What makes Charlottesville so special? Christmas, apparently, for one. Here’s a roundup of some of the national lists we made in 2015.
8 Southern Cities for Your Bucket List (Visit South)
Top 100 Best Places to Live (Livability)
10 U.S. Towns with Incredible Christmas Celebrations (The Huffington Post)
Top 10 Best Places to Retire (Livability)
America’s Best Fall Foliage Road Trips (Travel Channel)
No. 2 Most Exciting City in Virginia (gogobot)
12 Cutest Small Towns in America (The Huffington Post)
The USA’s 12 Best Places for Book Lovers (The Culture Trip)
No. 12 Top Christmas Destination in America (Newsmax)
7 Amazing Destination Bike Rides: Road Edition (bikewagon)
No. 7 Best College Town in America for Food and Drink (Thrillist)
5 Wine Regions with a Unique Claim to Fame (Trivago and The Huffington Post)
No. 1 Most Beautiful College Campus in America (Best College Reviews)
22 Best Small Town Family Weekend Destinations (vacationidea.com)
The 9 Most Romantic Cities in the South (The Huffington Post)
Best Spring Marathons in the U.S. (Daily Burn)
No. 1 Most Beautiful College in the South (Best Colleges Online)
Best Places to Travel in 2015 (Orbitz)
Notable Quotables: News
Top News stories
Jackie’s story gets discredited
Charlottesville police Chief Tim Longo said March 23 he found no evidence to support Jackie’s tale of gang rape at a UVA fraternity that she recounted to Rolling Stone reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely. Both the publication and Erdely face lawsuits from UVA Associate Dean of Students Nicole Eramo, three Phi Kappa Psi frat members and the fraternity itself.
Matthew on trial in three cases
Jesse Matthew was charged with capital murder in May in the death of UVA student Hannah Graham. Matthew was sentenced to three life sentences in October for the 2005 attack on a woman in Fairfax. And in September, he was indicted with the murder of Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington, who disappeared after a 2009 Metallica concert.
Weiner goes free
Mark Weiner was set free on Bastille Day—July 14—after two and a half years in prison, a story that appeared in the same issue with Commonwealth’s Attorney Denise Lunsford on the cover. The Weiner case, which garnered a national story in Slate, is widely viewed as the reason Lunsford didn’t get reelected in November.
Theater crowns the mall
Construction on the Violet Crown Cinema closed Second Street in January and prompted consternation from business owners. The deluxe theater opened in October to coincide with the 28th annual Virginia Film Festival.
McIntire interchange draws ire
The last segment of the Meadow Creek Parkway, now known as the John Warner Parkway, opened February 5, 48 years after it was first proposed. However, all was not smooth sailing on the final portion, the McIntire interchange, which had residents ranting about long backups that didn’t smooth out until October.
Alumnae save Sweet Briar
Without warning, Sweet Briar College Board of Directors announced it was shuttering the 114-year-old women’s liberal arts college March 3. Angry alumnae sprang into action, and the school opened for classes this fall.
UVA men’s baseball team wins championship
The University of Virginia baseball team brought home an NCAA National Championship title when the Cavaliers beat Vanderbilt 4-2 in the College World Series. It was the first time in history that UVA won the championship, after competing for the same title against Vanderbilt last year.
Johnson’s confrontation with ABC agents
University of Virginia student Martese Johnson’s encounter in the early hours after St. Patrick’s Day with Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control agents put the university and Charlottesville in the national spotlight again. A photo of Johnson, bloodied on the ground with an ABC agent above him, exploded on social media and led to protests. The charges against Johnson were ultimately dropped, but the incident heightened scrutiny of the ABC. Johnson is now suing ABC for $3 million. ABC has filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.
Democratic primary is high-dollar
City Councilor Dede Smith was voted out in Charlottesville’s costliest Democratic primary ever in June. When the final primary spending numbers were in, it cost top spender Mike Signer almost $22 for every vote he received (calculated using the total number of candidate votes and total funds raised). The upside for him? There’s a chance he could become the next mayor.
