Wine Review: #SocialSecret White 2012, A Visit To Tarara Winery

 

There are a couple things that drive me to drink:

  1. Children.
  2. When customers think that the fax machine sends actual pieces of paper through the phone lines.

Sunday is indeed the Sabbath and a day for seeking refuge from the general public. During the winter months, Tarara Winery is the perfect gateway for disappearing into the world at large.

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Located either on the set of The Walking Dead or on the way to grandmother’s house,

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Tarara Winery is a sprawling estate nestled deep in the woods of Leesburg, VA.  It’s got a bad case of the creepy trees, sparking a discussion in the car regarding the high probably of the woods being inhabited by witches. Xavier says no but I say he just can’t see them.

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In the summer, this place would no doubt have the vibe of a lavish country club, complete with lots of high-roller wine-drinkers, but in the winter we felt compelled to ask the receptionist if they were open as it seemed like we were the only ones there.

In other words, it was perfect!

At the bar, we sampled six different wines.  As usual, my imagination got the best of me and I insisted on trying the one called Magic Dragons from the Boneyard Collection. Unfortunately, I found the name preferable to the wine.

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To be clear, I’m not saying the Magic Dragons was bad, it just wasn’t as good as the #SocialSecret White 2012.  Now, that – my friends, was the bomb diggity ding dang.  If you’re going to spend $30 on a bottle of white wine, get this one!

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Fruity, but still smooth and definitely dry, this is a Chardonnay-esque white wine that I highly recommend drinking while sitting in a big chair by the fire because, at 12.5% alcohol, you won’t feel like getting up anytime soon.

With regard to socializing, the secret is, that after the first glass, your guests will feel like Alice In Wonderland. While they may hear voices, walk funny, and smile at imaginary cats, they will most certainly tell their friends that you have thrown the best. party. ever. 

Who doesn’t want to throw the best party ever?

I wanted to talk about the #SocialSecret because I have already reviewed a red wine from Tarara in a previous post. That being said, it is absolutely worth mentioning that the Tranquility 2014 is outstanding and will probably make your clothes fall off. No joke, if there is a such a thing as a wine erection this wine would cause it and, at $45 a bottle, it is money well spent.

The Tranquility is very, very good.

Let’s walk around the grounds and sober up a bit before getting back in the car.

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Shadow Lake. Tarara Winery.

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I was looking for grape vines but found these fruit tree orchards instead.

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The shot of the day is this abandoned house that we passed on the way back to civilization.

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Abandoned house. Leesburg, VA. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

I got snagged in a barbed wire fence to get the photo below. I have no idea what this structure used to be. Let’s call it Mystery Of The Day.

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Abandoned building. Leesburg, VA. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent.

2014 Chardonnay, A Visit To Linganore Winecellars

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Wine barn. Linganore Winecellars. Photo by d.Nelle Vincent

2014 Chardonnay from Linganore Winecellars

“It has a looonnnnggg buttery finish”. The bartender pursed her lips while making a socket puppet shape with her hand.

I would feel like an idiot saying that, with accompanying gesticulation, but what I will say is that if grapes and butter had a baby, it would be this wine.

 

Linganore Winecellars is located in Mt. Airy, Maryland.

Xavier and I drove out for a visit this past Sunday. We wanted to taste the dry wine list; specifically looking for a Chardonnay and a Cabernet-esque dry red.

I wanted to like the one called White Raven because the name is cool, and I expected to like the Chardonnay Reserve 2015 because it’s expensive. Neither of these things came to pass.

Apparently cool names and high prices do not necessarily mean better. As far as I’m concerned they hit us with their best shot right out of the gate. The Chardonnay 2014 is everything they claim it to be.  It has zero percent residual sugar and is quite literally smooth like butta’, which makes it deliciously dangerous because it is also 11.5% alcohol.

We bought a bottle and, at check out, they asked if we would like for them to open it for us so we could enjoy it there.  I said, “Only if we can stay the night.”

Lightweights…

Pro tip: If you put a straw in the bottle, you can claim to have had “only one drink.”

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Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD

I specialize in making nice places look like run down abandoned buildings but Linganore Winecellars is, in fact, quite lovely.

Lucky for me, the weather was cold and there were not many people milling around outside but, inside on a Sunday afternoon, the scene is warm and bustling with thirsty wine connoisseurs.

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Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD

As previously mentioned, I was looking for a Chardonnay and a dry red. We didn’t buy a red but the one I liked the most was the Chambourcin. It’s very dry, with zero percent residual sugar, super smooth, pleasantly oaky, and likely the topic of a separate blog post. 🙂

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Xavier in his new Mini Cooper Clubman. Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD
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Sleeping baby grape vines. Linganore Winecellars. Mt. Airy, MD

Ghosts Among Us

ghosts

Generally speaking, you could spit in any direction and hit someone who claims to have seen a ghost.  No shortage of those stories but there are some interesting consistencies when it comes to providing evidence.

