The Beer-Tasting Cheat Sheet for Wine Lovers

July 15, 2010 § 1 Comment

Can you swirl, sniff and sip a  beer?

Yep, after all, wine tastings and beer tastings are very similar.

Okay, maybe you wouldn’t swirl your beer (no one wants an overly-foamy brew, after all), but beer and wine are both fermented, aged, alcoholic beverages, so you experience and evaluate them the same way: based on appearance, aroma and taste (flavor, mouthfeel and finish). And the whole reason for tasting them is the same as well: to explore the many varieties and to find out what you like.

But if you’ve never done a beer tasting, here’s a quick, wine lover’s cheat sheet to tasting beer.

Appearance – What color is the beer in your glass? Beer comes in a variety of colors and levels of opacity – from straw-colored pilsners, to dark chocolate-colored stouts, to amber-colored ales and everything in between. Is the beer clear or cloudy (unfiltered)? Is the head (foam) thick or thin, and does it linger and leave rings around your glass as you drink or quickly disappear?

Aroma – Smell your beer right after pouring. Is the aroma strong or muted? Does it smell sweet, earthy, nutty, herbal, floral or spicy?

Flavor – Is the beer “hoppy,” as in bitter, crisp, or acidic? Is the beer “malty,” with roasted, sweet, nutty, coffee or caramel flavors?

Mouthfeel – Mouthfeel ranges from light and watery, to thick and chewy. Is the beer light, medium or full-bodied? Body, in beer, is determined by how much malt sugar has been converted into sugar, and fuller-bodied beer have more residual sugar than light-bodied ones.

Finish – Does the taste of the beer linger long after you’ve swallowed or does it disappear almost instantly? Is the aftertaste pleasant? Is it similar to the flavor the beer had in your mouth?

Impression – Lastly and most importantly, answer this question: did you enjoy the beer you just had? Because THIS is what really matters.

Now, ready to taste some of the finest, hand-crafted beers from around the nation? Then check out Magnolias at the Mill’s Beer Festival.

I just might see you there… 🙂

– Suzanne

Who is your favorite Va Winery?

July 13, 2010 § 2 Comments

If you love us, make your voice heard. Voting for the Favorite Virginia Winery of 2010 is now on.

When you click the “Vote” button to the right, you’ll be taken to the Virginia Wine Events homepage. Click the “Vote” button once again, and cast your  ballot.

The winning wineries will be announced after the August 15 deadline.

’09 Viognier Recipe Winner

July 3, 2010 § Leave a comment

And the winner is….

Grand Prize: Bouillabaisse by Carrie Metz.

Runner-up: Shrimp in White Wine Sauce over Arugula by Jaime Giles.

Come into the tasting room Saturday, July 3rd to sample Carrie’s Bouillabaisse, catered by Magnolias at the Mill between 12pm – 2pm while food lasts.

Then grab a bottle of Double Gold-winning ’09 Viognier and stay a while…


Broth: (can be made 1 night ahead)

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

6 shallots, chopped

1 fennel bulb, cored and chopped (reserve green frilly top)

2 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic (1 clove)

1 teaspoon tightly packed saffron

1 (14-ounce) can of diced tomatoes

16 ounces clam juice

2 1/2 quarts of fish stock (use Knorr fish bouillion cubes)

4 sprigs fresh thyme

4 fennel fronds

2 bay leaves

Salt and freshly ground pepper


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

4 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)

1/2 medium fennel bulb, cored and diced

2 medium yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced into small cubes

1 large tomato, peeled and chopped

1 cup Sunset Hills Viognier

1 pound littleneck clams (or mussels), scrubbed and rinsed

1/2 pound shrimp, shelled and deveined

1/2 pound scallops

1 1/2 pounds cod fillets, cut into chunks

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil


For broth: In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the shallots, fennel and garlic and cook over medium-heat until softened. Add the saffron and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add the can of tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat, stirring for 2 minutes. Add the fish stock, clam juice, thyme sprigs, fennel fronds, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Simmer over medium-low heat for 45 minutes. Strain the broth, and discard the vegetables. Boil over high-heat for 20 minutes. Season the broth with salt and pepper to taste.

For soup: In a large pot, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and fennel and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until tender. Add the potatoes and tomato, and cook until just tender. Stir in the broth and wine, and bring to a boil. Add the clams or mussels and cook over medium-heat until they start to open (discard any that stay closed). Add the shrimp, scallops and cod and simmer until all of the seafood is just cooked, about 5 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and basil; season with kosher salt and pepper.

Serve with crispy sliced baguette, with a Creamy Goat Cheese spread that’s been seasoned with Cayenne pepper for a bit of a spicy kick.

Shrimp in White Wine Sauce Over Arugula

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
4 T butter
2-4 cloves of garlic (depending on taste preference), minced
1 cup Sunset Hills ’09 Viognier J
4 small tomatoes (Roma or plum work well), roughly chopped into small pieces
1 lb. of shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ -1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending on taste preference)
4 cups baby arugula, rinsed and patted dry
4 oz. goat cheese, crumbled

Directions :
In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil & 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until soft, about 1 minute.  Do not let garlic brown.  Raise heat to medium high; add wine and bring to a simmer.  Add tomatoes and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Add shrimp, red pepper flakes, and the other 2 tablespoons butter, cook until shrimp is pink and no longer opaque.
Divide arugula evenly among 4 small plates.  Top arugula with shrimp and tomatoes; top shrimp with goat cheese. Drizzle a bit of the cooking liquid over whole salad.

Enjoy with crusty bread, such as ciabatta or French. Serves 4.

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