Most Wine Isn’t Vegan?

As a vegan, choosing a strict lifestyle means making alternative decisions and being conscious of everything you put into your body. Simple things that vegetarians still commonly eat such as honey, or milk-based products are condemned and replaced with soy or nut-based products. When it comes to wine, however, many vegans feel they’re safe, seeing as wine is made out of grapes. But, it’s the refining process that is in question, and should be considered when leading strict lifestyle.


photo 5sMost wines are clarified during winemaking ; this process is called fining. Most often this process is also employed with the use of animal-based products such as casein or egg whites. Wins must be fined for that clear, crisp appearance; otherwise, it would be hazy and unappetizing.  Casein and egg-whites dissolve the proteins in wine that give them the hazy appearance and allow them to collect at the bottom of the barrel.


Casein and egg whites also remove the bitter-tasting phenolics.  Even though the fining agents are removed before the wine is bottled, it is still important to know that they have been used in the process. It’s also common for quality white, rose, and sparkling wines to use a fish byproduct, isinglass for fining.


Vegan wines are uncommon, but they are available in some markets. If you are a strict vegan or there is a member of your party to whom the process of fining is important, please let us know before the wine tour. We will research the wineries on your tour if we are uncertain of the availability of vegan wine, or notify you if there are no options to allow your vegan guest or yourself to bring a bottle of vegan wine to enjoy along with the group.


How do you know if a wine is vegan? First off, looking for an organic wine photo 5dwon’t guarantee a vegan wine. There are cage-free eggs that may be used in the fining process, along with organic casein. Wines that are un-fined or unfiltered will ultimately be vegan. Wines filtered only with sterile filters are also vegan (this includes cross-flow filters as well).  Be aware however that unfiltered wine will taste quite different than wine that has been fined.  Ask us for more information on the differences between vegan and mainstream wine to learn more about how you can make more conscious decisions that align with your lifestyle.


Wine Etiquette

photo 1aFor wine connoisseurs, wine etiquette is something you don’t even think about. But, there are many wine novices out there who aren’t sure of what is appropriate and what isn’t. Of course, when you’re enjoying wine at home, or with a friend, there are no rules. No one is judging! But, if you’re out with a client, how you drink your wine could be a make or break deal. Learning what’s right and wrong in wine etiquette will make you look like a pro, even if you’re not!


For example, many of us like to cradle our glasses in our hands, allowing the stem to fall between our fingers. This couldn’t be more wrong. Holding the wine like this will warm up the wine, changing the taste and keeps finger prints from appearing on the bowl of the glass. Hold the wine glass from the stem, close to the base.


Also, when your wine is poured, it’s appropriate to first bring your nose to the wine to gather in the aroma, taste the wine by swishing it around in your mouth and taking a moment to find the notes. Just as you wouldn’t go all in to a meal that was served to you without looking up from your plate to thank the host for a wonderful meal, you wouldn’t gulp down your wine without first letting the server/host know how delicious the wine is (even if it’s not that great).


As a lady enjoying a glass of wine, try to drink the wine from the same spot each time. This will avoid unsightly lipstick marks. To reduce the marks even further, as inconspicuously as you can, wet the edge you are about to drink from before your first sip. This will keep your lipstick from sticking to the glass.


If you are the host, and are pouring the wine, hold the bottle towards the base. Why?  Rotating the bottom side of the bottle away from you as you stop pouring will keep the wine from dripping. photo 5s Also, do your best to open the wine as quietly as possible. The popping of the bottle is considered vulgar and in poor taste. Pour your guests the wine in confidence!  Fill the glass less than half way to give wine room to breathe.


Celebrating an event? Clink glasses bell to bell to reduce cracking or breaking, and look the person in the eye-it’s just common courtesy.  Lastly, after you’ve finished your glass, ask your guests if they would like a refill before pouring more into your glass.


Enjoy your wine, and your company! Take these tips with you on your next wine touring event; a great idea for networking groups, business outings, and out of town guests you’d like to show another side of Virginia to!

photo 5s

Your Guide To The Ultimate Summer Wine-Rosé

The summer heat is scorching, and strong, dark wines have made way for lighter aperitifs. When it comes to summer, no beverage evokes the lazy days by the pool or backyard barbecues like a Rosé.



