Thanksgiving Wines


Thanksgiving Wines 

Selecting a great Thanksgiving wine doesn’t have to be a source of stress and it doesn’t have to break the bank.  There are a lot of different flavors and textures on your Thanksgiving plate, so you really want a “bridge” wine that will harmoniously blend and stand up to the cornucopia of goodness on your holiday table.  Your wine selection should be a vinous highlighter working in concert with every dish, not competing for top billing!  Consider starting your festivities with a sparkling wine as an aperitif and then opt for a white and a red selection for your main course and let your guests decide what pairing they enjoy the most.

White Wines: In general, when it comes to selecting versatile Thanksgiving wines, look for a white wine with mouthwatering acidity like an off-dry Riesling from Germany, an Alsatian Gewürztraminer or an unoaked Chardonnay to cut right through the gravy and cream sauces. If you typically prefer a heavier, oaky and buttery Chardonnay, it will overpower your meal.  A moderately oaked Chardonnay with vibrant acidity will be the better option with this meal. A floral and aromatic Viognier or dry to off-dry Petit Manseng can also work wonders with your Thanksgiving Feast.

Red Wines: When it comes to red, opt for a fruit-forward wine like a Pinot Noir or Beaujolais with vibrant acidity and moderate tannins.  Keep in mind, turkey is a blank canvas and is pretty lean, so something too tannic will compete against the food.  A Cabernet Franc can be a nice option too, with its typical notes of raspberry, violet and sage. This can work wonders with a sausage, sage & cranberry stuffing. Cabernet Franc is considered the Pinot Noir of Bordeaux and Virginia is producing some exceptional bottles of this varietal.  A dry rosé or off-dry rosé is also another excellent option, it’s approachable and versatile with good acidity and it tends to please both white and red wine drinkers at your table.

Keswick Vineyards 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet GrapesCabernet Sauvignon is revered as one of the most sought after wines in the world. Look no further than Bordeaux and Napa Valley and you will find a cult following for prestigious bottles produced in those regions. Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Other regions like Washington State and Australia are gaining momentum in the production of this classic grape, but what about Virginia?

Yes, you heard that right. Not only is Virginia coming into its own as a premiere wine destination, the winemakers here are discovering that red wines, particularly Bordelais varietals are doing exceptionally well in the Commonwealth, specifically in certain regions and microclimates.

For many years Virginia was gaining a reputation for crisp white wines and sweeter dessert style wines made most notably from Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc, but pioneers like  Jim Law with Linden Vineyards and Rutger de Vink with RdV Vineyards in Northern Virginia have really pushed the envelope with Cabernet Sauvignon and their efforts and risk are paying big dividends for the entire industry.

While the clay-based soils in much of Central Virginia are more suitable for other red varietals and whites, it seems that Cabernet Sauvignon can succeed quite well when grown in rocky, shale and schist soils that are found in pockets throughout Central Virginia.

Keswick Winemaker Stephen Barnard and Crystal Cameron Schaad
Keswick winemaker Stephen Barnard sporting his Pokeman shirt for his daughter at the WCHV studios.

Enter Keswick Vineyards and winemaker Stephen Barnard. I had an opportunity to sit down with Stephen this week for my latest episode of Crystal Palate’s Wine Country which airs on Saturday mornings at 8:30am on Cville 107.5 and 1260 WCHV in the Charlottesville area. We tasted the newly bottled 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon made from 100% Cabernet from two blocks of grapes with the highest elevation planted 550 feet above sea level.

I wish I had the opportunity to blind-test this gem, because quite frankly I don’t know if I would have guessed Virginia. For far too long, many wine consumers, even locals have had a rather negative perception of red wines grown in Virginia. My, oh my, have things changed! Investments in viticulture, technology, better management of disease pressures and older vines are finally bearing fruit for the modern Virginia wine scene. And wine critics around the world are taking notice.

The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon will be released to Keswick’s wine club just in time for the holidays. Even though it’s quite impressive right now, a little patience will be rewarded. This wine will undoubtedly improve with 5-7 years of bottle age.

