Virginia Wine, Oh-So Fine

“…wine [is] a constant proof that God loves us, and loves to see us happy.”
Benjamin Franklin, The Posthumous and Other Writings of Benjamin Franklin … Volume 1 of 2

When I’m not immersed in politics, I enjoy what my adopted home state has to offer.

Apart from being a gateway to Washington, D.C., Northern Virginia has a lot of great places to visit and things to do. (Yes, there’s a world beyond the concrete jungle.) That’s why I decided to venture out to Wine Country this past weekend.

One of the Commonwealth’s best hidden secrets is Wine Country. (Disclaimer: I’m not a wine expert; I’m just a connoisseur. All subsequent thoughts are purely subjective.) This was my third time visiting vineyards in Virginia. Since moving to Virginia in June 2012, I’ve been to Rappahannock Cellars near Front Royal (May 2013), Doukenie Winery, and Hillsborough Vineyards (August 2013). All these vineyards were unique and had individual appeal. I wouldn’t recommend going to Front Royal to sample wine–I found Rappahannock’s wine tasting option to be pricey and its premises to be too small. (Good wine, but certainly not worth the drive or price.) The other locations, both based in Purcellville, were reasonable and had better amenities for guests.

This past weekend, I visited Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, Virginia–an hour drive from Alexandria and Arlington. Middleburg and the surrounding areas comprise Virginia Wine Country. (I hear that Charlottesville is also a great spot. I hope to sample wine there in the future!)

For $10, you get to sample about 10-11 varieties of red and white wine. (One wine–called Schitz and Giggels–is chuckle-worthy.) Also, this winery popularized the Norton grape:

Of particular interest to Chrysalis Vineyards is the native American grape, Norton (sometimes also known as Cynthiana). Recognized among North American varieties for its unique ability to produce premium quality red wines, the Norton was internationally recognized in the 1800′s as the source of distinctively robust reds with overtones of berry and pitted fruits. Today the Norton is enjoying a resurgence of popularity, and a key element of the Chrysalis Vineyards program is to restore this grape to its position of eminence among fine wines. Presently we have the largest planting of Norton in the world.

Overall, I was impressed with this vineyard and its amenities (which included picnic areas and corn hole.)  Below are pictures:

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Complimentary wine glass you keep after wine tasting

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Grapes!

You might be thinking, “Virginia has wine?” Growing up in California, I was in disbelief to hear that Virginia had good wine. However, this August 2013 article in Forbes put things into perspective and made a convincing case in dubbing Virginia the “East Coast Napa Valley”:

Over the past 30 years winemakers have steadily notched improvements. Virginia currently ranks fifth in the number of wineries in the nation and is also the nation’s fifth largest wine grape producer. As of 2012, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 individuals and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy annually. More importantly, Virginia wines are surprising critics, winning awards and fans across the globe. World-renowned U.K. based wine critic Steven Spurrier characterized Virginia as a “national contender, producing wines of bright fresh character that call for a second glass.” In blind tastings the wines consistently beat out candidates from other parts of the globe (read about the Breakfast of Champions tasting here). Virginia has momentum, but concerns over grape supply, distribution and growth demands will keep things interesting. Yet, it’s a safe bet that the combination of strategic vision from the Cases and local winemaking zeal will keep the energy headed in the right direction—straight for the tipping point.

If you ever make it out to Virginia and want something fun to do, I recommend checking out the wine scene in Northern Virginia.

Check out Virginia is for Lovers and VirginiaWine.org to learn more about the Commonwealth’s wine selection!

Angling Right: Fishing in Occoquan Reservoir

My dad and I ventured to Occoquan Reservoir for the first time yesterday morning.

Below is a picture I captured at Lake Ridge Marina prior to fishing.

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Occoquan Reservoir is a 2,100-acre body of water that forms at the border of Fairfax County and Prince William County. It’s about a 25 minute drive from D.C. without traffic. This place is known for largemouth bass, channel catfish, flathead catfish, crappie, northern pike, bluegill, and perch. Moreover, it’s been dubbed one of the best places to go bass fishing in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Here’s another shot of the mighty Occoquan.

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Compared to other fishing spots I’ve been to, Occoquan was more picturesque and tranquil. There were plenty of opportunities to see and hear wildlife. Blue herons (pictured below) are quite common at Occoquan Reservoir.

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My dad and I fished for about four hours. In the process, we caught nine crappie/bluegill fish collectively. (Pictured below.) Although we didn’t catch any largemouth bass and lamented over a lost catfish, we weren’t disappointed with Occoquan Reservoir. In fact, I enjoyed the frequency of bites my rod had. It’s a good indication that this place is replete with fish. (Arriving early morning is recommended for catching big game fish.)

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Before you decide to go fishing at Occoquan Reservoir, note several things:

1) Always have your Virginia Freshwater Fishing license on you. Yesterday, the local Virginia Department Game and Inland Fisheries warden made his rounds at Occoquan Reservoir to ensure all anglers were licensed. They will check up on you. Don’t forget to have it with you!