I’ve listened to dozens of ghost stories told by people who seem to believe them but you know what they never say? They never say, “I saw a ghost and took a photo of it.”

Everyone that claims to have shot a photo of a ghost also claims that it was an accident. They say, “I was just taking a picture of this here empty staircase for no particular reason.” Or, “I shot this portrait of two people in an oddly off centered fashion”. Conveniently, “ghosts” appeared in exactly the right spot after the fact.

My ex-sister-in-law claimed to have photographed the ghost of Jerry Garcia. She proudly showed me a photo of what was obviously lens flare.  She was an experienced photographer and I felt she should’ve known better.  On the other hand, she also claimed that the ghost of Jerry Garcia did everything from giving her directions to the nearest pay phone to helping her move furniture. Sometimes you have to consider the source.

My mom once stayed for a week at the Monroe Institute, a place where people go to practice having out of body experiences and to train in the art of remote viewing. I thought it was fascinating until she told me that, during her visit, participants were told that the spirits living there would appear in photographs in the form of orbs. For a place that fancies themselves to be conducting scientific research, that is some hocus-pocus nonsense.

I don’t mean to pee in anyone’s candy corn but photos with lens flare are not pictures of ghosts and orbs are bullshit.  Sure, orbs will show up in photographs but they too are another form of lens flare.

I was a full time professional photographer for 15 years.  I have been all over the southwest visiting ancient cemeteries, old churches, ghost towns and abandoned motor lodges on the old Route 66.  I have shot tens of thousands of photographs in these places along with countless photographs of weddings and guess how many unexplainable pictures of “ghosts” I have?

That’s right. None.

The one thing that every bogus “ghost photo” of lens flare and orbs have in common is that they were obviously shot by amateur photographers on point and shoot cameras with built-in flashes. For the record, smart phones are also point and shoot cameras with built-in flashes.  The flash being too close to the lens renders all kinds of weird results and, not understanding how cameras work, easily excitable picture snappers immediately assume their cameras are haunted when unexpected things appear in their photos.

Enthusiastic ghost hunters firing their built-in flashes into swarms of nocturnal insects or into the mirror, or towards any kind of shiny object are ready and willing to accept bad photography as evidence of the super natural.  Failing to shade their lens from the sun and being blinded by the light, these are the same people who think they see the face of Jesus in a piece of burnt toast and go around checking their children’s hands and feet for the stigmata.

A few years ago, while on a quest to find an authentic photo of a ghost, I contacted every professional photographer I knew and asked them if they believed they had ever photographed a ghost or had any photos that defied explanation. They all said no.

I bet you think this story is about how I don’t believe in ghosts.

Let’s not jump to conclusions.

Maybe the issue isn’t that ghosts are real but maybe the issue is that they can’t be photographed.  More specifically, something that cannot be seen with the human eye is not going to show up in a photo because, according to the laws of physics, for something to be visible it must reflect light.

Inversely, if vampires were real they would show up in photographs and in mirrors because you can see them.

If you want me to believe otherwise, evidence more compelling that what I’ve mentioned will need to be produced.  The average person has a better chance of photographing a bona fide UFO than taking a picture of a ghost.

Not seeing and still believing.

There are those who claim not to believe in anything that they can’t see with their own eyes.

I call bullshit.  By that rationale, to a blind person, nothing is real.  Additionally, sight is only one of the ways that we experience and interpret reality.  You can’t see the way a pot roast in the crock pot smells but the scent most certainly confirms the existence of the pot roast.

No one has ever shot a photo of gravity, or inertia, but these things are real and for that matter, please show me your photos of music.

Ghosts stories, taken at face value.

Created by DPE, Copyright IRIS 2007

Several years ago I wrote a story for this blog called Watching The Flowers Sway.

I was proud of that piece but I never explained where it came from or why I would write such a horrific tale in the first place.

In 2003 one of my past wedding clients was murdered.

I saw her face on the news while drinking my morning coffee and I said, “That’s her!” as if I had already been talking about her though of course I hadn’t been.

The story on the news said she was missing and presumed dead.  The police found a horrific scene in her classroom at the elementary school where she was an Occupational Therapist.  I remembered watching her walk back to her car after she left my studio for the final time.  Though I was not involved in any way, I felt that I had somehow let her down by not protecting her, I guess everyone probably felt like that.

The police said the janitor did it. The physical evidence against him was overwhelming even without the body which took almost two months to find.

Later that evening her husband was on the news pleading for anyone with information to come forward.  It was heartbreaking.  They had been married less than two years.

And then the news team went to interview the janitor’s family.  The parents weren’t in a talkative mood but they found one of the janitor’s friends who said, “Martin wouldn’t have done something like that, he just bought new rims for his car.”