Tasting Notes

“Inky crimson hues indicate youth, but once you raise the glass and take in the multitude of complex and inviting aromas, you immediately understand that this is a serious and thought- provoking wine yearning to share its story.  Vibrant fruit aromas of summer ripe blackberries, currants and damson plum are woven together with floral notes of dusty violet, Herbs de Provence, sweet baking spices, Tahitian vanilla bean, chocolate-covered espresso beans and a hint of cedar and cigar box.

On the palate, cassis and plum take center stage followed by a crescendo of sweet spice, vanilla and toasty oak mid-palate.  This full-bodied, robust Cabernet has mouthwatering acidity, chewy tannins and a long lingering finish.” 

A pleasant 14% ABV provides wonderful FullSizeRender-9balance. The wine is aged in cask for nearly two years and sees 50% new oak and a hybrid aging regimen of French and American oak. It’s clear that this wine truly represents the Keswick family motto, “Born from the soil and soul of Virginia.”

Barnard only produces the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon in exceptional vintages. The first bottling dates back to 2007.

There is little use of commercial yeasts at Keswick, they believe that 95% of winemaking takes place in the vineyards. They rely on native yeasts for the fermentation process and take more of a hands-off Old World approach in the winery to truly allow the unique terroir to speak for itself.

While the 2014 won’t be available to the general public for a few more months, Keswick has the 2013 vintage available at the winery. You can also sample it in the tasting room. It retails for $74.95. Wine club members receive a 20% discount.

In addition to this stunning example of Cabernet Sauvignon, Keswick was awarded top billing in this year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup for Barnard’s 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve.

If you were one to write off Virginia reds years ago, I encourage you to come back and give it another try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson is smiling down upon his beloved Virginia and raising his glass to a job well done.


10 Must-Try Virginia Rosés

By now, many of you know that I absolutely adore a great rosé. Hands down, it’s my go-to summer wine. I always have a chilled bottle ready to go in my refrigerator. Why? It’s incredibly versatile. Contrary to popular belief, many rosés are actually dry and make a great companion for many foods including salads, sandwiches, charcuterie, grilled meats and fried chicken. You get the picture. Think about all of the impromptu potluck parties you get invited to this time of year. A rosé would be the perfect companion to just about every summertime side dish you can think of. Rosés are the very definition of summer! They are easy-going, fun, light, fruit-forward with refreshing acidity that make it perfect for a summer sipper that works with many types of cuisine. They are also very affordable, many roses at your local wine shop range in the $15-$20 price point.

Rosés range from bone dry to sweet, so there is something for everyone’s palate. Some of my favorite dry rosés come from Provence, France, but I am absolutely loving some of the local options we have right here in Virginia.

Here’s my top 10 list of must-try Virginia rosés this summer (in alphabetical order).

  1. Barboursville Vintage Rosé – An elegant dry rosé made from a blend of Cabernet Franc, Barbera and Nebbiolo with aromas of summer ripe stone fruit. Pair with a charcuterie board. SRP: $14.95
  2. Breaux Rosé – A blend of three grapes are used in this dry rose. Tantalizing aromas of red berries, cherry and citrus zest dance in your glass. Pair with baked brie and fresh berries. SRP: $18
  3. Chatham Vineyards Rosé An off-dry wine made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot has notes of juicy red berries and white peach and a kiss of residual sugar for those of you that like a hint of sweetness in your rosé. Pair with succulent sweet crab cakes from the Chesapeake Bay. SRP: $18
  4. Chrysalis Vineyards Sarah’s Patio Red – The semi-sweet rosé made from the Norton grape (America’s forgotten grape), boasts juicy aromas of ripe berry and tart cherry. It’s perfection paired with a strawberry, rhubarb pie. SRP: $17
  5. CrossKeys Vineyards Fiore Rosé – The off-dry 2015 vintage is made from Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. The lusciously sweet berry and vibrant graperfruit notes are perfection with a fennel, feta and citrus salad. SRP: $19.50
  6. Early Mountain Vineyards Rosé – This dry fruit-forward Merlot based rosé boasts aromas of strawberry, melon, peach and a hint of sweet anise. It’s perfection with goat cheese rolled in Herbs de Provence. SRP: $24
  7. King Family Vineyards Croset Rosé – A dry Merlot based rosé with citrus notes of ruby red grapefruit, cherry, watermelon and lime.Refreshing on its own or enjoy with watermelon and feta salad. SRP: $19.95
  8. Stinson Vineyards Rosé A complex and graceful dry rosé made in the southern France tradition using the Mourvedre grape. Juicy summer ripe watermelon and strawberries are followed by a hint of herbaceousness and smoke. Pair with smoked salmon. SRP: $20.99
  9. Trump Vineyards Sparkling Rosé – Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, all of our palates can agree on a delicious sparkling rosé when we taste it! This is such a delightful, crisp and refreshing sparkling wine made from 100% estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This is the perfect brunch wine, think lemon-ricotta pancakes with fresh berries or a delicious frittata. SRP: $32
  10. Veritas Vineyards Rosé – A juicy, fruit-forward, dry rosé made from Cabernet Franc and Merlot grapes. Pack a bottle of this for your next picnic to serve with a great cheese & charcuterie board. SRP: $18

