Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ten Tips for Planning the Perfect Vineyard Wedding

The summer wedding season is here with June considered the most fortunate month to wed. And for a spectacular and romantic wedding, look no farther than the vineyard!

Vineyards are gorgeous in the summer with grapevines offering a beautiful backdrop for an arbor trellis, or a ceremony among the vines. Many vineyards also have amazing vistas with scenic valleys, winding roads, snow-covered mountains, or verdant woods to enhance the scene.

Here are ten ways to find that perfect vineyard and make sure your wedding is a sparkling success.

1) Check with different wineries on the types of bridal packages offered. Many have dedicated staff in charge of such events. If you want something a vineyard doesn’t offer, ask. Many will consider and accommodate, if the request is reasonable.

2) Find out what the winery supplies in the package price and what can be rented for an additional charge. Arbors, gazebos, wine barrels, chairs, tables, china, stemware, silverware and linens are just some items that may be included in the package, or may need to be rented.

3) Arrange for the vineyard site to be available during the wedding rehearsal. Vineyards need to be mowed, sprayed and harvested, so make sure you have access when you need it.

4) Ask about the exact times when you are allowed to decorate the wedding site and reception area.

5) Be sure you and your party have access to changing rooms and restrooms before and after the wedding.

6) Decide where the wedding photos will be taken and have access and transportation to the site lined up, if needed.

7) Discuss your wine needs and let the winery assist in selecting wines to pair with the food chosen; or offer a variety of wines that will appeal to most guests. Many wineries offer discounts to wedding parties that purchase a certain number of cases or bottles of wine. Also, find out if other alcoholic beverages can legally be brought onto the winery grounds.

8) Check the winery restaurant for custom menus and in-house catering for weddings and rehearsal dinners.  Many will prepare different dishes for consideration and selection.

9) Know how you (and your guests) are getting to the vineyard: By horse and carriage, in a wagon, on horseback, by golf cart, in a limo? And make sure that mode of transportation is permitted by the winery.

10) Check on alternatives in case of bad weather. Most wineries have an event center, barrel room, cellar or meeting room that will work in a pinch. Have a back-up plan. (Keep in mind; you can get special event weather insurance.)

And an added tip: Make sure the marriage license is valid in the county you’re getting married in.

A vineyard wedding offers the perfect touch of Old World ambience and modern flair. Make it a stress-free event with a little planning, and enjoy a beautiful wedding with lasting memories.

~ Joy

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Five Ways to Celebrate National Wine Day

Get ready to raise a glass this Sunday, the 25th in honor of National Wine Day! Although it’s not quite clear how the holiday came about (Do we really need to know?), the intention is for Americans to take a day and celebrate all things wine. 

Here are five ways to get the celebration going!

1) Buy Appropriate Stemware
Red Wine Glass
Really. If you’re having a glass of wine more often than just on the holidays, then step up to a glass crafted for the type of wine you drink. Red wine glasses have a larger bowl so that you can swirl to your heart’s content and release all those luscious aromas. White wine glasses have a smaller mouth so that the wine stays cool and crisp. Champagne glasses are tall and thin so the bubbles keep coming. And clear is preferred to a colored wine glass so you can see the wine.

2) Clean Out Your Wine Cellar
Come on, this will be fun. Grab a box and start sorting through your bottles. Anything you don’t like, don’t want or don’t recognize goes in the box. This has now become your party box. Call some friends and have them over for a potluck Sunday supper; pop open some of those bottles and celebrate!

3) Visit a Winery
Take a Tour
What better way to indulge your love of wine than at a winery where they live it 24/7? Go somewhere you’ve never been before and undergo the whole “winery experience” with fresh eyes (and senses).Take the tour, taste the wines, talk to the owners, the winemaker, the bar staff to learn something you find fascinating. Then find someone to enjoy a bottle with and tell them what you learned. After all, wine (like knowledge) is better shared.

4) Celebrate the Indianapolis 500 Winner
Today is also the running of the 98th Indianapolis 500; the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The race starts at 12:12 p.m. eastern time and will conclude after 200 laps produces a winner from the pool of 33 drivers. Toast the checkered flag and the winner of the largest single-day spectator-sporting event.

5) Drink Something Special
Back to the wine cellar, but this time pull out that special bottle of wine. (And remember, special doesn’t have to mean expensive.) Maybe it’s that Chateau Ste. Michelle Dry Riesling or Raymond Vineyards Rutherford Cabernet, or dare I say it, that Black Box Merlot you picked up last week at the grocery. It doesn’t matter about wine ratings or appellations, just make it something special that you will enjoy.

What a weekend coming up: National Wine Day; The Indy 500, and Memorial Day Weekend! Go grab a glass and salute them all!

