiding in nearby buildings.
Much of the battle occurred at the site in front of the then-existing courthouse. This is the new courthouse that was built in 1935.
In front of the courthouse were several monuments to soldiers.
This 1911 monument honors the Confederate soldiers who fought in the Civil War.
Here is the monument to soldiers who fought in World Wars I and II.
This monument pays tribute to the soldiers in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.
In memory of the people who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, the townspeople had planted a tree.
Across the street was an old building that looked abandoned.
On the corner was the Front Royal United Methodist Church, built in 1909.
We had plenty of time to walk around and have lunch before the movie started. We wandered down the street and discovered a park with a gazebo, which had a 1988 time capsule in the center to celebrate the town’s bicentennial anniversary.
There was a wonderful sundial that had been created to commemorate the end of the 1900’s and the beginning of the 21st century.
The park also had a caboose, which was a gift from the Northern & Southern Railway Co. in 1989.
The plaza was decorated with large bunches of colorful flowers.
We looked around for good luncheon place. We passed by several restaurants that had people smoking indoors. (California banned indoor smoking in restaurants 14 years ago, so seeing people dining with cigarettes was a bit shocking initially. A new Virginia law will go into effect this year on December 1st, limiting smoking in restaurants to a separate “smoking room.”)
We finally decided to try Soul Mountain Restaurant on Main Street. Wow, we were glad that we did!
The menu had a wide selection of tasty-sounding wraps and sandwiches. I ordered a spinach salad because I wanted something “healthy.” Not only was it nutritious, it was THE best spinach salad that I have ever eaten—the leaves were tossed with feta cheese and a light strawberry dressing that was just divine. Genevieve and Sebastian kept asking for more bites of my salad. We also tried the Caribbean chicken and crunchy BBQ chicken wraps—simply delicious. Kudos to the creative and talented chef!
Here is Sebastian with his BBQ chicken wrap:
After lunch, we strolled down streets, looking at all of the old houses.
The Gideon Jones House was built in 1870, and was once a funeral parlor.
Ivy Lodge was built in the 1850’s and is now a museum containing exhibits about the history of Front Royal and Warren County.
The Warren Rifles Confederate Museum was built in 1959 and contains local Confederate memorabilia.
The Mary Fristoe House was built in the early 1900’s by an indentured servant who inherited money from her employer.
The Williams Chapel was built in 1845.
The Samuels Apartments were built prior to 1817 by Henry Trout, a wheelwright.
We all thoroughly enjoyed the Harry Potter movie!
On our final evening, Ben and I decided to participate in a “wine tasting” session at Brian and Sharon’s winery. (Our visit simply wouldn’t have been complete without it!) We felt so fortunate to get Matt as our wine attendant.
Matt is from nearby Winchester; he was very warm and made me feel very comfortable. (I am not a wine connoisseur, and I don’t know the “fancy” words for describing wine—I just know when I like or dislike the taste.) He gave us an excellent tasting, patiently describing all of the different qualities and characteristics of each wine. Sharon has spent countless hours creating some fabulous wines, and we enjoyed sampling each one.
At the end of each day during our visit, we relaxed on the spacious patio of Brian and Sharon’s home, relishing the good company, gazing at the views of the northern Blue Ridge mountains, and watching the skies catch fire during the magnificent sunsets.
<< Day 36: Washington, D.C. | Days 39 and 40: Williamsburg, Virginia >>
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