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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A Toast to Literacy


...a few spell check typos included...this is as it was published...enjoy and the link above has wonderful information to read about PA vineyards and wineries.

A Toast to Literacy
john s
My fiance and I attended Briar Valley Vineyards & Winery in Bedford, Pennsylvania and had a grand time.

Currently we reside together in Cumberland, Maryland, a stone’s throw away from Bedford, Pennsylvania as well as a beautiful drive up Route 220.

This was our second visit to a vineyard and/or winery that we shared together, and it could not have been more fruitful, in any sense of the word.

We had been wanting to visit a vineyard together for quite some time. Briar Valley Vineyard and Winery was one we had previously read about and we each intuitively knew that our wonderful day trip was now set, after we read about the attempt to break the world record for most participants toasting at the same time!

Hopefully one day, we will all enjoy setting the world record together, but Europe is tough competition, especially when it comes to wine, cheese and toasting.

I for one will show up every year until we set the record, which I hope, as a wine lover, takes a very, very, long time.

Wine, cheese, and toasting combined together well this day, as they always do, as each is an integral and inseparable part from the other.

I was born in Pennsylvania and have always held in close to my heart. My fiance loves Pennsylvania as well. I own a home in Pittsburgh too and one of our favorite day or evening trips is into the Buchanan State Forest in Pennsylvania. It is a gorgeous protected State Forest that has stunning floral and fauna, as well as a past President’s tomb. The day we looked that information up together just happened to be James Buchanan’s birthday, April 23.

This is a great example of utilizing access to information in order to learn more, broaden horizons, and enhance life with even more meaning, all through literacy.

Reading and education are imperative to progress and are catalysts that release the power of knowledge that I pray will hopefully be well coddled with the peacefulness of wisdom before being utilized.

Everyday, I can conceivably become even more literate, however, to first achieve that gift, I was taught in fine public schools by fine teachers as well as raised by educated parents, each having been teachers themselves, who taught me well. Collectively, these personal influences have made me a life long poet, a some what published author (articles), a musician, and equally has enhanced my life as well as others lives in ways I cannot possibly pay back in full.

I felt compelled to write this story and hope that it may be printed, because the truth herein is that this email is so eerily wonderfully similar to the culmination of some of my very own life’s work and experiences.

The email I received provoked many wondrous feelings I feel I must share with others, as we each work through our countries difficult transition, hopefully back on the road to prosperity.

Prosperity is found in language.

Language, like each of us, has strong rooted permanent origins, that typically hold the exact and original denotation (specific dictionary meaning) of any particular word.

The best teaching and influence can come from home and be an essential developmental and impressionable tool utilized by all families. That is really what this contest of writing is about, sharing this gift and offering it to all, especially our future, our youth.

I hope to demonstrate that someone who thought they could and would never write at all, much less write poetry, would write a story compelling others to share in this art I so well love.

I can attribute a lot of that gift to my sixth grade teacher, Mr. Gray, of Alexandria, Virginia, as well as my folks and siblings.

When I wrote re-search papers, my Father would give them a look over, and always, and I mean always, find the mistakes, like the most proficient editor, but more importantly, he wanted me to understand how to convey a clear and concise thought in words so that it would be interpreted the way of it’s (the writing’s) original intent.

He is a retired West Point Colonel, and was stationed in Carlisle when I was born.

He worked at the Pentagon, and was very valuable with his verbal skills, especially when it came to law.

By profession, he is a soldier, a Mathematician, and an Engineer.

He has always stressed education and still to this day is very active in Virginia with MathCounts. My fiance and I have enjoyed sharing this event on a local and State level with my Father and our friends, and it is yet another example of literacy, as Math is a language as well. Perhaps, not a fluid spoken language, but a language, none the less, with many shared attributes.

As men and women create concepts in their minds, what had origin in thought first becomes words next.

To understand anything conceptually on an educated level one must delve into the books, study, and work hard.

If one does not have a fundamental level of literacy, how can we make progress and live more fruitful lives?

Literacy from the earliest level of education, all the way to the pinnacles of careers, is always of paramount importance, and the emphasis of this concept typically flourishes best when it starts at home, grounded in family and values.

Please visit this link below and learn more, each of us can make a difference as individuals.

The day we attended the world record setting toasting attempt is quite reminiscent and equally shocking to look back at!

We made a live toast with Mario Andretti ! Wow !...that was a BLAST...Mario I am a man of forty-three years and a racing fan, yet I had no clue, even after watching him all my life, that he was a life long resident of Pennsylvania.

That gave me warm fuzzies just to learn that about Mario Andretti on the day we all shared together.

There is just something about having commonalities that makes moments even more precious then they otherwise would have been, even although already precious in other ways.

We ate homemade cheese at the event that day, brought to us by the owners who hand crafted the cheeses at a cheese cellar owned and operated by them, who we personally met. The family owned cheese cellar is named, Clover Creek Cheese Cellar, L.L.C.

We spoke cheese together a bit that day while we sampled many cheeses in order to choose our personal selections to purchase and bring home. The cheeses were and are true Pennsylvania delicacies.

The folks (owners) could not have been more gracious and the taste bud tickling cheeses we ate that day with assorted rice crackers were the perfect palette cleansing compliment to, honestly, some of the finest wines I have ever tasted.

They were indeed so gracious that we were invited by the owners to come and visit them and make some cheese...another Wow...just sends feel good shivers all over. Cheese making starts early at the cheese cellar, about 4:30 - 5:00 a.m.

