Favorite Virginia Wineries – Part 2

All about the Reds

For the most part, I am a white wine drinker. So when a red impresses me, it is a noteworthy experience. Ox-Eye Vineyards holds the distinction of offering me the first red wine I ever liked. Their Lemberger is a full-bodied red but the tannins are soft enough that I love it, especially with a steaks on the grill. As an added bonus, they make their Shy Ox Rose and Ruby Ox Port style fortified wine from the same Blaufränkisch grape. I enjoy Shy Ox in the summer and the port is especially lovely in front the fire in the winter.

A Virginia Sunset

They have a picturesque Tasting Room in downtown Historic Staunton. There is a cozy nook on the first floor with comfy chairs for chatting with friends or reading a good book while enjoying a glass of wine. Upstairs, there is a large room with tables and chairs accented by an art gallery featuring local artists. But my favorite spot to unwind with a glass of vino is the back patio which offers lovely breezes and plenty of cover. I’ve even been known to have a birthday gathering or two there.

Ox-Eye Tasting Room patio

This past summer, my daughter and I both hit milestone ages. We decided to take a mini wine tour to celebrate. When we visited Keswick Vineyards, we were surprised to discover we liked all the red wines they had to offer. They impressed me so much that the very next day I took my husband and some friends back so they could try them too, even though the winery is an hour away. Everyone enjoyed the tasting so much that we also purchased a bottle of their Les Vents d’Anges Rives Red, which is a blend, and savored it in one of their comfy outdoor seating areas.

Keswick Porch

They offer a unique experience called a Consensus Blending Party each year. This is a competition that allows hundreds of guests divided into small teams to compete for the best red wine blend. Whichever one wins is bottled under the Consensus label and there is a photo book to commemorate the day. Someday, I hope to participate!

Keswick outdoor seating area

If you love reds, or are trying to find some that you will like, I recommend you visiting Ox-Eye and Keswick Vineyards!

Change your Perspective and Change your Photo

One of the things I always stress to my photography students is that you need to move around when taking pictures. A different perspective can greatly enhance an image. Sometimes, it is as simple as taking a few steps. Occasionally, it means squatting down or climbing up on a ladder or chair. It is unusual for the first approach to be the best one.

Yesterday, I reinforced this lesson to myself when I finally spotted an owl in the wild. Photographing one has been on my Bucket List for years. Who am I kidding? I’ve longed to just SEE one in nature for years. I was so excited, that I grabbed my camera and started shooting without thinking about settings. Unfortunately, I had just been taking pictures of moving objects so I was on Shutter Priority and my first several shots looked like this.

I quickly changed settings while feverishly hoping he wouldn’t fly away! Things got a little better, but then I realized how back lit he was against the sky.

I knew I could correct the exposure with my editing software, but I really wasn’t pleased with the almost white background. That’s when I realized I needed to follow my own advice. I slowly moved several steps to the left until the background was blue sky for some color, but that actually made the exposure worse.

Carefully, I continued to creep farther to the left until the trees across the way were behind him. Voilà! Success!!

On a side note, this is why editing software can be so valuable when working with less than ideal conditions. It can help you capture what you saw with your eyes. If I had spooked the owl and not gotten the final shots, I would have at least had some lovely shots of him against the sky.

I think there is something magical about this shot. Even though it was about 62°F out, it seems like something straight out of a frosty snow globe scene. Playing around with some of my special effects options enhanced the impression.


Favorite Virginia Wineries – Part 1

The Commonwealth of Virginia has 270+ wineries and that number keeps on growing. I recently started placing pins in my wine map to keep track of the ones I have visited and was surprised to see I’m at 59.

Marking each location gave me the opportunity to reflect on my visits. I quickly realized that I had favorites, for a variety of reasons, along with a few I wouldn’t bother revisiting anytime soon. I’m going to dedicate the next several posts, in no particulate order, to sharing which tasting rooms I’m most fond of, and why they made the list.

Pollak Vineyards

The only winery we have ever felt compelled to join the wine club.

A lot of the local vineyards I had heard of because of attending Wine Festivals. But Pollak wasn’t one of them. Occasionally, someone would ask if we had ever been there and then would seem surprised we hadn’t. We finally decided to look them up and take a ride over the mountain to visit one Saturday.

It was fairly packed when we arrived. A gentleman came out from behind the bar and invited us to sit at a table by the fireplace where he would present their wines. We were impressed. As our tasting proceeded, we discovered he was the General Manager. His knowledge of the winery’s history and the stories behind each wine just enhanced the experience. We both enjoyed each and every wine, which is unique for this white vs. red wine-loving couple.


We had planned on maybe visiting another winery or two, but instead, we ordered a bottle of their Durant White along with some fresh bread and a charcuterie and cheese selection. We found a table on the balcony overlooking the mountains and lake and simply relaxed for awhile. We also decided we weren’t leaving without joining their wine club. Something we had never even considered at other wineries. We enjoyed the wines and atmosphere too much to pass it up.

Some of the things we love are: it’s close enough we can visit frequently and yet far enough away that the views are different than in the Valley. We get free tastings each time and keep being impressed with the quality of the wine. It is a lovely place to hang out and unwind, inside or out.