With a character witness like that and a trunk full of blood and hair, Martin was going to need a really good lawyer.  No Saul Goodman was gonna get him out of this shit. He needed Johnnie Cochran and even then, O.J. seemed less guilty.

With the body being MIA, the story quickly fell out of the news and there was only a brief mention when the case finally went to trial in 2005.  The body had been found by then and it, along with all the other evidence, was enough to get Martin sentenced to life in prison.

Good.

Fucker.

I watched the short bit on the news about the verdict in the trial.  Two things stood out. One was that Martin’s mom was shown crying and saying, “I know my mijo is innocent”. No, he wasn’t. And, two, cameras were rolling on Martin when the jury read the verdict. He sat in his chair, bobbing his head and looking around as if everything were right with the world. He didn’t look the least bit concerned.

Six years later in 2011, I grew curious about the case again.  Very little information was made available at the time and I still had so many questions.

One night I laid in bed looking up anything I could find on her case.  A lot more information had been made available and it was gruesome, all of it, but I read every article I could find.

I was considering writing about it but I didn’t know what to say or where to start.

It was late at night when I finally ran out of articles. I plugged my phone in and turned out the light.

I hadn’t even gotten my pillows situated when the energy in the room changed.

It was dark and there was nothing to see but I swear there was another entity present, I could practically feel it breathing on me.  I knew positively that it was her and the message was unmistakable.  This was a cease and desist order of the highest kind.  In retrospect, I wish I had tried to communicate but to be honest I panicked and turned the lamp on and just sat there like a big scardey-cat for almost an hour before getting brave enough to turn the light back off.

I decided not to write anything about her, ever.

But then I changed my mind.

While laying in bed trying my best to get some sleep I decided that she probably wasn’t trying to scare me.  There’s no reason she should have any animosity towards me. Perhaps I had misunderstood.

I decided to conduct an experiment.

For three days I asked her what she wanted me to say.  On the third day the story poured out.  I moved my fingers on the keyboard but the images weren’t mine, they were hers, and they just kept coming.

I believe I channeled the entire story from her eight years after her death.

There are no photos to back my claim but eyesight is not the only way to experience reality.

You may read that story here if you like.



Tales From The Dark Continent: The Elephant

I have photographed Africa, but no one has photographed Africa like Nick Brandt. His work is breath taking and awe inspiring, it is all of those adjectives people use to describe something exceptional.

About a year and half ago, in August, I was visiting the Open Shutter Gallery in Durango. The day before, I spent nine hours riding in an open air coach behind a steam engine. The train went to Silverton, where it was greeted by a cardboard cutout of Bigfoot. Bigfoot told everyone to eat at Handlebars Food & Saloon, so I did. I had a big plate of rainbow trout, the quintessential mountain fish, and then rode the train back to Durango. It was a long day and, at the end of it, all kinds of black shit, train people call it soot, was stuck in my hair and even after a shower I was still digging it out of my ears. That’s what I was doing while walking around the Open Shutter Gallery: I was digging black shit out of my ear with my pinkie finger. It kept me occupied until I found one of Nick Brandt’s books.

I honestly don’t know how he gets his shots. They seem impossible to execute. He shoots from angles and at proximity to wild animals that can and should eat him alive or trample him flat. Somehow though, he is still with us.

I was looking at Nick Brandt’s book, page after page of miraculous photography, when I had what some would refer to as a spiritual experience. The gallery went away, as did the black shit in my ear, and I was back on the Dark Continent in a time before man. A thundering heard of wildebeests crossed the plains in a seasonal migration and crocodiles waited for thirsty zebras to venture too close to the water. Lions watched the sunset and leopards carried disemboweled antelopes up into trees. Giraffes ate everything they could wrap their tongues around while elephants walked with their families and buried their dead.

I wasn’t expecting all that. It caught me off guard.

I stood in the Open Shutter Gallery and was surrounded by Africa, quite unexpectedly. The Dark Continent was alive and well and I knew that it was better off then, in the time before us. It made me sad: the realization that the Earth was happier once than it is now. My vision was disrupted by a little drop of something that fell into the book, it was followed by another and, well fuck it all, I’m having a breakdown in a public place. I pulled my shades down over my eyes, preferring to look like an asshole than a lunatic who cries over books in art galleries. There were lots of other people there, looking at pretty pictures. The gallery housed the world like flowers growing by candlelight.

There was once a rouge elephant wandering in exile through the Kalahari Desert. It was a bull elephant that just happened to have a book written on it. Wrinkled pages told the story of a long life with a sad ending. In the next to the last chapter, the old bull was excommunicated by it’s family and it strolled through the sand leaving a path of destruction in it’s wake. This is what we were told.

I traveled to South Africa with an American hunter who commissioned me to photograph his safari. We had been working together for years and I wanted to see the world. Some places bring out the worst in people. The beginning of the end was well underway.