2) Rent a boat. It’s worth the $39.

3) Note limits on fish you can catch and keep.

Largemouth Bass

The daily bag limit for bass is five per day. There is no minimum size limit.

Bluegill

Bluegill (bream) and other sunfish may be harvested without size restriction. Anglers are limited to 50 per day in aggregate (combined).

Crappie

Black and white crappie may be harvested without size restriction from Occoquan. The daily limit is 25 per day in aggregate.

Catfish (Channel and Flathead)

There is no minimum size limit for catfish, but anglers are limited to 20 fish per day of each species.

Northern Pike

The minimum size limit for northern pike in Occoquan Reservoir is 20 inches and anglers are limited to 2 fish per day.

4) Don’t bring alcohol on your boat. (It’s a no-no.)  Instead, have water and light snacks.

 

I foresee myself coming here again in the future. Fellow Virginia residents should make the trip to Occoquan Reservoir if they are looking for good fishing, opportunities to kayak/paddleboard, and nature.  Undoubtedly, this is a great escape from the concrete jungle.

I’ll be taking a brief hiatus from fishing for a few weeks, so expect my next “Angling Right” post in early or mid-August.  Happy fishing!

New Townhall Column: Going Green In The Name of Tyranny

I’ve penned a new column at Townhall.com called “Going Green In The Name of Tyranny” today.

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s undeniable that most, if not all, Americans want to preserve and protect the environment.

No one truly wants to live in squalor or breathe in dirty air. No one truly intends to destroy nature or kill all wildlife. No one truly desires to harm the planet.

Modern-day environmentalism is perceived as a benign, “hip” cause. All the celebrities are doing it, so it must be great—right? On the surface “going green” seems harmless. We’re told that “going green” will absolve us for our supposed transgressions against the environment. Certainly Mother Earth will forgive us for developing our beautiful planet while creating opportunities for prosperity and social advancement!

What could possibly be wrong with the green lifestyle?

Continue reading at Townhall.com.

Stop Disparaging Female Anglers and Hunters

“Marry an outdoors woman. Then if you throw her out into the yard on a cold night, she can still survive.” - W.C. Fields

The relentless attacks on female anglers and hunters have gone too far.

From threats targeted at 19-year-old huntress Kendall Jones to 17-year-old Belgian teen Axelle Despiegelaere, anti-hunters–usually insecure leftist males–are calling on others to inflict harm onto young women who are self-reliant and independent.

This guy, who calls himself an “Agitated Texas Republican,” says women who hunt are ignorant and blood-thirsty. (Talk about elevating women!)

Another tweeted that hunting is out-of-date: “Hunting is so 1914! It stopped with Teddy Roosevelt!”

Attacking women who choose to fish and hunt hurts, rather than helps, females realize their potential. What happened to being pro-choice?

New York Post’s Eliyahu Federman wrote an article titled “The ignorant, sexist attacks on female hunters” to showcase the hypocrisy of guys who disparage female anglers and hunters. Here’s an excerpt:

1) Their hunting was perfectly legal. As a spokesperson for Jones pointed out, “All of Kendall’s hunts in Zimbabwe and South Africa were 100 percent legal, with proper tags and licenses awarded on a pre-approved quota by the countries’ officials and wildlife department.”

No, “legal” isn’t the same as “moral,” but attacking these young women in personal terms for lawful hunting is pointless. If you have a problem with big-game hunting, change the laws, don’t mindlessly attack individuals.

2) Hunting helps support poor local African communities. People magazine reported how Jones paid $160,000 in fees and services “provided by local trackers, skinners and assistants.” That money went to provide jobs, incomes and food in destitute parts of Zimbabwe and South Africa. Trophy hunting provides meat to local villagers and generates an estimated $200 million a year in revenue in poor countries in Africa and elsewhere.

3) African hunting helps conservation. It is poaching that poses a threat, not lawful hunting. In fact, the operators of hunting conservancies fight poaching to “protect the wildlife resources on which they depend.”

….

4) Animals aren’t people. Sport hunting isn’t murder, no matter how much some detest it.

5) Hunters are often middle-aged men, but the brunt of online outrage seems directed at young attractive women like Jones, Despiegelaer, Melissa Bachman, Olivia Opre, and Sarah Palin, not the male “Duck Dynasty” types. Sure looks like sexism.

Fishing and hunting are essential to sustainability and conservation. These activities promote the environment and encourage stewardship. The majority of fishermen and hunters abide by laws. Our license fees and investments in gear/equipment support charities and wildlife conservation efforts. What’s the harm in revering and replenishing nature? (Answer: Nothing!)

Even left-leaning National Geographic has praised and acknowledged the rise of female hunters:

Hunters are also quick to note that funds from purchases of licenses, equipment, and ammunition go to support conservation efforts for a variety of species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, every year nearly $200 million is distributed from the federal taxes associated with hunting to support wildlife management programs, the purchase of lands for habitat conservation, and hunter education and safety classes.

