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In This Issue

Letter From Amissville, Autumn 2015

Of Autumn Leaves and Stink Bugs (and Other Things)

by Walter Nicklin

It’s easy to argue that autumn is the Virginia Piedmont’s most beautiful time of the year: the mellowing fields and turning leaves, their colors accentuated by the crisp, cool air, bluebird sky, and bright, earth-tilted sunlight. Enhancing the beauty is the simple, stark contrast with the summer just past. Now the atmosphere is not hazy; the temperature, not so hot; the humidity, dissipated.   


Photo: Bench in the Gingkos, Blandy Farm, Boyce, by Wendy K. Wright

On the subject of contrasts, I’ve never understood the appeal of places, like Florida, where the four seasons fade and melt into what feels like climate-controlled sameness. Heraclitus would have no doubt felt the same, for it was this pre-Socratic Greek philosopher who reputedly argued, “There would be no day without night.” The “Generation of Opposites,” it’s called.

Thus, in this world view, there can be no beauty without ugliness. This is not to say that because autumn is beautiful, summer must be ugly. Each season is different, with its own unique beauty and, alas, its own ugly qualities. Autumn in the Piedmont, for the example at hand, has recently been colored by an especially unaesthetically appealing creature known as the brown marmorated stink bug. 

For this, we have our fellow humans to thank. The invasive and stinky species first arrived in United States just a few years ago, via container ship from China. Disembarking in Philadelphia apparently, the bugs marched southward, multiplying along the way, to Virginia’s fertile Piedmont, drawn especially to the fruit of its apple trees.

If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, what’s ugly must be too.  But are we humans the only “beholders”? Are other creatures attracted to beauty and repelled by the ugly? Or are humans unique in our ability to discern the difference?  

It depends, of course, on how you define “beautiful” and “ugly.”  If beauty entails harmony (symmetry even) and natural order — and ugliness, the opposites of imbalance and disorder—then surely humans are not alone in our perceptions?

For a bird, turtle, or skunk hit by a speeding vehicle, highways must indeed “mar” the Piedmont’s otherwise pristine landscape.  For life dependent upon the fresh water of the Rappahannock, James, and Potomac rivers and their tributaries, excess nitrogen levels from fertilizers and livestock waste cannot represent a beautiful chemical balance.

Prompting these musings is a new book by the North Carolina author Ron Rash called Above the Waterfall. Though the book’s setting is more Appalachian Mountains than Carolina Piedmont, the lyrical prose should poignantly resonate with anyone appreciative of the Piedmont’s beauty.  

“Combines natural beauty with human ugliness,” critiqued National Public Radio’s “Here and Now” of Rash’s book. “The characters are haunted by a school shooting and crystal meth addiction, but several of his characters can find solace in the trees, flowers, and fields that surround them.”

For many of the readers of this magazine — which celebrates the region’s natural beauty and the country lifestyle it affords — a harsher reality might not be readily apparent, namely the region’s concurrent ugliness.  While the magazine features award-winning restaurants and locally sourced food, some Piedmont residents, because of economic circumstances, feel like they’re in so-called “food deserts.”  Instead of trout from the Rapidan or organic kale from a farmers market, they’re more likely to eat chips and hotdogs from the nearest convenience store.  

Instead of worrying about protection of open spaces and heritage, they must confront obesity, poverty, and drugs.  Not much different from inner cities, except here — given the natural beauty — the ugliness is often hidden and, when exposed, the contrast is stark and jarring.

While nature and “the country life” comprise the fundamental draw of the Virginia Piedmont, there’s no escaping other people. The more expansive and unspoiled the landscape, ironically, the more encroached upon and trapped people sometimes feel. And there’s nothing worse than an “ugly” neighbor with whom you have a property line dispute involving mere feet and inches, though his house is a mile away.

