Our Favorite Wine Cocktails of 2015

Crafted cocktails are all the rage right now; more and more restaurants are offering an extensive drink menu with exotic ingredients and complex flavors. An exploration of the senses may inspire you to create your own cocktails, especially if you plan to host a New Year’s Eve party at your place, but all that trial and error can get in the way of actually having fun! We have some great cocktails you should introduce to your family and friends for your New Year’s Eve party, or any party! These are some of our favorite, and most interesting cocktails of 2015:


San Francisco Sangaree

4 cherries

¼ oz. simple syrup

1 ½ oz. Merlot (Try a Pearmund Merlot)

1 oz. bourbon

1 lemon slice


Muddle cherries in a cocktail shaker. Add ice, simple syrup, wine bourbon, and lemon slice. Shake and strain into a glass.


Cherry Jam

1 spoon cherry jam

1/3 oz. lemon juice

1/3 oz. vodka

3 oz. Champagne or Sparkling Wine

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake and strain into a glass.


Beauty Elixir

1 ½ oz. Gin

½ oz. strawberry puree

¼ oz. lemon juice

¼ oz. simple syrup

¼ oz. Rose sparkling wine

2 cucumber slices

Muddle cucumber in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and remaining ingredients except wine. Shake and strain into a glass. Top with sparkling wine.


Pomegranate Champagne Cocktail

1 oz. chilled pomegranate juice or chilled cranberry juice (2 tablespoons)

3 oz. chilled champagne (6 tablespoons)

1 tsp pomegranate seeds (optional)


Pour the pomegranate juice in a champagne flute. Slowly add champagne. Garnish with pomegranate seeds. Serve.


Pom-Merlot Fusion

4 oz. Merlot (The 2014 Merlot from The Winery at Bull Run works well)

2 oz. sparkling pomegranate-blueberry juice

Sugar rim

Lime slice (for garnish)


To rim glass: take a small plate and add a small amount of water. Take another plate and add a thin layer of fine sugar. Dip the rim of your glass in the water, and then roll the rim of the glass around in the sugar.  To a shaker, add ice, Merlot, sparkling pom-blueberry juice and swirl (don’t shake). Strain into glass and garnish with slice of lime.


Cuba Libre

3 oz. Sweet Red (or any of your favorite Reds; this recipe is extremely flexible)

3 oz. cola (if you can get your hands on Mexican coke, it will enhance the flavor as this type of cola is made with cane sugar).

Juice from one lime half


Squeeze lime juice into bottom of the glass, add wine and stir. Add cola and garnish with a lime wedge.


Queen Charlotte

2 oz. red wine (such as the Cabernet Franc from Doukenie Winery)

1 oz. grenadine syrup

Lemon-lime soda


Pour red wine and grenadine into a glass over ice. Fill with soda, stir, and serve.


Cabernet Cobbler

4 oz. chilled Cabernet Sauvignon

1 tsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp superfine sugar

2 oz chilled soda water


Dissolve the sugar in the lemon juice and the water in a large wine glass. Add cracked ice and pour the Cabernet Sauvignon wine. Stir gently. Garnish with an orange slice.


French Monkey

2/3 glass red wine (try the Sunset Red from Sunset Hills Winery)

1/3 Orangina orange soda


Add both to a wine glass and enjoy the French Monkey Madness!


Turk’s Blood

3 oz. Champagne

2 oz. Burgundy wine


Pour into a champagne glass and serve.

hand with wine bottle filling a row of glasses for tasting

How to Store An Open Bottle Of Red Wine

Although it may be rare, there are times when a bottle of wine is opened and not entirely finished. Perhaps you’ve already had a bottle, and are teetering into dangerous territory, or the bottle was opened, and you were lost in conversation and didn’t realize the bottle wasn’t finished until your company already left. Whatever the case may be, you don’t want to throw that bottle away (especially if it’s a specialty Virginia wine!) We have a few tips as to how to store it, and why it goes bad in the first place.


