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Wine Trail Traveler Presentation Events

Terry Sullivan presenting to members of The Village in Howard.

In addition to writing books, articles and blog posts, Wine Trail Traveler also conducts wine presentations. For three years one set of presentations has been for the group The Village in Howard. This TVIH group is composed of of members from Howard County, Maryland aged 55 and above. Some of the over 200 members enjoy wine. Throughout the year, Terry and Kathy conduct four presentations called “Teach & Taste.” The topic changes for each presentation as do the wines tasted.

Last Sunday, we had our November “Teach & Taste “with a topic of red varietal wines. The format for this presentation was experimental and was well received by those attending. Instead of moving furniture out of our dining room and setting up chairs, we extended the size of the dining room table and attendees sat at the table. Added to the wine focus of this event were small bites of food paired with the wines. 

Each place setting included a handout with notes with a space to evaluate the wines. Also each place setting had a bottle of water, a dessert-size plate and a wine glass. There were two charcuterie trays placed on the table. As Terry went through the presentation, he stopped to pour a tasting of a wine for each. After evaluating and talking about the wine, a food item was passed out and the attendees took a sip of wine, then the bite of food followed by another sip of wine. They were asked to concentrate on two questions. 

1. Does the wine enhance the food?

2. Does the food enhance the wine?

There were various comments about the wine and food pairings.

For our November “Teach & Taste” wines and food pairings sampled included:

Saperavi – Tasted with a piece of meat from charcuterie tray.

Petite Sirah – Paired with a piece of dark chocolate.
Cabernet Franc – Sampled with Kathy’s baked brie appetizer.
Tannat – Paired with a dark chocolate fudge brownie.

Malbec – Matched with a piece of pizza.
Petit Verdot – Tasted with a piece of grilled sausage.

In addition to the 1½ to 2 hour fun event, the “Teach &Taste” events includes a break so that attendees can partake of a variety of appetizers and dessert while enjoying the comaraderie of everyone.

In most cases, people noticed that the addition of food along with each wine changes perceptions. Usually the group thought the pairing of the wine and food enhanced each other. The group enjoyed this format of the teach and taste and are looking forward to our end of January presentation about the “Wines from the Romantic Danube.”

If you are interested in hosting Terry and Kathy for a wine presentation, check out their presentation page

on the Wine Trail Traveler site and contact us.


Georges Duboeuf’s Wildflowers Wines Pair Well with Thanksgiving

2017 Georges Duboeuf Wildflower Merlot

We received three wines from the Wildflowers line by Georges Duboeuf. These wines are from the Pays d’Oc region in Southern France. The wines, all from 2017, included a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir. Our overall reaction was that these wines would pair well with Thanksgiving dinners. The US suggested retail price for each of the wines was $11.99 for a 750 ml bottle. That is a very reasonable price for French wines.

A challenge to serving wines at a traditional Thanksgiving feast is the multiple flavors and textures that grace the dinner table. The wines we tasted were all fruit forward with medium to full bodies and mild tannins. At most, the wines had a faint influence of oak. They would match easily with turkey, stuffing, and the wide array of side dishes. 

In 1964, Georges Duboeuf founded Le Vins Georges Duboeuf with the belief that the wines should express the terroir of the region. The wine bottle labels feature a drawing of a native French wildflower and a handwritten name of the varietal grape. The Wildflower series of wines emphasize the sustainably farmed vineyards. Wildflowers were planted as cover crops in the vineyards along with grasses. The wildflowers attract beneficial insects and promote a sustainable ecosystem.

Georges Duboeuf 2017 Wildflower Cabernet Sauvignon

The labels on the three wines we received included the following wildflowers:

Cabernet Sauvignon – Scabiosa

Merlot – Cornflower
Pinot Noir – Red Poppy

The Wines

Merlot Pays d’Oc 2017 was an opaque dark violet color with a ruby hue. This 13.5% alcohol wine had an aroma of luscious dark berry fruits and a hint of violets. The taste was reminiscent of blueberries, blackberries, black cherries and violets. The wine was medium to full bodied and had mild tannins. The finish was crisp and fruity. This wine represents what the Merlot grape is capable of producing. 