Psychic didn’t see this ONE coming
In summer 2014, an army of law enforcement officers swarmed the business of Psychic Catherine on U.S. 29 north. A year later, a grand jury indicted Sandra Marks, aka Catherine Marks, for bilking clients out of nearly $4 million. She met some of her victims at Synchronicity Foundation for Modern Spirituality in Nelson County.
Tom Sox team swings into action
Charlottesville’s first Valley Baseball League team, the Tom Sox, made its debut in June. The summer league is for elite college baseball players, and the Charlottesville team is made up of Division I players. Pitching coach Travis Thomas has been named head coach of next year’s team.
Beer company taps out
Albemarle wooed a mystery company—Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon—and tried to push through a rushed amendment to the comprehensive plan adding land just south of the U.S. 29/I-64 interchange, only to have the Board of Supervisors agree in September to add just 35 acres to the growth area rather than the 223 acres Deschutes wanted. The company is now looking at more hospitable Roanoke and Asheville, North Carolina.
The search for Sage
The third anniversary of the disappearance of 19-year-old transgender teen Sage Smith was November 20. Smith’s family has accused police of not giving Sage’s disappearance the same attention that UVA student Hannah Graham or Virginia Tech student Morgan Harrington received when they disappeared.
Barefoot battles Gallo
Mom-and-pop Barefoot Bucha took on Gallo, the largest wine company in the world, over the trademark barefoot and whether consumers are likely to confuse cheap wine with probiotic kombucha.
What the heck is a coywolf?
The coywolf, a coyote/wolf/dog hybrid that has migrated and interbred over a period of more than 100 years, has moved into Virginia and Albemarle County. The subspecies of a coyote mainly eats deer, often scavenging roadkill.
Notable Quotables: Arts & Living
Top Arts & Living stories
The blade blazes at the Paramount
Hundreds of people, many sporting “The Blade” pins, crowded in front of the Paramount Theater December 15 for the finishing touch in the refurbishment of the 1931 historic venue: the lighting of the blade sign. When the blade arrived in town December 3, the theater had raised around $160,000. Then the local Perry Foundation called and said it would like to finish off the fundraising. In 1992, a group of citizens bought the by-then-decrepit Paramount, and a multi-year fundraising and restoration began, culminating in a gala opening December 15, 2004—exactly 11 years before the new blade sign was lit.
Festivals for thought
There was no lack of enlightened thinkers onstage in 2015, as our city welcomed boldfaced names from a variety of disciplines. TEDx Charlottesville challenged us to ask “What if..?” and the Tom Tom Festival brought together bright minds from creative, civic and entrepreneurial ventures. The Virginia Film Festival held our rapt attention with Meg Ryan, Oliver Stone, Larry Kramer and Leonard Maltin, among many others who offered insights to their craft.
Larry Fink, Zanele Muholi, Walter Iooss, Alec Soth, Vincent J. Musi, David Alan Harvey, Monica Haller, Sally Mann, Piotr Naskrecki and Andrea Douglas gave us extraordinary views through their lenses at LOOK3 Festival of the Photograph, while Beth Macy, Frances Mayes, Kate DiCamillo and Karin Slaughter shared about their written works at Virginia Festival of the Book.
City and arts orgs embrace partnership
Developers and residents spoke about the city’s Strategic Investment Area plan and the partnership with local arts organizations, Piedmont Council for the Arts and The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative. The two organizations, in partnership with the city, received a $50,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in July, the first installment of an ambitious $200,000 city effort to do community building through arts programs.
No butts about it: The sculpture stays
The 1,600-pound foam-and-metal “Love Butt” sat down in Ix Art Park in July as a prop from comedian Kurt Braunohler’s tour, designed to break up the monotony of day-to-day life. Marked for the trash heap at the end of the tour, the giant ass was saved by Ix and added to its permanent collection, where it remains on display.
New City Arts Initiative moves into new home
Right around its sixth birthday in August, New City Arts Initiative moved into its new home on Third Street from its former space in The Haven. The transition marked the gallery’s first presence on the Downtown Mall. Executive Director Maureen Brondyke hopes that people will wander in to look at the exhibits, adding that New City Arts continues to offer an artist residency program.