Wine is a consumable product, no different than the cheese and crackers you enjoyed the glass with; all consumable products have an expiration date, especially after they’ve been opened. Most photo 5sitems don’t last more than 3-5 days; the same goes for wine.  When a wine bottle is opened, it comes into contact with oxygen. Oxygen turns red wine into vinegar-it’s a slow process, nonetheless, it still happens. You want to avoid the length of time red wine is in contact with oxygen, and minimize how much remains in the bottle after you’ve stored it. If you take the right steps, you can make that bottle last for up to a week.


This may take some time to get used to, but get into the habit of re-corking the wine after each glass pour. Keeping the wine bottle out of direct sunlight, and away from the stove, or any other war area, will keep the wine fresh longer. Later on, store the wine in the fridge to further slowdown the oxidation process.  When putting the wine in the fridge remember to keep it right side up; storing open wine on its side increases the surface area exposed to oxygen. You may consider re-bottling the wine in a smaller container to further reduce the amount of oxygen the wine is exposed to.


So, which wines are the most susceptible to going bad? Pinot Noir surprisingly is the most sensitive to exposure, as are light colored red wines such as Zinfandel and Grenache. Be careful with Organic or sulfite-free wines as well, as these go bad pretty quickly. Lastly, if you have a bottle of wine that is older than 8 years, suck it up and drink it fast. These bottles can go bad within hours!001


Of course, there are a few different types of wine preservation systems available, but you have to be careful in what type you choose. Some don’t work, and some actually do more harm than good. Do careful research, and discuss the different types of wine preservers with us on your next wine tour to make sure you choose the best method in which to save your wine. A wine tour can leave a lasting memory; let’s make sure your wine lasts a little longer too!

hand with wine bottle filling a row of glasses for tasting

The Truth behind Buying Your Wine by the Glass  

A waiter will generally hand you a wine list after you are seated and rattle off the wine specials as you ponder over the 30 or so selections of wine they have, wondering why a glass of wine costs $8.00 when you’ve seen the same said wine in bottle at the store for $7.99. This peculiar mystery has befuddled many a patron of restaurants and bars alike, and it’s a question we get asked often. Why are only some wines offered solely by the glass and some wines offered solely by the bottle? Let’s first go back to the history of retail to find the answer.


001You’ve heard the adage about restaurants making a majority of their profit from beverages? The same goes for the wine. A single glass of wine will generally be sold at the wholesale cost of the entire bottle, plus a 30% markup. Also, not every restaurant charges the same (as you know) for a beverage, alcohol included, so you could be paying $9.00 for a glass of wine at one place, and $14.00 for the same vintage at another depending on whether it’s a chain restaurant, a local casual joint, or a boutique eatery.


Restaurants also don’t have a standard pour (not for anything, drinkable or eatable), so one place may pour you 4 ounces, and another may pour six. If you’re not sure what you’re getting, ask your waiter (who will then ask their manager). If you’re counting calories, it’s important to know how much wine you’re actually getting, and if you feel you’re not getting enough, ask the manager to consider making a switch. If enough voice their opinion, the restaurant will consider, and even change their serving amount.


Keep these two things in mind; firstly, if you order your wine by the glass, you risk drinking a wine that’s been open for a while. If that wine list is long, the wine could potentially be open for days; for the amount you’re spending, you deserve a freshly opened bottle. Second, if you order wine from a major restaurant, many of these major wine retailers partner with the corporate restaurants and have them push their product. If you order a Merlot, you can bet you’re going to be served the ‘house’ wine, a major retail wine that may have been opened two days ago.


If you want the best wine when you go out, dine locally (they’ll have a smaller batch which they turnover quicker), and order a bottle. One bottle generally serves 4-5 glasses of wine, which is a very photo 5dcomfortable amount for you and your dinner guest. Choose a local Virginia wine, and your overall experience will cross that threshold from good to amazing. Ask us during your next tour who carries a good selection of local wines, and learn more about Virginia wines as well.



