It’s Villa Maria time!

Villa Maria

I realized today as I was preparing to write this post that I have not participated in a Villa Maria tasting since June 2016. Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls sometimes and that is why.

However, I am thrilled to be back with my Villa Maria family and friends to co-host this month’s First Sip of Fall on Wednesday, November 15 at 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time/5:00 p.m. Pacific Time on Twitter. This time, we will be tasting the following new releases just in time for the holidays:

2017 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, $14
2016 Private Bin Chardonnay, East Coast, $15
2016 Private Bin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, $18

It is especially exciting to be one of the first people to taste a 2017 vintage wine, a perennial favorite of mine, the sauvignon blanc. This will also be my first time tasting a chardonnay from New Zealand. The fact that it is from Villa Maria is icing on the cake.

Regular readers of my website know that my affinity for Villa Maria dates back to May 2012, when I first became acquainted with the wines. Every year since, 2013 through now, I have participated in these tastings because I believe in the brand. Founded in 1961 by Sir George Fistonich, Villa Maria is still family owned. In 2017, Drinks International named Villa Maria the most admired wine brand in New Zealand and the fourth most admired in the world.

Villa Maria wines are accessible, affordable, and approachable. I am enamored with the winemaking style and the lower alcohol of the wines, which, in my opinion, makes them more enjoyable alone or with food. With Villa Maria, you get a whole lot of bang for your buck. They are proof positive that delicious wines do not have to be expensive.

I hope you will join my friends and me on Twitter on November 15. To participate, be sure to include the hashtags #FirstSipNZ, #OpenAnotherWorld, and #VillaMaria in your tweets and posts. Follow Villa Maria’s winemakers, Helen Morrison at @Helen_Wine, Kathrin Jakowiec at @Kat_Halbtrocken, moderator Janet Fouts at @JFouts, as well as me, @travelwinechick, to virtually enjoy this first sip of fall.





2017 Zinfandel Experience


Photo Credit: and

It’s been two years since I attended Zinfandel Advocates and Producers‘ (ZAP) Zinfandel Experience, but I’m back this year for the Grand Tasting on Saturday, February 25, 2017 at James R. Herman Cruise Terminal Pier 27, Embarcadero, in San Francisco and I can’t wait!

Zinfandel Experience is a multi-day extravaganza, February 23-25, 2017, celebrating California zinfandel. This annual event connects consumers, media, trade, and winemakers alike. The schedule at a glance can be found at this link and tickets can be purchased here. ZAP membership has its privileges, so join before you go.

As ZAP president Chris Leamy explains, “This is a one-of-a-kind celebration of all things Zinfandel. For one weekend each year, wine enthusiasts are able to taste hundreds of Zinfandel styles from all of California’s growing regions. There’s simply nothing else like it.”

I am especially excited to catch up with dear-to-my-heart producers Bella Grace Vineyards, Fields Family Wines, Michael David Winery, Miro Cellars, Robert Biale Vineyards, Scribble Scribble Wine, Trentadue Winery, and many more. Of course, I will be sharing my impressions live the day of the event, hashtag #ZinEx, so follow me, @travelwinechick, on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

See you there!

Why Travel (ing) Wine Chick?


The @travelwinechick Travel Essentials Infographic by HomeAway

This post is a little different than my usual fare. I am two weeks into wine club processing at the winery where I work and I’m exhausted. I have travel on my mind. If I could take off this weekend, I would. I’d hunker down in an awesome rental space or hotel and do nothing but relax, sleep, eat, and drink great wine or beer. Or maybe I would just sleep for a couple of days. I just want to be alone with nothing on my mind in a place I’ve never been. Speaking of travel, did you know that it was my first love, before wine? My first outlet for travel-related social media was Twitter.

In September 2008, after attending an education conference as a community college professor, I decided to try Twitter. I had no idea what I was doing. My original name was @cestbeth, aka C’est Beth, it’s Beth in French (which still exists, I held onto it just in case). I had been a frequent flyer since 1997 and in 2008, I became a part-time, home-based business travel planner for Preston-Layne & Partners, Inc., a wine marketing and sales team. In 2011, I officially became an independent contractor with Montrose Travel and launched this blog. I found myself often having to explain the meaning of @cestbeth, so that same year, I changed my Twitter name to @travelwinechick (because @travelingwinechick was too long). The new name seemed to define who I was becoming, a woman who loves travel and wine, plus everyone understood it. Coincidentally (or not), most of my travel since 2009 has centered around wine destinations, such as Napa, Sonoma, Charlottesville (Virginia), Woodinville (Washington), the Finger Lakes (New York), the Okanagan (British Columbia), Mendoza (Argentina), Chester County (Pennsylvania), Santa Barbara County (California), Tri-Valley/Livermore (California), and the Hudson Valley region (New York).

After moving to the Napa Valley in January 2014, I haven’t had the opportunity to travel as frequently as before (no more Christmas break, spring break, or summer off in the wine business), but I still try to go somewhere four to six times per year, usually a weekend getaway. It just so happens that this year, I have been invited to some great wine, food, beer, and spirits destinations. During early summer, I will be traveling to Waterbury, Vermont for my first TasteCamp, then to Lodi, California as a guest of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. Later in the summer, I will return to Lodi for the 2016 Wine Bloggers’ Conference. I am hoping for more travel opportunities as the year progresses and I am open to travel anywhere (hint, hint).

With all of these wine-related travels past and present, there are a few key things that I always take with me, including my favorite accessory, The Wine Check. As a special treat, the kind staff at HomeAway created for me my own @travelwinechick travel essentials infographic to share with you, the top five things you need to travel if you’re a wine traveler. Pretty cool, eh? If you aren’t familiar with HomeAway (I wasn’t), then head over to their website to read more about how their vacation rental marketplace works. I know that when I plan my own travel or book travel for others, I search every option available for the best location at the best price, so I will include HomeAway in my future lodging searches. Perhaps HomeAway will hook me up with that weekend getaway that I’m sorely craving right now.