~ Joy

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Wine Museums of the World: 10 to Visit Now

Neolithic Man
Archaeologists trace wine back to the Stone Age when Neolithic humans imbibed in the juice of naturally fermented honey, wild grapes and fruits.

The roots of winemaking go back as far as ancient Mesopotamia, so it’s no wonder we have an interest in the history, viticulture, and crafting of grapes and wine. Some say fermented beverages were a primary reason Western civilization developed!  And the story of wine is still being told today in numerous wine museums in the U.S, and around the world.

1) Arkansas Historic Wine Museum – Paris, Arkansas

Joseph Bachman
It’s true! Arkansas has a rich history in winemaking as this museum shows. Home to numerous exhibits, the museum houses a wine press, fermentation tanks, barrels, testing equipment, plus government records, and photos, along with diaries and correspondence from the father of Arkansas wine, Professor Joseph Bachman. In fact, the museum now has a second location in Hot Springs, Arkansas that opened in 2006.

2) Wine Museum of Greyton H. Taylor – Hammondsport, New York

Bully Hill
Taylor's Goat
Not your typical wine museum but then Bully Hill Winery is not your typical winery.  Established in 1972 on the original Taylor Winery site, the museum is composed of two buildings; the Cooper Shop with an amazing collection of barrels and cooperage from the early days of New York’s blossoming wine industry. The second building contains the artwork of Walter S. Taylor; paintings that went on to become several of Bully Hill’s famous wine labels. And don’t miss touring the winery itself. The Bully Hill story is uniquely American, the tours are fun, and the wines will "get your goat."

3) Kelowna Museums:
 BC Wine Museum – British Columbia, Canada 

VQA Wine Shop
The BC Wine Museum is a part of the Kelowna Museums and opened several years ago to focus on the history of wine production in the Okanagan Valley. The VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) Wine Shop located at the museum offers only wines produced from 100% BC grapes, and many that are available here cannot be found anywhere else outside of their home wineries.

4) Vinopolis Wine Centre – London, England

Drinking and Displays
This is the adult Disney World of wine! Vinopolis is a wine museum and a wine tasting bar with five restaurants, eight event spaces and several shops located on the 2.5 acre site. The focus of the museum is wine history, wine culture and how to enjoy it. Choose from several tours starting with a basic self-guided tour to a wine and dine experience, and all tours include wine tastings. Or select a tour package that delves into select wine regions around the world; either way you’ll have a great time sipping and studing wine.

5) Desmond Castle
and International Museum of Wine Kinsale, Ireland

Desmond Castle
Wine Museum Exhibit
The International Museum of Wine is housed in a 16th century urban tower house with a sinister history. The “castle” was built around 1500 by the Earl of Desmond and used as a Customs house. In the 1700s it served as a prison for French and American seamen before becoming a jail and then a workhouse. The museum opened in 1997 and tells the story of Irish families who moved to France, Spain, Australia and California to make their livings exporting wine back to the Emerald Isle.

6) Weinmuseum – Spires, Germany

Weinmuseum Exhibits
Wine Vessel
Located in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate, the exhibits at the Wine Museum focus on the cultural history of viniculture over the past 2,000 years. Displays include old bottling equipment, a large wine press from 1727, and 5,000 liter (1,321 gallon) barrels that are handcrafted and have been housed in the museum for over 100 years. Built in 1910, the weinmuseum was the first public museum devoted to vino.

7) Musee du Vin – Paris, France

Wine Tunnel
Order of Minims
This Museum of Wine is located under the hills of Passy in what once were limestone quarries dug to build the city. By the 16thcentury these vaulted rooms were used by the Brothers of the Order of Minims as wine cellars for the monastery. The Museum of Wine opened in 1984 and has a collection of over 2,000 artifacts highlighting viticulture, winemaking, cooperage, and items used to serve and taste wine.

8) Museo del Vino Vernaccia - San Gimignano, Italy

Museum Wine Press
This museum is dedicated to the history of one local white grape – Vernaccia – and the wines produced from it. Those wines include Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG, San Gimignano Rosso DOC, San Gimignano Rosato DOC, and San Gimignano Vinsanto. Overall production of Vernaccia wine is about 9 million bottles a year. The museum tour describes the origins of the grape and has displays of wine equipment from local Italian winemakers who have crafted Vernaccia wine. After the tour, visitors can sample several versions of Vernaccia to discover why this region is so proud.

9) Cyprus Wine Museum – Cyprus, Greece

Museum Display
The Cyprus Wine Museum began in 2004 but it’s roots stretch back to 1933 when pottery fragments were discovered in the city. Tested in 2005, the pottery was dated back to 3500 BC and deposits found inside the vessels indicated that wine had been produced in this region for over 5,500 years, thus making Cyprus the birthplace of wine in Europe. The tour includes the museum, St. Ilarion Hall, the Wine Trails, which tells the story of wine around the world, and a tasting of two local varieties of grapes, along with bread and cheese.

