July 28, 2011
Of the great wine-producing regions in the U.S., Napa and Sonoma no doubt come to mind. Knowledgeable enthusiasts might even add Walla Walla Valley in Washington and the Finger Lakes in New York to their list. Virginia’s countryside, however, is all too often overlooked. That’s a shame, because Virginia’s vintners have been working hard to express the region’s unique terroir—the effect of the local climate, soil, and topography on the character of a wine. And as the 2011 Wine Bloggers’ Conference demonstrates, those producers have been fabulously successful.
From July 22-24, wine bloggers and writers, new media innovators, and wine industry leaders from around the country converged on Charlottesville, VA to sample offerings from all six of Virginia’s wine-making regions: the Shenandoah Valley, Eastern Shore, North Fork of the Roanoke River, George Washington Birthplace, Rocky Knob, and Monticello. Conference participants were treated to a welcoming reception at Monticello. As the organizing director, Kurt Burkhart, put it, “I can’t imagine a better setting to watch the beautiful sunset than over the Blue Ridge Mountains. The Jeffersonian connection was most intriguing to this group.”
Though Virginia wines only recently catapulted onto the world stage, the state’s viticulture is steeped in history. Citizens of colonial Jamestown placed such a high value on wine production that each male was required to tend at least 10 grape vines. Land dedicated to these vineyards, however, was soon converted to host the much more lucrative cash crop, tobacco. Then, at his home at Monticello, Thomas Jefferson sought to realize the promise of Virginia wines. Unfortunately, although he actively studied and cultivated European grapes for over 30 years, Jefferson’s vineyards never produced a single bottle of wine.
In the 1820s, Virginia vintners began experimenting with wines made from muscadines, or Native American grapes. The grapes proved to be the key to Virginia’s success when, in 1873, a Virginia Norton wine was named “best red wine of all nations” at the Vienna World’s Fair and received a gold medal at the Paris World’s Fair in 1889. When Prohibition came into effect, however, Virginia’s wine production was halted and had been slow to recover.
Today, however, Virginia viticulture is flourishing! The state now boasts nearly 200 wineries, nearly all of which are relatively small holdings and operated by their founding families. As one commentator put it, “Virginia is not just a producer of wine, but a wine region,” characterized by an “unparalleled sense of history, magnificent scenery, a burgeoning food scene, and first class facilities.” Travel and Leisure magazine’s Bruce Schoenfeld even declared Virginia one of five up-and-coming wine regions (along with Spain, Italy, Chile, and New Zealand) that “should be on the must-visit list of any adventurous wine traveler.”
In an effort to support Virginia’s wineries, policymakers are expanding state support for vineyards as well as other types of agriculture. The Virginia Wine Board recently released a study that found vineyards to be the only growing agricultural sector in the Commonwealth and pointed to it as a critical piece of Virginia’s local food-shed. Further, Virginia wineries have become a major source of agritourism, attracting over one million visitors each year. In an effort to continue to promote this trend, the Virginia state legislature recently enacted a tax credit that would cover up to 25 percent of the cost of certain equipment and materials up to $250,000 per year.
This incredible growth is due in part to the climate as well as availability of cheap land relative to other major wine-producing regions. Perhaps it’s time to revisit your dreams of someday owning and operating a vineyard – or at least producing your own vino della casa…
The affiliates of Field Sport Concepts have a long and distinguished history of designing world-class working landscapes. With expertise in master planning and conservation finance strategies, we will work with you to design an agricultural or viticultural practice and find ways to assist its financial well-being. So, whether you wish to re-envision and enhance an existing agricultural operation or establish a brand new vineyard, we have the tools to make your goals a reality.
July 22, 2011
Speaking of elk (songs), we stumbled upon this cool clip of a beast of a bull elk bellowing out autumn love songs. Pretty impressive, huh?