But the most interesting disputes sometimes involve what’s considered beautiful or ugly. Just eavesdrop on some of the Virginia-wine-lubricated conversations at one of the many art gallery openings this fall. But even more interesting can be the disputes among the many plein air artists themselves. Drawn to the Piedmont’s beauty, they often feel a proprietary interest in a particular scene or view. “You’re stealing my material,” they seem to be asserting to any other painter who assumes the same vantage point. But from that same line of sight, of course, each artist’s interpretation will be different. 

And so we return to the beautiful-ugly continuum, to be clarified thus: De gustibus non est disputandum.  

Graves Mountain Memories

Five Generations of Graves Mountain Hospitality

By Kit Johnston

The year was 1963. Back on the family farm in Syria, Virginia, after a tour of duty with the armed forces overseas, Jimmy Graves decided to go down to Virginia Tech for some fun, which to him, a graduate of the Agricultural Economics program, meant a livestock exhibition. Halfway across the state, Rachel Lynn Norman, a Westhampton College Psychology major from Richmond, decided to go too, as a Dairy Club princess representing her hometown 4-H. Arriving at the exhibition and upon seeing Rachel, a friend of Jimmy’s remarked, “There is a girl with a pedigree.” 

And that, pretty much, is how, 50 years ago this year, Graves Mountain Lodge came to be part of the Graves’s family farm in the Robinson River Valley of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Madison County. Jimmy and Rachel started to date, then they found that they shared a common ancestor—Captain Thomas Graves, who sailed to Jamestown from London in 1608 and never looked back—as well as a dream of building a rustic but modern mountain resort, one with an emphasis on country cooking, friendliness, and informality. 

 Jimmy’s dad, Elvin “Mr. Jack” Graves, had the dream too, for his family already had a long tradition of providing down-home cooking and lodging to weary travelers. It began with Mr. Jack’s great-granddad, Pascal Graves, who, in the early 1850s, established the first Graves Inn in Syria, on a turnpike that crossed the Blue Ridge Mountains. In 1857, Pascal’s son, James Madison Graves, moved the business down to a sturdy cabin in the Robinson River Valley near Syria on what was to become the family farm. Over time, the cabin became a handsome three-story frame house with several rooms and porches which, to this day, remains the family’s home place. It was there, at Mountain View, that Mr. Jack and his wife, Jimmy’s mom, known as “Miss Kate,” continued extending hospitality to many visitors over many years, including friends, salesmen vacationing with their families, and foreign exchange students. 

Today, the Lodge that Jimmy, Rachel, and Mr. Jack went on to build and open in 1965 is not one large building, as one might expect, but rather cabins, cottages, houses, and motels sprinkled across a sprawling acreage of mountain sides. From late-March to late-November, the time when the Lodge is open for overnights, guests can choose from some twenty modern-rustic accommodations or simply camp out on the farm. To stay there is to live life in the open air with nothing better to do all day long than hike or swim or fish or ride horses (or all the above). In this way, a stay feels like a really good summer camp, especially at dinner time when you don’t have to dress up and you can eat all of the fried chicken, yeast rolls, apple butter, vegetables, and fresh apple pie that you want. Small wonder tens of thousands of folks visit each year, some to return every year.

Photo: Rachel and Jimmy in the Graves Mountain Lodge kitchen in the early years. Courtesy of Graves Mountain Lodge

Read the full article in our fall issue:

Making More Graves Mountain Memories

A local writer reflects on her childhood at Graves Mountain and the new memories she’s making with her own son.

By Amy Fewell

I can still smell cinnamon apples and mountain air when I think back to those years when we spent holidays and special occasions up on Graves Mountain. When I was a child, my grandparents would lug everyone up to Graves Mountain Lodge for the holidays. The mountain was a childhood delight—just as long as you didn’t fall into the river at the bottom of the hill, which I made a point to do almost every time.

