Sangria Style Margaritas

Is it a Margarita or is it Sangria? 

We had a customer pull up to the shop the other day to get his car “Pettyized.”  He had driven up from Florida just to get this work done and brought with him a case of his homemade wine to leave with us to show his appreciation for what we do (and who we work for).  Of course as soon as he pulled away from the garage, one of the guys came to the office and asked if I knew there was wine up for grabs in the break room.

I try so hard to not be a wine snob, but sometimes it is difficult.  So these were homemade wines AND they were fruit wines. I am not a big fan of fruit wines.   Thankfully I had been reading a lot about Sangria in recent weeks.   Otherwise I probably would have turned down the opportunity to sample these wines.  I actually grabbed three different wines: Banana Pineapple Viognier 2011, Seville Orange Sangria 2011 and Twisted Mist Lime Margarita  (yes, Margarita wine!).  I love, love, love a good Margarita so this wine peaked my interest!!!!!  Like any person who is minimally computer literate, I Googled Twisted Mist Lime Margarita and found the website.   Not only do they sell you the kit to make your own wine, they actually include professional labels so that your bottle looks like it came straight from a winery.  (If you make your own wine or are interested in doing so, you should definitely check it out!)

Yep, you guessed it, the first wine I tried was the Lime Margarita.  I only put a one ounce tasting in my glass so I could test it first.  Well, I was disappointed.  From what I had read on their website, I thought this was actually going to taste like a Margarita.  But no – it was just way too sweet and I couldn’t really tell there was any lime in it even though it looked like a Margarita.  I was so disappointed!!!!  I started to cap the wine with a Haley’s Corker, but just kep thinking there had to be a way to improve this wine by using a recipe for Sangria.  I looked at some recipes I had and decided I could do better.  So this is what I came up with (and even if it is my own recipe, OMG – it was delicious!!!!)



Lime Margarita Wine – 750 ML

12 OZ Can Lime Ade

¾ Can Tequila

½ Can Triple Sec

Thinly Sliced Lime

½ Cup Frozen, Sweetened Strawberries (or fresh sweetened Strawberries if you have them)

Stir all together and drink up!  (This was so delicious!  If you ever get a chance to try it, don’t pass it up!  I just need to find a way to get more of this Lime Margarita Wine!  If it happens to be a little to strong for you, dilute it with Seltzer Water.  And if you don’t have any Lime Margarita Wine, substitute Corona Beer – 2 bottles. ) 

If you are interested in making a real Sangria with the homemade Seville Orange wine I picked up, you can find great recipes here:  Norps Forks and Corks


To Wine Club or Not to Wine Club?

I visited wine country back in May – Sonoma County, Santa Rosa and absolutely loved it (didn’t even get upset over the parking ticket). However, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught of requests to join wine clubs. Yes, we have wine clubs here in North Carolina, but they seem to be an after thought when you are getting ready to pay for your purchase, not the main focus of your tasting. I ended up joining three wine clubs, mainly because I couldn’t get those wines any other way, especially back in North Carolina. Another misconception on my part was thinking that ALL California wines are widely distributed and that I just wasn’t shopping in the right places. Wrong! Most of these wines can only be purchased at the winery and the majority of them are only available to wine club members.

So this started me thinking about the criteria I consider important in choosing a wine club. Not all of these questions will apply to you, but some of them will. At any rate, don’t join a wine club just to be joining. Make sure you get what you want and expect out of membership.

1. Does the wine club offer exclusive wines to the members? (Not all the wines need to be exclusive, but every wine club shipment needs to have wines included that ARE NOT available for everyone to purchase.)

2. Does the winery offer special discounts to wine club members? (Discounts are important. Keep in mind that the winery is guaranteed a certain level of income every time a wine club shipment goes out; therefore, when you visit the winery, they should be willing to give you a substantial discount on your purchases. I would suggest as much as 30-40% on case purchases.)

3. Does the winery offer special events for wine club members only? (Once again, the winery knows exactly how much they are going to make off you with every wine club shipment. They should want to keep you happy and one way to do this is to offer special “exclusive” events that only wine club members can attend.)

