A Blog to Keep you Up-to-Date on the Charlottesville Happenings
We are so fortunate to live in the Charlottesville area with the abundant culture that comes from being a university town. Everything from the rich history of Virginia to the quaint charm of the Downtown Mall is right here at our fingertips. We have world class restaurants. (In fact, this is quite a foodie town - we were locavore before locavore was cool.) And, of course, we are proud to claim some of the best wineries in Virginia. All this and more, with the added backdrop of the Blue Ridge Mountains thrown in for good measure. Although we often take locals to the wineries and out for special occasions, we mainly cater to tourists who visit.
Likely as not, if you are reading this you are planning to visit this special place, and we want to help with that. Whether we are assisting you in planning your day, or finding you the right restaurant for an occasion or the perfect bottle of wine and the best place to drink it, we are more than just a tour company, which is exactly why we are the best tour company. We pick up at all the hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) in and around C’ville (see Places to Stay). We also want to keep you up-to-date on what is going on from week to week at all the wineries, cider houses, and breweries - check out our C'ville Happenings blog below, uploaded periodically, so you can be in the know.
Red wine lovers rejoice! As we have already entered into this years harvest season, weather conditions since Spring have brought about a bumper crop of grapes for red wine varieties in Central Virginia. This years harvest is also taking place sooner than usual around the state due to warm weather early in the Spring which brought about early budding of vines.
While red wine fruit is enjoying a banner year for production, the same can not be said for the green grapes used in white wines. Frost during the month of April bit many of the green grape vines locally, thus causing a significant reduction in fruit for white wines this season.
While winemakers across the region continue to monitor their vines to determine just the right time to harvest this years crop, now is a perfect time for you and your friends to enjoy the fruits of labor from harvests past by paying a visit to your local wineries! As you enjoy the wonderful flavor of your favorite wine variety, remember the hard work and planning that went into the season of your particular vintage. And if you get a chance to witness some of the harvesting process this year, put it into your memory banks so you will recall it in future years when enjoying a bottle of 2017!
As you plan your next winery tour, consider Top Shelf Transportation to guide you comfortably and safely on the trail. We offer tours that take you to the exact wineries you want to visit, not a set list of destinations. Want to throw in a stop to a brewery, cidery or distillery? No problem! We can also help you with your tour stop plans depending on your desires for your tour. Whether it's variety of wines or spirits offered, scenery or location, we have the expertise to help you plan a perfect day on the Monticello Wine Trail. Give us a call today!
See you on the Trail!
June 28, 2017
Looking for something fun to do this weekend?
How about taking a ride in style on top of the world? Well, as close as you can get to the top of the world around here anyway. I mean, specifically, a ride along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Saturday should be a beautiful day for it. The spring like weather we've had this week is supposed to change to the more seasonably sort we're accustomed to this time of year, but it is always cooler on top of the Blue Ridge, especially when you are riding in style! I'm talking about the luxury limousine to beat all luxury limousines: The Bently Arnage. What could be more grand than taking in the beautiful views along the Blue Ridge Parkway from the comfort and style of a Bentley?
The tour will include all the right stops along the scenic road. Maybe even stretch our legs and take a short hike. Then we'll head down the mountain to really make memories. A stop at Bold Rock Cider Barn is a fun place to hang out for a little while. It has a peaceful little mountain stream that runs through the property, with a gorgeous view of the mountains in the background. A kind of place to watch kids spash around, take in the summertime sounds of laughing children and croaking frogs or the sight of dogs with frisbies (what could be better, right?). They usually have great music on weekends as well. After a little cider you might be getting hungry. Since we're just south of Nellysford, I suggest you try a taste of southern France and have lunch at Basic Necessities, a charming little epicurean delight. It's a tiny little place, so best to have reservations, but I'll take care of that. Then, in keeping with the mountain view theme of the day, a last stop at Afton Mountain Vineyard and Winery, a small batched winery half way up Afton Mountain. Their motto is "grapes don't grow in ugly places." While I'm not sure if all grapes grow in places that aren't ugly, I can say with absolute certainty that the grapes at Afton do grow in a place that will take you breath away. And they are quite skilled at transforming those beautiful grapes into great wine, which is how I discovered that the beauty of the surroundings where those grapes are grown is best experienced with a glass of their Tuscan blend, Festa di Bacco.