For more sips, tips and perfect pairings, join my exclusive membership to my online learning community for only$7.95/month.


Wedding Wines

wine.comTis the season for love, laughter, beautiful brides, handsome grooms, breathtaking venues, delicious food and inevitably bad “banquet wine!”  I am always amazed at how many brides obsess over every detail from the gown to the flowers to the photographer to the caterer, but when it comes to the wine selection, it’s usually a complete afterthought. Did you know that wedding wines can be affordable and delicious?! It’s true! I have been to so many  weddings where I end up drinking club soda or a beer  because the wine selection may as well be alcohol-infused cherry cough syrup.  Ladies, you deserve better and so do your guests.

One of my recent clients really wanted to serve Veuve Clicquot for the wedding toast, however the venue had a very steep mark-up on that bottle. Let’s keep things in perspective, your guests will most likely never see the bottle of bubbly. The venue or caterer typically pours the sparkling in the back and hand-delivers or tray-passes the flutes to your guests. There are some amazing bottles of Champagne and other sparkling wines around the world that won’t break the bank.  By selecting a lesser known and equally delicious Champagne, I was able to save the bride more than $1,200, just on the sparkling selection alone. I love Veuve. It’s a great choice, especially when budget doesn’t matter, but it’s like buying a high-end car, you are paying for the name. Why not save a special bottle for toasting in your honeymoon suite instead. 

For the toast, why not choose a Cremant, Cava, Sekt or American bubbly? No need to stress out over this, I am here to offer some tips on selecting the perfect wedding wines for the most important day of your life. I also offer bridal consulting services, if you need some personal guidance! After all, every detail really does matter.

Sparkling – Sparkling wine is produced around the world. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly alternative to Champagne look for a Cava, Sekt, Cremant or a great bottle of American bubbly. Here a couple of my favorite bottles under $30.

Here are some great white and red ideas for food friendly varietals to serve at your wedding:

White Wine – Believe it or not, you don’t have to serve a Chardonnay at your wedding. While it’s the most planted white grape in America, the quality level varies greatly! It is one of the world’s most manipulated grapes. Truth be told, it’s difficult to find an astounding thought-provoking delightful Chardonnay for under $25 bottle. The budget wines boasting bare feet and fuzzy animals are not varietally sound and don’t resemble anything near a true Chardonnay. Why not be creative and serve a crisp, refreshing Albarino or Soave? Most people will ask for white or red, it’s that simple. Just because your great aunt only drinks white Zinfandel or your neighbor only drinks Chardonnay, don’t cater to one guest! If the wine is delicious and it works with the food and the season, they’ll love it. Trust me!

  • Off-dry Riesling – A touch of residual sugar and intense acidity make this an incredible versatile wine with an array of dishes from a raw bar to soups to salads to spicy dishes.
  • Albarino  –  A  briny, crisp and delightful white offering floral notes or gardenia, white peach and citrus makes for a great choice for spring and summer weddings.
  • Soave – A fabulously fun alternative to Pinot Grigio. This wine made from the Garganega grape hails from the same region in Italy, but has a bit more personality than the run of the mill Pinot Grigio. Dare to be different, your guest will thank you for it. Think hors d’ouevres, salads, vegetarian and seafood courses

Red Wine – I like to opt for a lighter, fruit forward red for wedding wines when possible. They tend to be more versatile with a wide selection and they have less tannins, which stain your teeth. I am just thinking about your photos here!

