Diversion, Wine/Cocktails

Diversion – Our Own Winery!

Romano signOkay, it’s not really ours, but it’s kinda cool to have a winery nearby that shares your last name. There’s nothing like having personalized wineglasses and wine bottles in the cellar to make your guests wonder!

Romano Vineyard and Winery is in Brandywine, Maryland, in southern Prince George’s County. PG County, as the locals know it, is mostly urban and suburban; home to the likes of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Cente, NOAA’s National Center for Weather and Climate Prediction, the U.S. Census Bureau, and Joint Base Andrews; and, according to U.S. Census data, the most affluent county in the country with a primarily African-American population. But this area of PG County is decidedly rural…former tobacco farms now yield lots of corn, soybeans, and more importantly, vineyards.  It’s a stone’s throw from historic St. Mary’s and Charles counties…even the infamous Dr. Mudd House, where Abraham Lincoln’s assassin John Wilkes Booth had his broken leg set, is nearby.

I’d like to say that Judy and I stumbled on this gem of a winery as one of our regular diversions, but this story is a bit different. When the winery opened in 2011, I lived just a few miles away with my previous wife and saw the “bootleg” signs announcing its opening and wine-tasting availability along the rural roads I regularly took to work. I vowed to visit and introduce myself to the proprietors.

That never happened. In 2012, I moved out, filed for divorce, and moved to much more urban Northern Virginia. When Judy and I got together, we discovered a shared passion for good wine and often enjoy visiting wineries as a regular weekend activity. Romano vineyardVirginia’s wines have become world-class and there is no shortage of wineries to visit. Our neighbors even gave us a Virginia Wine Pass to enjoy regular discounts!  But I still harbored the desire to visit the winery that shares my family name, so when a trip to Annapolis offered an opportunity for a Southern PG County diversion, we jumped at the chance.

We weren’t disappointed. Unlike many of the Virginia wineries, the Romano winery has a very casual, rural farm feel. Owners Jo-Ann and curiousities sidebar 2Joseph Romano were delightful. We quickly figured out we weren’t related, but then, we Romanos are like the “Smiths” of Italy…many in number, not related, but all happy to meet one another.

The wines were excellent, too, so naturally, we joined the Romano Wine Club. We received our membership materials a couple of weeks ago, including our card for two free glasses of wine each month.

Today, we found ourselves in the area once again, top-down on the Fiat spider enjoying the spring weather with temps in the low ‘60s – a nice break from recent freezes. Naturally, we stopped at “our” winery.  Jo-Ann instantly recognized us. We sat outside, each enjoying a glass of merlot.  We chatted with several ladies who were enjoying a similar fine day.  With other errands to run, we didn’t stay long, but for a brief respite, Judy and I reveled in the joy of each other’s company, a fine glass of wine, and the peace and quiet that only a rural atmosphere can bring.

We have long held that part of the fun of traveling is getting off the beaten path to find hidden gems like Romano Vineyard and Winery.  Stop in and say hello, even for a just few minutes.

There’s a whole world out there waiting to be explored.  Go see it.

Fiat at Romano

 

 

Diversion

Diversion – Solomons Island

A beautiful, sun-filled day near the Chesapeake Bay calls you to the water. That’s how we ended up on Solomons Island, Maryland on a Saturday in May instead of touring embassies in downtown Washington, DC or even at the Air Mobility Command Museum in Dover, Delaware, both considered top options until the sun and wind called us elsewhere.20150509_142733

Solomons Island is where the Patuxent River meets the Chesapeake and across the water from a US Navy installation that’s been around since the war of 1812 with an ever-changing mission due to its location at the mouth of the river.  Greg had heard about the Calvert Marine Museum for years while living in nearby Prince George’s County, but had never been. So, with the top down on the car, the wind whipping through our hair and the sun shining pleasantly on us, we headed to the museum.

What a great little treasure tucked away on this Southern Maryland island. The maritime-focused museum is chock full of artifacts and information about the crucial location of the island in the war of 1812 against the British, about its fishing and maritime history and even a peek at the history of speed boat racing and recreation on the river and into the Chesapeake bay.