The beautiful voice takes the stage
Four-time Grammy Award-winning, world-renowned soprano Renée Fleming graced the stage of the Paramount in February for a recital. The opera singer, nicknamed “the beautiful voice,” performed a collection of songs centered on an eight-part piece, Faruenliebe und-leben, by German composer Robert Schumann. Soon after her appearance here, she made her Broadway acting debut in “Living on Love.”
It was a long-anticipated restaurant, and since its opening in late December 2014, diners have responded. Lampo’s 21-seat dining room is packed almost every night, and the Neapolitan-style pizzeria has already developed a bit of a cult following. Owned and operated by Loren Mendosa, Ian Redshaw, Mitchell Beerens and Andrew Cole, Charlottesville’s newest (and, arguably, new favorite) pizza joint serves a variety of unique pies such as the funghi, which features two types of local mushrooms, garlic, cream and two cheeses.
It quickly became clear in fall 2014 that Charlottesvillians dig Austin, Texas-style tacos, which Peter Griesar learned when he opened the Brazos pop-up taco shop for a mere 60 days and had a line out the door every day. His original plan was to test the concept here, then pack it all up, move across the country and open a permanent shop in Seattle. As luck would have it, Griesar got an offer he couldn’t refuse, which convinced him to stick around and open up shop in June in the former Al Dente space at the Ix property.
Good things come to those who wait
No, you still can’t make a reservation at Tavola. But the good news is, now you can park yourself at the bar and enjoy a cocktail and some small plates during your almost inevitable wait for a table at the Belmont hot spot. After months of planning and renovating, Tavola owners Michael and Tami Keaveny (C-VILLE’s arts editor) quietly opened the new cicchetti bar in June in the space behind the restaurant that became available in 2014. The original idea was to give guests a place to sit and enjoy a drink while they wait for a table in the dining room, but with its meticulously crafted cocktails by bar manager Christian Johnston, the bar is already establishing a name for itself.
Smoothies and bocce and meat, oh my!
For months, we anxiously eyed the construction at the old Coca-Cola bottling plant on Preston Avenue, (im)patiently waiting for what promised to be a hub featuring all things Charlottesville: freshly pressed juice, a local meat counter and an extensive beer list. Over the course of 2015, The Juice Laundry, Timbercreek Market and Kardinal Hall opened their doors and have made midtown the new place to be.
Timbercreek’s all-in-one market is the local farm’s first foray into retail, and it does not disappoint. Restaurant chefs and home cooks alike can pore over the seemingly endless display of bone-in pork chops, whole chickens and burger patties, and the selection of sandwiches is constantly rotating.
Two doors down from Timbercreek is Mike Keenan’s The Juice Laundry. Keenan introduced the cold-pressed fruit-and-veggie juices to Charlottesville a couple of years ago when he started making small batches in a corner of Carpe Donut’s kitchen in McIntire Plaza, and his goal all along was to open a juice bar. In addition to the rainbow of bottled juices on display in the cooler, the cafe-style shop also offers made-to-order smoothies, salads and homemade vegan chili.
Timbercreek’s neighbor on the other side is the long-anticipated Kardinal Hall, owned by Beer Run owners and step-brothers Josh Hunt and John Woodriff. The beer-loving team joined forces with four local breweries to create one-of-a-kind, small-batch brews for the launch in October, and even the snobbiest of beer snobs can find something on the menu they’ve never tried before. Oh, and don’t forget the German-inspired grub and outdoor bocce courts.
Shared at the table
Nothing says Charlottesville quite like a dinner party. Chefs are eager to jump on the opportunity to create a new menu, and what’s more indulgent than an evening of hors d’oeuvres, wine and a meal you might otherwise never get to try? We were lucky enough to find ourselves around several such tables this year, with dining companions as delectable as the many courses we were served.
