All Roads Lead to Virginia

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

To be honest, Gretchen, I hadn’t even started thinking about my route yet.  But since you’ve asked…

Like you I have a couple of different options, both of which hover around 9 hours of driving time (that’s NOT counting New York/New Jersey/DC traffic) – definitely do-able in a single day, but I will likely split up the drive both days for some stops along the way.

The first and most direct route is I-95 which, after skirting Manhattan, will take me down through Jersey, past Philadephia,  through “Baltimore and DC now” (hmm… are you hearing Martha and the Vandellas, too – “don’t forget the Motor City…”  Oh wait, that’s the previous weekend), and then a quick jog west to Charlottesville.

This route takes me through the southern New Jersey wine country which is home to 17 wineries in the area south and east of Philly, four of which appear close to I-95 according to the Garden State Winegrowers Association map.


The alternate route bypasses Philadelphia and DC, cutting west across New Jersey on I78 to Pennsyvlania and then picking up I81 to head south into Charlottesville.   The attraction to this route (other than missing the Jersey and DC traffic)?  Gettysburg.  Not only have I never visited the battlefield, but what better tie in with the War and Wine series I hope to kick off with this trip?   And there are also two wineries in close proximity to the park.

I still need to build out an actual itinerary, but right now I’m trending towards the I78/I81 route on the way down with a stop in Gettysburg the first day to visit the local wineries as well as the park.  The park itself is open until 10 pm, so if I time it right, I should be able to make it to the area in time for lunch, visit the wineries and then make my way over to the park before the visitor’s center and museum closes and still have some time to drive around the battlefield in the evening.  The next morning would then be a leisurely 3-hour drive to Charlottesville.

Then I’m thinking it’s the I95 route home; hopefully if I leave early enough I’d miss the worst of the DC traffic.   My thoughts right now are to stop outside of Philly, spend the afternoon touring some of southern Jersey’s local wineries, then dinner and a relaxing evening in Philadelphia, before heading home the next morning.

Those are pretty full agendas, so I need to do some work on the itineraries – this is supposed to be a vacation after all, not an endurance test!


War and Wine

Marguerite Barrett
Contributing Writer

Today is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War.  In South Carolina, the commemorations, like the war, kick off in the pre-dawn hours as Civil War re-enactors fire upon Fort Sumter.   Here in Connecticut (birthplace of both Harriet Beecher Stowe and John Brown), commemorations begin at 8:00 am with a ceremonial firing of cannons on the lawns of the state capitol.

Reading about the plans for four years worth of commemorations led me to wonder about the history of local wines in the 19th century.  An obvious question is whether or not (or to what extent) the war influenced wine production or consumption.

A quick internet search turned up not much – not surprising, I suppose.  Prohibition was such a game-changer for American wine production; it took decades to re-establish local wine cultures in many states.  As a result, when you go looking for information on the history of American wine, most of the stories begin in the late 60s or early 70s.

But there’s information out there in a handful of books and articles, and I found the charming “Civil War Wine Reviews” in Benito’s Wine Reviews.   There’s undoubtedly more to be found in local histories and historical societies, so as I gear up for the trip to Virginia this summer for the Wine Blogger’s Conference, what a better time to stretch my long-unused research muscles and start a new occasional series, “Wine and War.”