The day I was recruited into a wine country commune

It’s been a while since I visited Northern Virginia wine country and, as expected, several new wineries have popped up. The best way to figure out the current vibe of the wineries, both old and new, is to walk in, talk, and taste, which I did. Copiously. In addition to the standard Viognier offering at every winery, I enjoyed racy Albariño, round-but-minerally Chardonnay, spicy Cabernet Franc, grippy Tannat, and juicy Petit Manseng (hands-down, my favorite Virginia grape). I got to examine varying degrees of oak impact from the barrels and oak alternatives I sell and to listen to winemaker feedback. It was a good day for forging new relationships and for refreshing longtime friendships.

As a traveling salesperson, it can be tricky to find both places to eat and places to stop for clean restrooms. Wine country can be pretty remote. The struggle is real. So, still basking in the glow of a great day in NOVA wine country and pondering why consumers and even some in the wine community can be resistant to understanding wines made right in their own backyards (and appreciating their intrinsic quality instead of so often comparing them to California or European wines), I decided to stop at a little roadside market because the day’s wine and coffee had finally caught up with me.

Feeling guilty about using the facilities at any business without making a purchase, I quickly looked around for something to buy.  Most of the snacks and other items looked über-organic and handmade, down to the clothing worn by the man and woman proprietors. I settled on a piece of banana bread from their homemade pastries, paid, threw the banana bread in my purse, and dashed into the WC, eager to get back on the road. When I was about to exit the shop, one of the owners struck up a conversation, asking my name and where I was from. Not wanting to appear like someone who was just there to use their public restroom (ha!), I answered politely. She started asking more questions and telling me how their business worked: “We follow the teachings of the Lord and his disciples, making everything we consume and sharing it amongst ourselves, farming our own food, and helping each other care for our kids. Here’s a pamphlet…” While I have my own personal spiritual beliefs, I thought, “Oh, boy, here we go” and continued to nod and smile but edged my way toward the door. It had been a long day and I the last thing I needed was to be sucked into a religious commune. (Although the thought “Having extra sets of hands for childcare would be nice… Wait! Snap out of it, sister!” did cross my mind.)

Though I immediately jumped to the conclusion that this lady was a nutcase trying to kidnap me into a cult, the more we talked, the more apparent it became that she actually just wanted to learn more about Michigan, where her group was starting a new farm and where she and her young family would be moving in about a month. Originally from San Diego, she was concerned about the weather, particularly how much snow they’d encounter. Also, it turns out that her mom grew up in Rochester, New York, which automatically makes her family OK in my book.

The moral? Just as I had been driving along and wishing that people wouldn’t make snap judgments about wines from the eastern U.S. and Canada before trying them, tasting them, and enjoying them with food, I now felt silly having assumed that this lady was interested in brainwashing me into eschewing my cozy world of travel and craft beverages for an alternative farming-and-worship lifestyle. She was just being nice and wanted to share some information about herself. The same goes for wines: They might be from outside of your current comfortable wine world, but they just want to strike up a conversation with you. Listen to them. You might be pleasantly surprised by what they have to say.

By the way… Best. Banana bread. Ever!

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