Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Always for Love, Idiot

It had been a while.

The last time I can recall going to Virginia's eastern shore, it was en route to Rehobeth beach from the Outer Banks.

This time, the eastern shore was the destination.

After a stop at a scenic overlook just after the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, we found our way to Aqua, a waterside restaurant in Cape Charles, a quaint, little resort town that was part cute-sified and part worn-looking beach houses, the kind I like.

Aqua, however, was in the tony area where pastel-colored McMansions had views of marshes and bay and so did we from the restaurant's deck, where massive clouds promised rain in our future.

Kicking off the getaway with Graham Beck Brut Rose (causing our server to smile broadly and plead, "Can you guys just stay here all afternoon?"), seaside oysters, mussels Provencale, fish tacos and a crabcake sandwich, we took our time over the mid-day meal while others on the deck came and went.

Eventually, we did, too, but only after a New Jersey-looking guy unexpectedly squeezed my arm.

Just down the road, we landed at Chatham Vineyards, the reason I'd wanted to go to the eastern shore in the first place.

Having had their steel-fermented Chardonnay with oysters recently at the governor's mansion in Richmond and enjoyed it very much, I now wanted to taste through their entire list.

On the way, we passed a self-serve pumpkin stand, an indicator of the expectations of civility in these parts.

We were greeted by an affable woman, our pourer, the aged winery dog, a puffy, little purse dog type and soon joined by a couple from Mechanicsville, who, like us, were out and about looking for some afternoon wine.

They'd had Chatham's Cabernet Franc at a local restaurant the night before and been so impressed they wanted to taste more.

The tasting room was so chilly I had to return to the car for a wrap, which didn't seem to bother the vintner's kids who were busy bouncing a ball off the back wall while their parents worked on this year's Chardonnay harvest.

Our pourer provided local tidbits such as that a meteor had slammed into the southern tip of the eastern shore 35 million years ago, displacing the soil and fragmenting the shells and minerals, which is where the Chardonnay is grown and accounts for its mineral qualities and how well it pairs with oysters.

The oak-aged Chardonnay was rounder and creamier and the Rose a tad sweet to my taste. We moved on to the reds - Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon- before finishing with their late harvest dessert wine made with Merlot.

When our pourer asked if we wanted any wine, I said something about it being obvious what I liked and she laughed and said to my companion, "Then make it so."

With some of the unoaked Chardonnay in hand, we retired to the garden, putting our feet up on the fire pit walls and taking in the view of the fields and an old house with buzzards perched on the roof under the roiling crowds.

Interestingly enough, the soundtrack was twofold: an air cannon and a recorded loop of bird screeches to scare off predators, both intermittent and unexpected.

Before we left, we chatted with our pourer who, like me, had lived in Washington back when it was a simpler and less pressured place to live.

Talking about the ultra-focused types who make up the majority now, she cracked me up when she said, "I just want to tell them, just stop and smell the Smithsonian!"

I couldn't have put it better or more humorously myself.

Closer to where we were, she pulled out the Virginia winery map and began making suggestions for places to see and eat.

We wasted no time making our way to Savage Neck Dunes Natural Preserve, a maritime forest that took us through the woods on a sandy, pine needle-strewn path and deposited us at the bay.

Without pausing at all, I hiked up my dress and waded out where I found a sandbar that allowed me to keep going while only getting my legs wet.

There were a few people walking the sandy beach, but I stuck to the warm-as-bathwater bay to make my way along the coastline, eventually losing the bottom six inches of my dress to the waves.

What's a wet dress when you unexpectedly have a chance to take a dip?

Driving back toward Cape Charles, we couldn't resist a stop at Yuck-Yuck and Joe's, a roadside restaurant with a jukebox playing the likes of the Steve Miller Band, Stevie Nicks and the Eagles and plenty of locals there on a late Sunday afternoon.

That said, none of them were playing pool at the tables, but maybe that's not a Sunday thing around here.

What passes for eastern shore surf and turf at Yuck-Yuck's is two pounds of wings and shrimp, tempting except we already had plans to eat at the Shanty.

After changing into a dry dress at the Sunset Beach Inn, which looked to have been built in the '60s, round with a space needle thing coming out of the top straight out of "The Jetsons," we fumbled our way to The Shanty on the waterfront.

Between the hour and the weather, it was already dark by then, but hard to miss the Spanish galleon sitting next to the restaurant.

The Mechanicsville couple had told us about the galleon, here from Barcelona and staffed with volunteers, which they'd spotted the night before while at The Shanty, saying that the replica of a 16th century merchant vessel was doing a tour of the east coat and only here till Monday.

When the hostess asked for our seating preference, we chose the deck with a direct view of the magnificent El Galeon Andalusia and within earshot of the singer doing covers nearby.

Beginning with guacamole labeled "authentic" (as opposed to inauthentic guac?), we kept to our eastern shore theme with baskets of fried seafood and frites.

Before long, I spotted a guy sitting on the deck of the galleon in the dark, hoisting a beer bottle to the singer every time he finished a song.

Much as I enjoy live music, I had to shake my head when he began doing Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place," my favorite Talking Heads song, but this was a jaded millennial's rewrite of the lyrics.

So instead of the romantic "Never for money, always for love," he chose to sing, "Never for love, always for money," a depressing change to the song.

Good luck in life and love with that kind of sour attitude, son.

Dinner over, we strolled down the dock to get a closer look at the galleon, striking for its long and elaborate beak and many massive masts.

If it wasn't raining tomorrow, I definitely wanted to come back to go aboard and tour it.

We finished out a fine day by walking out on the Cape Charles fishing pier where, despite the late hour, there were still fishermen out there casting their lines in the dark.

Hope never sleeps, I guess.

After stopping to smell the bay all day, I couldn't think of anything I wanted more.


  1. I know your dresses.... how could you possibly hike it up without revealing much too much?! Hahahaha.

    This sounds like a heavenly adventure! You are back? Or did it continue?

    oh sigh... heavenly