Wine: Articles

New Virginia Wine Lovers: Fine Wine Divas Trip to Early Mountain Vineyards

Our July Fine Wine Divas event took the Ladies on a field trip to Virginia wine country. As most live in the DC area, it was time to immerse them in this great wine region in their backyard. Most came in skeptical … all walked away convinced … Virginia has great things to offer wine lovers!

The Venue

We set out to Early Mountain Vineyards, about 90 miles south of DC, on Saturday. It’s a great spot to take anyone interested in Virginia wine. Not only can you taste Early Mountain’s great wines, but they also have the Best of Virginia program. Best of Virginia is an initiative created to celebrate and champion the finest wines of Virginia by featuring them in the tasting room. This is your virtual tour across the state. Their partner wineries include Thibaut-JanissonKing Family VineyardsLinden VineyardsBarboursville VineyardsChatham VineyardsBreaux Vineyards and Ankida Ridge Vineyards. Wines from the partner wineries are tasted in flights, offered by the glass and sold by the bottle, along with the local curated food program of panini, salad, cheese, charcuterie and sweets.

The History

On our ride down, we gave a little on the history of Virginia wine. It dates back four centuries to the original English settlers of Jamestown in 1607. They were required to grow 10 grapevines each of European origin when they arrived in Virginia, but diseased vines prevented anything from coming of it. Thomas Jefferson, with the help of his Italian viticulturist Filippo Mazzei, tried for over 30 years to grow vines at Monticello, but again wine was never produced. The mid-1800s showed promise when the Virginia Norton wine, made from Native American grapes, was named “best red wine of all nations” at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair and received a gold medal at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair. Unfortunately Prohibition in the early 20th-century stopped all wine production. But in the 1970s with six new wineries, Virginia’s wine comeback began. Watch this great video from Virginia Wine for more details.

The Tasting

Early Mountain put together a fabulous wine tasting and food pairing afternoon for us. The Virginia wine tour included…

  • 2012 Early Mountain Pinot Gris
  • 2012 Lovingston Winery Seyval Blanc
  • 2012 King Family Vineyards Crosé
  • 2012 Early Mountain “Block 11” Petit Manseng
  • 2011 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir
  • 2011 Early Mountain Handshake
  • 2011 Sunset Hills Vineyard Petit Verdot
  • 2012 Glen Manor Petit Manseng

And the top 3 favorites…

2011 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Round black cherry and cassis
  • Taste: Fresh cherry and white pepper
  • Price: $42
  • My thoughts: This is a Virginia stand out. They say Virginia can’t grow Pinot Noir but Ankida Ridge shows they can. One of our Ladies is a huge Pinot fan and said, “Virginia has done well!”

2012 Early Mountain “Block 11” Petit Manseng

  • Variety: 65% Petit Manseng, 35% Muscat
  • Aroma: Apricot and floral
  • Taste: Honey and apricot
  • Price: $24
  • My thoughts: Everyone loved this wine! It’s fruit forward taste was also a great pairing with the foods.

2012 Lovingston Winery Seyval Blanc

  • Variety: 100% Seyval Blanc
  • Aroma: Citrus
  • Taste: Citrus and white fruits
  • Price: $20
  • My thoughts: As a cousin of Sauvignon Blanc, this is a great option to that wine. It’s got more floral and fruit notes then the typical Sauvignon Blanc’s grassy and citrus flavor.

This is also the first tasting I can remember that we’ve had several Ladies like each of the wines. Very good news for Virginia wine!

Cheers to Early Mountain for a fabulous afternoon! Mission accomplished..we have more Virginia wine ambassadors spreading the word!

Visit these pages for more on Grape Occasions on Virginia wine and Early Mountain Vineyards.

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Finding Your New Favorite Summer White Wine

Our June Fine Wine Divas event set our members up for summer entertaining success as we tried a variety of white wines – perfect for sipping on your back patio, front porch, or in a nice air-conditioned room.