  • Pinot Noir – Pairs equally well with beef tenderloin and mushrooms as it does with salmon. This thin-skinned grape offers bright acidity, moderate tannins and tends to boast bountiful aromas of red berries, currants, cranberries, with hints of earth, spice and mushroom, depending on where it’s grown. Looking for values? Try a Village Burgundy, Spatburgunder, or Chilean Pinot Noir.
  • Pinot Meunier – It’s one of the three grapes allowed in Champagne production and it’s one of the most widely planted grapes in France. It’s a unique and great alternative to Pinot Noir.
  • Beaujolais – This lovely wine produced from the Gamay grape is best served with a slight chill. It’s just as versatile as Pinot but a little more fruit forward and laid back.

If you are interested in learning more about my bridal consulting services, send me an email at I would love to hear from you. Here’s to many years of wedded bliss and great wine!


Top 10 Must-Try Restaurants Mid Cape

There’s something about Cape Cod that never seems to get old.  My husband and I just returned from a lovely ten day vacation through southern New England. I grew up in central Massachusetts and have spent most of childhood vacations in New Hampshire, Maine and Cape Cod, but this year we added a couple of stops in Connecticut and Rhode Island before heading to the Cape (I’ll cover those spots in another blog post).

I have been spending time on the Cape nearly every summer for about 20 years now. I got married on the beaches of  Cape Cod Bay in 2011 and I still have family there. Cape Cod is divided into four sections, Upper Cape, Mid Cape, Lower Cape and Outer Cape. No matter where you visit, there’s just something about the air, the sand, the majestic views, the history and the small quaint towns that run along Route 6a, the main coastal road, through the Cape.  And, don’t forget about the deliciously decadent seafood! While the fruits de mer are plentiful, it’s all about the lobstah and clam chowdah for me. As you take a leisurely drive along 6a, you will see sign after sign through just about every town proclaiming, “Best Chowder” or “World’s Best Lobster Roll!”  While I have visited just about every area of the Cape, I have spent the most time in the Dennis and Chatham areas. Here’s a list of my top 10 must-try restaurants in Mid Cape, I have some great casual places and a couple of fine-dining options for your next visit to this seafood lovers paradise.


Impudent Oyster – A tradition in Chatham for 40 years now! The chef here is quite inventive, putting a unique spin on many popular New England dishes. For starters, the clam chowder, oysters rockafeller and thai mussels are outstanding.  I love a Chardonnay with the chowder and oysters and a glass of Riesling the with thai mussels. For entrees, the pesca fra diablo with lobster, littlenecks and other fresh, local seafood in a  spicy white wine tomato sauce is heavenly. Select a Riesling to tame the heat in the sauce.  Stopping in for lunch? The fish tacos and Nantucket scallop sandwich are delicious.  Grab a glass of Roséwith the fish tacos and a sauvignon blanc with the scallop sandwich or raw bar selections. Walk off your meal by taking a leisurely stroll through downtown Chatham and explore the amazing art galleries and shops along the way.

Chatham Squire – A local favorite since 1968. Come as you are to this super casual pub featuring well-made classic fare like clam strips, whole belly clams, cod sandwich, fish n chips, whole lobsters and fish tacos. You can’t go wrong with any of the local seafood options here. Grab a Lost Sailor IPA or a delicious Squire Sangria for a great pairing with this casual food.

The Red Nun – Here’s another casual spot in Chatham  that’s great for a low key meal after a long day at the beach. The Red Nun has won numerous award for having the best burgers on the Cape. All burgers are served on a sandwich-sized english muffin. The fried lobster and steamed clams are also worth the trip here. This is definitely more a beer and margarita type of place. So, why not grab a local beer and enjoy!