While we’re on the subject…let us recommend a neat article about the elk reintroduction efforts in Tennessee and Kentucky. After decimating their respective herds in the late 19th century, both states can now boast healthy, self-sustaining populations. Healthy enough, in fact, to offer a limited hunting opportunity to a lucky few. Furthermore, the revenue generated from the license lottery is no small chunk of change – individual tags have sold for as much as $17,000! Most of this money is used to fund the reintroduction effort, as well as assist other conservation related programs.
[Actually, Tennessee’s 5th and final elk hunting license of the season is actually being auctioned off on ebay right now. At “publishing time,” the pricetag was still under ten grand. Better hurry up and make moves...]
Also interesting are the areas where these elk have naturally gravitated: large tracts of abandoned strip mines. So, these elk are essentially brought in to turn an otherwise underutilized and unproductive landscape into a financially viable and attractive piece of land. Hmm, sounds a lot like adaptive reuse and alternative programming to us. We’re not so different after all, are we, Elk?
One more thing, because you only get so many chances to segue with elk: the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is teaming up with four other of the biggest land and wildlife conservation agencies to host the Land & Wildlife Expo in Nashville, TN early next month. We’ll be there. If you’re attending as well, feel free to drop us a line. We’d love to meet you.
July 20, 2011
Here’s an inspiring piece of writing we’d like to pass on from LandReport.com.
The article profiles Elk Song Ranch, an amazing 7000+ acre piece of property in Eastern Oregon. Through a strategic and comprehensive management plan, the owner restored the overgrazed and underutilized land into an outdoorsman’s paradise – one with ample game, healthy streams, and reinvigorated forests. It’s a perfect example of how a multidisciplinary approach to managing a working landscape can benefit both the property and its inhabitants, including those of the antlered variety. (Apparently, seeing dozens of massive elk roaming the ridges every day is now commonplace. Wouldn’t that be nice?)
A big thanks to Ross Seyfried, the article’s author and Elk Song’s owner, for permission to use his photography and link to the story. If Elk Song Ranch doesn’t find a new owner in the near future, we’re going to start coordinating bake sales and car washes to make a bid…
July 18, 2011
We’ve posted material dealing with the culinary side of our natural environment. And our last post touched on the hot topics of invasive species and ecological restoration. Time to mesh the two:
To the dismay of Asian carp, garlic mustard, and wild hogs everywhere, there is a grassroots trend devoted to tracking down, harvesting, and eating invasive species. All in the name of sustainability.
Take our fellow Virginian, Jackson Landers, for example. His soon-to-be-released book, Eating Aliens, chronicles his quests to seek, destroy, and consume any and every non-native plant and animal that walks, slithers, swims, or takes root in this great country. A lofty but noble goal, indeed. You can read more about Jackson’s efforts on his blog – The Locavore Hunter.
Similarly, our summer intern has spent his last few years at the University of Georgia reading, writing, and actively learning about goats and their use in the landscape, particularly those covered in invasives. His blog – Little Lebowski Urban Goats – is described as “a mildly academic study of several small goats picking up our landscaping slack in overgrown backyards of Athens, GA. Like a bad Jeff Foxworthy joke, with a permaculture twist.” Because the project stemmed from other passions – namely, urban agriculture and food connectivity – each goatscaping season has ended with a celebratory goat roast. An unconventional barbecue meat, yes, but don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it. He claims he’s entering blue ribbon territory with some recipes…
Depending on the extent of your non-natives problem, goats may or may not be a logical part of the solution. Regardless, give us a call; we’d be happy to lend our help. But be forewarned, Zach will talk your ear off about goats if given the chance.
July 8, 2011
It’s no secret that non-native invasive plant (and animal) species have had a huge impact on our natural landscapes and ecosystems. With their relentless growth habits and lack of natural checks and balances, plants like kudzu, wisteria, privet and honeysuckle have effectively overtaken huge swaths of our landscape.