Now, tell me true: does that sound like a perfect way to spend Saturday?
Until I write again.
May 24, 2017
Check out their website for complete details at http://www.kingfamilyvineyards.com/Polo
April 27, 2017
There is always a lot going on in the area this time of year. This weekend, it looks like we are going to power through spring and move right into summer! The weatherman says it's gonna be 90 degrees on Saturday. But don't despair for there will still be a breeze coming off Rockfish Gap. I promise. All and all, this will be a perfect weekend for a wine tour or to hang out at a brewery, have a pint or two and play a little corn hole.
Saturday, April 29th is the 40th running of the spring horse races at Foxfield. Plan to get there early. The April race is always well attended. This is also the last weekend for Historic Garden Week, lauded as "America's Largest Open House, " when 250 of Virginia's most beautiful gardens, homes and historic landmarks are opened to visitors. If you want to get started on the weekend early, First Colony Winery is hosting a Trivia Night on Thursday, April 28th, so come out and test your wine knowledge or just hang with the local wine and craft beverage community. Friday night Cirque Italia, the first traveling water circus, comes to C'ville. You can see the big circus tent set up in the Fashion Square Mall parking lot on 29 near our office. It is impressive. They're saying this is a "spectacular show that you just can't miss" and you'll get no argument from me (especially if there's cotton candy). Of course, no "what's happening this weekend" discussion is complete without mentioning our friends at Grace Estates Winery and Glass House Winery. Friday evenings will usually find us at one or the other and both are great ways to end a busy week and start a fun weekend. Grace is opened until 9:00 PM on Friday and features the David Tewksbury Band and Mouth Wide Open food truck. At Glass House, Jeff and Michelle will also keep their glass doors open until 9:00 PM on Friday and will host the band Overdog and have food from Farm Fresh Fixins food truck. Grace Estates and Glass House are both fun places with good people. I highly recommend both.
Seems like yesterday it was winter time and we were actually looking forward to a respite from the Wine Trail. Not that we don't love taking clients on wine tours, brew tours or cider and distillery tours (mmmm, craft beverages!), but even geeky Trail Guides like us need a break. A little time off to stop and smell the flowers. And in this beautiful place we are blessed to call home, it's not hard to find a winter rose (figuratively speaking) with which to pause and marvel. Over two years ago we started a premium tour company. We were committed to setting the standard for excellence in the hospitality industry. And we like to think we have achieved some success in that regard. But our humble successes notwithstanding, February surprised us by being a really busy month (Hooraaaayyyy!) March too proved to be record breaking, with lots of winery tours, brewery tours and even a few history tours and corporate events that kept us busy.
Still, even with the additional winter business, we managed to meet some new friends and share a few joys. For instance, I got a chance to visit the new bed and breakfast in Nelson County called Ad Astra. It is located on Ennis Mountain, not far from several wonderful wineries (Cardinal Point, Veritas, Afton Mountain and Flying Fox). It is a beautiful place with stunning views of Hump Back mountain, lots of hiking on property and gorgeous rooms that all have mountain views and are well appointed. Kris is the Innkeeper and she really thought of everything down to the smallest detail. Serena will prepare a fabulous breakfast before sending you off on a mounatin adventure (perhaps a premium wine tour:)?). And Victoria will make sure your room is comfy and cozy upon your return. Ad Astra is a lovely place. If you are looking for an elegant B&B experience in the country, this is the place. Kris, Serena and Victoria are consummate professionals and shining examples of success in the hospitality industry. I very much enjoyed meeting them and look foward to working with them for many years to come.