Full Bodied Red Wines

You’ve heard the term before “We’re featuring full bodied red wines, sir, would you like to choose one from our selection?”  You look at the waiter with a look of confusion, wanting to choose the right wine to impress your potential client, but really aren’t sure what the waiter means. Is that a Pinot Noir? What is it exactly?


A full-bodied red wine is best known for how it coats the inside of the mouth. That thick feeling you get when you take a sip is best embodied in a full-bodied red wine. The wine itself will be so thick, you can’t see through it. The taste is also bolder due to the flavor that comes from the skin of the grapes.


hand with wine bottle filling a row of glasses for tasting

But, that’s not all! There’s so much more that goes into making your favorite full-bodied wine-so much so that winemakers are more like mad scientists than chefs. For example, the high skin-to –berry ratio is only a portion of what makes this wine distinct. The pip ( or ‘seed’) is loaded with tannin which is commonly known as the structure of the wine. The tannins (or the higher levels of tannins) are what give you that cotton mouth feeling.  The tannin from the pips will be felt in the front of your mouth, whereas the tannins from oak aging are felt farther back on your palate.


Oak aging will not only add tannins as well as pips, they also add layers of aroma. New oak will often leave a toasted flavor (think smoky) and older oak adds caramel and vanillin. The amount of time the wine sits in the barrel will also add to the body of the wine. The results of sitting in an oak barrel for 12 or more months will give you a smoother, bolder wine, and increased alcohol levels which add to that richer feel.


Did you know you can actually see the alcohol in wine? Give it a swirl; a wine with higher levels of alcohol will have more viscous wine tears. Sugar also adds to the viscosity of wine. Many winemaker stop the fermentation a little early by cooling down yeast (putting them to ‘sleep’) and allowing the sugar to remain in the wine.


If you’re looking for a lighter red that’s still considered a full-bodied red, go for a Merlot. As it goes from there to darkest choose from Cabernet Sauv, Malbec, Syrah, Shiraz, to Petite Sirah.001


Which are your favorites? Do you like the full tasting, mouth coating sensation of a full-bodied red wine? Or do you prefer a hint of the bold with a bursting berry aroma?



What’s Your Wine Personality?

There are so many deciders on a person’s personality (Meyer-Briggs anyone?) the line between who you are and who a test says you are begins to blur. Do you have a Type A personality? Are you a passive person? Do you suffer from middle-child syndrome? And what do these things mean for the kinds of wine you enjoy?


Surprisingly a lot! Wine (as do many, many things) have an interesting way of weaving themselves into our personalities. Let’s explore the kind of wine personality you have, and what the kind of wine your significant other or potential business partner/client says about them.


Type A Personalities: These people take life by the horns, and are great leaders. They are independent, decisive, and tend to take control over every situation. Unfortunately though, these are the same people who are wound tight, stress out, and are unable to let go of control. These types need wines that stand on their own with a distinct beginning, middle and end.  Red wine lovers would like a red with a strong flavor profile and tannins like a Malbec or Shiraz. For white wine drinkers try Chablis; it’s focused and has a high acidity.


People Pleaser: This person gets along with everyone, has a great disposition, and a sweet, friendly personality.  Unfortunately it’s also easy to put other’s needs before your own and have a hard time setting boundaries. These people pleasers like their wine to be easy to drink and to pair well with a variety of foods. Wines with a smooth finish like a Merlot or Pinot Gris are easy on the palate, and agreeable with a multitude of foods.


The Party Starter: It’s so much fun being friends with you. You’re always the life of the party with your energetic personality; you’re creative and entertaining too. Unfortunately, the party doesn’t stop with you making it hard for you to slow down and be patient. You aren’t one to ponder a decision which can burn more than a time or two. These party people need wines as bubbly as their personalities. A Zinfandel , Grenache, or Veltliner has the high-acidity and fruitiness that compliments this person best.