We have yet to take them up on that offer, but certainly will and have looked forward to it. As each day passes until then, we sharpen up on our cheese ”ology”, and are looking forward to a day with those wonderful folks living their dream as a family on a farm, perhaps that is a story I will write as well after we make our trip.

Our time together with you all was delightful thus far and we hope to see you again soon.

I look forward to meeting with them and they said typically at the days end, the cheese that did not make it to us (quality control baby!), gets placed on a bunch of homemade pizzas! I will work all day long for a homemade pizza!

Back at the event of the day, after speaking with the wonderful folks from Clover Creek Cheese Cellars, the organizers started giving away prizes by randomly drawing our filled out tickets from a jar. At that instance, the prize that my fiance said she liked earlier in the day, a small cork board, came to mind very strongly, and I told her she was going to win it for sure. She won exactly as I knew she would. I think we were equally shocked.

She wanted this beautiful gift to commemorate our experience together on that day, as well as the future trips we would certainly take to many Pennsylvania vineyards, like our previous trip to Gravity Hill in Pennsylvania, as well as a great stop at Helixville Winery.

This small cork board is to glue corks onto to collect and remember those times, not to different then the sculpture for literacy in many ways.

Wine tasting is a learned art as wine making is a learned craft.

Making or tasting wine share at least this huge commonality. The love for the wine itself along with all the many wines varied nuances.

Be it a robust bouquet, a bountiful blush color that glows in the warm sunlight, or a sweet yet dry taste the makes the mouth water, one thing for sure is that Pennsylvania wines are here to stay and enjoy together

I strongly suggest at least a day trip to bring home some blessed ”sweet mountain nectar” to share with your loved ones. The easiest way is to utilize the links herein please, that is why I suggested these great places, purely from experience...very good the best thing is to plan a safe trip to and from a Pennsylvania winery or vineyard and make the best of a day, if not a weekend or family vacation.

Back at the toast, we heard an artist play live acoustic guitar that he accompanied with singing that was perfectly suited for this day of events. The artist was local and I made sure to speak to him for a moment too, as I too am a musician and musical enthusiast and wanted to say thanks for the great entertainment.

A glass of wine each in our hands, my fiance and I sat under a small tent at the end of the day and reflected back on our last few hours while we listened to the acoustic tunes, also hand crafted, while we soaked in a little sun, as it was setting softly over the hills and warmly gently bathing us.

There is really nothing quite like sharing love with the woman of my dreams, in Pennsylvania, with homemade cheese, along, with Mario Andretti toasting to boot (and this was a live web cast, very up to date technology) as well as we won a prize !...all after sampling some fantastic wines, of which I will describe to you, as they left an impression this long after.

We bought a bottle of Reiseling and a bottle of Gewurztraminer This was a difficult decision as well after we compared notes after the tasting and then decided which two we would most enjoy together. There were that many great wines being offered.

The favorites we chose to take home were The Briar Valley Vineyard and Winery Riesling (2007) and Gewurztraminer (2007).

The Riesling was light yet robust, sweet and a touch dry as one likes. The bouquet was full and pleasant, a true compliment to what was to come. The colour caught brilliant light and was equally stunning for me. The taste was impeccable. Then we had the Gewurztraminer which blew me away, quite literally.

This is the best wine I think I have ever tasted Now I am no professional well esteemed connoisseur, but I have a decent pallet, and you either develop that or you do not. I never knew I would until I did, that was just how that worked out, as I enjoyed wine tastings, visits, and festivals with my friends.

The Gewurztraminer, which was my first of this variety, was to me the essence of the perfect wine in my mind’s eye. Look for a bottle of this and I feel positive you will agree. The experience to share is yours and I feel words cannot describe just how classic a wine this treasure is. Watch out Napa Valley.

As a wine lover and aficionado through experience and visits in the mid Atlantic region, Pennsylvania is swiftly becoming, if not already, some of the finest agricultural real estate in which to grow some of the finest wines in the country and in the world! The state has wonderful labor available too, as well as in infrastructure that typically promotes agriculture and ”green era” industry.

The economy and the ecosystem are changing, and seemingly, especially to the benefit of Pennsylvanians. This is the time to move forward, with literacy at home as a major emphasis, into a new era, the ”green era”, as we re-build our country together.

This link is to an article I wrote that was posted up by The United States Department of Energy, proving that some of our government is reading what we average citizens write and taking note of it as well as sharing this vision together. Literacy has given me vision. The vision of better futures for us all.

Pennsylvania is proof positive of this fact of ”green prosperity”, and I believe perhaps a role model towards the vision I personally have and share with others concerning our future in the United States. We can grow and eat healthier foods, and do much more of that at home with our communities.

It is wonderful to realize that vineyards are prospering in our state’s agriculture and that a family can own and produce cheese and support themselves, while offering a beautiful food for so many to share.

The gift my fiance won was a cork board to glue corks on that we have collected. We are collecting slowly and responsibly now, and gluing later.

We would like to donate one of the corks from that very day to be a part of the sculpture, as we would like to be forever tied to the art, Pennsylvania, and the true spirit of this literacy mission.

I left my link above to make a point that literacy works. It has worked for me well, and is indeed a gift. This gift truly gives back, and quickly.

It is through literacy that we may learn and share vision so that we may blend our futures as artisans craft and blend the wines and cheeses we so enjoyed on that particular day.

I want to extend a special thanks to Mario Andretti, Briar Valley Vineyards and Winery, and the wonderful folks from Clover Creek Cheese Cellar.

Hope to be seeing you all soon.

John S. Swygert