10) Vinseum – Catalan Wine Cultures Museum, Penedès, Spain

Museum Courtyard
This museum has a diverse collection of over 17,00 items relating to all things wine. What began as the Vilafranca del Penedès Museum in 1945 (the first wine museum in Spain), has evolved into the Vinseum, which showcases wine’s cultural affects on the country and the world. And when you’re done with the tour, enjoy a complimentary glass of Spanish wine.

And coming soon:

* California Wine Museum - Santa Rosa, California

James McCormick
The proposed California Wine Museum is slated to open in 2015 in Santa Rosa, California. The museum will contain over 4,500 artifacts from the collection of James McCormick, all relating to California’s wine heritage including art work, advertising, wine equipment, vineyard tools and ephemera. The tour will end with tastings of selected California wines. Learn more about the museum's displays and preparations at


~ Joy

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sip & Cycle: 6 Amazing Wine and Bike Trails

Summer is almost here: the perfect time to grab a bike and head out to your favorite wine trail for a bit of sipping and cycling through wine country. If you need some ideas, here are six fantastic bike and wine trails that you can “spin the bottle” on …

1) Missouri Katy Trail, Missouri

Katy Trail
The Katy Trail is named for the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and offers bikers over 235 miles of easy trails that wend along unused rail beds, plus 20 wineries to explore. Make plans for winery stops in three towns: Augusta has 9 wineries including, for you Monte Python fans, the Holy Grail Winery where the Belgian Dark Chocolate Cups are decadent. In Hermann, there are 5 wineries to explore including the oldest one on the route and in the state, Stone Hill Winery The town of Defiance offers 3 more wineries on the longest rail-trail route in the country.

2) Heart of Colorado Wine Trail, Colorado

Colorado Cellars Winery
The Heart of Colorado Wine Country Trail has some of the world’s best mountain biking trails running through not one, but two American Viticultural Areas (AVA). These AVAs are home to over 80% of the state’s vineyards on what is one of the largest wine trails in the U.S. The Grand Valley AVA runs along I-70 and the Colorado River, and includes 28 wineries and vineyards for your tasting pleasure. Check out the oldest winery in the state, Colorado Cellars Winery offering self-serve tastings. Another dozen wineries and vineyards are scattered along the western slope of the West Elks AVA, including the highest estate bottled winery and vineyard in the northern hemisphere – Terror Creek Winery

3) Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail, Michigan

Surrounded by water on three sides, the Leelanau Peninsula offers the perfect cool-climate grape growing conditions. The Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail is home to 25 wineries but the route is broken up into three mini routes for easier navigation. The Northern Loop has 10 wineries, including 45 North Vineyard and Winery – located on the famed 45th parallel. The Sleeping Bear Loop has 6 wineries; one not to miss - Cherry Republic Winery where everything is coming up cherries. The Grand Traverse Bay Loop has 8 wineries and vineyards including Left Foot Charley located in the historic Northern Michigan Insane Asylum. Enjoy breathtaking views and learn how the wines are made from local winemakers.

4) Brandywine Valley Wine Trail, Pennsylvania

The state of Pennsylvania ranks fourth in the country for the tonnage of grapes grown. Of the 130+ wineries located in the Keystone state, 8 are on the Brandywine Valley Wine Trail: all within a 50-mile radius of each other.  Kick back and enjoy the gently rolling countryside as you bike between Philadelphia and Amish country on this quiet, scenic trail. One winery not to miss: Black Walnut Winery located in a 200+ year-old barn.

5) Hike & Bike Sonoma Valley Trail, California

Sonoma Valley is where the wine industry began in California and one of the most popular trails is the Sonoma History and Wineries Trail. Not only will you get to sample some exceptional wines crafted by some of the oldest wineries in the state, you’ll also take in a little of California’s history along the way. There are five wineries on this route, and Vella Cheese Company, the perfect place to pick up a hunk of award-winning cheese to enjoy with a bottle of wine.

6) Coastal Wine Trail Bike Tour, Massachusetts and Rhode Island

New England was made for cycling with gorgeous views, rolling hills, and peaceful country roads. Sign up for a 5 day guided tour with Great Freedom Adventures www.greatfreedomadventures and leave the details to someone else: have no worries as you glide along the Farm Coast route. Estate grown wines are plentiful in this area so you won’t lack for gorgeous vineyard views, and amazing varietals for sampling and sipping. GFA also offers wine and bike trips that encompass three to six days of spinning through picturesque coastal New England.

And a final note: Before heading out on a biking adventure, make sure your bike (and you) are in optimum shape to enjoy the ride!

~ Joy