Throughout the evening, we tasted the following sparkling and still white wines:

  • J Cuvée 20 Brut (NV), California, USA ($28)
  • Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru (NV), Champagne, France ($37)
  • 2011 Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, California, USA ($19)
  • 2012 Bayten Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa ($14)
  • 2012 Colomé Torrontés, Argentina ($13)
  • Fuzelo Vinho Verde (NV), Portugal ($9)
  • Di Lenardo Pinot Grigio (NV), Friuli, Italy ($13)
  • Veritas Vineyard White Star (NV), Virginia, USA ($18)
  • 2011 Georg Albrecht Schneider Niersteiner Hipping Riesling Spätlese, Germany ($19)

And the evening’s favorites were…

Louis de Sacy Brut Grand Cru (NV)

  • Variety: 60% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier from Champagne, France
  • Aroma: Red fruits, citrus, herbs
  • Taste: Honey, yeast and apple
  • Price: $37 (available at Whole Foods)
  • Pair with: Salty appetizers, light summer salad
  • My thoughts: This is one of my favorite Champagnes and it did not disappoint.

 Veritas Vineyard White Star (NV)

  • Variety: Blend of Viognier, Traminette, Chardonnay, Petite Manseng from Virginia
  • Aroma: Apricot, slight florals
  • Taste: Mango, pineapple and coconut
  • Price: $18 (available at
  • Pair with: Spicy Asian cuisine
  • My thoughts: With a touch of sweetness and the blend of whites, it’s perfect for a hot summer day.

2012 Colomé Torrontés

  • Variety: 100% Torrontés from Calchaqui Valley, Argentina
  • Aroma: Rose, spice and grapefruit
  • Taste: Round and full bodied with notes of jasmine, orange blossom and elegant tropical fruit
  • Price: $13 (available at
  • Pair with: Fresh seafood and grilled chicken
  • My thoughts: This was a winner with everyone and much more full bodied than other Torrontés I’ve tried.

As a Virginia wine lover, I was thrilled to see a wine from Charlottesville make the top 3 for the evening!

Check out this handy infographic categorizing the 20 words most often used to describe white wines – making it easy to describe (and find!) what you like!

Cheers to Summer!

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West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: California’s Central Coast Wine

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is the great travel and wine experiences we had along the way…from Washington to Oregon to California!

Next stop was California…and while it pained me to drive by Sonoma on our drive south without stopping, I was able to briefly visit two wine regions in California I haven’t spent time in…Monterey Wine Country and San Luis Obispo / Santa Barbara. (For more details on each, check out this California Wines Map.)

Monterey Wine Country is home to 85 vintners, 42 grape varieties and “The Blue Grand Canyon,” the deep marine canyon of the Monterey Bay providing the region the cooling influence and making it perfect for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. South of San Francisco with the beautiful towns of Monterey, Carmel and Big Sur, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Staying in Carmel, we stopped into Constance, The Wine Room for a tasting before dinner to try a few of the local wines. My favorite was the …

De Tierra 2008 Pinot Noir

  • Variety: Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Berry
  • Taste: Blueberry Cobbler
  • Price: $25
  • My thoughts: We tasted several reds from this region but this one was especially notable…nicely developed and a round flavor of blueberry cobbler.

Then we headed south into San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara wine counties. We stopped into Santa Barbara for a quick stroll and hit the Conway Family’s Deep Sea Tasting Room on Stearn’s Wharf in Santa Barbara.

The Conway Family produces Deep Sea and Rancho Arroyo Grande wines. Deep Sea wines are sourced from select and notable Central Coast California vineyards that share the complexities associated with California’s maritime-influenced appellations. My favorite is from the Arroyo Grande Valley.

2009 Deep Sea Viognier, Coquina Vineyard

  • Variety: Viognier
  • Aroma: Honey and pear
  • Taste: Creamy citrus and pear
  • Price: $26
  • My thoughts: I’ve explored many Viogniers from Virginia (my home state and the official grape of the state) so was excited to see what it’s doing in this area of California. Out of all the wines I tasted, including many locals’ favorite Sauvignon Blanc, this was indeed my favorite. Richer than Virginia’s offerings but quite nice.