Wild Goose Tavern –  The inside is well-appointed and tastefully decorated, but I love sitting on the cozy covered patio for some delicious food and great people watching on the streets of downtown Chatham. As you’ve probably figured out by now, I love lobster and the chef here is some super fun and tasty variations on this decadent crustacean. From lobster rangoon, to lobster quesadillas and lobster mac n cheese, you really can’t go wrong! Other delicious menu items include the fish tacos and the bacon apple and brie sandwich for lunch options. They have a nice diverse wine list. Try an Albarino with the fish tacos and a white Bordeaux with the lobster mac n cheese.


Sesuit Harbor Cafe – This super casual and rustic marina setting has the best lobster (lobstah) rolls on the planet, in my humble opinion.  Perfectly toasted New England style roll with overflowing lobster claws! Not into lobster? I won’t hold that against you. 🙂 Enjoy some great treats from the raw bar or choose from a wide selection of menu items. I also love the fact that it’s BYOB. Grab a cooler with a great bottle of Chardonnay, I grabbed a bottle of the  Schug 2014 Carneros Chardonnay and created the perfect pairing with the sweet, succulent and buttery lobster roll. There’s nothing better than taking in the briny sea air and the fabulous panoramic views of Cape Cod Bay while enjoying lobster! This place is one of my favorite spots on Cape Cod. Tom and I got married on the beaches here in September 2011.

Pecorino Romano Tuscan Cuisine – Small, intimate and quaint atmosphere with some great Italian cuisine. For me, the lobster ravioli paired with a bottle of Gavi is worth the trip! What a surprise?!

Scargo Cafe – Take in a show at the Cape Cod Playhouse and have a fabulous dinner in the heart of Dennis Village. The menu here changes often, but features some classic New England and innovate options in a warm, inviting, colonial setting. The clam chowder is delicious and the seafood strudel is a rich, decadent dish with bountiful crab, shrimp and scallops in a pastry crust.

Chapins Restaurant – Casual fare in a charming restaurant just steps from Mayflower Beach. You’ll feel right at home as you walk into the popular spot. This is New England comfort food at its best. From lobster pot pie, baked stuffed scrod and fish n chips, you can’t go wrong.  They have a small, but decent wine list. You can’t go wrong with a delicious glass of Rose from Provence or a glass of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc to pair with an array of seafood dishes and the raw bar. Chapin’s features live music several nights a week.

Dennis Port

Ocean House – One of my all time favorite spots on the Cape with breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. The wine list is superb and the lobster ravioli is a must-try!  The romantic setting is the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or for a great date night. Looking for a little more casual atmosphere, visit the Ocean House Tiki Bar, opened during season.


Gerardi’s Cafe – This small, intimate restaurant is opened year-round. Gerardi’s has a Sicilian inspired menu and traditional Italian cuisine with some delicious variations on  local seafood. The creamy burrata bruschetta is a great start to the evening. For entrees, they have a little bit of everything from parmesan to marsala dishes. Some of my favorites include the Seafood Fra Diavolo and the Cioppino (Fisherman’s Stew).  Choose a bottle of Soave or  Gavi for a white wine selection or a Barbera or Chianti for a red option. These wines are very versatille and will pair nicely with many items on the menu here.

Can’t make it to the Cape? Get a taste of New England with delicious lobster roll kits shipped right to your door.  It doesn’t get any better than that. And don’t forget about the wine! has two day shipping options and a great selection! Join the stewardship program and get unlimited free shipping.

2016 Virginia Wine Summit

 The beautiful Salamander Resort and Spa tucked away in the rolling hills of picturesque Middleburg served as the backdrop for the 2016 Virginia Wine Summit.

The day long conference on April 5 brought together some of the country’s leading wine experts, writers and critics with some of the best winemakers in the Commonwealth to celebrate the Virginia wine industry.

The morning kicked off with a Grand Tasting, featuring the Art of Whites. Five Virginia whites went head to head with its global counterparts in a blind tasting. The panel discussion was lead by Master of Wine Jay Youmans, who also serves at the helm of the Virginia Governor’s Cup.

