paradise springs winery in virginia

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

I always wanted to get married at a winery. I ended up getting married at a beautiful historic house turned reception hall, but I’m still a little sad that the winery thing didn’t turn out, especially since I’m about to move to the middle of Virginia wine country and I’m surrounded by amazing wineries and vineyards that are the perfect place to hold a wedding or other private event.

Visiting wineries is a minor hobby of mine – I really enjoy it. But seeing how perfect so many Virginia wineries would be for DC area weddings and events, I am going to try and start documenting all of the ones I visit on this blog (knowledge sharing, right?).

The first installment of the Virginia winery wedding venue tour is Paradise Springs in Clifton, VA. It’s an appropriate first installment because it is considered to be the closest winery to Washington, DC – it’s only about a 40-50 minute drive from the city. However, it feels like an entirely different world. Once you leave the highway (66), you drive about 10-15 minutes on winding one or two lane roads through dense forest. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Then when you arrive at the winery, you are greeted by the sight of a wide open valley with vineyards on one side, the barn-esque tasting room, and plenty of tables to sit in the shade and picnic.

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

Paradise Springs has a few different options for weddings and private events, especially if you are flexible and can hold your event outside of regular business hours. For smaller events, they have the historical red barn which holds up to 50 people. The covered patio, below, holds up to 100 people. During business hours on weekends, this is a popular spot for guests to picnic and listen to live music.

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

The main tasting room is available to rent during non-business hours. It is a gorgeous room that I imagine can be completely reimagined for a wedding or event. I especially love the view of the wine barrels.

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

Oh, how’s the wine? It’s pretty good. I really loved the Sommet Blanc and I agreed with out pourer who said that their Chardonnay is quite different than most Virginia Chardonnays. I would say that for me, there are a few other local wineries whose wines I like a bit more at the same price point ($22-$30+ per bottle). And I’m also a bit partial to Loudoun County wineries and others that are further west because they tend to have beautiful mountain views. Don’t get me wrong – the ambiance at Paradise Springs is quite lovely. But I wouldn’t say there is much of a view.

For the location, it’s an easy drive from Washington DC and not too far off the beaten path and there are plenty of places to grab a table (indoors or out) and relax with a bottle and some good conversation.

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog
I’ll close with a picture of these lovely ladies, who were my companions on our tasting and visit: Julianne, Lindsey and Abigail.

paradise springs winery | amanda jayne events blog

What are your thoughts on Paradise Springs Winery, or the winery trend for weddings in general? Any suggestions on which winery I should head to next?

livingsocial’s 918 f street in washington, dc

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

I recently had the opportunity to tour the LivingSocial event space  in downtown DC.  If I had to sum the space up in a word, it would be: hipster. The building (which dates back to 1890) has five floors of meeting space, from exposed brick walls to cooking class kitchens to a speakeasy style bar, it’s also incredibly flexible.

918 F Street (not only the address of the building, LivingSocial also calls the building by its address… uber trendy) is located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, DC. It’s within a few blocks walking distance of the Metro Center and Chinatown/Gallery Place metro stations.

The building is easy to find – it’s in the middle of the block but there is a giant black flag that says “918 F Street” and a large LivingSocial sign in the window.  You walk into the reception area which doubles as a mini gift shop (kind of the opposite of the theme park trend of emptying attractions into a gift shop).  From there, it can get a bit confusing, as it’s clear that in order to offer so many different spaces, there is often a lot going on.

We started at the top and worked our way down. The building boasts one of the few remaining cage elevators in DC.  There is also a staircase that winds around the elevator with access to each floor.

The top floor hosts the Dupont and Georgetown rooms, on either side of the elevator. Both rooms feature exposed brick walls and hardwood floors. Dupont has the slight edge with huge windows overlooking F street. Capacity in each room is a bit over 100 depending on the set.

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

One floor down is the teaching kitchen. This space is pretty cool – everything is stainless steel (which I love), and it features HD cameras which follow the teacher in the front of the room based on where he or she is standing on the mat; the cameras are connected to the tvs at the individual cooking stations, thus everyone has a good view of the instruction.  The room has capacity for 36 people.

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

Continuing down the stairs is the gallery, which is a smaller room (998 square feet) with private stair access back to the gift shop/reception area, but would be nice for smaller private dinners or receptions.

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

Opposite the gallery is the Chinatown room which can be used for creative classes or sessions. The day I was there it was set for a sip and paint class (sip a glass of wine, paint a picture, drink more wine, forget about the picture, etc.).

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

Finally the last two spaces are usually rented together – the  U Street Room and the Basement Bar, which together makes up the speakeasy. U Street has a view of the basement bar below. The bar itself is designed to feel like a 1920s hangout. While we were there they said that they often have clients with entertainers that they put on the U Street level, but that everyone in the basement level can hear and even see via the hole in the ceiling. Unfortunately my photos are all pretty blurry because I forgot to change the settings on my camera!