The Quiet Storm: Stoic and analytical; thoughtful and process-oriented, you’d do great under pressure, and are a perfect fit for military, engineering, or financial fields. Your logical thinking

Vino, Wine, Virginia

Vino, Wine, Virginia

keeps both feet firmly pressed to the ground, which makes it hard for you to think with your heart sometimes. It’s OK to bend the rules sometimes! You appreciate wine that is focused and has complex flavors like a Pinot Noir or Sauvignon Blanc.


Do you fall into any of these categories? Do you agree with the wine personality profile? What wines do you choose, and does it fit your personality? Tell us! We’d love to know; we can tailor the wines to the personalities of our guests during a tour, helping you get to know yourself, your friends, and loved ones in a whole new way!

Fall Wine Cocktail Ideas

DSC_0031Fall is the superstar of seasons- the change of colors, the feelings it evokes-it’s hard to compete with fall (sorry, spring!) part of what most people love about the season is the food and of course, wine! I have to say no other season brings about creativity like fall does. The spiced wines, wine cocktails, and spritzers abound. Here are a few of our favorites.


Before you get started you have to start with the right wine. It doesn’t need to be an expensive bottle (which honestly, should be enjoyed on its own!) but a good enough bottle of red such as a bottle of Pinot Noir, Malbec, or a dry Riesling. The wines need to be a bit intense, somewhat complex, and a bit spicy to hold up to the allspice, cinnamon spices or the rich, fall fruits that get added in.  In some cases, you can even layer rum or brandy; even vodka can be used to plump up the flavor. In any case, choose a wine that can stand up to the many ingredients you’ll need to create the perfect fall concoction.


We’ve posted a great recipe for mulled wine, which if you’ve never had a mulled/spiced wine, you must try it (try it warm, it brings out the flavors beautifully).  However, for those who are more partial to white wine, try this apple spritzer: using one bottle of Riesling, add 6 oz. of apple juice (or, if you have apple pie liqueur that will work as well), and ¾ oz. lime juice. Combine the ingredients and pour into wine glasses. Add a splash of club soda and serve!


Embrace the fall fruits and create a sparkling pomegranate cocktail with a bottle of sparkling wine, 8 oz pomegranate liqueur, 6 oz pomegranate juice and pomegranate seeds .Mix the liqueur and juice together and Pour the mixture into champagne glasses. Top off with champagne and drop a few pomegranate seeds in for garnish. This makes a great cocktail for a Halloween party!


We just love a good sangria, but they’re usually reserved for warmer days. Not when you add delicious fall fruits! Add to a saucepan 6 dried figs, spiced, 6 dried apricots cut into slivers, ½ cup dried cranberries, and ½ cup raisins with 2 tablespoons honey and a ¼ cup of brandy. Cook over medium-low heat until simmering Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Add 1 bottle of Merlot, DSC_9032 and refrigerate for up to 24 hours. Serve by straining the mixture into a pitcher. Pour into glasses, and add club soda.


If you try any of these recipes, let us know! We want to know what you think! Have a recipe to share? Let us know, we’d love to feature it on our Facebook page!


Foods That DON’T Pair With Wine

Vino Virginia  Wine Tour 2014 - 63There are so many graphs and technical diagrams of wine pairings with food that it almost seems all food have their perfect wine soul mate, doesn’t it? That’s simply not true, however; there are quite a few foods/flavors that actually don’t mesh at all with wine. It’s important to know what doesn’t work in order to make the best choices for your side dishes, flavors, and your before and after dinner treats.



Why do some foods pair well with certain wines, and others do not? It all has to do with taste. In it’s simplest form, you wouldn’t pair strawberry ice cream with a tomato topping, would you? The combination would be rather disgusting. The same goes for wine pairings. Some pairings bring out the best of both flavors; the creamy mouth-feel of the Philip Carter Chardonnay draws out the buttery flavor of a Monkfish; the Monkfish brings forward the apple and lemon nose of the Chardonnay. A pairing made in heaven!