The Pinot Noir Pays d’Oc 2017 had a translucent ruby color with a deep red hue and had 13% alcohol. The aroma included red berry fruits. The medium to full-bodied wine had very mild tannins. Raspberries and black cherries were noticed on the taste. The wine had a smooth mouthfeel. The finish is fruity with a slight touch of pepper. It is a gentle wine that can pair with many foods.

Cabernet Sauvignon Pays d’Oc 2017 had a dark purple color with a ruby hue. The translucent ruby rim emphasizes the wine’s youthfulness. The aroma comprises dark berry fruits. The fruit forward taste offered blackberries, black raspberries, cassis and baking spices. The smooth mouthfeel accompanies the full body with medium/bold tannins. The alcohol is 13%.

With a price point of $11.99, try these wines at your Thanksgiving feast.


Alma Vitis, a White Wine from Portugal

Alma Vitis, white wine in Portugal

On a pleasant, sunlit afternoon, we opened a bottle of Alma Vitis wine from Portugal. This particular Alma Vitis white wine was a gift from the mayor of a town in the Torres Vedras DOC region. Our wine tour, e-Spain by Ángel Moretón, had stopped at three small wineries in the Torres Vedras DOC region and we were pleased to meet Carlos Manuel Antunes Bernardes, mayor of Torres Vedras. After our wine tasting at Quinta da Folgorosawe returned to our large tour bus and were pleasantly surprised to realize that we had been gifted with a Alma Vitis white wine.

The Alma Vitis wine was 13.5% alcohol. The color of the wine was a pale yellow with a green hue. The wine aroma was light and delicate with tropical fruit notes including grapefruit and hints of pineapple.  The taste included mineral notes. The finish was fruity with mineral. The finish was forward with a mineral aftertaste.

The wine was perfect on a 70 degree autumn day with the sun shining brilliantly. You will want to consider enjoying this wine as a “pick me up.” Recommended serving suggestions include shellfish and fish.

It is important to know that the Alma Vitis wine is produced with Fernão Pires and Arinto. The winemakers are Lisete Lucas and José Neiva Correiauboeuf.

The wine business is Adega Coop. de São Mamede da Ventosa C.R.L. It is located in the Torres Vedra region of Portugal. The cooperative had its beginnings in 1956. Their inspiration was their love of tradition and the land. The  organization was focused on promoting local development and promoting the region. Today the cooperative uses modern technology and intent of producing quality wines.

When traveling be sure to look for Alma Vitis wines.


Make Your Holiday Recipes Special: Add a Little Wine

A recipe that calls for red wine and cherries!

Now that fall cooking is underway, it is a great time to start adding wine to your recipes. Of course, since you are unlikely to use the entire bottle of wine in the recipe, there will undoubtedly be enough wine left to enjoy while creating your masterpiece or to serve with dinner. 

Below are seven suggestions for adding wine to your recipes.

  1. When baking a box cake, substitute wine for the water. Terry well remembers when he was in elementary school, his mother taught him this trick.
  2. When cooking meat, start off by marinating the beef, pork or chicken in a little wine. The addition of wine tends to help tenderize the meat making it tender and  and adds hints of robustness. We prefer using red wine for beef dishes and white wine for chicken.
  3. Risotto dishes frequently call for wine. We prefer using a slightly oaked Chardonnay when cooking risotto. We discovered that Chardonnay is a great cooking wine.
  4.  I find some types of fish to be rather bland unless cooked with oil, onions etc. Next time you plan to cook fish, add a little wine.
  5. When cooking tomato-based recipes try adding a little red wine.
  6.  Keep in mind that many grocery stores sell cooking wine. If you want to cook with wine, head for your nearest wine shop and purchase a bottle of wine.
  7. Wine for cooking does not need to be expensive. Save your expensive wines for your wine glass.

The Wine Trail Traveler website offers dozens of recipes that use wine as an ingredient. Terry created a chili recipe that uses Cabernet Franc. Check it out online. It’s fun to experiment when cooking for family or friends!

While planning your holiday meals, check out the numerous recipes and perhaps add a couple of the recipes as your personal favorites.

