Tag Archives: wine-tasting

World is Ending!!! Might as well go out with a wine-tasting

Two months ago, my friends and I had a little wine-tasting adventure (as blogged about by Sheridan at Barkless Vegetables) to some vineyards in Northern Virginia.  As wines go, Virginia does an ok job of turning out some decent wines, but is certainly not ready to be crowned the wine capitol of the world.  However, wine-tasting with friends is always fun and these places are nearby. 

The best of the 3 places we went to was Tarara.

Tarara’s wines were better tasting than those from the neighboring vineyards; however, their tasting fee is higher and their pricing is much higher (undeservedly so).  Are the wines good – yes.  But, they aren’t as good as Tarara thinks they are.  Still, I didn’t want to go home empty handed so I bought a bottle of their 2006 Cabernet Franc.  Because it was such a nice day, we all split a bottle of their Meritage, got some snacks and relaxed on their terrace.


Later that week, Ryan and I opened up our bottle for dinner and it was HORRIBLE.  It wasn’t simply a case of I did a lot of wine-tasting and chose a not-so-great bottle in my buzzed state of mind.  It was truly undrinkable and we poured it down the drain.  I emailed the folks at Tarara about the bottle and they were very accomodating.  We were offered replacement bottles and a complimentary tasting.  So, this last weekend Ryan and I made our way over to Tarara to cash in. 

Of course, we picked the worst weekend ever.  Tarara’s tasting room was closed and they were having a complimentary outdoor tasting with a “vineyard tour”.  While this was nice, our tasting was supposed to include additional wines that were not available because the tasting room was closed.  Again, Tarara was great about this and threw in more free bottles of wine to make up for it.  We figured we were already there, so we hopped on the wagon for a tour. 

As the tractor pulled us through the rows of vines, I assumed we would be given some sort of speech about the history of the vineyard or the types of grapes and their growing habits or something.  Radio silence.  However, I was with Ryan who makes friends with everyone, so he struck up a conversation with the woman manning the tour and she told us a little about the history. 

Apparently, the owners were searching for some land to start a vineyard when they happened upon the land that is currently Tarara.  There had been heavy rain in the preceding days and one of the lower fields was flooded.  Looming behind the flooded plain was Sugar Loaf Mountain (which Ryan had already identified as soon as we pulled into the driveway).  According to the story, the owners thought of Noah and his arc landing at Mount Ararat.  The bought the land and named the vineyard Tarara, or Ararat spelt backwards.  Sticking with this trend some of their wines bear the name Nevaeh, or heaven spelt backwards.  As it turns out, we made a very fitting choice for how to spend our time on the day of the Rapture.   

The outdoor tasting was a nice change from doing more traditional indoor tastings.  The tents were set up right next to the vines and it was much more beautiful than being stuck inside.  Plus, it was sunny and nice to be outdoors!

Overall, I had a good time at this tasting (despite the de-railing of our original plan) and at the last tasting I was at.  Plus, the staff was really great about the bottle incident and seemed truly genuine in their desire to make up for the quality lapse.  My only complaint still is that the wines are a little pricey for what they are.  Still, if you live in the area and feel like going for a tasting its near by and fairly good wine.  They also have an outdoor concert series for the summer.


Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Food and Drink


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Drinking with George – The Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival

Last year Ryan and I went to the Mount Vernon wine festival and had a fantastic time!  So, just to make sure we got tickets this year, I set an outlook reminder on my work computer for the first day of sales….hahaha.  I know it’s lame, but I wanted tickets and I was rewarded for my nerdy efforts.

Unfortunately, even with my reminder, Friday had already been sold out and we had plans for Saturday night (the camping trip to Shenandoah with our infamous ranger friend from a previous post).  Sunday, October 3rd was the only other option, so while not ideal, we took it because really there is no bad time for a wine festival.

The weekend came and was one of the nicest, warmest fall weekends.  That is, until Sunday.  Sunday was rain and lots of it!  However, people are not to be deterred from their need to imbibe.  Boots and rain jackets donned, we headed to our first president’s fine estate.