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

livingsocial 918 f street in washington, DC | amanda jayne events blog

Most people know of 918 F Street (at least if they’re in the DC area) from the various classes and events that are hosted on-site. Most days of the week you can attend a variety of classes: this week it looks like there is a Gin Mixology class, BBQ Sauce Making & Beer class, Zumba with post-class punch, and a Cooking with Bourbon class. (Notice a trend? do an activity and drink!).  If you’re looking to host a private event, you can almost always offer the same classes to just your group (minimums apply).

Another benefit is the pricing. Rental fees are cheap by DC standards (peak pricing ranges from $1,000 to $5,000 depending on the room) and they allow any caterer (which I’ve found to be rare in DC). They do have a liquor license and you must buy alcohol through them with their bartenders.

The biggest downside is also its charm – there is so much going on that your guests can get lost, or if not lost, it’s definitely not private. There are restrooms only on every other floor so your guests will likely be rubbing elbows with other event guests. Accessibility might be an issue. While there is elevator access to every floor (the speakeasy requires using a service elevator) and the cage elevator is very cool, it’s not high capacity and most guests would probably prefer to take the stairs. I would keep this in mind based on your group.

Overall, the space has a lot of character and is definitely a one-stop shop if you’re interested in private classes for your events (rather than renting the space and finding a service provider). For receptions, concerts and lectures of up to 100-150 people, it’s a more unique venue than your typical hotel ballroom, and more affordable then some of the other special event venues (museums, galleries) in DC.

Have you hosted an event at 918 F Street? What did you think?

good hostesses give good hostess gifts

I love entertaining. I love having my friends and family over for dinner – for any reason or for no reason.  I love to cook delicious food, try new recipes, and share laughs over a bottle of wine (or two, or three). But I can’t always be the hostess. Sometimes I need to be the guest.

To be honest, I struggle with this from time to time. Sure, there are our friends whose homes feel like an extension of our own, but there are plenty of times when I wish I had the sole monopoly over opening one’s home to guests.

But when I do go over to someone’s home – whether for dinner or a party or a mini-vacation – I can’t arrive empty handed.

The first question is always: “What can I bring?” And it may be dessert, a salad (true confession: I love when guests bring the salad. I love salad but it’s not my favorite thing to make), or a bottle of wine. But sometimes you need to bring a little more. Maybe it’s a housewarming party, maybe it’s a special occasion, perhaps you want to thank the hostess for extended hospitality.

Enter the hostess gift.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like ever since Pinterest really took off, hostess gifts have gotten a ton more creative. You can’t just give a bottle of wine, it has to be a bottle of wine wrapped in a custom tea towel.  Even a gift basket isn’t really enough unless it’s themed in some way. Search “hostess gifts” on Pinterest and you are bound to find a bajillion ideas, ranging in execution from “easy – I probably have all those items in my pantry” to “I’d have to pay a personal shopper to track down all those items and wrap them so nicely.”

But hostess gifts don’t have to be intense – they should just be something the hostess would appreciate.   Here are some ideas that I like:

I truly appreciate receiving flowers, but I like this lemonade set as well, with the sunflowers as a bonus.  The truly heartfelt part is the handwritten lemonade recipe, but you could honestly recreate this with the ingredients to any recipe:

Photo via  Ask Anna

Photo via Ask Anna

This next one is ideal for a housewarming gift, or just someone who could use some new kitchen gadgets, but I love the idea of putting a bunch of kitchen items in an oven mitt. Again, this could be tweaked to any interest.

Photo via  Sur la Table

Photo via Sur la Table

For the DIY inclined, I love the idea of making chalkboard napkin rings and pairing with cloth napkins. I bought a can of chalkboard spray paint a few months ago for a project and I have plenty of paint left and I’ve been trying to think of a good use for it – this might be it. Of course, store bought, non-chalkboard napkin rings and cloth napkins would be lovely as well. I’m a big fan of cloth napkins and I almost always use them when entertaining. As my friend Anna says, cloth napkins are a sign of adulthood.

Photo via  Green with Renvy

Photo via Green with Renvy

And while wine is nice (and certainly a much-appreciated gift for many hostesses), one of my favorite store-bought gifts is the corkcicle – I’ve given it many times and everyone has loved it. It keeps wine cool without a cooler or a tub, or it chills wine to serving temperature. Buy one for your wine-loving friend, or let’s be honest, you probably want one too!

Buy at  Amazon

Buy at Amazon

This of course doesn’t take into consideration plenty of other great gifts – homemade or  otherwise (and we all know my thoughts on swag and favors – edible or consumable is best – applies to hostess gifts as well). What’s your go-to gift for your fellow hostesses?