We tasted through Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Vermentino, Petit Manseng and Viognier. Virginia did extremely well in all WineFlight2Summitthe blinds, but the big take away for me was the Barboursville Vermentino and the King Family Viognier. The Michael Shaps Petit Manseng never disappoints, nor does the Veritas Sauvignon Blanc, but the elegant, bright and mineral driven Vermentino from Barboursville was a real showstopper. It was tasted up against the La Spinetta Vermentino from Tuscany and was the crowd favorite for that match-up.

The Viognier fooled many in the room including myself and several of the panelists. Many of us thought the Virginia Viognier was from Condrieu, a world renowned area that produces Viognier in the Rhone Valley of France. Viognier was coined the signature grape of Virginia a few years back, but it’s been challenging for many winemakers to produce a consistent style and many have removed their vines and planted more reliable grapes.  Viognier can also pose a challenge due to its lack of acidity in comparison with many other whites, making it a bit more challenging to pair with food.

However, when the perfect growing season culminates with the perfect terroir and a kiss of TLC in the cellar, Viognier can be an exquisite wine, as King Family and a handful of other Virginia producers like Jefferson, Chrysalis, Michael Shaps, Horton and Barboursville have demonstrated time and time again.  Fox Meadow also deserves a mention for producing a Chardonnay that many mistook for a Sonoma Chardonnay. While Virginia is finally succeeding in establishing its own identity for the special place that it is, it’s certainly a great compliment to have your wine compared to some of the best wine regions in the world.

Breaux Vineyards NebbioloWhile the focus for many American winemakers has been on French varietals over the years, it’s really exciting to see what Virginia is doing with Italian grapes. While Luca Paschina, winemaker at Barboursville, has led this charge, a few other properties are taking notice and producing some exceptional wine with Italian flare. One of the most memorable wines of the day for me was the 2010 Nebbiolo from Breaux Vineyards. Nebbiolo hails from Piedmont, Italy and produces the powerhouse wines of Barolo and Barbaresco. Breaux has been working with this grape for more than 15 years.

The nose had the immediate telltale signs of Nebbiolo with it’s soft dried rose petals and rugged hints of tar.  These aromas danced in my glass and mingled with notes of dried cherry, rhubarb, sweet spice, oolong tea, a touch of anise and orange zest. The velvety tannins and piercing, yet balanced acidity, had me longing for a big bowl of pasta carbonara or hearty bolognese, a hunk of bread and a bottle of this beautiful red. Can you say delicious!  The 2010 vintage will be released to the public later this year.

Crystal with Keynote Speaker and Author Jon Bonne at the 2016 Va Wine Summit
Crystal with Keynote Speaker and Author Jon Bonne at the 2016 Va Wine Summit

Author of The New California Wine, Jon Bonné,served as the keynote speaker and talked about the incredible progress that Virginia has made over the past decade. He said Virginia is nearing an inflection point and that an important decision needs to be made on what Virginia wants its wine identity to be.  He encouraged everyone in the room to stop comparing Virginia to Napa or Oregon or France and to celebrate Virginia for all it has to offer.

Diversity was a common thread throughout many of the panel discussions. It really is the diversity of not only varietals, but the diversity in microclimates and terroir that really make Virginia a special place to grow wine.

Matthier Finot of King Family Vineyards talking terroir with Benoit Pineau of Pollak Vineyards and Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards
From impressive Petit Manseng (both dry and dessert styles) to exciting Italian and Bordelais varietals, he applauded the experimental fringe and diversity of varietals being produced across the Commonwealth.  Bonné closed with the following remark, “I hope 10 years from now, I see Virginia wine on wine lists across NYC and L.A. and if I don’t see it there, it would be an omission not to have it on those lists. When you reach that point Virginia, you have won.”

From learning about the different terroir and soil types of Northern and Central from  six winemakers to a panel discussion on Uncommon varietals grown in the Commonwealth, the 4th Annual Wine Summit was a day packed with interesting dialogue and discussion about the depth of its wine portfolio. From light, crisp Albarino and Vermentino to Petit Manseng for the whites and the Bordelais varietals for the reds, Virginia is coming in to its own as a world class wine destination. Not to mention the beautiful landscapes surrounding our vines from the Chesapeake Bay to the Blue Ridge Mountains, it’s easy to see why Virginia is for Wine Lovers.