On the one hand, the cooler temps were nice because the wine warmed you right up!  On the other, because of the rain, more people continued their tastings longer rather than settling on a bottle or two and sitting out on the lawn listening to the band.  This made for a rather crowded tasting tent, but the more the merrier!

Tasting Tent

In total 17 vineyards from around Virginia attended the festival and for $30 plus tax and fees, you have unlimited tasting, admission to Mount Vernon and a souvenir tasting glass….not bad at all!  Plus, you are hanging out where George Washington did, so that’s pretty cool.

Mr. President

According to American, George himself found wine to be one of life’s simple pleasures:

My manner of living is plain and I do not mean to be put out of it.  A glass of wine and a bit of mutton are always ready.

Who am I to argue with our first president?  Let’s get to the wine!!!

In reality, most people don’t stop at every vineyards booth, so you kind of carve out a game plan based on which ones you are set on tasting and which ones look like they have space for you to saddle up to the table.  Ryan and I both like Horton, so we wanted to save that for last.  Other than that, we just went wherever we found space.

Chateau Morrisette

The man who conducted our tasting here was knowledgeable but a little soft-spoken for such a loud and widely attended event.  The wines were pretty good, with the standouts for me being their Liberty (a Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend) and Independence (a Traminette and Riesling blend). Plus, both of these wines are service dog wines, meaning that a portion of the proceeds go to the Saint Francis Service Dog Foundation and the Service Dogs of Virginia.

Blenheim Vineyards

The woman at this booth was doing the vineyard a major disservice.  She was unfriendly and not engaging.  We were some of the first people to walk up and she did not say one word to us.  When we engaged her, it was like pulling teeth to get this lady to talk about the wines.  Unreal.  Maybe it was the bad start to this tasting, or maybe her dull personality is a true reflection of their wines, but I only really liked their Cabernet Franc and even that was not anything spectacular.

West Wind Farm

Overall, I really liked the wines that this vineyard put forth.  Of course, the Riesling was tasty (after living in Alsace, Rieslings are my favorite!) but I also really enjoyed their Chambourcin and their Galena Creek Peach.  The Galena Creek Peach was incredibly sweet and you guessed it, peach-flavored.  It would be a nice wine to use with desserts or maybe mixed with Champagne.

Prince Michel

Again, another fairly good offering.  The Merlot was better than I anticipated as someone who is not inclined to choose a Merlot.  The Rapidan River Semi Dry Riesling was also very good.


Wine please!

Horton far and away had the best atmosphere.  How do you create atmosphere in a booth?  Their pourers had personality, so even though at times one of them was a little out there, they still had a way better vibe than any of the other vineyards.  Horton also brought the most options for you to taste.  My favorites here were the Eclipse White which was absolutely fantastic and their Vintage Port.  The Eclipse is smooth and sweet, but not too sweet and would be absolutely the best summer wine for an outdoor party, picnic, or day out on the boat.

Horton also had an interesting array of fruit wines and chocolate wines.  Both the lighter and darker chocolate wines were pretty good.  I preferred the lighter one.  Their peach was not as good as West Wind’s, but their raspberry and pomegranate were both great!

After Horton, it was time to make our purchases and get home to some cooking and more wine drinking!

Our Bounty

Raspberry Wine Chocolate Cake

Taking the suggestion of our rather crazy wine pourer from Horton, I made a cake using their Raspberry wine.  I bought a double chocolate fudge cake mix and substituted the wine for the water.

After it cooled, I iced it with cream cheese frosting and sprinkled dark chocolate shavings on top.  Eating this cake with the remainder of the raspberry wine was a fantastic dessert!  I can only imagine how much better it would be if you have some legit baking skills and made a cake from scratch doing this.  I highly recommend giving this a try.



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Posted by on October 16, 2010 in Food and Drink


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Not Without Its Charm

As a person who likes to look at the positives in life, sometimes to the annoyance of others, I recently was reminded that I am right and that there is always something good, even in the strangest of circumstances.  A couple weekends ago, I traveled to Everett, PA.  “What in the hell is in Everett?” you ask.  So did most of my friends and colleagues.  My boyfriend and I just wanted to get away somewhere close by to do a little camping, maybe some kayaking and just relax.  I was also thinking that we could do some wine tasting along the way.  So, I went to, which is a really helpful website by the way, and found a campground that would fit all of these things – The Woy Bridge Campground.

