Community Palette

A New Winery in Maryland

April 19, 2017

It is always exciting when a new venture comes online and when it’s a vineyard you know it has taken a long time and lots of love to get it right.  On Saturday, April 29th Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard is inviting the public to their grand opening and it seems they have gotten it right. 


Robin Sagoskin, the owner of the vineyard, has worked hard to turn her dream into a reality. While Hidden Hills is a beautiful 100 acre horse farm turning land into a successful vineyard wasn’t easy. Beginning on April 29th the public is going to be able to cast their votes as to how successful Robin has been. My prognosis is they will be happy with the results.

(Photo by: Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard)


Maryland has not always been known as the home of fine wines but with hard work and dedication Robin may be helping to change that image. Robin envisioned a woman-owned vineyard to be the perfect complement to the rolling green hills of the Frederick County farm and her passion for wine. Robin said “Hidden Hills Vineyard was born because I wanted to grow our own grapes in order to produce notable wines.”  She selected the varietals very carefully staying true to the climate and the region.  She added “Our wines are crafted in small blocks, showcasing their best characteristics with a refined complexity.” 


There are a selection of wines ready for tasting and purchase. They include; A 2015 Chardonnay described as a bright, fresh and clean aromatic wine with notes of lemon zest and hints of candied pear. Lemon chicken with risotto would be the perfect complement to this unoaked Chardonnay.  Produced with all-natural yeast. A 2015 Pinot Grigio that Robin suggests has a delicate apricot color, created by allowing skin contact for several hours before separating the skins and seeds from the juice. This wine has a bold structure that stands up well to intense flavors.  Lovely stone fruit and honeysuckle notes can be detected after the first sip tickles the front palate.  A perfect pairing with Thanksgiving and holiday dinners, as well as your favorite barbecue.  Produced with all-natural yeast. A 2014 Vidal Blanc which was their debut wine. According to Robin it is a Golden apple and a rich, round, yet soft mouth feel best describe this Vidal Blanc with no residual sugar. On the finish you will detect mineral, flint, and chalk.  Well balanced, this lovely wine has enough acidity to bring out the natural fruit flavors.  Produced with all-natural yeast. And finally a 2015 Cabernet Franc. Robin refers to this as our velvet wine because of the silky texture and soft well-integrated tannins.  Notes of cranberry, lavender, and a hint of walnut come together in this Cabernet Franc, and then linger with savory pepper.  Serve with a rosemary spiced ribeye roast. Robin also suggests that you don’t drink it all now. You can put this bottle away as it will continue to improve and become more elegant with time.

Robin Sagoskin (Photo by: Hidden Hills Farm and Vineyard) Robin Sagoskin


The Grand Opening will be from 2:00-5:00 pm and along with great wine visitors will be entertained by jazz pianist Christopher Linman. There is a $5 general admission fee and tickets are available at Hidden Hills The vineyard is located at 7550 Green Valley Road, Frederick, MD 21701.

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Vouchers Don’t Make for Good Education

March 8, 2017

There are many good reasons for no state to support providing vouchers for private schools with public money. In the District of Columbia there is one more.


The school voucher program in the District of Columbia has been foisted on us by Congress. It was not voted on by District residents and the DC Council has not voted for this program. It is a prime example of interference in the government of the District by the Congress and an outrageous violation of the principle of home rule. It is frustrating to see Mayor Bowser support this voucher program. Her support undercuts her opposition to other issues in which Congress is interfering in our government such as their opposition to our marijuana laws, gun control laws and the recent ‘right to die’ legislation. The Mayor and others including the Washington Post and former Mayor Anthony Williams who support Congress’s interference on vouchers are hurting the District’s fight for legislative and budget autonomy and in the long run Statehood. There is clear hypocrisy in their positions. Anthony Williams even followed up his support for vouchers with a quid-pro-quo which had him giving support to Trump’s choice for Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, the most unprepared person ever nominated to the position. 


Then there is the issue of what kind of education vouchers provide to those students using them. There is no legitimate study showing students using vouchers for private education do any better in math and reading than their peers remaining in public education. In fact the opposite is true in some instances. A recent report by Brookings showed “Recent research on statewide voucher programs in Louisiana and Indiana has found that public school students that received vouchers to attend private schools subsequently scored lower on reading and math tests compared to similar students that remained in public schools.”  


