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My brother, Shawn, and his girlfriend, Noelle, came up to visit us for a long weekend, see the sights, and have an all-around good time (which we did!).

We picked them up on Friday evening from Dulles Airport just before a huge thunderstorm came roaring through (bringing much needed rain). We had dinner that night at Jake's Seafood and Steak House in Manassas.

On Saturday morning, we were up early, had a yummy breakfast and headed out for a day of winetasting at a few of the wineries in our area. We headed first to the Three Fox Vineyards, but they weren't open until noon (those bastards!), so we make a quick change of plans and found ourselves quickly at Naked Mountain Vineyard and Winery. The wine was fine, but they've got to learn to do a little better in the customer relationship department (perhaps simply acknowledging someone when they enter the tasting room would be a good start).

Next, we headed to Stillhouse Vineyards. There was a great view from the tasting room, the wines were tasty (we bought a few, but I don't remember which), and the young woman who helped us was very pleasant (though the other, old woman there was not so nice and very surly - even towards the customers she was helping).

From there, we made our way along the backroads to Rappahannock Cellars and it was a treat! Mari is a member of their wine club, which means she gets free tastings any time she shows up plus a really good discount on anything she buys. We spent quite a bit of time there as Steven, the wine maker himself, came to chat with us about wine (Mari had met him on and previous trip and learned that he's from South Africa - so they have that connection). Steven was very attentive and answered all our/my questions (I asked several questions about the process of winemaking based on my experience with making beer). He was also very kind and generous with the samples - he provided us with two samples of wines they had so little of that they were not giving tasting out to the general public as well as three "barrel tastings" from the wine holding area (he brought the samples up in beakers!). We didn't learn until later that Noelle was hammered by the time we left from the volume of samples we consumed (she was on the end of the line, so got the most in her glass each time). Needless to say, I highly recommend Rappannock Cellars for their personal touch and the wines are very fine!

By the time we moved on, it was getting late in the afternoon and we hadn't eaten much more than oyster crackers with the wine for a few hours. We decided to have our picnic at our next stop at Farfelu Vineyards - the first winery licensed in Virginia post Prohibition. The people and the winery itself are very personable and it made a great place to have our lunch. After tasting their wines, we bought a bottle of Seyval, covered a table on their lanai with cheese, meats, and other yummies, and really enjoyed the warm, sunny afternoon in quiet leisure.

After lunch, we headed home for a short rest before heading off to dinner at Sandia Cafe - a New Mexico-style restaurant that is owned by the ex-wife (who is also the chef) of Noelle's boss (don't ask - it's too weird). The food was wonderful, but the winetasting had taken a toll on all of us (tired), in particular for Shawn who ended up with a headache in addition to fatigue. Mari and I are looking forward to going back to Sandia Cafe to try more of their wares.

My original plan for Sunday was to take bicycles in to Shirlington and take a 15 mile loop around Arlington, down to the Potomac by Rosslyn, then down to Crystal City, catch the Four Mile Run trail and then back to Shirlington for a late lunch. The plan was modified and we headed to Crystal City, where we parked the truck, and bicycled up the Mt. Vernon Trail, across the 14th Street bridge into the district, and then around to several of the monuments, before finally making a push back to the truck so we could get some lunch (apparently the two 20-somethings needed to be in better shape to keep up with the two 45-ers!) in Shirlington at Capital City Brewery

More about the visit tomorrow...

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