4. Are there costs associated with joining the wine club? (There should be no fees for joining the wine club. Obviously the winery needs to know they can count on you as a member to fulfill your obligation to them for the discounts and parties they give you. Members should be required to sign an agreement stating that they will stay in the club for a set amount of time and credit card information should be furnished at the time of joining the wine club so that shipments during this “set amount of time” can be paid for timely. This creates a win/win situation for both the winery and the wine club member.)

5. Do you have the option of selecting your wine preference? (Most wine clubs will give you the option of choosing all reds, all whites, or a combination. If you only drink reds, don’t join a club that doesn’t offer the option of choosing only red wine in your shipment.)

6. Can you select the time of year you want your wine club shipments sent out? (This is not an issue if you live close to the winery and can drop by to pick up your wines; however, if you live on the “other” coast, this is an important consideration. All the wine clubs I joined in California had to agree to NOT ship my wines during the summer months because of the excessive heat.)

7. Do you receive anything from the winery for bringing new members into the wine club? (The winery should offer something “special” if you bring someone to the winery that joins the wine club while they are visiting with you. I would suggest a free bottle of wine to show their appreciation for you, their loyal customer.)

8. Do you get a free tasting or a free glass of wine when visiting the winery? (All wine club members should get their choice of a free tasting or a glass of wine when dropping by the winery to visit or bring a guest.)

9. Can you sit and enjoy a bottle (or glass) of wine in comfort at the winery? (This doesn’t just apply to wine club members, but if it is 95 degrees outside and the humidity is 98%, the winery shouldn’t expect you to sit outside to drink your wine. The same goes for cold weather. The customer’s satisfaction and comfort should be a priority for the winery.)

My example would be Kunde Estate in Kenwood, CA. They offer a special area in the tasting room referred to as the “Kinneybrook Room” for wine club members to sit, enjoy a cheese tray and sip their wine. This type of treatment should be the norm, not the exception.

So what is your criteria for the “perfect” wine club? I would love to hear your thoughts.

From Speed Tasting to Slow Sipping

I’m sure most everyone is tired of hearing how much fun we all had at the Wine blogger’s Conference, 2011 in Charlottesville, VA a few weeks ago.  So I apologize in advance for yet another post that is a result of the conference although this one is a little different.

I participated in the “Speed Tasting” portion of the conference.  Speed Tasting is sort of like speed dating.  The tasters take a seat at the table and the participating wineries go from table to table pouring their wine for you to taste and tweet about.  The night we speed tasted reds, I had the pleasure of tasting the 2009 Petit Verdot from Veritas Vineyard and Winery.  I was so impressed that I would have bought some on the spot except no wines were being sold – just tasted.  So the winemaker, Emily Hodson Pelton, and the Vineyard owner, Andrew Hodson invited me to stop by the winery on my way home from the conference.  And I am so glad I did!!!

During my visit at Veritas, I had the pleasure of sitting and chatting with both Andrew and his wife, Patricia.  They both love the winery and what it brings into their lives.  The Hodson’s refer to their winery as ” Folly et Deux” – loosely interpreted as fun for two.  Their daughter, Emily, is the Winemaker and their other daughter, Chloe, is the Event Manager and is an invaluable asset in running the tasting room.

We sat and chatted in the tasting room which reminds you of an old Southern parlor with leather sofas all around and huge fireplaces on each end.  It was huge and open but still inviting, cozy and comfortable – perfect for the hot sweltering days of a Virginia summer or the nippy cold of  an East Coast winter.  We chose a discreet corner of the room so we could talk uninterrupted about wine, the conference and life.   You could look across the tasting room at all the guests sipping wine and just tell how comfortable and at home they felt; but then with more than 100,000 people visiting this winery every year, it stands to reason Veritas would know how to treat their guests.

