Outhouses, tigers and Norton, oh, my!
A gentleman caller invited me out for a trip through Goochland, a place I hadn't been for nearly two years since my excursion to Nadolski's butcher shop to watch a side of beef broken down.
This trip involved no animal parts that weren't cooked.
Passing the bucolic-looking Correctional Center for Women, my companion commented that if a person was going to be put away, a place with rolling hills, picaresque barns and cows grazing looked better than most.
I was more interested in eating than incarceration and it wasn't long before we stopped at Tanglewood Ordinary, a place adorned with cans of "dehydrated water" and "Florida sunshine," and a bathroom door with a cutout of a crescent moon on it.
More importantly, home of grandmother's Sunday dinner.
Having grown up with a chicken-frying grandmother, it wasn't far off for me.
And because nothing pairs with fried yard bird like bubbles, we got a bottle of Zonin Prosecco to accompany our chicken, mashed potatoes, greens, mac and cheese, green beans and gravy. Oh, yes, and barbecue.
I'm not dissing T.O.'s grandmother or anything, but seems to me she overcooked the breast pieces, so we soon requested of young Ian, our strapping server, that he bring us all dark meat.
Ian was a pro, coming over after a while and giving us a knowing look. "Slowing down, aren't you?" he said with some pity.
We were indeed, but we were also well-sated, so no more bowls of food were forthcoming.
On the way out, we stopped to buy t-shirts as souvenirs of our mega-meal, with the cashier trying to convince me I didn't want to get a small.
"We mostly have those for kids," she said, suggesting I try it on.
Even over a tank top and a shirt, the t-shirt fit just fine and I took it despite her warning.
Perhaps if I ate at the Ordinary more frequently, I could qualify for a respectable medium, but not so far.
It was a gloriously sunny afternoon so we made our next stop Byrd Cellars, where the owner warned us outside that there was a lively group already in the tasting room.
True that with a group of women celebrating the 30th birthday of the one in the orange boa loudly and enthusiastically.
We waited out on the deck with half-glasses of pink sangria to placate us until they finished tasting, bought celebratory wine and headed outside to the pastel-colored Adirondack chairs on the grassy hill overlooking the James.
Our pourer was a talker, tasting us through everything from the Meadowsweet, a a white wine tasting of strawberry and apple to Raven Red, a blend that included Chambourcin (a grape of which I'm fond), and named after Poe because of their son's affinity for his work.
As we sipped, she not only gave us wine information, but regaled us with stories of a two-week trip to Ireland for a wedding, a month-long trip to Scotland and a funny story about a southern lady who was highly offended to enter the tasting room and find Dahlgren's Raid red on the mantle.
Oh, my dear, that simply isn't done! As the pourer put it, laughing, "We compromised. She didn't buy any of our wine and we didn't take it off the mantel."
150 years out and still fighting for the Lost Cause.
We took a bottle of 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon out to the Adirondack chairs, the winery owner's little granddaughter following us, chattering away.
"Don't go down the hill!" she cautioned, eyes wide and all sincerity. "There's tigers down there!"
Well, that's one way to make sure a little one doesn't go too far afield.
During the time we sat there sipping, we saw no lions, tigers or bears.
Elk Island Winery, named after a nearby island in the James, was literally next door but mercifully without the emphasis on spiced wine and sweet apple wine.
Walking in to their tasting parlor, a charming name for the tasting space, we found the same birthday group just finishing up a tasting.
Once they moved to the deck to cut the tiniest of birthday cakes, we replaced them at the bar with the winemaker's wife pouring for us.
She was funny talking about the doom and gloom attitude of the birthday girl ("Come back and talk to me when you're 40, or better yet, 50, honey!" she joked) and thrilled to find out we were not only Norton fans, but knew of Norton Street named after the good doctor.
By the time we walked back up the pine needle path to the car, we'd procured three bottles to choose from to go with the rabbit stew we were planning for dinner.
The rabbit had come from a bit further afield - Culpeper's Saddle Ridge Farms, so I'd procured it in advance - to ensure we'd have some Virginia rabbit to accompany our Virginia grape.
A 30-year old may be able to pull off an orange boa, but will she know to bring a rabbit and put on the Marvin Gaye station for dinner?
Mercy, mercy me, no.