Veritas Vineyard: Truth in the Foothills

Veritas_Vineyard_1781Nestled in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains is the family-owned Veritas Vineyard and Winery. While passing by that stretch of Afton Mountain Road, (Route 6), outside of Charlottesville last weekend, I stopped to take some pictures.

I’m far from being a wine connoisseur and I’m even less of a consumer. However, I’m intrigued by the art and science (and hard work!) of making good wine. Besides that, the striking nature of a vineyard is hard to miss. Veritas Vineyard & Winery is no exception when it comes to quality and beauty—they have received many awards and accolades since their inception in 2002.


Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Afton, Virginia, complete with a Blue Ridge Mountain backdrop.

In Latin, “veritas” means “truth.” The vineyard’s name harkens to the words of Pliny the Elder, a first century Roman author and philosopher of nature: “in vino veritas.” Translated, this means “in wine there is truth.”


In the foreground here is a unique metal sculpture situated on a rise not far from the Tasting Room. — Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA


The grapes grown at Veritas Vineyard are primarily vitis vinifera, a grape common to Europe and Asia. An American-French hybrid is grown to a lesser degree as well. —  Afton, Virginia


At Veritas, overnight guests can stay at The Farmhouse B&B. This lovely 1800s homestead offers six guest rooms and an adjacent 2-bedroom cottage. — Afton, VA


Sheep craze in the pasture beside the barn-turned-cottage. — Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA

I could have spent all afternoon in The Farmhouse Garden, which sits at the back of the house facing rows and rows of grapevines and the Blue Ridge in the distance.


A pretty pollinator on a coneflower in The Farmhouse Garden. –Vertias Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA


…And still more coneflowers. — Veritas Vineyard & Winery; Afton, VA

The science and production of grapes is referred to as viticulture. Turning the subsequent grape juice into wine is known as vinification. Veritas Vineyard used the classic principles of the two when creating their wines. --Afton, VA

The science and production of grapes is referred to as viticulture. Turning the subsequent grape juice into wine is known as vinification. Veritas Vineyard uses the classic principles of the two when creating their wines. –Afton, VA


The fruit of Veritas Vineyard’s labor can be enjoyed responsibly in the architecturally pleasing Tasting Room. — Afton, VA


Looking out over Veritas and its lovely vistas, I sensed the work, time, and creative power involved from the moment the ground is prepped and the vines are planted to the final enjoyment of the wine produced, and I thought about how Jesus (God in human flesh) miraculously turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Concerning this miracle in relation to God’s ongoing providence over creation, C.S. Lewis wrote:

…it will have its full effect if whenever we see a vineyard or drink a glass of wine we remember that here works He who sat at the wedding party in Cana.

Year after year, by His creative power and through the stewardship of man and his labor, God is turning water into wine.

C.S. Lewis quote from God in the Dock, p. 29.

Summer’s Lease

It’s September already, and to quote Shakespeare, “Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” I don’t know about you (or should I say, “I knoweth not what thou thinkest”), but I’m looking forward to autumn—”when yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang”.[1]

Although I didn’t venture too many places this summer, I did have a few new experiences and even discovered a different perspective on the familiar.

North Carolina Botanical Garden
Tucked into a corner of this free public garden, which is operated by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, is a large and diverse collection of colorful carnivorous plants. It’s worth a look:


Three hybrid pitcher plants at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. — Chapel Hill

Not far from these native bog plants is the Poison Garden. I don’t know how I missed this area all the other times I visited! I was enthralled—from sinister garden gate to the beguiling mountain laurel.


The gate leading to the Poison Plant garden provides an artful warning of what lies ahead. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)


Every part of the striking mountain laurel is poisonous–from leaf and bloom to the drops of honey it produces. If eaten, it causes nausea, stomach pain, difficulty breathing, loss of coordination, paralysis, and sometimes death. Ironically, mountain laurel can also be used in ointment to treat skin disorders. — NC Botanical Garden (Chapel Hill, NC)

Kart Track
I spent a bit of time at a sprint karting track. Rest assured, I was not behind the wheel. Rather, there were seven and eight-year-olds behind the wheel, my nephew included. That may sound a bit astonishing, to say the least. On the one hand, they were just kids—children who flung their arms around one another in greeting and who navigated the garage area on scooters between practice sessions, qualifying, and racing. On the other hand, they were focused little racers once their kart wheels rolled onto the asphalt. My nephew enjoys racing over any other sport—but maybe not as much as he loves Legos.


Looking past the “boogity, boogity, boogity” and checkered flag, one can appreciate the uniqueness of a racetrack –it’s there at every track if one is curious to look. For instance, Victory Lane’s three-tiered stand at the aforementioned track is material (block curbs) salvaged from a former venue in Italy, the historic Kartdromo Parma track.