What wines do you add to your recipes when cooking? We’d love to hear from you!


Looking at Halloween Wine-Related Ideas Over the Years!

Happy Halloween!

In celebration of Halloween, check out Wine Trail Traveler blogs written over the years. Enjoy and Happy Halloween!

A Yummy Cocktail, Perfect for Halloween October 2017 A colorful cocktail for Halloween.

Halloween Cocktail from TABLE 7, Halloween! October 2017 This blog offers a recipe for a Vampire’s Kiss cocktail

Adults Can Also Have Fun with Halloween! October 2015

Halloween Photos at Wineries October 2015

Halloween for Wine and Candy Lovers From art to wine pairing to writing haiku for Halloween!


Backsberg Estate Cellars

Backsberg EstateCellars

While attending the informative session at the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Washington DC, we learned about tourism in South Africa, and also had the opportunity to taste some of the wines now produced in South Africa. One of the wineries represented was Backsberg Estate Cellars.

The winery produces four lines of wine: Black Label, Premium, Kosher and Tread Lightly.

We began with the Backsberg 2016 Brut Classique from the Paarl region of South Africa. This is a Kosher Brut. The wine is produced with 100% Chardonnay. According to the information card provided by the importer, the Kosher Brut included, “Prior to fermentation, the Chardonnay juice is pasteurized and all handling of the grapes and wine is performed by a rabbi with approval of the Cape  Town Beth Din. The MCC is made in the traditional method of a second fermentation in the bottle and is approved Mevushal/Kosher for Passover.” This sparkling wine was a light yellow color. The dry wine offered notes of apple with some freshly baked bread. The finish of the wine lingered. Food pairing suggestions included appetizers, entrées and desserts. Backsberg Estate Cellars suggests the Kosher Brut for bar mitzvah celebrations and weddings.

The Backsberg 2017 Premium Chenin Blanc was also from the Paarl, South Africa region. The wine is produced with 100% Chenin Blanc. The winery describes this wine as a “Very simple, natural wine.” The wine was a yellow color. The aroma had citrus and tropical fruit notes. The taste had lemon, pineapple, papaya and mineral. The finish was fruity yielding to mineral. For wine pairing the Backsberg winery notes that this Chenin Blanc is a very versatile wine and suggests that it is very good for most occasions. 

The Backsberg Estate Cellars 2016 Premium Pinotage  is from the Western Cape, South Africa. The wine is produced with 100% Pinotage. The wine has 14% alcohol. The color was a translucent ruby with a red hue. The aroma was of black fruit. The taste was reminiscent of black berries and cassis. This is a full bodied wine with medium tannins. The finish was fruity. The winery suggests this wine is very drinkable alone or to pair is with lamb dishes.

History of Backsberg Estate Cellars

Backsberg Estate Cellars goes back to 1902 when a very poor Lithuanian refugee landed in Cape Town. Back’s first work was as a bicylcle delivery person. Eventually he was able to buy a butcher shop. “Legend has it he was approached in the shop and asked about buying a farm. This resulted in his selling the butcher shop….” Early on the farm grew grain, fruit and livestock. Eventually grapes were added. In the beginning, wine was distributed in bulk or sold to KWV. It was Sydney Back who started the wine brand known as Back’s Wines in 1969. This was followed in 1970 by Backsberg. Later, Michael, a grandson, expanded the farm operation and then began concentrating on quality. Much later, in 2008, Michael’s son became the head of the Backsberg business. 

Notes of Special Interest

Backsberg  now has  Carbon Neutral status, receiving that recognition as the third winery in the world to receive this. 

Michael Back was the recipient of the Drinks Business Global Lifetime Achievement Award. This was for his work in supporting the environment, sustainability, ethical practices, and education. The Backsberg winery has worked in several areas to protect the environment including: dedicating land for non-development and preservation of “Fynbos” home to reduce the carbon footprint, following the Kyoto Protocol on Greenhouse Gas emissions, adding skylights to the winery, downsizing to the trucks and tractors and using lightweight glass bottles. 


The Enjoyable Wine Tasting That Didn’t Happen!