We savored Petit Pois’ French onion soup alongside The Alley Light’s Jose de Brito, who grew up in France and doesn’t hesitate to share his opinion. We broke fast during Ramadan with a lively and welcoming (albeit hungry) group hosted by the local chapter of the American Turkish Friendship Association. The Underground Kitchen made its debut in Charlottesville with a secretive and surprising dinner party in a local art dealer’s home, and let’s not forget the family-style soirée hosted by South Fork Food Truck. Oh, and we also had the opportunity to dine at Public Fish & Oyster with Virginia’s First Lady Dorothy McAuliffe.
Celebrating Second helpings
Charlottesville Restaurant Week (January and July) raised approximately $45,000 for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank. The next Restaurant Week takes place January 22-30.
The tours stopped here: live music in 2015
Some big names sold out John Paul Jones Arena this year, with Sir Paul McCartney blasting through 30-plus tunes, Stevie Wonder keeping us out all night singing Songs in the Key of Life and The Eagles and Fleetwood Mac playing classics for fans from all generations. Meanwhile, at the Lockn’ festival, Robert Plant belted “Whole Lotta Love” to the peaks of the Blue Ridge mountains and the Grateful Dead faithful were “Dancing in the Street,” or the field, as it were. Not to be outdone, Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt attracted a sold-out audience for their show at The Festy Experience.
The Pavilion hit its stride early with a sold-out Ryan Adams show, following suit with Beck, Alabama Shakes, My Morning Jacket, Wiz Khalifa and The Avett Brothers. But perhaps the most talked-about show was led by Modest Mouse’s ripped and roaring Issac Brock, who yammered at the crowd, knocked over equipment and caused a hail of social media comments–some disgusted, others chalking it up to rock ‘n’ roll.
Additional sold-out billings went to Gov’t Mule, Sturgill Simpson, Lowland Hum, Brandi Carlile, Diana Ross, Florida-Georgia Line, Sylvan Esso, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Chainsmokers, Nerve City, Shakey Graves, Left & Right, Dave Rawlings Machine, Rugged Arts Hip Hop Showcase, Dawes, Punch Brothers and even the reigning queen of opera, Renée Fleming.
Do you even bronut?
The guys behind MarieBette Café and Bakery have been at it for just more than a year, but they’ve already gotten national attention for one of their goodies. The brioche feuilletée, a delicately sweet classic French pastry filled with either a hazelnut-and-almond praline mixture or a cream filling and dusted with sugar, was affectionately dubbed the “bronut”—that is, a brioche-donut, not a donut for bros—by local food blogger Simon Davidson, and it’s been picked up by food enthusiasts across the country. Co-owner and baker Patrick Evans says the brioche feuilletée is one of the most labor-intensive treats they roll out, but it’s a labor of love.
The hazelnut-and-almond variety is what originally earned the pastry its fame and is available every week, but don’t overlook the cream-filled bronuts, which feature seasonal fillings like orange-vanilla and pumpkin mousse.
Year in Photos
Web Stories of the Year
Here are the most-read stories on our website in 2015. Read them again online at c-ville.com.
1. The coywolves of Albemarle County (December 2, 2015) 24,295 pageviews
2. The ruins of Afton Mountain (February 25, 2015) 21,654 pageviews
3. Dark cloud: No charges filed in Psychic Catherine raid (February 2, 2015) 12,615 pageviews
4. Fire department firing: Spycam used to justify termination (March 4, 2015) 9,009 pageviews
5. Barefoot battle (November 18, 2015) 7,770 pageviews
6. Body found in downtown Charlottesville parking garage (January 1, 2015) 7,398 pageviews
7. Compassionate care? UVA Hospital Medical Center’s firing of nurse rejected three times (April 9, 2015) 6,057 pageviews
8. Law enforcement, Worsky family react to convicted killer Glenn Barker’s death (January 28, 2015) 5,929 pageviews
9. Chief concerns: Tim Longo’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year (May 27, 2015) 5,785 pageviews
10. Fireworks as Sweet Briar injunction hearing moves forward (April 15, 2015) 5,725 pageviews