Governor Terry McAuliffe joined Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore for the closing reception. Governor McAuliffe applauded the success of the Virginia wine industry and had the audience laughing when he said, “think about it, Virginia really is for lovers, we have great oysters, we have great wine… I’ll let you put the rest together.”

There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson would be incredibly proud of the success of the industry he so passionately pioneered more than 200 years ago.



Valentine Pairings

If you have a love affair with wine and chocolate, and let’s face it, who doesn’t? I have a line-up of of perfect pairings for you to explore with your Valentine.

I am partnering with one of my favorite chocolatiers, The Royal Chocolate, in Virginia Beach for a wicked sweet tasting experience tonight.  While, the general rule of thumb is to pair sweeter wines with desserts, I love to drink outside the box and experiment with different flavor profiles. Here’s my line-up of fun and delicious pairings so you can host a sweet pairing at your home.

2014 True Myth Chardonnay, Edna Valley, California
Vibrant aromas of pear, apple, pineapple & lemon curd are followed by sweet vanilla and hints of toasty oak. The palate is fruit forward with a creamy finish.

Pairings: Snowball Apple & White Chocolate Toffee Bar

2014 Dr. Loosen “Dr. L” Riesling, Mosel, Germany
Aromas of white flowers, citrus & stone fruit dance in your glass. This off-dry wine boasts vibrant acidity, honey, peach, lemon & a hint of lingering spice on the palate.

Pairings: White Chocolate Blueberry Scone Bar & Dark Chocolate Covered Ginger

2013 Carol Shelton “Wild Thing” Zinfandel, Medocino County, California
Bursting with aromas of ripe red berries, Chambord, plum, sweet spice of clove & cinnamon and a touch of cracked pepper.

Pairings: Baconluxious Maple Bacon Bar & Dark Chocolate Rosemary Bar

2015 Banfi Rosa Regale Brachetto d’Acqui, Piedmont, Italy
The ruby red beauty has a bouquet filled with red berries & soft rose petals while the palate provides a burst of intense ripe raspberry & a touch of baking spice.

Pairings: White Chocolate Oreo Cookie & Dark Chocolate Covered Strawberries

2013 Alvear Pedro Ximenez, Montilla-Moriles, Spain
Notes of orange marmalade, candied ginger, maple syrup, dulce de leche, honeysuckle and oolong tea lead to a long, lingering finish on your palate.

Pairings: Milk Chocolate Covered Graham Cracker & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar

All of the wines on my list, can be purchased by clicking on the banner above.  These sumptuous chocolates can be purchased at The Royal Chocolate. Don’t live in the area, no worries, they offer shipping!

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Wine Barrel Art in Hampton Roads

Mike Prieto, owner of Barrel-Art, opened his rustic workshop in Norfolk in the spring of 2013 and has been creating exquisite pieces ever since. He is one of the few artisans in the country creating handcrafted furniture exclusively from wine barrels. Prieto is constantly coming up with innovative ideas. Today, he has more than 50 products in his portfolio ranging from riddling racksimported from Champagne to bar stools to cozy dog beds and custom-made Adirondack chairs. Read Crystal’s full article on

Protocol Wine Studios

After spending years creating exquisite desserts as a pastry chef and the owner of a wedding cake company in California, Tina Morey developed a deep love for the fruit of the vine. She is the co-founder of Protocol Wine Studio – a wine think tank of sorts.

Protocol is the parent company of five endeavors including the innovative wine club, Le Metro, created for wine & art lovers alike and SommKit, a brand new product designed for wine professionals. Crystal profiles Protocol on


Williamsburg Winery

Virginia’s rich wine history dates back more than 400 years and Williamsburg Winery prides itself on  honoring the legacy of the Commonwealth’s sometimes tumultuous but emerging wine industry. I believe Thomas Jefferson is smiling down on his beloved Virginia today and beaming with pride that his dream of turning Virginia into a world-class wine destination has finally come to fruition.  Read Crystal’s full article on hrScene.