The friendly lady who sold us our admission tickets, $9 per adult, mentioned an optional tour on the Wm B Tennison. The one hour cruise takes you through the Solomons inner harbor, around the end of the island and under the Governor Thomas Johnson Bridge then turns at Point Patience and returns to the museum dock. The $7 per person price seemed reasonable, so we opted in. Brilliant decision!

anglersWe had just enough time to pop next door to the Anglers Seafood Bar and Grill to grab a bite to eat before the cruise. We postulated that if you can’t get good seafood in a fishing town, where can you? We ordered crab cake sliders and bacon-wrapped scallops. Both were magnificent … fresh, cooked to perfection and exactly what we needed for a waterside lunch.

A mad dash back to the Tennison had us make it just in time to shove off and head out. The weather was perfect, the captain and first mate filled the outward cruise with tidbits of information about places of interest on shore, then turned off the microphone and let us enjoy the peace and quiet of a cruise on the water as we returned.20150509_142253

The Drum Point Lighthouse, once a beacon to sailors and other mariners entering these sometimes dangerously shallow waters, is no longer in operation and has been moved to the dock for visitors. A two-bedroom home with a kitchen and living space, an outdoor privy and what looked like all the amenities of a quaint home made us talk about finding a lighthouse bed and breakfast for a weekend getaway at some point.  Entrance to the lighthouse is part of the museum admission.1431192796504

We stopped at the wood carving shop and watched a couple of gentlemen building boats inside for a while, then headed back to the car for a leisurely drive home.

EPILOGUE:  When we arrived home we checked in online to discover a MAJOR accident had closed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in both directions. Our last-minute decision to scrap our plans to head to Dover turned out to be fortuitous, not only for the incredible find we stumbled on, but for our dodging a traffic nightmare at the end of our day.

Diversion

Diversion – Hidden Gem Just Outside the Beltway – Kensington Book Festival

By FedFlack

Sunday morning we awoke to a glorious spring day, the kind ideal for top-down motoring.  The weather was perfect to follow through on our commitment to visit two author friends at The International Day of the Book in Kensington, Maryland. Our pale skin was craving some sun, so we threw on some shorts, slathered on some SPF 30, and headed north from our Alexandria home.

Fortunately, traffic on the DC Beltway was relatively light and we soon exited onto Connecticut Ave. You could easily miss Kensington as just another leafy suburb, but we had looked at a map before leaving and knew to turn onto Armory Street to find parking. We found a spot on the street (watch for No Parking and Permit Only signs) and walked a short two blocks to the festival.

Our first stop was a small crafts display where we found the perfect cufflinks to complement my wedding suit. Made from old bowling balls, flecks of gold in the blue/green urethane sparkled in the sun.

The book festival (www.dayofthebook.com) didn’t disappoint. Tents lined two sides of Howard Street along the old B&O Railroad with local authors at the ready to talk about their books and why they wrote them, and they were certainly willing to sign a copy! Unexpectedly, there were several offerings of children’s books and games, making this a true family affair.

We said hello to friend and former colleague Steve Piacente, author of Bella and Bootlicker, (www.GetBella.com) and his wife Felicia. Incredibly, Judy’s friend John DeDakis, writer of Fast Track, Bluff, and Troubled Water, (www.JohnDeDakis.com) was in the booth directly across from Steve’s. I got to meet him, then we introduced them. Ahh, friends in high places!

From left: Steve Piacente, Greg (aka FedFlack), John DeDakis, Judy.  Photo courtesy Felicia Piacente
From left: Steve Piacente, Greg (aka FedFlack), John DeDakis, Judy. Photo courtesy Felicia Piacente

We strolled through the displays and bought a delicious frozen custard at one of the food trucks conveniently parked nearby. The vendor pleasantly pointed out, “This is the real thing … all natural.” We savored the confection and then spent a good hour exploring Kensington’s other hidden treasure: antique shops. All along Howard Street , you can shop for antique (and 50s/60s not quite antique) wares from estate jewelry to truly vintage and reproduction furniture. One lesson learned …  look up! Many of the stores had vintage lamps and chandeliers for sale; one (www.sageconsignment.com) even offered authentic reproductions of virtually every style of light ever produced (okay, that’s a stretch, but the catalog was an inch thick).

In the “you never know what you will find when you browse” category, Judy found a vintage bar set straight out of Mad Men at the Antique Market II. The price was right so it now sits perfectly in our globe bar next to the Woodford Reserve bourbon.

We took a different path to the car so that we could enjoy the charm of Kensington’s nicely restored Victorian and Craftsman style homes. This was the perfect place for architecture geeks like us!

From virtually anywhere in the metropolitan Washington area, Kensington is less than a half-hour’s drive away. Check it out the next time you need to get out of the house for a few hours on a sunny day.