What is a Barrel Tasting and How Do I Make The Most Of It?

Your girlfriend/boyfriend/mother/sister invited you to go to Pearmund Cellars for their month long Barrel Tasting every weekend in March, and you thought “Awesome, I’d love to!” while thinking “What’s a Barrel Tasting?” at the same time.

Barrel tastings are not what they sound like; no, you don’t taste an actual barrel. A winery gives you the opportunity to taste a wine while still in the barrel usually a few weeks after harvest has completed. These wines are like a ‘sneak peak’ to what’s to come and give you the opportunity to also purchase wines at a discounted price.  In the case of Pearmund Cellars, the wines coming straight from the barrel are also paired with foods to enhance the experience.


Boxwood3Wine Barrel tastings give you the opportunity to evaluate the taste of the wine it is, and what it will become.  In this stage, no single flavor dominates (ideally). Fruit impressions are in the ‘front’ (the first thing you taste). And, if you’re a seasoned vet, you should also be able to notice subtle nuances in notes embraced from the barrel it aged in.


Note how well the aroma and flavors meld. Are they nicely balanced or do they stand alone? Young wines can take time to come together so if you notice one or the other, it doesn’t signify a bad wine; just a young one.


Do notice however how long the finish is of the wine you taste. This will determine your choice in bottle. Does the wine have a long finish? If so, this indicates a well-structured wine that may be a good candidate for long term aging. If it has a short finish this wine should be enjoyed while young; aging this kind of wine is not recommended.


Be patient when at a Barrel Wine tasting. There are generally many people waiting for a glass to sip and if there is someone there to pour individual glasses, take a moment and step back to allow them some breathing room. If you wait until the crowd has shifted, you may have an opportunity to ask additional questions; an opportunity you wouldn’t have as a single voice inside a mob.DSC_7807


Take advantage of the Pearmund Cellars Barrel Tastings every weekend in March. The cost is $35 a person and gives you a perfect overview of what to expect from a Virginia Winery; especially when you choose to come back for a wine tasting with a group.DSC_7737


*Ask us to help tailor your group outing if you enjoy your visit to Pearmund Cellars. We will take care of all of the planning; you only bring yourself, your group, and enjoy!

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No, I’m Not Trying To Make Fancy Vinegar; How To Store Red Wine Properly

Although the very thought seems crazy, there are times when one can’t finish a bottle of wine in one night.  To waste the sweet nectar of gods is an even more preposterous idea, so what do you do? You have to store the wine, but to store it properly is the key to preserving your wine to taste as good from the first glass to the last.


To make your wine last, re-corking it correctly is key. It may seem more natural to put in the ‘clean’ side seeing as it fits easier, but resist! The stained side has already been exposed to the wine; the ‘clean’ side may not be as clean as you think and can taint the remaining wine especially if you don’t plan to drink it for a day or two.


Re-corking is also best after every glass you pour. It may take a half an hour to finish that glass if you’re lost in conversation; that’s a whole 30 minutes your wine has been001 allowed to break down.



If you had leftover chicken would you put it in the refrigerator or would you leave it on the counter? You would put it in the refrigerator, correct? The same rule applies to wine. The cool temperature will slow down the process of wine breaking down. Take that wine off the counter and put it in the fridge!


*When you put your wine in the fridge, forgo the special wine holder your refrigerator came with and store that bottle upright. When it’s time to use it again, warm it up slowly to room temperature by putting it in a bowl of warm water.


Consider storing your remaining wine in a smaller bottle. Air flattens wine, lessening flavors and aromas; the smaller bottle will minimize the effects even if there’s a little air at the top.


If half-drank bottles of wine are the norm for you, you may want to invest in a Coravin.  The Coravin pierces the wine cork with a needle then pressurizes it with argon. After you’ve poured the wine, you remove the needle and the cork reseals itself.  At $299.00, the Coravin is best for those of you who enjoy a high-end bottle of wine as opposed to the general Barefoot population.


10403326_273943066138221_245410998236565532_nWhich red wines go bad the quickest? Pinot Noir hands down is one of the most sensitive wines. If you must have a bottle, try to share it to finish it off. Older wines (over 8-10 years) will go bad quickly; organic or sulfite-free wines, and light colored reds like Zinfandel, Sangiovese, or Nebbiolo are also very sensitive.



If you’re reading this too late and have already stored your wine in every wrong way, fear not! These wines make great additions to your dinner! Use wine in soups to add depth to the taste; add to sauces, and creams, or mix with oil to create a delicious dressing!