Chatham Vineyards

A second generation winemaker is turning historic land into world class wine along Virginia’s beautiful Eastern Shore. Sommelier Crystal Cameron, owner of Crystal Palate introduces you to the Wehner family and invites you to take a detour off Highway 13 and experience this hidden gem for yourself.  Watch video below and read Crystal’s recent article on Chatham Vineyards on

Video Courtesy: Norvell Rose


Top 5 Wines to Pair with Salad

Salads can really pose a challenge when it comes to wine pairings. There are many components to consider when selecting the perfect wine for that bed of greens. For example, spicy greens like arugula and bitter greens like radicchio can create havoc with the flavor profile of a wine. A good rule of thumb is to stick with an unoaked, light to medium dry or off-dry white wine or rosé with vibrant acidity. This style will complement almost any salad. You want a wine with good acidity to mirror the acidity of the salad dressing. If you really enjoy an oaky Chardonnay, make sure to pair it with a neutral green like green leaf or romaine and top the salad with a dense, rich protein like lobster, crab cakes or roast chicken.

Here are my top 5 wines to pair with salad:

1. Sauvignon Blanc – This is a popular grape that grows well across the world.  The typical flavor profile of this varietal includes notes of bright citrus, tropical fruit, gooseberry, fresh cut grass and asparagus. If you are searching for a wine with more citrus aromas look to New Zealand. If you love a Sauvignon Blanc with stony minerality, reach for a Sancerre from the Loire Valley.  This is a great selection for salads topped with goat cheese or shellfish.

2. Riesling – An off-dry Riesling is one of the most food-friendly wines on the planet. This works particularly well with a southwest salad, spicy thai salad, seaweed salad, crab salad and bitter greens. A touch of sweetness is a nice counterpoint to endive and radicchio.

3. Albarino – This is a refreshing alternative to Pinot Grigio and Sauvignon Blanc that hails from Rias Biaxas, Spain.  Albarino is a soft, feminine wine that often exudes exotic floral notes of jasmine, bright citrus, tropical and stone fruits along with a touch of salinity that comes from the terroir along the Atlantic coast of Spain.

4. Rosé  –  A mineral driven dry rosé is the perfect partner with greens drizzled with raspberry vinaigrette and fresh berries. Many rosés boast juicy berry aromas and have vibrant acidity.

5. Pinot Grigio/Pinot Blanc – When in doubt, grab a glass of light, crisp and refreshing Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc. These wines tend to be simple and straightforward with notes of lemon and pear and refreshing acidity. Pair this with a greek salad with feta and lemon vinaigrette.

Serving Wine at the Perfect Temperature? Think 20/20!

Proper Wine Serving Temperature

Are you getting the most out of your wine? If you’re pulling the bottle straight from the refrigerator or off your countertop, you are missing out on so many of the aromatics that make wine so beautiful, complex and compelling.

Serving wine at the wrong temperature can greatly affect your overall experience. For example, a red wine served at room temperature or warmer can exacerbate the alcohol sensation and dull the layers of flavors. This can lead to that burning sensation in your throat. Not a pleasurable sensation! The term room temperature dates back to a time when the room temperature was actually 55-60 degrees (the average wine cellar temperature today).

A white wine served too cold will mute the vibrant fruit and floral aromas. Some restaurants are famous for serving wine way too cold! Oftentimes, I feel as if I am having a glass of lemon water.  Has the bottle been open too long? Are they trying to hide flaws? Maybe. But more often than not, it’s a simple lack of knowledge.

So what is the proper serving temperature? This varies greatly between different varietals. This is a general guideline from the Wine Spirit & Education Trust (WSET).

  • Sparkling: 43-50°F
  • Light Whites: 45-50°F
  • Medium/Full Bodied Whites: 50-55°F
  • Light Bodied Reds: 55°F
  • Medium/Full-Bodied Reds: 59-64°F

If you don’t have sophisticated wine storage, don’t sweat it! Just remember the 20/20 rule! Remove your white wine from the refrigerator 20 minutes before you serve it and place the red wine in the refrigerator 20 minutes before you serve it. If you are decanting the red wine, you can still place it in the refrigerator.  When in doubt, I would recommend serving your wine on the cooler side as it will warm up pretty quickly. Cheers!

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