Rosé isn’t just another alcoholic option-it’s a lifestyle.  It’s also quite misunderstood. No, Rosé is not what happens when you mix red and white wines together. Rosé  wine (which is similar to the red wine method) happens when red grapes are lightly crushed and left to macerate with their skin anywhere from a few hours to a few days. The longer the grapes’ skins are left sitting in the wine, the darker the color of the finished Rosé and the more it takes on the tannic characteristics you would normally find in red wine.


Rosé isn’t made from any specific grape or region-it’s just a genre, no different than red or white.  Rosé’s are actually a blend of grapes.  Some of the most common blends are Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Cinsault, Carignan, and Mourvedre. Unlike some red and white wines however, Rosé’s don’t get better with time. The younger the Rosé, the better, meaning if it’s more than two or three years old, you shouldn’t drink it.


So, what should your Rose taste like? Rose should be fresh and acidic and completely versatile. This happy-medium flavor profile makes it a great accompaniment to just about any meat, and easily transitions into cocktails as well.  Rose mixes well with fruity and fizzy drinks-the possibilities are (nearly) endless!


So, which are our favorite Virginia Roses? For starters, we’re big fans of the Boxwood Rose.  The apricot and peach scents blend well with the strawberry and sour cherry notes. Also, we enjoy the Breaux Rose. The light to medium body evokes strawberry scents.


Don’t be afraid to try a Rosé. It’s a refreshing wine that is perfect for the hot weather. If you know nothing about Rosé, and want to learn more about the great options Virginia has to offer, take a trip with us through wine country and discover some of the best Rosés in Virginia! We offer group packages that fit into any of your needs; tell us what you want out of your tour, and we will match the tour that’s right for you!


How To Make Wine Selection Less Confusing     

We’ve all been there; you stand in front of the seemingly hundred choices of wine from all over the world, and start to get a headache from the bevy of choices (not to mention feeling slightly naïve knowing only 5 different types-who knew there were so many!) Don’t be confused again! Follow these simple tips to know exactly what you’re getting.


IMG_2050When you look at a label, the wine will be labeled in one of three ways: by Variety, Region and Name. The Variety will list what grapes the wine came from (Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, etc.) Sometimes, the Variety will contain other grapes as well, but we’ll get into that later.


A wine’s Region will let you know where the wine came from. When you know what the rules of the Region is, you can probably guess what grapes are in it. For example, a red wine labeled ‘Bourgogne’ is going to be a Pinot Noir. Regional labels are common in France as well as Italy and Spain.


When a wine is known by a Name it’s generally a blend exclusive to the winery. This is common in the US, Italy, and Australia. For example, at Marteralla Winery you’ll find the Sweet Nothings IMG_1897Wine which is a sweet Chambourcin with flavors of raspberry,  or the Philosophy Wine from Greenhill Vineyards which is a Bordeaux blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.


After you’ve determined which wine you want, you wonder “Why is the wine on the bottom shelf $8.00 and the one on the top shelf is $45.00? the answer is simple-quality. Cheaper wines are mass produced with oak chips to add flavor; more expensive wines are crafted in oak barrels and are made in smaller batches.  When it comes to getting a really good wine, it’s difficult to spend less than $40.00. Keep that in mind.


Lastly, keep in mind that just because you enjoyed last year’s bottle of wine from your favorite Virginia Winery (hint, hint), doesn’t mean it’s going to taste the same this year. This is a fruit after all, and the weather has a big say in how that vintage tastes  bottle to bottle, year after year. It is fun to find those subtle differences year to year though!


Take a tour with us through beautiful wine country to find the wine you love the best! Tour with friends, family, or coworkers using the package of your liking, so when you go to the grocery store you won’t stand there clueless ever again!


Stuck With Bad Wine? Try These Tips!

It’s hard to imagine having a bad wine made in Virginia, but there are times when we’ve run out of our favorite Virginia selection, and are stuck with a sub par bottle. What do you do when you have a cheap wine you don’t want to throw away, but don’t want to consume as is either? There are ways to make the wine palpable; with just a little creativity, you can improve the taste of that cheap wine until you can get your hands around a good ol’ bottle of Virginia Wine!


  1. Make A Wish!


Take a whiff of your wine, does it have a hint of rotted eggs or a newly struck match? That’s the sulfur-related compounds. Take a clean penny and drop it in, swirl and wait for a minute. The copper will dissipate the odor and make a big difference in the vino.


  1. Just Whip It!


Did you know if you pour a bottle of wine in a blender and blend for a minute, it acts like an aerator?  Try this decanting hack with a bottle of 2013 Cabernet Franc from the Winery at Bull Run. This wine combines aromas of berry, fig and smoke with hints of cocoa, blackberry, black and white pepper is taken to another level with this easy yet effective method.


