Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Like Shooting Fish in a Barrel

The guy with the bottle of wine approved of our Monday.

Not that I need other people's approval, but he offered it up unsolicited.

Anyway, "pretty good" is probably in the eye of the beholder, but on a hot Monday, it's hard to beat a drive to Charlottesville for an easy escape plan.

Stop #1 was Chiles Peach Orchard, passing Beagle Gap (causing me to think of my dearly departed beagle) on the winding country road that led to the orchard.

Between the cloud cover and a light breeze, it was actually a fine day to pick peaches, so we started in the main orchard where the fruit of yellow peaches was more accurately a reddish blush-color.

We agreed that the view of the rows of trees leading up and over the hill was positively Italian looking.

The trees were loaded and, with no one else in sight, we began picking fruit, intending to use it to make peach ice cream once it ripens.

It's a no-brainer; I've seen grown men go weak at the knees at the mention of peach ice cream.

Next we walked up the road a bit to the orchard where we could pick donut peaches, those lovely heirloom varieties that, to quote a peach-lover, "are smaller and cost more but are totally worth it."

Even with my peach allergy which limits how many and how often I can eat them, I'll still eat a ripe donut peach this time of year.

What's a swollen tongue and an itchy mouth when compared to the sublime taste of a ripe peach in July?

By the time we finished picking, we had nearly ten pounds of fruit and a light rain had begun so we got ourselves back to the Chile's store for cover.

Next thing we knew, it was starting to thunder over the mountaintop, so we decided to stay put and enjoy a fresh peach milkshake on the store's porch.

Sitting at a picnic table under an umbrella facing the mountains drinking peaches and cream and watching a train thread its way through the mountainous track in a steadily-falling rain is top-notch goofing off.

Eventually, we made our way to the car and set our sights on nearby King Family Winery, no easy task in what became a driving rain.

After a short roadside stop to wait out the worst of the thunderstorm, we made it to King just as another storm began pounding the polo fields.

It didn't bother us. We'd wanted to get some wine anyway (Crose Rose and Loreley), so we decided to do a tasting in the meantime.

Since our last visit for a polo match in early June, the new Viognier and Chardonnay had been released, thus providing the justification for a thorough tasting.

As a bonus, our pourer had a just-opened bottle of the 2009 Petit Verdot which he deigned to share with us.

I know it's not a grape everyone can get into, but it suits me in that way that Pinotage or Norton does.

We mentioned the train we'd just seen at the orchard and were surprised when he said he knew nothing of any nearby trains.

What? We'd been there for an afternoon and we knew about them. How could he not?

Luckily another employee walked out then and overheard us.

And he had the scoop on trains in the area.

Seems that one Claudius Crozet had been responsible for engineering the tunnels through the Blue Ridge to allow trains to cross the mountains.

The town of Crozet had grown up to house the workers who built the tunnel (before dynamite, it should be noted), he said.

So there was our mid-afternoon history lesson.

Our pourer asked where we were from and what we were doing and upon hearing our itinerary, observed, "Peaches, wine and food. Sounds like a perfect goof-off day."

It got even better when we left King Family to head into Charlottesville, passing through not one but two rainbows, one so low it appeared to be coming out of a nearby grove of trees.

We followed the end of the rainbow to Star Hill Park for happy hour on a blanket-covered bench in a deserted grassy field.

And while there were munchies, it soon became clear that our farm labor activities required more sustenance, so we drove to the downtown mall.

Agreeing to make one full loop of the mall before choosing a dinner destination, we took our time looking in shop windows and at menus before deciding on Citizen Burger Bar.

Honestly, it was as simple as I liked the way their hours were written on the white brick wall outside.

Sometimes, I'm so easy.

But I must have been hungry, too, because I was willing to overlook one of my pet peeves, the annoying four screens over the bar.

And that was before I heard that the music was all grunge, all the time, with only one side trip to Counting Crows.

Veritas sauvignon blanc allowed us to keep drinking local.

A wedge salad was notable for its Neuske's bacon and roasted garlic cloves.

Unlike at Burger Bach where  the choices are "pink" and "not pink," here we had those two options plus "red."

And since it was grass-fed beef, we went red.

The Citizen burger had Gruyere cheese, black onion, rosemary aioli, iceberg and tomato on a brioche bun and getting it "red" had been the right call.

By the time the music got to Screaming Trees, we were ready to go foraging on the mall for dessert.

Splendora's Gelato lured us in and I went all Italian all the time with two scoops, one of Bacio (chocolate hazelnut crunch) and one of Stracciatella (dark chocolate flakes in cream).

If it sounds like a lot of butterfat, it was, but some people got a whopping four scoops, so I could have been far more indulgent and fit right in.

Driving home with the sky full of stars, so much easier to see so far out, was the perfect ending to a day where the hardest thing we'd done was pull fruit off of low-hanging branches.

There's a metaphor there, but I'll leave that for the non-goof-offs to figure out.

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