Liquor Reviews

Vino 301 Concierge: A Beverage Adventure For All Liquor Lovers

 

I’ll admit, I’m a bit indecisive and I want it all.  Clothes, shoes, food, liquor – give me options!  Imagine my excitement when I found out there was an adult beverage tour in Maryland that allowed you to tour and taste Wine, Beer and Liquor all in one day. The Vino 301 Wine Concierge hosts a full-service wine and spirits tour at various wineries, breweries and distilleries across Maryland.  They provide transportation complete with a personal tour guide to answer all of your questions along the way. There are many tours to choose from,  you can select a wine tour only, wine and chocolate tour, wine and cheese tour, wine and food tour, wine tasting classes and wine tasting parties… you get my drift.  On this particular Saturday, my best friend and I enjoyed our adventure on the Wine, Beer and Spirit Tour, it was truly a spirited beverage adventure.

My tour departure time was 11:00 am on a Saturday morning, Vino 301 conveniently provided two pickup locations. I was excited to get a 9:30 am. reminder text from our tour guide Christina confirming my pick-up location  Once we arrived at the park & ride location we were greeted by our transportation vehicle – a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter passenger van…what a way to tour in style! Once inside the van, my best friend and I met our tour mates – a father, daughter duo and another female tour guest. Our tour guide Christina joined us bringing our total to six tour participants. Christina was extremely knowledgeable about the locations we were visiting and the wine we would drinking.  She is a Sommelier who studied in Washington State among other places. I liked the small tour group because it gave us each a chance to navigate through the different distillery spaces and it also gave us a chance to ask lots of questions.

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Our tour guide Christina

Our first stop on the tour was Linganore Winery and Vinyard. I’ve visited that location before during one of their reggae festivals but because there were so many people there I didn’t get the chance to fully see or tour the grounds. On this quiet Saturday afternoon, the grounds were buzzing with guests eating and drinking on the outdoor patio, buying wine from the retail store and touring the winery.

Bacchus – The Roman God of Wine

 

Once inside, we were greeted by our winery tour guide Brandon who gave us a little history of the Linganore Family. Did you know… Linganore is the second oldest winery in Maryland and the largest in Maryland , twenty different grapes are used in blending their wines and they’ve won over 200 awards throughout the years – that’s pretty impressive.  He also gave us a tour of the area where the wines are made, stored and packaged.

Brandon giving us a history lesson

We ended Brandon’s tour with a wine tasting featuring 12 of Linganore’s most popular wines. I can honestly say they carefully selected each wine because they all had a different taste.  We were each given a wine list, wine glass, a small chocolate and a cracker.  The chocolate and cracker are used to break up the taste and refresh the palate. Lorrie was our tasting room attendant, she was friendly, efficient and fast…she kept the wine coming. The wine list was helpful because it gave a description of each wine and we were able to make notes of the ones we liked and didn’t like. This was helpful because it made it easier to select which wine you’d like to buy after the tour.  They also gave us a dump bucket to empty the wine we didn’t drink or didn’t like, of course I never used that bucket. LOL!

 

Happy Wine Faces!!! That’s me on the right.

Our next stop on the tour was the Red Shedman Brewery, also located on the Linganore vineyard steps away from the winery.  We didn’t tour the brewery but we did have a tasting similar to the one at the winery. We were given a list of beers and were asked to choose six we’d like to sample.  Of course I loved the Raspberry Cider because I like sweet beer. The Lemon Shandy and Coconut Porter rounded out my top three.

After our beer flight, we hopped back on the sedan and headed to our last stop, Dragon Distillery in Frederick, MD. Dragon is located in a business park next to a local airport. With the name “Dragon Distillery,” the interior has to live up to the name … and it does.  The retail/tasting room is adorned with everything knights and dragons, there was even a cute dog bartender named “Thor”.