Then there is the issue of discrimination against LGBT students, parents and teachers in schools who accept vouchers and most of the schools who do are religious schools. In most states including in the District of Columbia these institutions are exempt from laws such as the District’s Human Rights Act Many of these institutions can and do discriminate against LGBT teachers, parents and students. In 2012 the Washington Post reported “more than half of voucher recipients attended Catholic schools, and many attended schools where almost all students were voucher recipients, suggesting that the schools wouldn’t exist without the federally funded program. They added “One of those schools was run out of a soot-stained storefront on Georgia Avenue; another unaccredited school was supported by the Nation of Islam and was run out of a row house in Deanwood where the bathroom had a floor blackened with dirt, a sink coated in grime and a bathtub filled with paint cans and cleaning supplies.”


Our Democracy is based on providing a public education to every child and instead of steering money and children out of the public school system we must use every dollar available to improve public education. 


Any proponent of choice recognizes the District of Columbia has one of the best school choice programs in the nation. While DCPS has been improving over the past few years we also have nearly half of our students attending charter schools which are also public schools and funded with tax dollars. I give credit to Mayor Bowser for continuing to demand improvement in every school for every student. However she should also be demanding of Congress that every dollar allocated to the District of Columbia for education be allocated to public schools and help in her effort to improve schools for children in every Ward in the city. 


While some studies show the graduation rates for children using vouchers is higher no one has shown that those same students wouldn’t be graduating at the same rate from public schools. Clearly they come from homes where parents are focused on their education and that focus could and should be used to improve the public schools when using public money. 


Credit goes to Councilmembers’ Grosso, Allen, Bonds, Evans, Gray, Silverman and Trayon White for fighting to end the congressionally mandated DC Voucher Program. We can't on one hand demand statehood and explain how we are hurt by not having it while on the other hand accepting some programs Congress couldn't and wouldn't foist on their own constituents. We shouldn’t accept being a petri dish for some programs. Doing so makes zero sense for the future of the District. 

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'The Select' ('The Sun Also Rises'): Good but Long

March 1, 2017

The new play at Shakespeare Theatre Company’s (STC) Lansburgh Theater, The Select (The Sun Also Rises) is definitely worth seeing for many reasons; but it’s way too long. With a first act of one hour and fifteen minutes and a second act of one hour and forty-five minutes the production could have easily been shortened by at least thirty minutes and you wouldn’t have felt cheated in any way. In his Director’s Note in the program John Collins talked about how when the Company first set out to take this Hemingway book and turn it into a play they wrestled with the chore of turning a 260 page book into a two and a half hour play using Hemingway’s words. Obviously he decided in the end two and a half hours wasn’t enough; I think it clearly would have been. 

The Shakespeare is hosting this production by the Elevator Repair Service Company which is based in New York City. They create productions with an ongoing ensemble and that ensemble includes some brilliant actors.  Deciding to use Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises as the basis for a production was an interesting choice. It is such a well-known book and because of that many people have the characters and locations already envisioned in their mind. So using Hemingway’s words the company had to also produce a set that was believable to both those who had and those who hadn’t read the book. It meant they had to produce sets to match Hemingway’s descriptive vision of a Paris café, a lazy day of trout fishing, a bullfight, and the excitement of the Pamplona Festival and have people believe it. This they did brilliantly use simply design and incredible sound effects. When you can accept the use of a folding table with horns as a bull; see trout jumping out of a stream behind the main set and laugh but still understand it; you know they succeeded.  

David Zinn is the man who did the superb job of designing the scenery and the costumes. His imagination shines through the entire set and the costumes bring back the time Hemingway spent in Europe. He has joined a wonderful sense of humor and reality combining to complete the vision he has created for the production. Matt Tierney’s sound design is brilliant. In so many ways it enhances the production and you are amazed each time you hear a new sound to represent everything from shaving with a straight razor, pouring a drink, running water to clean the dishes, or the relaxed feeling one gets when Jake sits with his fishing rod along the river. 

Then there are the actors. Mike Iverson as Jake Barnes is incredible. The amount of dialogue he has is mindboggling as Hemingway’s narrator in the story. He is in every scene and his voice and his movement are both so integral to believing what is on the stage. That wonderful use of movement and dialogue from all the actors is worth the price of admission. Nearly all the actors in the Company play more than one role and that includes John Collins who both directs the production and is Robert Cohn.  Stephanie Hayes is the perfect Brett Ashley. She is the beauty everyone loves and conveys both her ability to seduce and the actual blasé woman who has been married and divorced a number of times and just seems bored with it all. She is looking for love and eventually seems to give up and accepts being with another man she knows is wrong, Mike Campbell, played wonderfully by Pete Simpson. You get She knows he is really just a substitute because she can’t come to grips with her love for Jake. 

So yes I recommend seeing The Select (The Sun Also Rises) but go knowing it sometimes can seem like an overly long night in the theater. 

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