It happened one evening, as I sat in bed reading a book. Those memories came flooding back. I looked over at my own little one, three years old, sleeping next to me. “He’s never even been to the mountain,” I thought.  From the beginning of his young life, I made a point of creating memories for him but also sharing my own childhood experiences with him. Among the greatest things you can share with your child are your own stories. I think Mr. Graves, with all his storytelling, must have known a thing or two about that. I was determined to relive those moments through his eyes and in the words of Winnie the Pooh, I whispered to him, “A grand adventure is about to begin.”

Read the full article in our fall issue:

Hard Cider Revival

By Glenda C. Booth

Virginia is famous for its apples, but few know that Virginia cider helped secure America’s independence from the British. In 1781, as British General Banastre Tarleton marched to Monticello to capture then-Governor Thomas Jefferson, the Walker family at Keswick’s Castle Hill farm pretended to be Loyalists. Warmly welcoming Tarleton for lunch, they plied him with tankards of cider to slow him down. As Tarleton supped and dallied, the Walkers dispatched Jack Jouett to warn Jefferson that Tarleton’s troops were on their way. Jouett arrived before the Brits and Jefferson escaped. “Cider won the Revolutionary War,” boasts Trevor Gibson of today’s Castle Hill Cider.


“Cider is making a resurgence. It’s one of the fastest growing segments of craft beverages in the country—outstripping beer, wine, and spirits in its amount of growth,” says Courtney Mailey, president of the newly-formed Virginia Association of Cidermakers. Mailey is the owner and cidermaker of Richmond’s Blue Bee Cider. “Cider is a big wave,” concurs Brian Shanks, president of Bold Rock Cider in Nellysford. In 2012, Virginia became the first state to have an official gubernatorial “cider week” proclamation. Virginia’s 11 cideries will stage their fourth cider week from November 13th to 22nd. 

Check out Cider Week Virginia

Photo: Sarah Showalter of Old Hill Hard Cider, Timberville, serves her product at the 2014 cider festival at Castle Hill Cider, Keswick. By Glenda Booth

Read the full article in our fall issue:

We Are Star Children

Charlottesville natives and adventure pop pioneers

By Morgan Hensley

I came across We Are Star Children at the suggestion of Koda Kerl, the singer and guitarist for fellow Charlottesville band, Chamomile & Whiskey. Usually when a musician vouches for a band, it’s a safe bet that the group is usually made up of highly talented “musician’s musicians” and exists somewhere outside of established, easy-to-label genres. This was no exception. “Die Alone”—the first cut off their most recent album, With Arrows—opens with an overlapping string symphony that feels like a studio outtake from The Beach Boys’ prime, only to transition into a euphony of voices, singing both in unison and slightly out of sync, that begged me to learn the words so that I could join in on the rollicking fun. It was only after a second listen I realized that the exuberant vocals and the bright, cascading chords were hiding a very serious discussion of mortality and loss. I reached out to Gene Osborn, lead vocalist and guitarist, to ask him about the band’s history, the role of chaos in creating art, and what exactly is meant by “adventure pop.”

Read the full article in our fall issue:

A Vineyard Becomes Eclectic

The many inspirations behind Jefferson Vineyard’s remarkable success

By A.C. DeLashmutt • Photographs by Molly M. Peterson

Almost everything about making wine can be intimidating to an outsider. Even the vocabulary, with words like “oenology” and “viticulture,” sounds as though it requires professional handling. Like a hoary old religion, wine—its making, selling, and pairing—is subject to arcane rules, dogmatic beliefs, and fevered premonitions. So it was reassuring that the question of how best to age wine appeared to have a simple answer: stick it in the cellar, leave it alone for a few years, and let the age-old equation of temperature, tannins, and time slowly balance. But on this topic, as on many others, the Woodwards, a founding family of Virginia winemaking, have formed a slightly different opinion. 

At a shaded picnic table not far from Monticello, just outside of the Jefferson Vineyards tasting room, Svaha Woodward raises a hand and prepares to bestow a small gem of French wisdom upon her audience. “It’s called…,” she says, and pauses. “What is it called? I’ve forgotten the word.” Around the table are four members of her family who speak seven languages altogether, but this particular phrase proves elusive. An iPhone appears. Gallic shrugs ensue. 