From an ecological standpoint, the results are often disastrous – habitat is lost and native species are crowded out, resulting in a relatively sterile, unproductive, and alien landscape. Unfortunately, most examples are closer to home than one would expect. You only have to go to your nearest recent development site or motorway to see the devilish plants in action.
Their economic effect is nothing to scoff at either. Most academic studies guesstimate the annual cost of all invasive species to be a 12-digit number. Yes, that’s billions. With a “B.” For us landscape architects, invasive species are a constant headache. The same plants that were installed with good intentions decades ago have exploded into a nation-wide problem. And the worst part: there’s nothing uglier than a monoculture of undesirable, unkempt plants.
Restoration efforts range from community work days to hardcore aerial chemical applications. Imagine being ‘choppered in to acres of kudzu in a search and destroy mission for the mother crown. Sounds like the long lost horticultural installment of the Rambo series, doesn’t it?
Here in the office, we make a conscious effort to design our landscapes with a responsible and ecologically sensitive approach. Click here to view pictures from Field Sport Concepts’ affiliate McKee Carson’s project at the Charlottesville Union Bank & Trust, a redesign that showcases and celebrates the urban site’s inherent properties and indigenous flora.
If your property could use a helping hand in its transformation from exotic jungle to native oasis, we’d be more than happy to help.
(Note: weedeater-wielding Stalone not included.)
July 7, 2011
As inhabitants of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, we here at Field Sport Concepts hold the Bay, its flora, fauna, and surrounding landscape dear in our hearts. Consequently, we had mixed emotions upon reading the Chesapeake Bay Program’s most recent press release on the status of the Bay’s health.
Using research and monitoring information from the past 25 years, it’s clear that the Bay is, in fact, improving. (Albeit slowly.) Of the three most important pollutants being tracked – nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment – all appear to be decreasing in the long term. Hooray!
But hold your seahorses, friend. There remains plenty of room for improvement. For example, the 2010 totals for all three pollutants saw an increase from 2009. Above average rainfall last year pushed 50 million more pounds of nutrients into the Bay, as well as an extra 7 million tons of sediment. Plus, while the overall trend may be slowly improving, we still have a long road ahead of us before reaching restoration level goals.
Sitting back and waiting certainly isn’t going to solve anything, though. That’s why Field Sport Concepts is committed to designing with the Bay’s best interest in mind.
Curious to know how you can help, too? Check out this link from the Chesapeake Bay Program’s website to get some suggestions.
July 1, 2011
If you’re into horse racing, you’ve heard of Native Dancer – or “The Galloping Grey Ghost,” as the public used to call him. From 1952-54, the storied racehorse won 21 of 22 races, running itself into the history books and placing its home and training place – Sagamore Farm – on the map. Encompassing 530 beautiful acres, Sagamore is a crowned jewel of the Mid-Atlantic equestrian world.
Once owned by the Emerson and Vanderbilt families, Sagamore Farm is now in the hands of Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour. No stranger to success himself, Mr. Plank has defined his goals for the property as rebuilding a top notch equestrian facility and competing again at the highest level. And it didn’t take long. Last November, their champion-in-training Shared Account came home wearing the first place ribbon from a $2 million Breeder’s Cup race. We tip our cap to you.
We’re proud to have been a part of the redevelopment of Sagamore Farm alongside the architect, Blackburn Architects, P.C – an FSC affiliate. And we wish them the best of luck in their future competitions. If there’s any truth to the commercial claiming “happy cows make happy cheese,” we see no reason why a farm full of happy horses shouldn’t bring back plenty of happy trophies…
To read more about Sagamore Farms and Blackburn Architects’ design of the site’s equestrian structures, check out this article by DCmud. For even more Sagamore in the news, here are two recent articles highlighting the farm and Mr. Plank: one by the Washington Post, and another from the New York Times.
If you or your family are enthusiastic horse lovers, we would be honored to help you reach your goals through design. Feel free to contact us, or click around the Field Sport Concepts website for more information. (Note: we cannot guarantee the athletic, prize-winning success of your horses; only their happiness.)