  1. Mushrooms Make Everything Better


There’s no scientific reason why, but it’s reported that umami-rich mushrooms will make less than stellar reds taste better. If mushrooms aren’t your thing, and the red in question gives your mouth the feeling you’re rubbing sandpaper on your tongue, try pairing with red meat. The fat and protein will neutralize the rough tannins.


  1. Who Needs Trader Joe’s?


If the wine you have is so bad, you can’t drink it, yet you still don’t want to throw it away, you can turn it into vinegar.  Turning red or white wine into vinegar is surprisingly easy, and is a great use of nasty wine. This is also a great method for leftover wine.


  1. When In Doubt, Just Mix It


There’s no saving that red wine, but you’re still opposed to throwing it away. That’s ok, we understand. Why not do as the Basque do and use it as a mixer? Meet the Kalimotxo  . This ‘poor man’s sangria’ is quite delicious. Or, of course, you can make actual sangria as well. Either way, mixing the wine with something (anything) will make it all that much more palpable.


If the idea of cheap wine sounds like a cardinal sin, consider going on a IMG_1921tour of Virginia wine country to sample some of the best wines in the region (dare we say, of the country?). Corporate event, networking, nonprofit, or just a friends or family outing, we have the tour that will make any wine you have a pleasurable experience!


Enjoy our Hunt Country Tour This Memorial Weekend!

Memorial weekend is full of events and marks the unofficial start of summer. Pools open, and outdoor events become more and more prevalent. One event this weekend we are truly excited about is the 56th Annual Hunt Country Stable Tour taking place both Saturday and Sunday!


This once a year event allows the general public to tour the Middleburg stables, one of the most amazing estate and equestrian facilities in the country. During this experience, you will be allowed to walk through the private estates and experience the multi-million dollar facilities in a way very few do.

IMG_1683Vino Virginia offers a Hunt Country tour giving you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful countryside. Enjoy the historical Virginia landscape on your way to our first stop at Boxwood Estate Winery.  Here you may enjoy a glass of 2009 Boxwood Estate Topiary; a blend of Cabernet Franc and Merlot. This blend (according to Boxwood Estates) has a ‘complex and intense nose of strawberry, savory garden herbs and spice aromas. The wine is ready to drink with soft tannins and a pronounced mid-pallet followed by a long finish of strawberry and spice flavors’.

If you’d prefer a different blend, try a glass of 2012 Boxwood Estate Trellis-a predominantly Merlot blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot.  Described by Boxwood as having a ‘bright garnet color, the nose is redolent of black cherry, graphite, red currant, light red plum and some subtle notes of herbs de Provenance. The pallet is balanced with medium acidity and velvety/full fore and mid palette. There are essences of cherry and minerality throughout’.


Our Hunt Country tour offers you the exclusive opportunity to experienceIMG_1880 the tour on a deeper level  with access to the Stable Tour (tours on Sundays are self-guided) as well.


After this once a year adventure, we will head to Greenhill Winery where you can enjoy a glass of a 2013 Greenhill Vineyards Chardonnay. This delicious Chardonnay offers ‘aromas of hazelnut and brioche toast with light buttery notes and flavors of pineapple, fig, and apple’.  If Chardonnay isn’t your wine of choice, there are many others (including a sparkling wine) that you can enjoy whilst taking in the fresh air of the countryside!


IMG_1921Plan a staycation with family and/or friends and enjoy all that the beautiful Commonwealth has to offer! We will accommodate your needs and provide a top-notch experience!



Highlight of the Week: Meritage Wine!

There’s so much more to wine than just the grape; there’s the soil, sunlight, weather, barrel, fermentation time, and then there’s the New World twist on an Old World tradition: blending varietals.

photo 5sSome have the notion that a blend is a cheaper way a winemaker can produce a wine-taking a few different types of grapes and mashing them together just to market a new kind of wine. It’s so much more than that, and much more common than one might think.

Meritage (pronounced like ‘Heritage’) was created by a group of American vintners in the late 1980’s; combining the words ‘merit’ and ‘heritage’ to reflect the quality of the grapes and the centuries-old art of blending.

For a wine to be a true Meritage wine it must be a member of the Meritage Association and the blend must be one of the winery’s top bottlings. Red Meritage wine must be a blend of two or more of five traditional Bordeaux Reds, and white should be a blend of two or more of the three traditional Bordeaux whites.