First of all, Woy Bridge?  Just saying the name made me feel like a six year old with a lisp or Elmer Fudd.  But, sites were only $20/night, kayaks were $12/day and the sites were riverfront spots.  So, to Woy Bridge we would go!  Making a reservation proved to be a challenge.  When you dial the number from the website, a woman who sounds like my great aunt from smalltown Minnesota instructs you to call Bill at a different number.  Seems sketchy, but a lot of small campground use host campers.  Hint to anyone who wants to go to Woy Bridge – here is Bill’s number 814-977-2845.  So, after calling Bill a few times and getting his voicemail, we decided to chance it and just drive up there.  (The day of our drive we did eventually get a hold of Bill to find out that, happily, there would be a site for us!)

After a pleasant drive, a stop at Sheetz and some Sirius radio with yours truly as the featured dj, we were getting close to Everett and nearing the part of the drive when we would need to use a detour.  The Woy Bridge website kindly noted that a bridge was under construction and gave detour details.  However, we got all sorts of turned around.  We meandered through farm country, cutting through the odor of cowpies, for about 20 minutes until we finally found the gravel road we were supposed to turn down.  It was, as the website had described, “located between a house trailer and a farmhouse.”

We checked in with our host camper – an ancient looking man who moved at one pace and one pace only…his own.  It was not so much that he didn’t have the physical ability to move any faster, but that he did not care to.  He methodically checked us in and we were on our way.  The first couple sites were a bit creepy.  People had been staying there so long that some of the campers didn’t even have tires on them anymore.  Awnings, tables, adirondack chairs, pop-up showers, tiki torches, large grills and even family welcome signs rounded out many of these sites.  I was starting to think this was more of a crazy, backward living community than an actual campground.  Still, when we got to our site it was GREAT!  It was directly on the river, had tons of space and had a giant stone fire pit.  With little fanfare or fuss, we set up our camp and then promptly set out to go to a local vineyard.

Briar Valley Vineyard – Walking into Briar Valley, there is not much going on.  However, nobody was there, the tasting host was very friendly and the tasting was $2.  If you only taste 2 or less wines, it’s free.  One glass in, I realized I had not gone to the bathroom the whole road trip and really needed to go.  I was dumbfounded to find out that there was no public bathroom and that I could go across the street to Burger King to use theirs.  So, we took a tasting time out to visit BK.  Despite that ridiculous detail and that it was not the typical tasting atmosphere  – think outdoor seating, cheese/meat & cracker trays, and maybe even some live music – the wines were pretty good.  One stood out as unique and delicious – The Lemberger.  We bought a bottle to have with our buffalo burgers later and it was absolutely tasty.  I would stop in just to take a quick taste of it and buy a bottle!

Lemberger from Briar Valley

During our bathroom break, we noticed a store that was called On eBay.  After describing to Ryan the store from 40 Year Old Virgin (he hasn’t seen it), we decided to pop in for a look.  This was not at all what we thought it was going to be.  Instead of a collection of eBayesque items that are random, unique, interesting, fun, bizarre, etc. this place was more of a thrift store meets Marshalls.  Metal shelving units held old-looking houselhold items (not vintage….outdated) and countless duplicates of the same boring castaway shirts hung from the clothesracks.  We were in and out in minutes.

Back at camp, Ryan (my boyfriend) had a stare-down with a crazy old lady who was either our camp host’s mother or wife (maybe both?) and dealt with two yippy chihuahuas in order to gather our wheelbarrel of firewood.  We made it back to camp, sat down by the river Coors light in hand and just relaxed.  A raging fire, some buffalo burgers and a good bottle of wine was exactly what we had in mind when we set out for Everett and it is exactly what we got.  Overall, I would definitely say that the Woy Bridge Campground, and Everett, PA as a whole, is definitely not without its charm.

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Posted by on August 19, 2010 in Camping


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