Dragon Distillery makes nine liquors for sale, variations of Vodka, Gin, Rum, Bourbon and Moonshine.  They even have their Bourbon making class that hosts a half-day session teaching participants how to make bourbon and they allow you to take a bottle home – that sounds like the ultimate experience for any Bourbon lover.  Just like the previous stops, we were given a menu of sorts to choose three liquors we’d like to sample. In Maryland, we have a law that states distilleries are only allowed pour three one-ounce samples per guest, so we were given a menu to choose our three. With flavors like Cherry Almond Vodka, Medieval Mint Vodka and  Lemon Meringue Moonshine it’s kind of hard to just choose three. The packaging is also pretty cool.

Our bartender “Thor”

Vino 301 Concierge has everything you’d want in a wine or liquor tour. It was professional and organized. This is the perfect gift for someone who appreciates wine and also a good girlfriends day trip. Visit their website and check out all the tours they have to offer, you won’t be disappointed.

And always follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Wine and Champagne

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I was scrolling for my phone looking at pics as I often do,  and I came across the photo above that I’d taken at a natural/organic foods convention here in Baltimore, MD.  The convention featured various beverage stations offering samples of organic coffees, teas, energy drinks and various alcoholic beverages. Of all the goodies that I tried that day, I specifically remember sampling the St. Regis Non-Alcoholic Wines and Champagne because it tasted exactly like the real thing.

I know what you’re thinking… Why would anyone want to drink non-alcoholic wine?  I initially thought the same thing but I immediately remembered that my family is religious and they don’t drink at all.  This could be an exception to the rule during family gatherings and holidays.  Someone may want a mimosa without the alcohol content in champagne.  Also, some people are allergic to alcohol and can’t always celebrate with friends and family. And I know some doctors say it’s O.K. for pregnant women to drink wine occasionally but some women may miss the taste of wine but don’t want to harm their unborn baby. The list goes on… there are so many other reasons why someone would want to drink non-alcoholic wine.

St. Regis offers a variety of wines to choose from – Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet, sparkling Brut Champagne and Sparkling Kir Royal. They range in price from $5.99-$13.99. With so many choices at such low prices, I’m surprised St. Regis doesn’t have a direct website to order from.  You can always check with your local liquor retailer or google the wine and plug-in your city and state.

Have you ever tried alcoholic wine or champagne?  Did you enjoy it?  Comment Below!

Be sure to follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

Margarita Standoff at Quarter & Glory

Hail to the alcohol holiday! National Margarita Day was Monday, February 22nd and I had a valid excuse to wet my whistle with a variety of margaritas. I ventured to Washington DC’s restaurant Quarter+Glory ( 2017 14th St NW) to drink and judge the Margarita Standoff Competition hosted by MIAgency and US Bartender’s Guild DC.

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Six bartenders were paired against each other in a competition-style setting.  They all had to reach into a bowl and choose blindly a slip of paper that would decide if they use Tequila or Mezcal for the competition. Ironically from left to right, the first three bartenders choose Tequila and the remaining three chose Mezcal.  They then had to run to the end of the bar and choose what items they would use in their margarita.

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There was a variety of ingredients to choose from such as fruits, vegetables, spices, juices and syrups. The competitors then had 30 minutes to make a large batch of their competition-worthy margarita.  The preparation portion of the competition was tense.  Each bartender was passionately focused on making their margarita.  The finished margaritas were complete with cool names such as God Never Dies, Sinners Delight, Desperate Cowboy, Phil Promised Me Spring, Rico Tico Tavi, and The Oopsy Daisy.

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“God Never Dies” bartender burning rosemary
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“Sinner’s Delight” bartender adding garnish and finishing touches

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Judges and guests were given one hour to sample a glass of each margarita.  We were also given ballots to vote for Best Tasting, Best Garnish and Best Name.

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Photo Courtesy of MIAgency

My personal choices were God Never Dies for Best Tasting as well as Best Name and Sinners Delight for Best Garnish. I also liked Phil Promised Me Spring because the Mezcal gave it a smokey taste and the bartender also used blood oranges the sweet taste balanced it out.