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Best Wines For Winter to Keep You Warm

This past weekend’s arctic blast has left a chill in the air that’s hard to warm up from.  It’s nice to start a fire and sit beside it until your skin can’t handle the fire and you think it may begin burning off. You want to stay beside that fire forever and feel that kind of warmth inside too. But what wine do you choose to achieve that warm in the gut, hearty feeling?


BullRunWinery1Well, it’s less about what you drink in the winter and more about what you don’t. Roses are too light for this time of year and lighter-bodied reds like Beaujolais and Pinot Noir don’t give the right amount of oomph for the cold weather.


Instinctively, we turn to rich reds like Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon and dense reds like Malbec and Grenache. Most people shift away from stainless-fermented wines and turn towards heavier, oak-aged wines.


Of course, here at Vino Virginia, we know a thing or two about Virginia wines, and have our own personal favorites like the Left Bank of Bordeauxphoto 3j from Boxwood Estate Winery. It’s a solid blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot perfect for a wintery night. We also like the Topiary, a blend of Cabernet franc and Merlot. If you want a rich wine that isn’t too heavy, this is the one for you.


photo 5dWe’re also fans of the Corotoman from Philip Carter Winery; it’s a Bordeaux Meritage inspired blend that hits you first with the scent of mocha then opens up to black cherry plum and violet, full-bodied and creamy. But what if you’re more of a white wine enthusiast? Try the Seyval Blanc from Gray Ghost Wines (which is currently sold out at the winery). The wine is crisp, dry, and evokes bright flavors of mineral and lemon with a subtle oak finish having been aged in Hungarian oak.


Another of our favorite whites is the Grace from Marterella Winery. This Vidal Blanch-Riesling style wine isn’t as sweet as a general Riesling, but just sweet enough to go well with Asian and spicy dishes.

Most people think wine tours are best left for fairer weather, but we disagree! Many of the wineries in the area offer special tours and food pairings based on this season. Just ask us which tour/winery is best for your group and we will tailor a day you’ll never forget (no matter how much wine you drink)!


How Barrels Influence The Taste of Your Wine

Ever wondered how two of the same types of wine taste different? Sometimes it has to do with the region, and sometimes it has to do with the winery itself in the process they use. For centuries, winemakers have been using the type of barrel the wine matures in to compliment the flavor and give the wine structure. Different types of oak barrels will add different levels of flavor. For example, American oak will impart a coconut taste, and French Oak will add ‘spice’. Many winemakers will also use oak chips or sticks to float in the vats of wine as opposed to using the expensive and time consuming method of a barrel. This type of treatment doesn’t give the long-term structural benefits, however it does add the complex flavor.


DSC_7800Think of wine barrels as a sort of spice rack; each type of barrel will introduce a different taste. The way the staves (the long pieces of wood that make up the barrel) have been seasoned is the biggest contributor to taste. A ‘Cooper’ will season these staves by toasting the insides with a flame to soften the wood flavor. Coopers are also using hot water as an alternative to fire to lend yet another level of flavor. The phenols in the barrel interact with the wine inside. Then there are stainless steel barrels that add nothing, while adding so much to the taste of the wine.


How the winemaker chooses to use the barrel will also affect the taste. If a winemaker chooses to ferment the wine in the barrel without aging it there, the yeasts interact with the flavor components resulting in a different level of influence. The winemaker can manipulate the flavors by switching the barrels during the maturity process to lift up flavors such as vanilla, coffee, mocha, butter, spice, caramel, along with a multitude of flavors.


For example, if you have wine in hand made entirely in stainless steel, you’ll notice the light and fruitiness of the wine. If the wine has been aged in an Oak barrel, you most likely will taste spice, DSC_8628 cloves and vanilla, along with the drying sensation of tannins (that cotton mouth feeling you get from certain reds). If you sense toast or smoke, that’s the barrel’s influence-not the grape; not the soil.



Barrel aging is an expensive method. Many wineries, like Boxwood Estate Winery in Middleburg, ages 30% of its red Bordeaux-style blends in new barrels. At $1000 a barrel, it explains how the barrel contributes to the overall cost of a wine. New barrels naturally assert bolder flavors, as older barrels (barrels that have been used over and over) impart a more subtle flavor.


The next time you hold a glass of wine in your hand and take a swig, be present in the taste and see if it really tastes like an aged old oak, or does it just take like a tree?


What The Viognier? A Guide To The Little Grape That Could

Most people recognize the basic types of wine: Zinfandel, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, and Chardonnay. But have you ever overheard someone (or been with someone) who ordered a glass of Viognier and wondered, “What on Earth is that?”