The Bordeaux reds are specified as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Malbec. Whites are of the Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle du Bordolais variety.  How does a winemaker decide which varieties to blend? That is completely up to the vision of the winemaker and what flavors he or she would like to dominate the overall product.  In order to decide on the best combination, it’s important to note the aromas of each grape.

Cabernet Sauvignon produces a dense wine with structure and concentrated flavor making it a good foundation for a Meritage. The aromas of black currants, black cherry and plum present rich black fruit flavors adding rich tannins.

Cabernet Franc is less dominant than a Cabernet Sauvignon resulting in softer tannins. It adds an earthy character producing red fruit such as raspberries and cherries, and spiciness like cinnamon characteristics.

Merlot is also a softer tannin producing grape with livelier fruit characteristics including chocolate flavors and a fleshy texture.

Malbec adds depth and acidity including floral and exotic flavors. Petit Verdot provides an intense color, is highly aromatic and includes bursting flavors of molasses. Carmanere brings forward dark chocolate and tobacco combining earthy smoke and spice.


Of the whites, Sauvignon Blanc introduces grassy qualities with melon, pear and citrus flavors. The type of fermentation technique will either bring forward these notes, or produce a rich and Vineyard-Wine_Glass_96dpi_.266164619_stdcreamy wine. Semillon is a light and fruity wine and adds complexity to the Meritage blend, whereas the Muscadelle is used in very small percentages due to its intense floral character.


Try a tasting of Meritage blends on your next Vino Virginia tour. We will share with you our favorite Meritage wines and help you discover some of the great blends Virginia wineries have for you!



A Varietal Spotlight: Norton Wine

Virginia wine is quite popular, not just here in our great Commonwealth, but around the country and the world. Did you know one of the great grapes that came out of this region was not cultivated by a mere winery; it was introduced by a Doctor? Let’s take a look at the history of the Norton grape.

Norton grapes are truly that of Virginia origin. Actually, it’s the oldest native North American varietal; cultivated and made into wine well before the Civil War! Introduced by Dr. Daniel Norton of Richmond, the grape variety became available for commercial use in 1830 and soon dominated wine production in the United States. So popular, his wine was named the ‘best red wine of all nations’ at the Vienna World’s Fair of 1873.

The deeply colored, age-worthy Norton grape was almost history when prohibition took place. Vineyards and wine casks were destroyed; replaced by the Concord grape in order to make jellies and jams. All was not completely lost however.  The grape found its way back in to vineyards, and after many years, has grown to become one of the most pivotal (and oldest known) grape varieties of this state (and country).  Today, Chrysalis Vineyards in Middleburg, grows more Norton than any single site in the  world!


Known as a summer grape, the Norton produces a robust red wine with strong fruit flavors in the front, typical of a Bordeaux wine. It lacks the grass, herb or muskiness typically found in Muscat varieties. The wine ages very well, and goes down smooth (the low level of tannin and hard acids contribute to this). The Winery at Bull Run makes a delicious Norton. They describe “the nose of ripe plum and smoke is supported by dark cherry flavors and is encased by a bit of vanilla and spice”.


The Norton’s rich fruit and low tannin makes it a natural pairing with poultry, pork, game birds, and hearty beef dishes like sausage and steak. Venison also pairs well with a Norton wine.If small

Vino Virginia  Wine Tour 2014 - 16plates are more your taste, pair this rich wine with strong cheeses, savory flatbreads, and hearty meatballs.


Take a tour with us into Virginia Wine Country to taste for yourself the robust Norton on our Civil War experience at Bull Run, and learn more about its place in our history. Contact us to plan a trip you won’t soon forget!

Throw a Horse Race Themed Party Featuring Virginia Wines!

IMG_1854Next weekend on April 18th, we are kicking off our spring wine tour season, and what better way than to incorporate our Hunt Country tour with the Middleburg Spring Races!  The Spring Race is an exciting horse race that benefits INOVA/Loudoun Hospital, Glenwood Park Trust and other local charities.  If you’ve never been to a horse race, this is one you shouldn’t miss! We will be starting our tour with a visit to Boxwood Winery, then head to the race to watch the horses and enjoy a fabulous lunch, then finish at the Greenhill Winery. Want to get inspired for this fun event? Why not host a horse race themed party?



