Charlottesville is about an hours drive West of here and it's a really beautiful drive. The leaves are starting to change colors and it gets very hilly the further West you go. Go a little further and you'll hit the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Carter Mountain Orchard is at the top of a mountain and has incredible views. It was a beautiful fall day.
We got there right as it opened, hoping to miss some of the crowds. Which we did, somewhat. By the time we left, there were long lines to park and get up the mountain. It was hard waking up early, but totally worth it!
They grow many different kinds of apples there and also lots of grapes for some of the area winemakers. Virginia wines are finally getting better. When we first moved to DC in 2004 they were pretty bad. Compare to what you can get at a wine store, they are probably overpriced, quality wise. But hey, I like supporting the locals.
You can taste wine at the vineyard, which the adults in our group took turns doing. A flight of 6 wines for $2 before lunch time - not a bad deal! The wines they sell there are from a vineyard called Prince Michel. No, I am not kidding. I bought two bottles. The labels alone will be a nice conversation piece.
The main speciality of visiting Carter Mountain, though, is the DONUTS! Cider donuts, dusted in powdered sugar. Within 10 minutes of parking we were digging in. Well, everyone but Charlie. He won't eat much these days, but that's for another post. He did have an apple caramel cookie later and seemed to enjoy that. It was a life changing donut for me - they were that good.
We used one of the orchard's wagons for pulling around toddlers and apples, but it was pretty unwieldy and hard to get up and down the hills. In hindsight, I wish I'd brought our red flyer. Here are the kids having some donuts and cider.
And the boys enjoying their ride...
We hit three different areas to get some different types of apples. After Charlie figured out what we were doing, he was a machine! An apple picking machine. He would go deep into the branches to find just the apple he wanted to pick.
Of course, Charlie didn't necessarily grasp the concept of putting the apples in a bag and several ended up on the ground. However, it was hard to tell which apple was the one he dropped since the ground was covered with apples that had fallen off the trees on their own! There was so much fruit growing on each tree - it was amazing to see.
The apples are safe to eat right off the tree, which several of us did. They were absolutely delicious. A little warm from the sun and perfectly ripe.
Thanks to my apple-pickin' son, I have got AT LEAST 20 pounds of apples in my kitchen right now. Mostly Fuji and Granny Smith, but also some Braeburn and Winesap.
The orchard has the ever-popular Pink Lady apples too, but they aren't quite ready yet. Those trees were roped off with signs that said No Picking!! As crazy-crowded as the orchard was this past weekend, after those pink lady apples are ready, it will be crazy insane. Maybe we can go on a weekday and pick some. A good excuse to have lunch with Charlie's Aunt Clare, who attends the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. :)
Anyways, will do another post with the apple recipes I've been making that have actually turned out well. Something tells me we are going to be sick of apples by the time we bake/eat/give away all of them.