That’s it for our wine exploring on the trip. Next up…details on a few of our travel stops in Oregon and California.


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West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: Sarver Winery

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) was the great travel and wine experiences to be had…from Washington to Oregon to California!

After Washington, we hit Oregon and THE region for Pinot Noir in the U.S….Willamette Valley. Sarver Winery was our stop outside Eugene as they hosted our Oregon launch event.

We had story times and activities for the kids, and the adults enjoyed the fabulous wines and beautiful vistas at this family owned winery. It’s the perfect family destination with Erin and Chris as wonderful hosts.

Elhanan Vineyard at Sarver Winery was established in 1984 as one of the first growers of premium Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris grapes in the southern Willamette Valley. Chris and Erin took it over in winter 2008.

At the end of our event, I was able to taste through their incredible wine line up…2011 Estate Stainless Pinot Gris, 2011 Estate Barrel-Aged Pinot Gris, 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé (bottle and on tap), 2010 Estate Grown Pinot Noir, 2009 Cuvée (blend of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Syrah), 2011 Gewürztraminer, 2011 Estate Riesling and 2007 Porto “Syrato.” Truly all the wines were outstanding, but I had to pick a few to take home …

Sarver Winery 2011 Estate Stainless Pinot Gris

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Gris
  • Aroma: Floral, citrus
  • Taste: White flowers, lemongrass
  • Price: $15.00
  • My thoughts: You can’t beat a Pinot Gris from Oregon and this is the perfect example!

Sarver Winery 2012 Pinot Noir Rosé

  • Variety: 100% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Summer berries
  • Taste: Strawberry, raspberry with hints of earthiness
  • Price: $19.00
  • My thoughts: This was my favorite! They were serving it from the bottle and on tap, giving it a little CO2 and effervescence…fun but I preferred it straight from the bottle. Perfect for the start of summer!

With summer coming, I went with these, but I will definitely be ordering their Estate Grown Pinot Noir for Autumn!

Special thank you to Wine Julia for the suggestion, coordination and all the promotion!

Cheers to Sarver Winery, the amazing Pinot Noir they are growing, and the Willamette Valley!

More to come from the West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures.

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West Coast Book Tour Wine & Travel Adventures: Treveri Cellars

One of the great things about a West Coast Book Launch Tour (for my new book, KeeKee’s Big Adventures in Paris, France) is there were great travel and wine experiences to be had…from Washington to Oregon to California!

We started in Seattle which meant Washington wine. Just into town, a friend gave us a bottle of Treveri Cellars “Blanc de Blanc” Extra-Brut. The same winery happened to be featured at an event Saturday night at Bottlehouse, a great little wine bar in Seattle’s Madrona neighborhood. This time the Trevari Cellars Sparkling Rosé.

Treveri is a family-owned sparkling wine house in Washington’s Columbia Valley. They opened in November 2010 with a mission to put Washington sparkling wine on the map. Since its opening, Treveri wine has been served at White House State Department receptions and the James Beard Foundation in New York.

Producing a wide array of sparkling wines, including non-traditional varieties such as Riesling, Pinot Gris, Petite Verdot, Mueller-Thurgau and Syrah, Treveri focuses on 100% varietal sparkling wines.

The “Blanc de Blanc” Extra-Brut is very interesting and bursting with apple notes. But my favorite was the…

Treveri Cellars Sparkling Rosé

  • Variety: Chardonnay and Syrah
  • Aroma: Berry and citrus
  • Taste: Sparkling strawberry with hints of rhubarb
  • Price: $18
  • My thoughts: This is an excellent sparkling AND rosé…similar to something you’d taste from France. It was a big hit with the crowd at the event!

Cheers to this great sparkler from Washington!

More to come from the West Coast Book Tour’s Wine & Travel Adventures.

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