“Torna Viagem” is a Portuguese term for the practice of aging wine at sea. As Svaha explains, when casks of wine were stored in the holds of a sailing ship, over the years-long voyages the metric rocking of the hull polished the wine to an oxidative shine. When it reached its destination, the wine had undergone a subtle but sublime transformation, wrought by the rhythm of the sea itself. In France, the technique was popularized in the early 19th century when a few barrels of the wine exported by Louis Gaspard d’Estournel from his Cos vineyards to India returned sweeter and richer for their travels. D’Estournel labeled some of these precious bottles “Retour des Indies,” Returned from India, and served them at spectacular parties on his estate, earning himself the moniker “The Maharajah of Saint-Estèphé.” Wine shipped from France by the tonnage fueled the insatiable English thirst for Claret (the English term for wines from Bordeaux.)  Madeira, the famed Portuguese wine, was discovered when a cask of wine was forgotten in the hold of a ship, and came back fortified by the heat of its equatorial journey. Compared to wine left at home on the shelf, the wine that traveled came back with more character. 

Landlocked though it may be, at Jefferson Vineyards, located just 15 minutes east of Charlottesville, a new spirit of enterprise has gotten well underway. I stopped by the farm winery on a recent afternoon, and was greeted by Attila Woodward, president of Jefferson Vineyards.

Read the full article in our fall issue:

Art in the Piedmont

At the Piedmont Virginian, our passion is to celebrate the essence of our unique part of Virginia. Full consideration of our area is not complete without a full examination and appreciation of its art and artists, thus our fall issue every year has a large portion dedicated to the arts. In this section, you will find a “tasting” of the visual arts in our area—some artist profiles, some galleries, some exhibits, some events— all designed, together, to give a feel for our region’s incredible artistic diversity.  

Many artists of all types find refuge and happiness in the Piedmont. Some are directly inspired by their physical surroundings, and they use the landscape, animals, plants, and people as subjects. Others produce works that are not specifically tied to location but their creators use the environment all the same as a place that enables them to reach full potential by stimulating their creativity and providing an inspiring working environment, regardless of the subject.  

Really, it is a mutually beneficial symbiosis; our beautiful area and culture foster our artists to create beautiful and meaningful works, which celebrate the region either with direct likenesses or works of creativity that are inspired and born by the artist simply soaking up the feel of the place. 


Northern Piedmont: Fauquier, Loudoun, Clarke.
Landscapes Draw Artists
: Nature, Community and Art in the Northern Piedmont. By Marci Nadler

Visual Art of Charlottesville: From traditional, to aboriginal, to bookmaking, to contemporary, Charlottesville artists are dedicated to education and community. By Sarah Lawson

The Windmore Foundation
: A Lyceum for Art in Culpeper. By Morgan Hensley

Take Me to the Rapidan
: Multimedia Exhibit at the Arts Center in Orange Celebrates the Rapidan River. By Morgan Hensley

New Direction and New Artist: Artist profiles of Chris Stephens and Jacob Stilley. By Andrew Haley

Read the full article in our fall issue:

Autumn Chili Recipe

This recipe is masterful and refined. It’s flavorful essence stems from a deep blend and layering of earthy, local, high quality ingredients, bringing them all together with an arresting finish and color blast of cocoa and coffee. I wanted to capture the relationship between local food, family, and community, and feel this chili does just that. The beautiful Barboursville Sangiovese works harmoniously with the artisanal chocolate and local meats, which support Virginia’s sustainable farming. Fillet of beef can be a splurge, but the limited amount in this recipe goes the distance!

For the downloadable, printer-friendly recipe, click here.

This recipe is one of a trio that Laurie put together for our Autumn issue. For A Well Rooted Winter Vegetable Chili with Parsnip and Pear Puree and North Meets South White Oyster Chili with Garlic Thyme Toasts, check out our Autumn issue, on the stands first week of October.





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