I just got back to Virginia after six weeks away. It feels so good to be back home and get back into somewhat of a normal routine. With some free days before school starts back up again, I decided to check some new wineries off my list before the school year gets crazy! Living in Richmond now, I have been wanting to explore wineries that are a little closer.
On the list for the day was:
Elk Island Winery,
Picking sunflowers at Lickinghole Creek Brewery.
All of them are very close to each other making it easy to do all three. Byrd and Elk Island are actually right next to each other, and Lickinghole is about 10 minutes from those two wineries.
First stop! We did a great tasting here and tried about 7 wines plus their homemade sangria and frosé for $7. I would say that their wines were sweeter than I am used to, which definitely pleased my friend who likes her wines sweeter. From the wines I tasted, my favorite was the Velvet wine which uses the Norton grape. I really enjoyed their frosé as it was a hot day and that was very refreshing! It is made from their rosé, which was slightly on the sweeter side. You can enjoy some wine inside where they have a bunch of tables, or sit on their relaxing deck which has a woodsy vibe.
Elk Island Winery
Next up - Elk Island! They have wine tastings for $6 and you can choose which 6 wines you want to taste! I really enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. I'm already excited to go back and try more wines next visit. They also have an AMAZING sangria! It was a green tea ginger sangria, that I could totally sip all day. I actually decided to get a glass of this because it was so delicious! They actually have the recipe on their website if you want to check it out. I love when wineries have at least part of the vineyard accessible, so I really enjoyed visiting Elk Island. Also harvest is coming up so it was fun seeing all of the grapes on the vines.
Lickinghole Creek Brewery
About ten minutes from the two wineries, you will find Lickinghole Creek. Personally, I am not able to drink beer so I can't attest to the beer here but I have heard that it's good. The scenery is beautiful and you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere. The reason I wanted to visit is because there are sunflower fields on the property, and you can actually pick them! It has always been on my bucket list to pick sunflowers so when I heard about this place I had to check it out. Sunflower season goes from the end of June through August. Bring your own shears and you can pick a bundle for $5 and then enjoy some beer!
Back in January, I hosted a wine tasting party with a group of my friends! I had been excited about this for a while and thought it would be a fun thing to do while the weather was still cold and all we wanted to do was be inside. It was one of the most fun nights I have had in a long time and all my friends who attended constantly ask me when I'm hosting the next one!
We had a mix of people from what I would consider wine experts to complete novices. Everyone brought a bottle of wine of their choice to contribute to the tasting. We had an array of food that people could snack on while drinking, which was definitely a good call. After hosting this once, I have a lot of suggestions and thoughts on how I would do this next time.
Choosing a Theme
Choosing a theme is a key aspect of having a successful blind wine tasting. For our first party, we decided to do "Wines from around the World." Even though this theme was very clear, over half of the wines were from the US, so the wines were not as diverse as I had anticipated. If I was to do the same theme again, I would assign each couple a country known for their wine and let them decide the varietal. For my next tasting, I want to do Virginia Wines and keep it local! Plus that's my speciality so hopefully I would do better at guessing the varietal this time around. Other ideas I had were just sticking with red or white wines, picking a different wine region, or just choosing a varietal and tasting how different it tastes depending on the country of origin.
Scoring the Wine
Something I had really wanted to do for the party was have a place where people could write their wine notes and score the wines. Then you don't get confused between that 2nd wine you tried and the 5th when they all start blending together. I also wanted to make a little competition out of it and have people guess the varietals and country of origin. The prize was the winner got to pick which wine they wanted a glass of first, but you could definitely do something more exciting like a bottle of wine! In the end of course we ended up finishing all 10 bottles, but you could definitely tell which ones were the favorites.
If you want to download and use my "Wine Scorecard," click here.
Other Necessary Items
Food. Definitely food. Let's be honest, when you are drinking lots of wine, you will get hungry! My wonderful friends brought over lots of snacks and food for the tasting. My mom had texted to remind me to have food but make sure you only eat neutral foods like bread between tasting so that you don't skew the flavors. When you are tasting 10 wines, you definitely really crave that food by the end. Try and encourage people to enjoy it once they choose which wine they want to drink more of and have bread for those times in between tastings.
Another thing I absolutely loved were my cloth wine bags to put the bottles in! I bought them off amazon for about $13 for a pack of 10. Plus, they are washable and you could even reuse them at future parties or for gifting wine. I could not have imaged doing it without them!
Sarah, wine enthusiastic and globetrotter, currently exploring Virginia one winery at a time.