Lugana & Valpolicella winetasting

We live in the mid-Atlantic region, so it takes us 1 1/2 to 2 hours to make a trip into the center of Washington, DC via car and Metro. We don’t mind the trip especially when we are cordially invited to a special wine tasting. This week was the first time we had trekked into the city for a wine tasting and a seminar but there were no wines to taste! You may wonder why a wine tasting event did not have wines available. It was all explained to us.

One of our early wine courses emphasized the three entities that influence the wine in your glass. These include the vineyard, the winemaker and government. Government can control the vineyards with laws on whether you can irrigate or not. During winemaking, government may have laws regarding chaptalization. Then there are numerous rules regarding labeling the bottle. In short, it was government that controlled the lack of wine in our glasses. Ours; not their’s!

The tasting that wasn’t.

It seems that a specific customs agent in the United States was not happy with the paperwork. Even though the wine was labeled not for sale and it was for a media and trade tasting, the customs agent decided the paperwork was missing one small item. Crazy!?! Maybe she was new to this line of work, or maybe not… Was it the ugly side of prohibition re-occurring? We were told that the same paperwork passed customs in another US city. In any event everyone who arrived for the “tasting that didn’t happen” was interested in the extremely informative seminar that was presented. The event was worthwhile attending. Seminar details follow.

Lugana D.O.C, Italy

The tag for the Lugana seminar was “50 Years of Elegant and Charming Tradition.” The first presenter was Carlo from the Lugana Consortium  who provided an extensive look at the Lugana D.O.C located at the far end of Lake Garda in Italy. Carlo began with a description of the geography. Lugana is located at the foot of Lake Garda and is between Verona and Brescia. The soil varies between 35 m a.s.l. and 135 m a.s.l. The glacier during the RISS era brought pebbles and stones. Lake Garda moderates the temperatures of the land and as a result there is little difference between daytime and nighttime temperatures. The wind off the lake helps to lower the humidity in the vineyards.

The Lugana wine industry is known for the Turbiana grapes. Turbiana is related to the Trebbinao di Soave variety. In Carlo’s presentation, it was noted that the Turbiana grape is low-yielding. 

In 2017 Lugana had 2,113 hectares (5,221 acres) of grapes. Also Lugana winemakers bottled 16,188,673 bottles.  Lugana D.O.C. has 196 grape growers and 113 bottlers. Germany is the main market for the Lugana wines; however, they also ship wine to Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom. 

Lugana Wines

All Lugana wines may have 10% complementary grapes as long as the grapes do not influence the aromatics of the wine.

Ninety percent of Lugana D.O.C. wines are produced in the standard way.

Lugana Superiore wines were introduced in 1998. These wines are aged for a least one year after harvest. 

Lugana Riserva wines are aged for at least 24 months with 6 months of aging in the bottle.

Lugana Vendermina Tardiva is a Late Harvest wine. These wines are produced with grapes over-ripened on the vine.

The hashtag for Lugana is #savelugana. 

Valpolicella D.O.C. Italy

The presentation of the Valpolicella D.O.C. was by Nicola from Valpolicella Consorzio Tutela Vini, who introduced  Valpolicella as the “Land of Wine, Charm and Tradition.” 

The Valpolicella D.O.C. is located north of Verona. The area covers 30,000 hectares of which 8,000 hectares are vineyards. The Valpolicella region is strongly affected by Lake Garda and therefore the area has a moderate continental climate.

The area has four basic soil types.

  1. Limestone matrix
  2. River Alluvial Debris
  3. Adige Alluvial Debris
  4. Volcanic rocks

Valpolicella D.O.C. wines must be made with corvina and rondinella. Other optional varieties are  corvinone and Molinara. From one blend the winemakers produce four different types of wine.

The region produces three D.O.C wines.

  • Valpolicella D.O.C. 
  • Valpolicella D.O.C. Classico
  • Valpolicella D.O.C. Valpantena

While we have been to Italy several times, we have yet to visit the Lugana D.O.C or the Valpolicella D.O.C. – just two more destinations to add to our bucket list. We enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about Lugana D.O.C. and Valpolicella D.O.C. However, the experience would have been enhanced if the wines for the wine tasting had been delivered in time for the event. We hope to discover some of these wines in our local region so that we can write about them in future blogs.


