Photo by Kelly Hopkins, courtesy Virginia Wine Expo
For its sixth year, the Virginia Wine Expo is adding some new components to the weekend lineup. As a buildup to the main event, the expo organizers have partnered with The Wine Loft at West Broad Village in Short Pump to offer a Preview Party on Tuesday, Feb. 19, from 6 to 10 p.m. Attendees will sip wine, sample a special preview selection of wines from Casa Vinicola Zonin (an Italian winemaking company with a U.S. base in Charlottesville) and snack on appetizers provided by chef Melissa Close Hart of Palladio Restaurant in Barboursville. Tickets for the preview are $60, and as with other events associated with the expo, they can be purchased at virginiawineexpo.com .
Three days later, the expo will introduce another new event, Burger Blast, from 5 to 10 p.m. on Feb. 22 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. Participants will be able to choose from about a dozen burgers prepared by local chefs while enjoying live music. "The burgers aren't necessarily made with meat," says expo spokesman Alex Papajohn. "We will have some vegetarian [and] even falafel burgers to go with Virginia wine and craft beers." Tickets for the event are $38.
The Wine Expo is also known for its seminars, and on Saturday, Feb. 23, special guest Jay Youmans will lead a seminar titled Virginia Against the World: A Blind Comparative Tasting of Varietal/Blend Benchmarks, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Youmans is the lead judge on the panel for the Virginia Governor's Cup and owner of the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C. Papajohn notes that Youmans' seminar is an example of how the expo has developed. "Everyone thinks of the large sampling aspect, but the Virginia Wine Expo has grown to encompass a lot more than that," he says. Tickets for the seminar are $40.
Rounding out the week, the perennial favorite Walk-Around Grand Tasting will take place on Feb. 23 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Feb. 24 from noon to 5 p.m. More than 60 Virginia wineries will offer samples from approximately 400 bottles of wine. For the first time, there will be a Virginia Cidery Pavilion and an American Cheese Society Tasting Pavilion with cheeses from more than a dozen Mid-Atlantic producers.
"People like an excuse to taste new wines, and we want to keep it fresh because virtually nowhere else can you not only taste wine but buy it to go," says Papajohn. Proceeds from the expo will benefit FeedMore, the umbrella organization for the Central Virginia Food Bank, Meals on Wheels and the Community Kitchen. To see a complete listing of events, visit virginiawineexpo.com .