My family and I lived in Charlottesville when I was in high school and college. I remember my mom once took me up to Carter’s Mountain Orchard to check out the view and buy some apples, but we just got the pre-picked ones and called it a day. Around four years later, I was living with friends in Staunton who love to go to Carter’s Mountain to pick apples.
Pick apples? Who picks apples for fun? Can picking apples be fun?
The answer is yes.
Ever since they took me to Carter’s Mountain to pick as many golden delicious apples as could fit in a large plastic bad, I’ve have looked forward to Fall even more because it is apple-picking season. Since 2008 when I first discovered the joy of picking my own apples, Carter’s Mountain has expanded to more than apple picking in the Fall and peach picking in the Summer. Now, there is often live music. You can go home with produce: apples, pumpkins, and gourds. Or, you can visit the gift shop and buy apple butter, apple sauce, peach cider bbq sauce, and lots of other apple or peach concoctions.
Want to make an afternoon of it? Then, tack on a hay ride. Get lunch. Enjoy a wine tasting of Carter Mountain, Prince Michel, or Rapidan wines.
It is no wonder that if you try to go to Carter’s Mountain on a Saturday, it will probably take you about 10-15 minutes just to get parked. Best advice, go on a weekday and spare the traffic.
Because my weekends have been a little busy this semester, I just got to Carter’s mountain last weekend. However, this was also slightly strategic planning. The big reason is I wanted to get down before too many of the leaves had fallen and I missed the site of looking over Charlottesville and seeing a wash of color The second more foodie driven reason, is that my favorite apple, the Pink Lady, had just opened up to picking.
I love Pink Ladies. They are easily the most complicated apple on the planet. If you eat towards the bottom, there is one flavor: near the top, a different flavor composition. Eat more towards the core, the flavor changes again. It goes from sweet to tangy to tart to juicy in mere bites and is the one apple I’d say is best eaten as is instead of cutting into slices. Because of its turn-coat palate, people seem to either love Pink Ladies or hate them. I love them. And, I love them more when I get to pick them straight off the tree. The equivalent of a kid in a candy store is me standing in front of a tree full of large, full, pink topped and green bottomed Pink Ladies.
So, I got my bag of Pink Ladies, threw in two Winesaps for cooking, and then went and got the second best thing about Carter’s Mountain. . . the apple cider donuts. Donuts are a weakness of mine. Yet, even though a weakness, one usually does it. Not these apple cider donuts. The only times I have ever eaten two donuts back to back is when Carter Mountain’s apple cider donuts were involved. I don’t regret. I’m not ashamed. But, I have learned to just order one instead of a half dozen. They give them to you warm, fresh, soft, crunchy, and sugar bedecked. They take cake donuts to a new mountain level where cake donuts are lighter, airier. If you have resolve, you can get the half-dozen. But, I do defy you to not have eaten more than one by the time you make it back to I-64.
In my visit, one failing I did have to you, dear reader, is that I didn’t do the wine tasting. To beat the crowds, my friends and I went at 10:00 in the morning. Given the early hour and the option of trying 16 wines (8 dry and 8 sweet) for $4, I didn’t want to be that tipsy five-foot girl swinging from the nearest Granny Smith tree. I’d like to get back and try both flights; there are fruit wines, a chocolate wine, a port, and the usual Virginia wine suspects. But, that is another day and another blog post.
There is still time for you get to Carter’s Mountain. Again, try to go on a weekday or either really early or really late on the weekends to beat the crowds and better your chances of procuring an apple picker to help you in your quest. Even if you don’t want to brave the trees, then at least come up and see the view. With an apple cider in one hand and a cup of cider (available hot or slushy), it is one of the most satisfying views in Charlottesville.