A Travel and Wine Destination: South Africa

Sign outside the SA Embassy in Washington, DC

Early in October we visited the Embassy of the Republic of South Africa in Washington, DC for a presentation emphasizing the wonderful experiences of visiting South Africa. Before our visit, we already were aware of the wine industry in the country. We were impressed by the enthusiasm of all the presenters at the embassy event. The word “beautiful” was liberally sprinkled throughout the presentations. 

Symbol of South Africa

We were first welcomed to the event by Ambassador Mahlangu. In addition to his smile, he talked about South Africa as if it was a country he was in love with. Inspiring comments by Ambassador Mahlangu included: that they “always welcome visitors,” there is a “people to people engagement, people should “experience South Africa as a country.”  He also encouraged people that if you have not been there, then you should go there. He noted the importance of tourism. “We are the ambassadors of South Africa.”

After Ambassador Mahlangu’s welcoming notes, Ms. Banger Masisi spoke about tourism to South Africa. She noted that 2017 tourism to South Africa was successful with 70,000 visitors traveling to South Africa. The country is ranked #3 in the top 10 travel destinations.  She emphasized  the friendliness of the people. “The people are so nice. The people are naturally friendly.” Visitors are welcomed not as travelers but as friends. She added the many attractions in South Africa including wonderful beaches, safaris, changing vegetation from one area to another, walking or hiking trails, skydiving, golf and visiting wineries. Wineries may offer wine tastings, art galleries or restaurants. This is not a once in a life time  trip but repeat visits are encouraged.

A large portion of the talk was about South Africa sports tourism especially Comrade  Marathons. Mr. Bruce Fordyce is very passionate about South Africa especially in the area of sports. “So many sports we like you don’t play.” His talk also included other sports such as cricket, a five day game. He referenced the tourism related to marathons. His talk included different types of marathon events including one that goes through Kruger Park. Sometimes they have to move the elephants and lions off the road. Other marathons included the Cape Town marathon and the two oceans marathon that goes from the Atlantic to Indian Ocean. The phenomenal Comrades Marathon, with a 56 mile race, started with 20 runners and now has 20,000 runners. “The entire nation comes to a standstill,” comparing the Marathon to the Super Bowl.

Mr. Patrick Kongsilp is the US Ambassador for the Comrades Marathon. He noted that the Comrades Marathon is a part of South African culture. Participants feel what it is like being South African. It is not just the race , but also the culture of the race and and culture of South Africa. “Every South African knows about the Comrades Marathon.” Spectators are supportive of runners from other nations. He talked about a special song that everyone sings before the Comrades Marathon, Shosholoza. The song shows solidarity. Since 2010 Patrick has returned to South Africa six times, participating in the Comrades marathon multiple times. 

In describing the Comrades Marathon, Patrick said that everyone must complete the course in 12 hours. Any runners not completing the course are cut off from the finish line.

The next speaker of the day was Ms. Debra Droke from the South Africa Airways. She portrayed the airlines as being the most authentic airway. She commented that when you step on our flight you are in South Africa. She provided the example of a flight attendant taking a fussy baby on her back to give the mother a break. After serving the passengers the flight attendant gave the sleeping baby back to the mother. This example typifies the people of South Africa. Every seat has a story. The flights are authentic with great fares.

The final speaker of the day was Jim Clarke, who represents Wines of South Africa. Jim has made 19 trips to South Africa and has another one scheduled during 2018. He talked about visiting wineries noting that each winery tries to make their wine experiences unique. Most wineries are open daily and visitors can just walk in. Jim compared the experience of visiting wineries in South Africa with wineries in Napa. 

In 2019 South African vineyards will be harvesting their 360th harvest. While the wine industry dates back to 1659, it was in 1994 that modern wine industry began. Wine tourism began in 1971. Today more Chenin Blanc is produced in South Africa than any other country.

After the South African tourism event ended, we were invited into a room for a light lunch; outside that room several distributors were offering wine tastings of wines from South Africa. More about those wines in a future blog post.