Foods in the cruciferous vegetable family bring the worst out of a wine, literally. The organic compounds contain sulfur and bring out the worst flavors in a wine, naturally. These foods would be broccoli, garlic, cauliflower, Brussel sprouts and asparagus. To tamper these foods, choose a Muscadet or Veltliner. These wines are bold enough to silence the effects of those foods and make them quite enjoyable.



Although wine and cheese seem to be the perfect couple, some cheeses are its worst enemy. Blue cheese for example is so strong (and smelly), that the aroma coats your mouth, making it difficult photo 5sto taste the wine’s subtle notes. Try a Port Wine, or a Zinfandel. The sweeter tones in these wines will mellow out the aroma and transform the flavor to a creamer, milder taste.



Sushi is a tough one to pair. It seems natural however to have a glass of wine with your fish, so it shouldn’t be too much of a stretch to pair with sushi, right? Raw fish, seaweed and sesame are quite the combination without the addition of a wine. The iron in red wine actually sticks to the fish oils and causes a fishy metallic aftertaste. Try a Veltliner, Pino Blanc, or our favorite, a Brut Champagne. The light tones in these wines are passive enough to keep your taste buds happy.



We take great care in pairing the wines with foods that will give you the best experience during your wine tour. If there are health or allergy issues, please share those with us so that we can make the modifications as needed. We know what tastes great (and what doesn’t!) with wine. Plan your next trip with the security of knowing your taste buds will have just as much fun as you will!



How To Tell If You Have a Bad Bottle Of Wine

You know when you buy a bottle of wine from a special place, or during a special occasion, or even receive a bottle for a birthday, wedding, or anniversary, you want to hold on to it until just the right time to enjoy it. Some hang on to the bottle for a few years, hoping to uncork it at the perfect occasion. You pop open that bottle, pour the luscious wine into the glass and take a sip; then promptly choke on it. The wine has gone bad! We know how special that bottle of wine was, and with these tips, you won’t have to throw out another bad bottle of wine again.


It’s good to know that not all wine is meant to be stored. Sometimes the air contaminates the wine, the cork may be tainted, or, it’s made with delicate grapes that are best enjoyed young.  But, knowing what to look for before you serve the wine is key to knowing whether the wine is bad or not.


photo 5sFor example, trust your senses. If the wine smells like heavy raisin, or wet cardboard, it’s probably gone bad; of course if it smells like vinegar, it’s probably turned into it. Taste the wine-does it taste sweet? If your wine isn’t meant to be a sweet wine, yet has a defined sweet taste, it’s been overexposed to heat.


Take a look at your wine. Is the red wine a brown hue?  If the red has a muted color, or the white is a dark yellow or straw color, it’s oxidized and past its due date. If you can’t tell by looking at the color, take a closer look at the wine. Is it fizzy or has an effervescent (but it’s not a sparkling wine)? This wine has already gone through a second fermentation and should be tossed out.



Lastly, if you are suspicious of the bottle, and don’t want to have to smell or taste the wine, just take a look at the cork. If the cork is slightly pushed out of the bottle, it’s a sign that the wine has overheated, and is no good.


It’s best to test the wine before serving it to anyone, especially if it’s a bottle you’ve held on to for a while. Of course, we all have sentimental attachments, and if the bottle itself has sentimental value to you, toss out the bad wine, and reuse the bottle as a decorative part of your home.


During your tour with us, we teach you how to enjoy a good bottle of wine, what to look for in each type of wine, and, if you need, share with you what to look for in a bad bottle. Ask us ahead of time, and we’ll detail it all for you as part of your tour.


Have you ever had a bad bottle of wine? Share with us how you dealt with a questionable bottle of wine, we’d love to hear from you!

Wine Highlight: Sauvignon Blanc

We are in the dog days of summer now, with fall just around the corner. Many of us are ready for the pumpkin themed foods, and cable knit sweaters, however many more of us are still holding on to the warm offerings later summer still has to give. One of our favorite wines to enjoy during this time of year is Sauvignon Blanc. If you’ve never enjoyed the refreshing and subtle taste of a Sauvignon Blanc, take a moment to learn more about this elusive varietal.


