Twilight sets upon another weekend in Williamsburg – the ups and downs

Tours of Williamsburg Winery takes you into the heart of the cellar room.

Tours of Williamsburg Winery takes you into the heart of the cellar room.

By Dathan Kazsuk 

The Williamsburg Winery. Williamsburg, Virginia. It’s been one of our favorite strolls in the historic borough for close to 10 years. American history is a big part of my life, and it’s sad that so many of us today want to erase history because it doesn’t agree with them. History isn’t something to be erased. It’s something to admire from a distance. When you look at this town that was formed back in 1632, it’s so easy to see that its 400 years of history is made present. Just walk down the streets of colonial Williamsburg and you’ll see just that.

And just like the history that lies in colonial Williamsburg, you will find that same history at the winery, only 350 years later. That’s when Patrick and Margaret Duffeler bought a 320-acre parcel of land which they named “Wessex Hundred.”

I still remember that first time we visited the winery together more than 9 years ago. Jen was the first to introduce me the winery – now, one of our favorite stomping grounds.

A reserve tasting and tour led to us to joining the wine club several years later. A quarterly assortment of wines, which always led to a weekend excursion back to Virginia’s Hampton Road-area was always a perfect weekend getaway from work and the hair-pulling, insane traffic which has made our home town of Raleigh a commuter nightmare.

Wedmore Place and the CaféProvencal can lead to a romantic getaway in Williamsburg.

Wedmore Place and the CaféProvencal can lead to a romantic getaway in Williamsburg.

The winery has always treated us like celebrities. From many of the part-time employees that are students at nearby William & Mary College right down the street, to some of the mainstays we’d see every time we visited the winery – Williamsburg Winery makes one, if not all, feel special once you walk through its doors.

And as Wine Club members, we are always looking forward to our wines each quarter, even if we can only visit once or twice a year. We’ve met some good friends there: Mike and Karen, who we met one day while in the wine club members only tasting room.

In the past we’ve celebrated a 21st birthday with a gaggle of college girls. We met an aunt and her niece, who have a timeshare in town, and even ran into a couple who are Western Carolina alumni. We’ve brought friends who joined the wine club with us, brought another group to experience the cellar tasting, and are now looking to get another couple to join the club with us. We are never disappointed with our visits.

We would recommend this winery to just about anyone visiting the area. From the crisp and clean Viognier, to the stainless steel Chardonnay, to the recently released Sauvignon Blanc, winemaker Matthew Myer is doing some amazing things. And don’t even get me started with the red wines. From the amazing Cabernet Franc and teeth-staining Tannat to the bold, yet smooth Gabriel Archer and his baby, Adagio, you just can’t go wrong.

The winery has so many options with its wine tastings – including tastings in the Gabriel Archer Tavern.

The winery has so many options with its wine tastings – including tastings in the Gabriel Archer Tavern.

So, during our last visit to the ‘Burg, we actually visited the winery a total of three times in our two-and-a-half days. As wine club members, the winery makes it worth one’s while with up to 4 free tastings per month. And since we haven’t been here since back in December of 2017, it was worth another visit.

From the fine wine tasting to the reserve wine tasting to the extensive tour and reserve tasting we were able to ingest them all in our time in Williamsburg. And during that time, well, we pretty much tasted everything on the menu – which if I had to count was close to 20 different wines. Every one as good as the last.

During our last visit, we somehow were never in the winery the same time as someone who keeps us coming back again and again – Kenny Bumbaco, assistant VP of planning and purchasing at the winery. We did hear that he was around, but swamped helping out for the weekend's expected to be stellar afternoon – an afternoon with Jason Mraz. Bumbaco is always quick to respond to any questions we have via email, and always kind to us in person.

We loved virtually everything the winery has done in the past. From the wine tastings to lunch at the Gabriel Archer Tavern to dinner at Café Provencal. So when Jen announced to me that Jason Mraz tickets were going on sale, I made sure I picked us up two tickets before they sold out. Which they indeed did.

The afternoon was supposed to be one for the memory books – and it was – just not in the way we wanted it to be. It started out fine with a reserve tasting in the members only lounge, and was leading towards a quick lunch at the tavern prior to the show. Maybe a sandwich or a burger to fill the stomach before the concert. But that was squashed rather quickly when we were told it would be a 45 minute wait to be seated, even though we counted five empty tables outside. We were later told that there was only one host working outside so taxing her with more warm bodies in the chairs would not be advisable. Also in the main seating area, the host there hadn't yet arrived for work so they weren't seating anyone there.

We headed back into the wine lounge where we finished off a bottle of 2015 Barrel-Aged Claret, that we enjoyed quite fondly. We timed our drinking to a tee, so we could be there as the doors opened at 2 p.m. The night before, the lineup was officially announced on social media, listing three bands before Mraz even took the stage, with his set scheduled to be 5 minutes shy of an hour. We paid $35 per ticket to see Mraz, so were expecting a full acoustic exploration of his back catalogue. That was not the case.

The lines and crowds were a little too much during the Jason Mraz show at the winery.

The lines and crowds were a little too much during the Jason Mraz show at the winery.

Even though we arrived right at 2 p.m., and the line moved reasonably well, we still found ourselves laying down our stadium chairs towards the back of the venue. And for Jen, and her 5-foot, 2-inch frame, direct contact to the stage was zero! Luckily, being wine club members, we were able to take advantage of the tent set up in a corner for members such as us. There we were able to walk right up and order a glass of wine. Unfortunately, that was not the case for the majority of concert goes who found themselves in hour-long lines for wine, food and even water.

The humid and hot Virginia sun didn't add to the afternoon. If you made the unfortunate mistake I made at first and ordered a glass of red wine, it shortly becomes a steamy mess of undrinkable hot liquid. As for the ones such as Jen who ordered white wine, you had about 15 minutes or less to drink your wine before it too became a 80 degree glass of $6 or $10 rubbing alcohol.

Williamsburg Winery Jason Mraz. jpg.jpg

Jason Mraz taking the stage

As for the music, it was great as expected. Although the first two bands were forgettable, Jason Mraz did keep the crowd entertained. Perhaps if we stood in the hot sun for an hour before the doors opened we would have had better seats. Perhaps if the concert wasn't held during the hottest hours of the day it would have been a little more enjoyable. 

Perhaps if Jason Mraz, the act we all came to see, performed more than 10 songs, we would have had a better time.

There sure are a lot of perhaps and might-have-beens. With this concert series being our first – we now know it will be our last. Will this change our thoughts on the winery? Absolutely not. Will it change our thoughts on Jason Mraz? Of course not. But it has changed our thoughts on the radio station and event planners who put on the worst event we've both seen in years. And just check social media to see what others are saying about the afternoon. We are being kind.