The presentations of tourism in South Africa were impressive with so many examples of why South Africa is a great place to visit, that surely we put South Africa on our list of countries to visit in the future.


October is Virginia Wine Month

October is Virginia Wine Month!

During October 2018, Virginia is celebrating its 30th year Virginia Wine Month. Virginia lays claim to being the oldest state with a Wine Month. 

History buffs and wine lovers will want to know that the first Virginia Wine Month was established in 1988 by former Governor Gerald L. Baliles. Governor Bailles signed a CERTIFICATE of RECOGNITION  which stated, “By virtue of the authority vested by the Constitution in the Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, there is hereby officially recognized: VIRGINIA WINE MONTH.” 

The document made note that Jamestown settlers had been using native American grapes for fermentation and that Jefferson experimented with growing vinifera wine grapes in Virginia soil.

To see what difference in the Virginia wine industry has taken place over the years, the document noted that at that time, in 1988, Virginia had more than 40 wineries and more than 110 vineyards. Try comparing those stats with Virginia’s wine industry today. In 2018, Virginia has more than 300 wineries and most of these are open to the public. 

Prolific vineyards of Virginia

Grape Varieties in Virginia

Vineyards in Virginia are growing numerous types of grapes for producing wines. Look for wines produced with:

Cabernet Franc
Petit Manseng
Petit Verdot
Cabernet Sauvignon

In addition is the Norton grape, a native to Virginia.

When planning your trip to Virginia wineries, consider traveling one of the many wine trails which include:

211 Scenic Vino Wine Trail
Artisanal Wineries of Rappahannock
Bedford Wine Trail
Blue Ridge Whiskey Wine Loop
Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail
Eastern Shore Wine Trail
Fauquier County Wine Trail
Foothills Scenic Wine Trail
Heart of Virginia Wine Trail
Loudoun’s DC Wine Country
Monticello Wine Trail
Mountain Road Wine Trail
Nelson 151 Trail
Shenandoah County Wine Trail
Shenandoah Valley Valley Trail
SoVA Wine Trail
Wine Trail of Botetourt County

Wine Trail Traveler has visited many of Virginia’s fun and delightful wineries. The Wine Trail Traveler articles are online for your convenience.

Enjoy a visit to Virginia’s wine country during Virginia Wine Month.


Remembering a Time in Champagne

Michel Drappier introduces his father André.

Not only is Champagne Day, October 19th, a day to celebrate by having a bottle of champagne from the Champagne region of France, it is a day to remember our travels in Champagne. Kathy and I were in the Aube sub-region of Champagne and we visited Champagne Drappier in Urville. Michel Drappier visited with us, gave a tour of the caves and discussed the champagne process. Later that evening, we had dinner at our hotel and Kathy and I had the honor to sit next to Michel Drappier. 

Quattuor a champagne blend of Chardonnay, Arbane, Petit Meslier and Formenteau (Pinot Gris)

Michel is very much a family man and is the seventh generation to craft champagnes. While at the winery he introduced his father, André, noting that his father is the champagne house’s best customer. During dinner we talked about our daughters. It turned out that we both had daughters in New York City at the time. Later, we both contacted our daughters and they met at a bar in NYC. It’s a small world at times.

The most notable experience at Champagne Drappier was the opportunity to taste Quattuor. Often, when one thinks of a white grape used to craft a champagne, they think of Chardonnay. However, Chardonnay is not the only white grape that is permitted to be used to make a champagne. Arbane, Petit Meslier, Formenteau (Pinot Gris) are the other white varietal grapes permitted to be in a champagne. Champagne Drappier makes a champagne with a blend of these four white champagne grapes. Striking on the dark green bottle with a black label is the white IV above the label.

The light yellow color champagne had many columns of beads that formed a large mousse on the surface. The wine offered yellow stone fruit on the aroma and taste and had a citrus finish. Champagnes used with these traditional grapes only account for 0.3 percent of the champagne production. This was a special champagne to taste.

On October 19th, the world will celebrate Champagne Day. What special bottle of champagne will you taste?

To find out more about our visit to Champagne Drappier, read our article


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