The name itself personifies the carefree nature of the summer months. Sauvignon is French for ‘wild’.  From this grape come the varieties Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Sauvignon Blanc itself originates from the rare Savagnin which can be found in a small portion of France bordering Switzerland.


How best to ferment Sauvignon Blanc is up for debate. There is the Stainless Steel or Concrete Barrel method (the most popular style) which harbors a high acidity and bold aromas of grapefruit and lime. However, oak fermentation yields a more sophisticated (and pricier) bottle. In an oak barrel, the grapes take on a creamier texture with flavors of lemon curd, crème brulee, and a subtle butter cookie taste. This style is more commonly blended with a Semillon to add candied lemon flavors.


Primary flavors of Sauvignon Blanc are white peach, grapefruit, passion fruit, gooseberry and green melon. Depending on the region in which the grapes came from soil type, climate, care), the fermentation process, and the age of the bottle, your particular bottle will capture any one of those notes along with a variety of others. Take a moment to do a taste test of different wines to find the one you like the best. Taste testing is the best part!


Some of our favorite Sauvignon Blancs come from Doukenie. The 2014 variety has a mild flavor of muddled citrus and lemongrass giving way to hints of peah and guava. It’s simple enough to enjoy with a nutty cheese, or as an aperitif. The 2011’s nose is a lovely bouquet of white pepper, toast, white peach and pear. It’s highlighted by a hint of kiwi juice and papaya seed with a touch of lime on the midpalate. This particular wine is medium bodied and pairs well with grilled fish or chicken.



What are some of your favorite Sauvignon Blancs? We’d love to set up a tour for you to try these wines among others along the beautiful Virginia countryside!

Vino Virginia Wine Tour 2014 - 20

Drink To Your Health!

We hear about wine on the news frequently; certain types are touted as healthier than others, some stand by the belief that red is better for you than white, and what’s young and old wine anyway? It can get confusing to choose what the best type of wine is for your health. If you’re on a diet, or have adopted a healthier lifestyle, you want to continue enjoying wine, however, you want that wine to adhere to your new lifestyle. We hope to dispel some of the myths out there about wine, and help you choose what you think is best for YOU.


Vineyard-Wine_Glass_96dpi_.266164619_stdLet’s start with the age of a wine. Contrary to popular belief the younger the wine, the better. Why? Red wine loses nearly 90% of the anthocyanin content after just a few months of aging. Anthocyanin is the red colored antioxidant we find in fruits from red grapes to blueberries.  Wines like Petite Sirah are high in anthocyanin; adversely, wines low in anthocyanin are Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Merlot.


Speaking of antioxidants, Tannins are a powerful flavonoid.  That coated feeling you get on the inside of your mouth from drinking a wine with high tannins, walnuts, certain types of grapes, and certain teas may seem unnatural, but that’s the feeling of the flavonoid-the higher the level of tannins, the better.  Many don’t like the feeling, and that’s ok, however, if you’re looking for a wine that adheres to a certain diet, you may want to stick with high tannin (tart) wines. If you’re interested in a sweet, light wine, you’re better off having a donut. The less sweetness a wine has, the lower the carb level.


So, what’s the best type of wine to have when watching your diet, or adopting a healthier lifestyle?  Cabernet Sauvignon wins on all levels, plus our bodies seem to absorb the nutrients from this type of wine better than with others.


Of course, these are all suggestions. You have to enjoy the wine you’re having, and if you’ve decided to abstain from alcohol as part of your healthier lifestyle, you want to use that opportunity to Vino Virginia Wine Tour 2014 - 11have a glass you truly enjoy. Share with us your health concerns, or if there are any in your party that have health concerns, are vegan, have dietary issues, or anything else we need to know to make your wine touring experience the most excellent day! We are just as concerned about your needs as you are. Talk to us today to help outline your tour together!