Viognier (pronounced VEE-ohn-yay) is the main white grape often blended with Syrah to add an exotic bouquet to the red wine. Viognier is a close cousin to Gewurztraminer and like the spicy grape is very aromatic. Although the grape is a French grape you can find Viognier wines in Virginia, California; even South America as well as in regions of France.


Interestingly, Viognier was close to extinction as a grape variety due to lack of popularity paired with less than ideal soil. It seemed this wine would soon disappear. It then staged a dramatic comeback thanks to the discovery of areas where the varietals would flourish.


It’s also important to note if a Viognier wine is made in a stainless-steel tank, peach and apricot flavors are drawn out. Oak barrels add layers of vanilla and spice.

Typically, notes of Viognier include white floral such as honey-suckle or jasmine as well as orange blossom. You’ll also find stone fruit flavors such as peach, apricot, nectarine and a nice spice component best described as baking spices. You’ll find it’s typically full bodied wine often leaving a ‘lanolin’ feel in your mouth. It’s worth noting, that Viognier is best when consumed young, meaning this particular wine does not follow the standard “aged like a fine wine”. Check the year, before popping open a bottle (younger than 18 months is the general rule). Speaking of popping a bottle, Viognier wines are best served after being decanted a bit to help release the strong aromas (meaning transferring the contents of the wine bottle into another receptacle, then let it sit for twenty minutes or so and then serve).


Food and wine pairings include chicken and fish, veal with butter or cream sauces. It also enhances fruit flavors, making it a great pairing with fruit dishes or meats served with fruit. Viognier pairs nicely with seafood (especially sushi) also. Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, and Thai foods pair well with a Viognier wine due to the flavors and spices in these regions. If you would like to pair with cheese, go with soft cheeses, blue, brie, and goat cheese.


Some of the best Viognier wines can be found in your own backyard! Visit Breaux Vineyards for their Governer’s Cup Silver Award Winning Viognier or Veritas Winery’s Gold Award Winning Viognier. To experience this delicious, rich wine and learn more about wine tours through our website. Choose from the packages we offer, and we will assist in the details to make your trip unforgettable!

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Go Big, Or Go Home: How America Surpassed France in Wine Consumption

You may find yourself some time sitting in a restaurant listening to the waiter give you the list of wine specials and expect to hear a long list of French wines peppered with wines from other regions, perhaps one being from the US. Would you be surprised if I told you wine consumption is shifting and the types of wines being consumed have changed drastically over the last few years making the US the biggest national wine market? Yes, the US is big, and not going anywhere any time soon.

Currently there are 275 wine makers in Virginia and more than 77,000 in the US. Wine production here has gone up with the help of varied climates, whereas in Europe, consumption has gone down. Why the shift?  Blame it on Barefoot. 10700466_298449880354206_1652098658525161490_o


With wine specials at every grocery store varying from deep sales cuts to bulk discounts, Americans are buying wine by the dozen, and stocking up. The French have become more selective about the wines they choose to consume, choosing quality over quantity. How very ‘French ‘of them.


Europeans as a whole are also working longer hours, taking shorter breaks, and choosing more on the go meal options as opposed to sitting down as a family and leaving the old adage of treating dinner as an event rather than a means to an end behind. Sound American? Well, it is. Americans are enjoying and appreciating wine more and more and our population is larger. Wine is still a mystery to our newbie country, so it’s no surprise we as a nation have become so fascinated with the plethora of choices there are to choose from.


1604632_283722538493607_9215111132266834112_nWe are fortunate to live in an area where we can explore many of these wines in our own backyard! Plan a day to journey in the world of wine with friends, colleagues, or any other group you like to drink with and discover what many Americans have already found: we make some damn good wine.


So, the next time you find yourself sitting in a restaurant listening to the waiter go on and on about their wine specials, stop him or her and ask, “So, what can you tell me about your Virginia wine selection?”

F. Fauquier

The Francis Fauquier Tournante

Ask anyone in Northern Virginia what they know about Fauquier County and they’ll either say ‘Horse Country’ ‘Wine Country’ or ‘The other side of the boonies’. Many (if any) don’t know the rich history behind the county or the man of whom the county is named after. Francis Fauquier was known in his time to be a rule breaker, scoffing at labels he didn’t approve of, and to write his own history. Funny enough, his personality seemed to seep into the valleys because Fauquier County has the same kind of attitude.