Duke Gardens
This place never gets old, but I discovered it in a whole new way a few months ago—in the evening, just before sunset. As the day winds to a close, a quiet falls over the Gardens and the colors of the sky reach down and paint areas such as the Garden Pond, Perennial Allee, and Blomquist Pavilion in tempered light and shades of gold that heighten their beauty.


The Moss Garden at Duke Gardens looks particularly charming in the fading sunlight. — Durham, NC

Duke Gardens is open until dusk, and many people take advantage of this for evening strolls, romantic rendezvous, picnics on the lawn, or solitary contemplation. I’ve also seen more numerous and varied kinds of wildlife at this time of day.


A sunflower makes its final bow in the Charlotte Brody Discovery Garden. — Duke Gardens; Durham, NC

Perhaps you’ve been to these or similar places as well, or might like to put them on your list of things to do. The lease on summer may be coming to an end, but autumn in North Carolina and many other places is amenable to outdoor pastimes. Enjoy your autumn.

[1] Shakespeare’s Sonnets 18 & 73

West Point on the Eno

What do you get when you mix an old mill with a 19th century homestead, then toss in a photography museum and a sand sculpture for good measure?

West Point on the Eno.

Located along the Eno River in Durham, North Carolina—in an area once inhabited by Shocco and Eno Indians—this city park is an eclectic mix of past and present, of nature and culture.

I paid a visit earlier this month. A sign in the parking lot warned (1) there are snakes, (2) only the copperhead is poisonous, and (3) harming snakes in the park is strictly prohibited. …Good to know.

While I pondered a snake population significant enough to warrant a sign, I made my way (gingerly) toward the park’s historic buildings.

The McCown-Mangum House
My first stop was the McCown-Mangum House, which was built around 1850 and served as the homestead for two early Durhamite families. (Mangum Street in downtown Durham is named after the Mangums.)


The old farmhouse, built in Greek revival style, contains original heart-of-pine boards, mantels, and woodwork. The piano, side table, and sofa through this doorway are authentic to the house and can be seen in an old photo in the parlour.


The old tobacco barn at West Point on the Eno: Tobacco, cotton and watermelons were the farm’s major crops in its heyday.

Hugh Mangum Photography Museum
The property’s 19th century packhouse, where tobacco was stored before going to market, is now home to the Hugh Mangum Photography Museum.

Hugh Mangum was born in 1877, the eldest son of Presley and Sally Mangum. The family moved to the farm, previously owned by the McCowns, in 1893.

Hugh Mangum was both a musician and an artist. He played mandolin, accordion, and piano and created the many paintings and photographs currently on display in the farmhouse.

After studying art at Salem College and earning a degree in hypnotism, of all things, Mangum traveled around the countryside immortalizing young and old on glass negatives which he then turned into photographs.


a glass negative


photo from the glass negative


Mangum established a darkroom in the packhouse to develop his photographs, mixing his chemicals and washing his prints in water from a nearby stream.


The photos on display in the museum were printed from some 500 glass negatives found on the property in the 1970s.

West Point Mill
West Point Mill was one of thirty-two grist mills operating along the Eno River. It was accessible by roads in every direction and situated in an area that was thriving.


West Point Mill operated from 1778-1942 and in its prime consisted of a general store, blacksmith shop, cotton gin, saw mill…and even a post office. Its name–West Point–was the result of being the most westerly point on the mail route.


The mill collapsed after a severe storm in 1973, leaving only the foundation and some of the frame standing. The mill was reconstructed from photographs and furnished with machinery from former nearby mills. Today, West Point is a working example of days gone by, and the stone-ground meal and flour produced there are sold in the mill’s store.


The attendant at the mill told me I’d find a “corn liquefier” on the second floor. I didn’t quite get the joke until I spotted this still, which was found in the woods of Durham County in the 1960s by Alcoholic Beverage Control and donated to the mill for display purposes.

The Grounds
Between the mill and the farmhouse, I spotted a quirky sight:


The Festival on the Eno is held every 4th of July, at which time a sand sculpture is erected at West Point. This sculpture, still in great shape after a month in the elements, is entitled “Owlvis and the Owletts.”

Sally Mangum was reportedly a gifted cook and gardener. One of my favorite aspects of the park was the subtle nod to her abilities as seen in both the enclosed herb and flower garden as well as the plantings around the homestead.


The begonias in the flower boxes were lovely and the coneflowers along the front path invited pollinators.


A perennial in the garden, the photography museum (packhouse) in the background.

It was an enjoyable afternoon at West Point on the Eno—and I didn’t see a single snake. A part of me was disappointed. A very sssmall part.

For a more complete view of the park and its unique history, (it’s also a stop on the North Carolina Civil War Trails tour), consider a visit. Free guided tours are available. Hiking trails and access to the Eno River are also perks of the park.


a colorful perennial near the packhouse

JC Raulston Arboretum: A Living Laboratory & Outdoor Classroom


A view from the top: looking down over the railing from the lovely rooftop garden. — Raleigh, NC

My mother has three daughters. (That’s a rather strange way of saying that I have two sisters.) My Mom would be the first to agree that each one of us is very different.