Having opened the winery in 2000, Veritas now has around 1,500 members in their wine club and as many as 4,000 people attending some of their events.  Petit Verdot is one of their signature wines.  In the interest of full disclosure, they gave me 2 samples of the Petit Verdot for this post.  As this wine could be cellared for 3-5 years, I will put one up and save it and then revisit this post at a later date with an update on how the wine is maturing.

Veritas – 2009 Petit Verdot (Virginia, Monticello AVA)

Alcohol – 13%

Price – $29

This wine is a deep violet color with earthy aromas.  It is rich and full-bodied with hints of black fruit on the palate.  The flavors explode in your mouth so that you can enjoy every second from the initial sip to the lingering finish.

Virginia’s Take Away From the Wine Blogger’s Conference

The wine blogger’s conference 2011 (#wbc11) has come and gone, but I for one, have not come down from the excitement high I got from being part of it all.  I was ecstatic when they announced last year that the 2011 conference was going to be in my own back door (Charlottesville was only a 3 hour drive for me).  Getting to meet some of the great people I share tweets with on a regular basis and getting to taste all those greatVirginia Wines had me walking on air before the conference ever started.  They even threw in some educational sessions!  The conference schedule kept us hopping but I still had so much fun and will make every effort to attend again next year in Portland, Oregon.

So I walked away having had a great experience, some fun memories, lots of new friends, and a little more knowledge about wine; but what did the Virginia Wine Industry get from the conference?  What did the Virginia Wineries take away from this 3-day marathon of pouring wine, hosting bloggers at their wineries and doing interviews?

Virginia Wine Board:  Annette Boyd from the Virginia Wine Board  had only surface knowledge about the Wine Blogger’s Conference prior to being contacted by Allan Wright from Zephyr Adventures in the Spring of 2010 to see if there would be any interest in hosting the 2011 conference in Virginia.  The Virginia Wine board had just finished hosting a Drink Local Wine Conference in April, 2010.  This conference had created a lot of buzz about Virginia wines and had people talking.  There was about 30 attendees at this conference and all of them had been invited.  Even though this conference was considered successful, it paled in comparison to the Wine Blogger’s Conference that was to come.

The Virginia Wine Board is still very excited about #wbc11.  The conference was sold out.  There were only 45 attendees from California which meant the door had opened wide for attendees from “the other 46.”  Having the conference on the East coast broadened the reach of the conference and elevated it to a whole new level.   Annette has read numerous passionate discussions and blogs since the conference – some good, some not so good.  But the BIG positive is that people are talking about Virginia wines.  The “Common Wealth of Wine” is on the map!

Keswick Vineyards: Keswick Vineyards had never heard of the Wine Blogger’s Conference until it was already set up to come to Virginia but they decided to jump in head first and be part of everything that was going on over the course of the 3-day conference.  The winemaker, Stephen Barnard, realizes that there will not be an immediate impact on wine sales for any of the Virginia wineries, Keswick included.  But, like Annette Boyd, Stephen is thrilled that so many people are talking about Virginia wines.  This captive audience was far-reaching and it is impossible to measure the value of the marketing the Virginia wine industry received as a result of the conference; after all, we are still talking about it.

Even though Keswick Vineyards participated in every event the conference had to offer, Stephen’s highlight was the media tour of the winery where they served lunch to all of us and he had the chance to interact with each of us on a more personal level.

Veritas:  “In Vino Veritas” ~ “In Wine There Is Truth” Veritas Vineyard & Winery, like Keswick Vineyards, was not at all familiar with the Wine Blogger’s Conference prior to the announcement from the Virginia Wine Board that we were coming to town but they caught on quickly.  Veritas not only participated in all the events as a winery, the owner, Andrew Hodson, was actively involved in all the events.  He poured wine for the Speed Tastings, joined us for dinner and even went on the Rioja pub crawl with us.  Andrew’s take-away from #wbc11 was that it was sort of  like a “shot of steroids” for the Virginia wine industry and one of the best things to ever happen to the industry.

Everyone is in agreement that Virginia will soon be considered a destination for their wineries and a favorite vacation spot for the consummate wine lover.  Everyone I talked with would do it again and if the opportunity presents itself, they will attend #wbc12.

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