Francis was brought up to be a renaissance man, and became one of the governors of Founding Hospital for abandoned children while living and working in England (His father, to note, worked with Sir Isaac Newton).  When he came to the colony of Virginia as Lieutenant Governor he earned quite the reputation. He disobeyed instructions, gained and maintained friendships in the House of Burgesses, dissolving the house when it passed a resolution against the Stamp Act, and sympathized with colonists. Known as ‘young and hotheaded’ he was also one of the ablest and most popular of the royal governors.  Sums up the spirit of Fauquier County doesn’t it?

In honor of the 252nd anniversary of Francis Fauquier’s validation of the successful cultivation of a vineyard of European vines in Virginia in 1763, the winegrowers of the county join together for an annual tradition to celebrate the Francis Fauquier Tournante. This event is inspired by a similar Tournante, the Saint Vincent Tournante a Burgundian tradition, and is of great symbolic importance in recognizing the winegrowing community of the northern Piedmont region of Virginia.

 Francis Fauquier Tournante 2013

The celebration date falls between the vine’s dormant winter state and the first appearance of new growth, the time when pruning begins, and it signifies the beginning of the new winegrowing season.  A procession of flags bearing the arms of each Fauquier winery process in ceremony lead by the Knights of the Vine, proceedings rooted deep in the history of wine.  The procession is followed by a general assembly of the brotherhood.  Member families and guests then sit down together for a grand pig roast feast. The event is hosted by a different Fauquier winery each year, and the day’s activities include: The Fauquier Wineries Tasting, live music, the Francis Fauquier Ceremony, and traditional Pig Roast feast.

Eleven wineries will be participating in this event: Desert Rose, Naked Mountain, Barrel Oak, Rappahannock Cellars, Cobbler Mountain, Winding Road, Mediterranean Cellars, Molon Lave, Three Fox, Marterella Winery, and Philip Carter (who will also be the host).Francis Fauquier Tournante 2014 (4)

The Knights of the Vine plan to attend, Pastor Kim of Sermon from the Vine will give the message, Kevin McGrath will sound the bag pipes, and the pig will be from Dark Hollow in Markham and catered by Chef Victor of Orlean Market.  The procession is open to the public.  Reservations are required for the pig roast, seating is limited.  Follow this link to register and join in this historic event! http://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-francis-fauquier-tournante-tickets-15062772157


Where It All Began

Virginia has a long history with wine. Not the greatest history, of course, but a very long one.  Virginia’s history begins with one of the greatest men of our time: Thomas Jefferson.  Was he the luminary, the visionary, the champion of the grape, putting this great Commonwealth on the forefront of the wine industry? No. Actually, he sucked at it. Scratch that. He really, really, sucked at it.

Sure, he wrote the Declaration of Independence, was seen as a visionary, and excelled as our third president, but as a winemaker, he was a disaster.  But he didn’t keep it all to himself though. He managed to help set in motion devastation to the wine industry within the entire Old World, changing the course of history.

The Phylloxera Grape Vine Louse (a small yellow louse which feeds on the roots of grape vines) that contributed in killing Jefferson’s European vines hitchhiked all the way to Europe, wiping out most of the continent’s grapevines. It took the better part of a century for Europe to gain ground again, and another 200 years for Virginia to make wines that were at least drinkable, if not unremarkable.

Yet Jefferson somehow- from the first vine he planted in 1771 and all the destruction he set in motion-still came out on top.  A new generation of Virginia winemakers and oenological pioneers set out to create wines that are on par with those from California and Europe, sparking a fascination and love around the world for our beloved grapes.

Virginia may not be Napa Valley yet, but with 230 wineries and growing, we’re currently the fifth-largest-wine-grape-growing state.  The blends of grapes, wine making methods, types of soils are boundless, and a little confusing. Which is why we’re hoping you’ll follow us on our weekly journey through Virginia wine country; what makes our grapes great, what flavors you may find yourself liking, and what’s the difference between all the different types of wines (this kind of knowledge will make you a hit at parties too!)

No, not too many people know where our love affair with creating world class wine began, and sure, it was a rocky start, but it’s not about how you start, or even how you get there, it’s how you finish that matters most. Knowing where you came from helps too. We love Virginia and we love Virginia wine, which is why, through our blog, we hope to educate you enough to love Virginia wine too.


*Already excited about tasting some of the greatest wines our Commonwealth has to offer? Contact us to help craft a unique tour of some of our amazing wineries for you and your guests!


10/10/14 – Herndon High School 30th Reunion Wine Tour

Roasted Chicken & Brie paired with Rappahannock Cellars Seyval 2013

09/20/14 – Passion for Food, Wine & Life Experience