Set the mood with a few bales of hay, fresh flowers, yellow ribbons, and jockey hats. Ask your guests to dress to the nines with their own fascinators and hats as well! Use tin pails to fill with tulips, hydrangea, and roses as centerpieces, and cover tables with green tablecloths with napkins in a black and white houndstooth pattern. If you make drink and food tags, use twine to tie them on.


No party is complete without games! Why not play a game of horseshoe? Hold a contest for the most outrageous fascinator or the fanciest couple.  For younger guests, play ‘pin the tail on the horse’ or, if the weather is nice, they can race from one end to another to see who wins!


Of course, food and drinks are important at any party. Serve easy appetizers that will keep your guests satisfied. Carrots and dip, fried chicken strips, crab cakes, grilled sausage slices, mini quiches and a diverse platter of cheese are a good place to start. Mini pecan pies, bourbon balls, fresh fruit and pastries will delight their sweet tooth. But to have a proper horse race party, the most important offerings are the drinks! Traditional horse race cocktails consist of Mint Julep, Bellini, Long Island Iced Tea, and sparkling Champagne. But who says you can’t buck tradition? Serve wine instead!


We are a big fan of the Boxwood Winery‘s Rose; it’s light and fruity, and pairs well with both the food and the season.   We also recommend trying the Sparkling Blanc de Blanc wine from Greenhill.  The subtle pear aromas and grapefruit flavors go well with the cheeses and lighter fare. Of course, if you prefer red wines,  we recommend the Philosophy 2012 by Greenhill. This blend of Bordeaux, Merlot, Cabernet Franc is bright with raspberry and strawberry fruit flavors.  IMG_2050


Enjoy preparing for our spring kickoff, and we encourage you to book your spot with us as soon as possible; space is limited for this special tour. Contact us to reserve your seat, and to learn more about our upcoming tours!


Best Wine Pairings For Your Easter Menu

Easter is around the corner, and you’re probably in the thick of planning your feast. Just as important as the foods you prepare are the drinks you serve. Although it’s tough to gauge what your guests may prefer, here are some suggestions of our favorite pairings. Use these as a guideline as you finish planning your day’s meal!

Vino Virginia Wine Tour 2014 - 63 Welcoming your guests with light appetizers and hardy cheeses is a popular way to make them feel comfortable and a good buffer between arrival and dinner. Greet them with champagne or a sparkling wine to keep the mood light. If you’re planning on serving bruschetta as well you can pair it with a nice, young Chianti. Serving shrimp cocktail? Offer a Chardonnay to please the palette.


Ham is a tough one to pair with a wine, which is why it’s important to note what type of ham you will be preparing. Will it be spicy? Smoky? Topped with pineapple? A good Virginia ham can be

photo 4gserved a number of ways. If you will be serving a honey ham, try pairing with a Riesling, Gewurztraminer, or Viognier. The light and fruitiness of the wine compliments the sweetness in the ham.  If you plan to make the ham on the spicier side, choose a red bursting with fruit to counteract the kick in the ham. Go with a Beaujolais to balance the spice and saltiness of your ham.

Many people can’t fathom a ham without pineapple, orange, or, one of my favorites, bathed in Dr. Pepper (yes! That’s a thing!) For your white wine drinkers choose a full-bodied Pinot Gris or a rich, fruity Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards.

If ham isn’t on the menu, consider serving lamb. If you already planned on making lamb the centerpiece of your dinner, the wines you choose will be slightly different. Most times, lamb is served with garlic, onions, and other spices. If this is how you choose to serve your lamb, you’ll need to serve it with a strong Syrah or Cabernet Sauvignon. The Winery at La Grange makes a delicious Cabernet with hints of candied cranberry, red fruits, bright red apple, and pomegranate,.  A milder lamb dish pairs nicely with Pinot Noir or Riesling (for your white wine fans).

If your family is less into meats and more into fish or chicken as tradition, don’t fret. A rich and fatty salmon pairs very nicely with a Chardonnay; choose a flavorful Pinot Noir to match the delicate flavors of a roast chicken.

Lastly, if veal is the meat du jour, try the dry, fruity taste of a Malbec or Greenhill Winery’s ‘Ontology’. This beet-red wine begins with intense aromas of soft wood and earth, moving on to dark cherries and wild fruits, and then a long, tannic finish bursting with wild raspberries. The two marry into a wonderful explosion of flavor; neither being the dominant taste in your mouth.

Pairing wines with certain foods can be tricky; with our suggestions, you’ll be the star of the night!