There’s another factor, too: fun. Hunting is a way for women to be outdoors and enjoy nature while spending time with husbands and children who hunt.

“Women are realizing how much fun hunting is and how close it can actually bring them in their relationships with their families,” says Tiffany Lakosky, co-host of the Outdoor Channel hunting show Crush with Lee and Tiffany and a top bowhunter. “The whole concept is that I am shooting my family’s dinner tonight and we’re eating something I shot. I would say probably 90 percent of the meat we eat, we hunted.”

Whether or not you agree with fishing or big game hunting, be mindful that anglers and hunters are people too. We have feelings, compassion, and are fallible. (After all, we’re human.) Despite what the naysayers say, we respect our surroundings. We love nature. We want more empowered women and men. We don’t appreciate being pidgeonholed and threatened by jerks who have little to no regard for personal safety or tolerance of different beliefs. In fact, these attacks only encourage us to take up gun ownership and continue to speak out in favor of our beliefs.

Fellow female anglers and hunters: Don’t become disheartened by our detractors. Instead, go confidently in the right direction to enjoy the outdoors.

Good News: More Females Are Purchasing Firearms

19-year-old huntress Kendall Jones posted this interesting graphic on the rise of female gun owners:

girls--guns--the-rise-of-women-carrying-concealed-weapons_502917c2111e4_w1500Source: http://www.nyasianoutcall.com/girls-guns-rise-women-carrying-concealed-weapons/

Here are some interesting stats based off of a 2011 Gallup poll on the rise of female gun ownership:

  • 73% of gun owners noticed a spike in female gun ownership
  • 43% of women reported household gun ownership
  • 41% of Republicans, 27% Independents, 23% of Democrats identified as gun owners
  • 16.4% of hunters are female

Even leftist rag Rolling Stone printed an article today detailing this very encouraging trend. Here’s an excerpt:

Over the last decade, the percentage of armed women in America has risen quietly: according to Gallup, the numbers went from 13% in 2005 to 23% in 2011. By last year, that rise wasn’t so quiet anymore. Women’s interest sites declared “The Rise Of The Female Gun Nut.” A Girl and a Gun-type shooting clubs, like Babes with Bullets and The Well Armed Woman, bloomed. And a staunchly, proudly masculine industry at least attempted to keep pace. Walk around a gun show these days, and you’re more likely than not to find at least one table piled wide with .223-caliber AR-15 assault rifles rendered in hot pink.

Strong, independent women don’t rely on the government for empowerment or security. We take it upon ourselves to prevent and deter harm unto ourselves by arming ourselves with facts and firearms. Complacency need not apply, unless you take your cues from the female establishment.

This news is very promising. Here’s to hoping more females take up self-defense and firearm safety!

Angling Right: Fishing in the Potomac River

 

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Yesterday morning, I ventured out to a new fishing spot on the Potomac River. I typically fish at Burke Lake Park in Fairfax Station, Virginia, which is replete with catfish, bass, and crappie. Burke Lake is a great fishing spot, but my dad and I have wanted to explore new places to test out different bodies of water. So we decided to try Little Hunting Creek in Fort Hunt, VA–which is very close to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate. (Both of these spots are in Fairfax County, VA.)

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Little Hunting Creek can be found near Riverside Park at the mouth of the Potomac River. It’s known as a great spot to catch largemouth bass, perch, and catfish.  The Potomac River usually gets a bad rap as dirty, polluted, and icky. Although not forbidden to catch fish, most fishermen aren’t encouraged to catch and keep their fish. (Use discernment when fishing in the Potomac. Avoid areas near the Capitol.) The area where Little Hunting Creek flows into the Potomac is generally safe, so there’s no need to panic.

Below is our final catch: one decent-sized catfish, some crappie, and some small bass/perch.

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Best conditions to fish: I recommend going early in the morning between 7:00am-9:30am. The fish were actively biting when the river was overflowing. (Courtesy of a full moon the night before.)

What to bring: I suggest packing water, light food (jerky), chairs (depends on the surface you’re fishing from), and of course, a tackle box.

Recommended equipment: Essentials I recommend using are a rod (Shakespeare), hooks, weights (lightweight, not too heavy), bait (smaller night-crawlers), a net, and a bucket.

Appropriate attire: I recommend wearing pants (preferably jeans), t-shirts, hat, sunglasses, boots or sneakers. (Avoid nice clothes!)

If you’re fishing here in Virginia, remember to have a fishing license on you. Permit rates are quite reasonable (i.e. $23/year for freshwater fishing), so it’s a great investment valid a calendar year from the purchase date. Always have a fishing license on you. Reminder: it’s imperative to follow the laws and practice conservation while fishing. As fishermen, we must do our part to protect and preserve the places we fish. (Thankfully, we don’t rely on the government to conserve our surroundings!)

Next week, I’ll post about an upcoming fishing excursion in Prince William County.

Stay tuned!