All days on the Dark Continent start before dawn. We were 12 hours from the Kalahari Desert and wanted to get there in time to eat dinner, sleep well and start the next day before dawn. We set out at 6:00am, driving across the Dark Continent on the wrong side of road. Sometime around noon, we passed a chicken processioning plant called The Fat Chick, no one else seemed to think it was funny.

A surprising amount of traffic crowded the highway. Our van was new and swift and we flew down the road like a rocket ship, weaving in between the taxis like a mild annoyance. Our Afrikaner hosts informed us that the overstuffed VW buses are referred to as chocolate boxes. We decided then, that it was only appropriate to call our van a cracker box.

The Kalahari Desert is not a very nice place. It’s hot, like Africa hot, and it’s oh such a dry heat.

Our host was called Frickie. He was the outfitter who would host the elephant hunt. Frickie was tall and broad, a perfect Afrikaner specimen. He was loud and drunk and my employer hated him. Frickie cooked our dinner over his stone fire pit and we sat around a huge table trying to look calm.

Most people don’t know that my employer had made a previous trip to The Dark Continent for the purpose of hunting an elephant, but he lost his nerve and came home two days later. He was very worked up this time too and the adoring eyes of his mistress were not making him any calmer. During dinner, Frickie called my employer an American pussy boy and informed him that this was not Disney Land. We were all terrified of Frickie so when my employer stood up and left the table, it was very awkward.

The guest rooms at Frickie’s place looked so adorable, from the outside. Little cottages with thatched roofs were arranged in a semi-circle like a village for African smurfs. It is important not to take anything at face value in a foreign country. At bedtime we discovered that the cottages lacked both air conditioning and windows with screens, forcing all of us soft handed Americans to choose between stifling heat and a very exotic vacation. Decorative little bug nets hung around the beds like a practical joke. The bugs in the Kalahari desert are as big as rodents, fly like army helicopters, and feed on human flesh with such voracity that, in order to survive the darkness, one must sleep fully clothed in a puddle of DEET.

After a sweaty, bug filled night, our crew arose before dawn and discovered that there was no hot water. You would think with temperatures already reaching 100 degrees, that the water would be hot anyway. It wasn’t.

The sun rose and a van full of tired, flea bitten, sweaty Americans, and a few perfectly happy Afrikaners, set out in pursuit of the elephant. After stopping at yet another lodge to trade in our van on a pair of safari jeeps, we raced through the desert, desperate to find the elephant before it crossed the boarder into Botswana. A helicopter and trackers on horseback were sent ahead to scout. The Kalahari Desert is an awfully big place.

I was in charge of still photography which apparently made me expendable. The whole camera crew was relegated to the back of the jeeps, armed with only two hands apiece to hold our gear and keep ourselves from flying out of the vehicle while thorny tree branches whizzed past our heads and great clouds of dust covered our faces and lenses.

I did not want to see an elephant die, I really didn’t. At the last minute it was decided that most of the camera crew would stay on the truck and only one videographer would film the hunt. I was ok with that. Hunting an elephant is dangerous business and hunting one with a Pedersoli 45/70 rifle is akin to throwing snowballs at a school bus. Even the good ole’ boys were worried.

We waited, but not long. Rifle shots rang out, 5 of them, and news came over the radio that it was done.

I will tell you a few things about the last chapter of the elephant’s book, just to prove that I was there. The old man lay on his side and his upturned eye was open and wet. Long lashes stood up in the sun and the eye did not yet realize it was dead. Before the old bull fell, he stepped on a baby snake. There behind the back feet lay a pale ringlet, just the size of a necklace. The snake was belly up and had pink eyes. It wasn’t as squished as you might think because the sand had absorbed most of the impact. The elephant’s head did not happen to fall into the ideal position for the photographs. The great tusks were turned away from the camera but all the men there put together were not strong enough to lift and turn the mighty head. A fork lift was brought out for the task. I suppose my employer felt brave and manly, having taken down the biggest and most dangerous of the Big 5, I imagine he felt that way, but he wasn’t sayin’ much.

After the official photos were completed came the time for moving the carcass back to the tanning sheds. It certainly wasn’t going to move itself. A Ford F-150 pickup weighs 4685 pounds. An African Elephant bull weighs 13,000 pounds. So, you see the problem right? We waited around while a very big truck, with a very big trailer and a crane were sent out to find us. There is no graceful way to pick up and move 13,000 pounds of dead elephant so they just wrapped some chains around the legs and began to hoist. The feet came up and the head fell back. The trunk drew pictures in the sand. The crane engine sounded worried and, when the elephant did finally become airborne, the chains tore into the skin, peeling it from the bones and leaving thick grey flaps to tell us which way the wind blew.

The last page of the elephant’s book said only: The End

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