Until I write again: Cheers! Bit
Restaurant Week: Friday, January, 20, 2017 Through Sunday, January 29, 2017
What a wonderful time to come to C'ville! Restaurant Week starts this Friday! As you know, C'ville is a big foodie town. We were locavore before locavore was cool. Twice a year, local foodies and those who "ain't from around here" flock to the area to experience the best of fine dining without breaking the bank. Many local restaurants participate and a lot of money is raised for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. The restaurants usually offer a three course meal (typically an appetizer, an entree and a dessert) at the following price points: $19, $29 or $39. Please take note that the price does not include the cost of drinks or gratuity, but it's still a great deal. Some restaurants even allow you to bring your own Virginia wine (with usually a small corking fee). How do you take advantage of Restaurant Week? Simply peruse the menus of participating restaurants and decide which one you'd like to try, then call and make a reservation. Be sure to tell them you wish to take part in restaurant week and order from that menu, because each restaurant usually limits the number of seating. Don't tarry because participating restaurants fill up quickly. Some of the particpating restaurants have dress codes, so plan to look nice. And, if you want to show up in a Bentley and turn some heads or expereince a wine tour before dinner, we'll give you a great discount!
Happy New Year! 2017 is promising to be an exciting year and characteristic of the old adage: "May you live in interesting times." January came in with a bang. The area experienced the first snow of the year last week. It was by no means a blizzard, though it did bring bitterly cold temperatures and looked pretty on the mountains for a day of two. We picked up a group from the Farmhouse at Veritas and provided transportation to and from their guest's scheduled hike. Melanie Perl was the hiking guide for the group. If you are looking to hire an experienced professional guide who knows the area to take you on a hike, I highly recommend Melanie. Well, they had a blast, but it was fairly cold and snow had just started accumulating on the trail. As for me, I prefer to hike when it's a tad warmer with less precipitation. Fortunately, we've had a warm up of late; it's quite balmy out this week so I might be able to get in a hike before a busy weekend on the Monticello Wine Trail. Saturday and Sunday (January 4th and 15th) will be a bit cooler but not unbearable. Perfect weather for this time of year. Many of my favorite wineries will have cozy fires going, inviting us to hang out around a warm fire and enjoy a bottle of red wine. I recommend the Vintners Reserve at Veritas, the Petit Verdot at Pollak, the Meritage at King Family or the Tannat at Grace Estates. Sound like a great way to spend the day? Give me a call to say you've read my blog and I'll give you a good discount on a wine tour this weekend. We're also taking a lot of clients out for a drive in the country of late (don't knock it til you've tried it). This is a wonderful time of year to take a drive along the Skyline drive in the Shenandoah Park or the Blue Ridge Parkway. And, after a long drive in the country, you can finish the day with an incredible dinner at Public West Pub & Oyster Bar in Old Trail, Crozet, where Top Shelf clients get a 20% discount (you'll have to let me make the arrangements to get the discount). Finally, guys, it's time to start thinking about Valentines Day in the second week in February. If you are looking to impress, you cannot go wrong with a premium Bentley tour: ride around in a luxurious Bentley, see up to five wineries and have a catered gourmet lunch picnic. We'll include a rose for the occasion. Sounds like a great way to knock it out of the park on Mr. Hallmark's holiday.
It's that time of year again! Everyone will be gearing up for Turkey day next week: spending time with loved ones, eating too much and watching college football. Life is good. Then, most everyone will turn their attention to decking the halls. Of course, I strongly recommend taking a break between holidays and taking your loved ones on a wine tour in and around the Monticello AVA. Saturday will be a beautiful day for it and the perfect time of year for sampling the "big bold reds" the area has to offer (or perhaps some hoppy IPAs). There'll always be time to trim the tree on Sunday afternoon - after all, tis the season. Time to let your hearts be light and make the yuletide gay. No holiday would be complete without going on a Tacky Light Tour. Whether you are looking for a unique office party experience or just have fun with friends, call Top Shelf Transportation and schedule a Tack Light Tour today. Throw on your ugly holiday sweater and grab your party cooler and let Top Shelf drive you to Richmond in style to see the tackiest of lights displayed in all their tacky glory!