Fischer’s Hill Battlefield

I’m a history buff in general, and a military history buff in particular. So living near the epicenter of Civil War history, you can imagine I’m in my element.

For background, the battle was fought on September 21/22, 1864 during the final Union push into the Shenandoah. Still reeling from a very recent defeat at Winchester, the Confederates retreated to Fischer’s Hill, near the northern mouth of the Shenandoah Valley. This location was nicknamed the “Gibraltar” of the Shenandoah because its commanding heights made it an ideal defensive position.

Unfortunately for them, Confederates were so badly outnumbered they were unable to properly defend the hill. Seeing the enemy line didn’t reach the mountains on the western side of the valley, the Union devised a plan to sneak around the Confederate left flank at night. The maneuver was successful, and two Union divisions – one commanded by future President Rutherford B Hayes – surprised the Confederates and helped collapse their battle line. General Early and much of his army got away, but was thereafter unable to oppose Phil Sheridan’s ‘burning’ of the Shenandoah.

But what makes any battlefield tour fun are the human stories – and this one has a doozy. The confederates posted a lookout in the high branches of a tree, hoping to spot the Union troops at a distance. I wonder – did he see them outflanking him? If so, what did he say? Did he flail his arms saying “Um….guys….GUYS!!!! LOOK TO OUR LEFT!!!”. If so, it must have been a shock to see two Union divisions baring down on their position. Even now, the tree bears scars from the battle.

Thanks to a non-profit the battlefield at Fischer’s Hill (aka Ramseur’s Hill) has recently received a well deserved upgrade. These include a parking lot, walking trail, and “Civil War Trails” signs explaining the flow of the battle and the background of key commanders. There’s still work to be done, but it’s a good start.

The parking lot is small but it’s been almost empty every time I’ve ever visited it. There are sign posts at the start of the trail, but be sure to go to your right and up the hill after you pass thru the gateway. The trail (dirt in some places, gravel in others) goes in a loop, passing a still-standing tree which was used as a look-out post by a Confederate soldier who tried to warn his commander of a large Union force bearing down on their flank. Overall, the ‘hike’ takes less than an hour.

Wine Reserve At Waterford

As the label of their red blend states, “The Wine Reserve was born several years ago in a vineyard far, far away…”.

Great visit to what is (for now) Loudoun’s newest wine tasting room. It was extra special because it was hosted by the two owners, John and Cory, who do double-duty here as well as maintaining full time jobs in D.C. I really don’t know how people can pull such a thing off; I’m guessing it comes at the expense of sleep. 5 stars because despite only being open 3 weeks, the operation was running smoothly and I enjoyed their two house wines (more on those in a minute).

The Reserve was formerly Loudoun Valley Vineyard. While the tasting room is the same (although the interior is refurbished) the vines were replanted. While right now they only have an acre planted (but not yet producing), John told me they hope to have maybe another 4 acres in the future.

When I visited they had two flight options of 5 wines each. Both options had the Reserve’s two wines, but otherwise one flight was made of VA wines and the other from out of state. All were well selected, but the ones that I liked the most were the ones made under their own label; the “Prologue” red blend and “Tropic Thunder” Chardonnay.

While the Reserve doesn’t yet make its own wine, fortunately they partnered with Doug Fabbioli, namesake of Fabbioli Cellars. Doug is fantastic; I couldn’t have hoped for a better person for them to partner with. John even told me the story of how they worked with Doug to get the type of wines & tasting notes they wanted.

For the Prologue, it’s a 50/50 blend of VA Petit Verdot grapes and California Merlot, and expresses itself as such. Very nice mix of spiciness (but not peppery) while having a black cherry finish.

For the Tropic Thunder, it’s a mix of steel and oak. I liked it, and I suspect it would appeal to Chardonnay fans who like either.

Multi-winery tasting rooms are still new to most Virginia wine lovers. But they are fine with me, and I hope people give The Wine Reserve a try.