We just returned from a visit to Peaks of Otter, Virginia, my personal Garden of Eden, and, as always, I discovered something new. The old was there, of course—Sharp Top is immutable and, I expect, will remain for thousands of years to come. For the first time ever, though, we visited the Peaks of Otter Winery and Johnson’s Orchards.

George and I were the only guests present, so we commanded full attention from the guy giving the wine-tastings. Said his name was Shannon; later, from their website, we realized his name was Shannon Johnson. (Johnson’s Orchards, remember?) He was keen on knowing our names, which we shared: George and Karen. He insisted that I try his wine, though we had told him I wasn’t a wine-drinker. I tasted one—burned the tip of my tongue as wine always does. He then asked what my favorite fruits were. My answer: grapefruit and watermelon. He couldn’t offer me a drink made from either of those. A minute later, he again asked about my favorite fruits. Hadn’t I already answered that question?

Then he focused on George, asking his favorites. George settled on blueberries and strawberries, but shortly, Shannon asked him which berries he preferred.

Hearing impaired, do you suppose?

Shannon next offered George his jalapeno wine. When George said, “Whew! That’s hot!” Shannon responded with, “If you think that’s hot, you should see my wife!”

Alrighty, then. We’re on a roll. One unexpected comment after another.

Shannon told us his family had been in the area for generations. Said he owned seven acres and that his father owned approximately 250 on which he grew all sorts of fruit trees. When George asked how long the family had been making wine, Shannon said, “Legally? Since about ’95.”

“Ooohhh… moonshiners before then?” I asked. He simply smiled.

It wasn’t until later, back on the Blue Ridge Parkway, that we realized Shannon must be a descendant of the Johnson family that operated Johnson’s Farm, a historic site that sits on one of the trails in the area. I’ve hiked to it, toured the house and wandered through its orchard many times during past visits. I speculate that when the government bought the old place to make way for the Parkway, Shannon’s ancestors relocated to the other side of Sharp Top to continue their farming operations. Shannon and his family are famous. And unique.

When we got ready to leave, Shannon held out his hand to George and said, “Nice to meet you…didn’t you say your name was Dan?”

Yes, Shannon. Of course. On this day, outside of Bedford, Virginia, we’ll be whoever you want us to be.

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