The Research Triangle region of North Carolina has three major public gardens: Duke Gardens (Duke University’s crown jewel), the North Carolina Botanical Garden (a University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill treasure), and the JC Raulston Arboretum (NC State University’s gem). Two of these locales are listed among the 50 Most Amazing University Botanical Gardens and Arboretums in the U.S.[1]

I’ve visited and written about Duke Gardens many, many times, and I’ve shared photos of the NC Botanical Garden several times as well. Until recently, I had yet to visit the JC Raulston Arboretum.

The main goals of the 10-acre Arboretum are to provide a center for learning and a place to cultivate plants for southern landscapes. The grounds are divided into several themed gardens and borders. Memorial plaques and dedications can be found throughout. I particularly liked a memorial plaque I spotted by the Rose Garden:

“They loved the rose for its beauty and fragrance, a glimpse of God’s glory.”

Here’s a glimpse of the glory through the lens of my camera…and in the meandering order in which I encountered its beauty.

Scree/Xeric Garden
This area contains drought tolerant plants that are native to South Africa, Mexico, and the southern United States.


Bees pollinate a cactus flower at the JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC).

Lath House
The architectural design of Lath House, comprised of iron supports, wooden beams overhead, tiled paths underfoot, and raised beds of plants, is award-winning.


Lath House is home to over 700 plants that thrive in the shade. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)


The blooms on the Acanthus “Morning Candle” are burning out, but I thought the plant was pretty nonetheless. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

Plantsmen’s Woods
Trees from around the world can be found in Plantsmen’s Woods. An eastern redbud, with its golden-orange new growth, caught my eye.


“The Rising Sun” gold-leaf eastern redbud. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

Color Trials
This colorful, full-sun space is an official All-America Selections testing site where new cultivars are evaluated for use in home gardens.


“Supertunia Vista Silverberry” petunias grow profusely in the All-American Selections trial ground of the JC Raulston Arboretum. (North Carolina)


A spotted skipper sits  atop “Meteor Shower” verbena in the Color Trials area of the Arboretum. (Raleigh NC)

Water Garden
This garden is part of a larger group of gardens called the Model Garden.


I saw lots of Great Blue Skimmers around the lily pads in the Water Garden. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

A.E. Finley Rooftop Terrace
This garden is so unique (IMHO). Although the conditions of the rooftop garden are severe, plants that can tolerate heat, dryness and wind thrive in soil containing sand and slate.


A.E. Finley Rooftop Terrace: The rocky mound straight ahead is a crevice garden. Looking over the railing is a view of a waterfall complete with aquatic plants, as well as the JC Raulston paver pictured at the top of this blog post. (Raleigh, NC)


Winding brick walkways and this gigantic agave ovatifolia succulent are just two of the striking sights on the Rooftop at JC Raulston Arboretum. (Raleigh, NC)


A Buckeye butterfly pollinates a Winkler’s gaillardia on the rooftop. …Keep doing what you’re doing, Buckeye! From my reading, this blanketflower is considered endangered by the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

Centers of Learning
The Arboretum offers both an Education Center, where programs and private events are held, as well as a Visitor Center.


The Bobby G. Wilder Visitor Center contains a reading/resource area for the inquisitive. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)


Behind the coneflowers and near the Visitors Center, this Japanese Crepe Myrtle, “Fantasy,”  stands as one of the oldest and largest crepe myrtles growing outside of Japan. It’s a variant resulting from seedlings collected in the 1950s on the island of Yakushima. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)


Here’s another look at “Fantasy.” Across from it (not pictured) is a slightly smaller crepe myrtle. …Pictures are worth a thousand words, but seeing this big guy “live” and in full panorama is worth a million. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

Another historic notable at JC Raulston Arboretum is the 50-foot tall Columnar English Oak, which was the first tree planted there.


On my way back to the parking lot, I “spotted” this Leopard Lily (or Blackberry Lily). Proper name: Belamcanda chinensis.  Why is it also called a Blackberry Lily? Because their seed pods look like blackberries. (Beware, they are not edible!)  — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)


This was one of my favorite scenes, and one of the last ones I photographed: The “Cecil Houdyshel” Crinum Lily, named after its cultivator, is an old southern heirloom. — JC Raulston Arboretum (Raleigh, NC)

Following my afternoon at the JC Raulston Arboretum, I concluded that these three public spaces—beautiful though each one is—are very different from one another. Unlike my mother, who doesn’t have a favorite daughter, I do have a favorite public garden. Most likely, you can guess which one it is. But my personal preference aside, all three are lovely and I encourage you to visit one, or two, or all of them soon. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Parking and admission to the JC Raulston Arboretum are free, but donations are accepted.
[1]  As awarded by Best Colleges Online.