Monday, March 21, 2016


This is great! They should let you do more of these! It's like 100% what you are good at: getting people to tell you stuff!

The friend who wrote that to me was referring to an interview I'd done, but it's not the first time I've been called out for my ability to get people to talk to me.

Some might call it a gift, but probably most would say I'm just nosey. I do it without thinking all the time - when I'm out walking, when I'm out at a restaurant or store, anywhere I run into people.

So the fact that I'm almost to West Virginia just means I'm probing into people's lives a little further from home at the moment.

At Breaux Vineyards, our server was both knowledgeable and lovely, with long curly red hair that made her look like a cross between Boticelli's "Venus" and a frolicking maid from a Watteau or Fragonard painting.

But here's the lowdown: she used to straighten her hair daily, but now reserves all that effort for special occasions like her birthday. She's a Purcellville girl, born and raised, and her philosophy is that if you open a bottle of wine, you finish a bottle of wine.

After finishing the Marquis de Lafayette, a 2013 Cabernet Franc, she poured the tiniest bit of the next wine  - 2014 Chere Marie, an off-dry Vidal Blanc - into our glasses and told us to rinse them, "Or don't, and  have some DIY Rose."

One guess which option we chose.
It was her suggestion that landed us at Magnolia's at the Mill in downtown Purcellville, a place that seemed to attract a wide variety of types for a late Monday lunch, although maybe that's also a reflection of what's available in the upper western reaches of NOVA.

The former mill next to the vintage train station was Zagat-rated, farm to table and a combination of rustic and refined, or as our flame-tressed pourer nailed it, "A white linen tablecloth place where you can wear jeans and sneakers. My favorite mix!" 

Not owning jeans, I don't know about all that, but the classic cheeseburger on a grilled brioche bun was plenty tasty, although the panko-crusted onion rings didn't measure up to battered rings for a purist like me.

We'd also solicited her recommendations on which wineries in the neighborhood to hit and she'd suggested two, the first being Otium Cellars, a winery with a focus on German grapes because the owners were, duh, German.

Arriving just as an older gentleman and his fur stole-clad wife in a wheelchair were leaving (thanking profusely the "young fella" who'd given them directions to the next winery), we admired the solidly built tasting room with its classic post construction and lovely chalet-like great room for lounging and sipping.

From that young fella I got the scoop on the owners, who'd bought the property to build his company's headquarters, only to wind up putting it in North Carolina instead.

So there he was with all this Virginia property and a wife who wanted to raise horses, so why not also put in grape vines, especially in service of making some German style wines?

Since they weren't really in the wine business (or so they told themselves), they had a neighboring winery pour their Blaufrankisch (how's that for an unexpected German in Virginia?) to get it out to the public, at least until it began selling better than any of that winery's offerings and it was oh-so politely suggested to the Germans that they open their own tasting room.

Meanwhile, a young couple came in and joined us for the tasting, but kept their distance. Not everyone wants to talk to strangers, I've learned.

The funny part was, we'd barely been at our next stop, Bluemont Winery, for five minutes, having just met our pourer Sue (who promised us a party of a tasting) when who walks in but the couple?

Like us, they'd heard about the magnificent view, no surprise given the location near the top of a mountain that afforded a view all the way to Tyson's Corner, I kid you not. Talk about your panorama.

From Sue I learned that their winemaker had had a baby at 3 a.m. this morning, having been at work and on a forklift until two days ago. That's good peasant breeding stock, I gotta say.

Once the topic turned to babies, the young woman of the couple who'd been following us jumped right in (as new mothers can't help but doing), sharing that they had a four month old and that this was the first time they'd left her overnight. All of a sudden, she was very friendly, explaining she was trying to deal with missing her little one while still having fun with her beloved.

He, on the other hand, was having no problem adjusting.

Eventually they got a bottle of Vidal Blanc and took off for the couches while I proceeded to get to know Sue, who said she'd been married 42 years. Well, there had to be a story there (who does that anymore, at least happily?), so I came out and asked for it.

Seems that it was right around the 25th anniversary when the kids had left home, the mother-in-law had died and - the straw that broke the camel's back - the dog had died, that she realized this wasn't the life she wanted.

"I just didn't come home from work that day." She left a note for her husband with a list of therapists, suggesting he pick one so they could start dealing with their problems (of which he was unaware unsurprisingly), which they did.

That's an exceptional man, she admitted, but also she'd expected the therapist to yell at him and instead she'd ended up learning a lot about herself in the process.

Fast forward and they sold the house, moved south, retired and are living happily ever after.

She's still amazed at all the things he does now that he didn't do in the first quarter century of their marriage - laundry, cooking, cleaning - but they also make time for nights out, shopping excursions and life.

How often does a story about a partner leaving a "so long" note for the other person turn out so satisfyingly?

And Sue's first concert? That would be "Jesus Christ Superstar" in NYC in 1972, which she claims blew her mind and which she still recalls detail for detail.

Who'd have thought I'd find so much to discuss with a woman who has eleven grandchildren?

The thing is, I never know until I get nosey. It's like 100% what I am good at.

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