After all votes were tallied,  the winners were…

Best Tasting and Best Overall — God Never Dies

Best Garnish — Phil Promised Me Spring

Best Name — I honestly don’t remember who won this category, I did have 6+ margaritas after all

God Never Dies recipe via MIAgency

1.5 oz @vidatequila blanco, 1 oz Grapefruit Juice,  1/2 oz Lemon Juice,  1/2 oz Cointreau, and 1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Method: Add above ingredients to a shaker tin. Muddle slice of fresh ginger, Rosemary spring and jalapeño slice (with seeds) inside shaker tin with liquid ingredients. Fill shaker with ice and shaker vigorously for 10-13 seconds. Pour and double strain over fresh ice garnish : blood orange slice stuffed with a rosemary spring

Job well done to MIAgency and US Bartender’s Guild DC for the first #MargaritaStandoff! The event was organized and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Be sure to follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on Instagram.com/Arlisappetite and twitter.com/ArliBaby.

 

 

 

 

 

Balvenie Whiskey Tasting

I started my libatious life drinking vodka and rum only, mainly because that’s what all the other 18-year old …ahem 21-year-old young women were drinking.   As I grew older and started bartending, I began an appreciation for dark liquors such as whiskey and cognac.  All of my friends know my favorite at the moment is Crown Royal Apple.  Last week a friend invited me to a Balvenie Whiskey Tasting at the the American Craft Council Show. I’d never heard of Balvenie Whiskey, but I learned a lot from the 45-minute tasting.

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We arrived at the craft show around 6:15 pm. and went directly to the tasting booth.  There were four tastings that day and the last one was 7:00-7:45 pm.  While waiting for the last tasting, one of the hosts offered us a pre-tasting of two Balvenie brands.

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My first impression of Balvenie Whiskey was that it was smooth but bold with lots of flavor. The tasting was set-up in a booth with two long tables, ten people at each table. Around the walls of the booth were photos of Balvenie distillery employees. Our tasting host explained the history behind each employee and their contribution to the Balvenie Whiskey brand.

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Belvenie is a hand-crafted single malt whiskey that originated in Dufftown, Scotland.  It’s one of the only distilleries in Scotland that still grow their own barley and make their copper stills.  They also employ Malt Masters to oversee the maturing process and maintain the malting floor – one of a handful still active in Scotland. Belvenie has participated in craft shows around the world because they are a long-standing company that takes pride in continuing the tradition of making hand-crafted whiskey.

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At each seat was a tray with four glasses of whiskey and a glass of water. For the tasting we sampled the Double Wood aged 12 years,  Caribbean Cask aged 14 years, Double Wood aged 17 years and Portwood aged 21 years.

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The tasting host walked us through each sample explaining the unique flavors.  He explained to us how to properly smell and taste whiskey.  He instructed us to hold the whiskey glass 1 inch from our nose and pretend the rim is a clock. We moved it horizontal from 9 to 3 and vertical from 12 to 6.  He pointed out the differences in the notes we smelled at each point.

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The whiskey tray was also resourceful and described the notes that we were smelling and tasting. He also explained that some people like to add a little water to their whiskey to open up the flavor.

Balvenie Whiskey has a total of 14 whiskey varieties and is priced at $50.00 – $250.00 US Dollars.

Have you tried Balvenie Whiskey?  Which one is your favorite?

Be sure to follow my foodie adventures at Instagram.com/arlisappetite

Crown Royal Apple Cranberry Caramel Cocktail

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I love it when I discover a new liquor to enjoy and lately my liquor of the moment has been Crown Royal Apple.   I was introduced to Crown Royal Apple a couple of years ago at an industry event.  I had forgotten how good it was until a friend recently recommended it to me again.

I’ve always been a fan of Crown Royal Whiskey, it has a smooth mild taste and mixes well with anything. But once I tasted the Crown Royal Apple it quickly became my new favorite.  It can be enjoyed straight or on ice, it goes down easy and the apple flavor is strong but not overpowering.  Lately I’ve been drinking it with cranberry juice, but I decided to kick it up a notch and create this Crown Royal Apple Cranberry Caramel Cocktail – It’s a mouthful I know, but worth it.

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Ingredients: 

2 oz  Crown Royal Apple

1 1/2 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

2 oz Cranberry Juice

Instructions: 

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker

Shake well

Pour mix serve over ice

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It’s that easy!  Have you tried Crown Royal Apple?  What is your favorite way to drink it.?

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