I started Virginia Blue Ridge Wine Tours in 2010, specifically focusing on the vineyards east of the Blue Ridge mountains where I have lived and enjoyed drinking wines for several years. My adline is “We Drive… You Imbibe!” because I want to remove from my visitors the restraint of enjoying the wine then drunk driving.
I have worked for the tourism industries of two countries – as a special staff to the Minister of Tourism of the Philippines, and as an international travel correspondent for United News Miller Freeman, publishers of Travel Trade Gazette Asia, Business Travel News Asia, and Pacific Asia Travel News, newspapers based in Hong Kong and
Singapore. I wrote for these newspapers for 12 years as senior correspondent for Indonesia, as well as actively participated in the promotion of that country as a tourism destination.
I was a member of the board of the Indonesian Bailliage of Chaine des Rotisseurs, a Paris-based epicurean society working with hotels and restaurants. I was active in the selection of fine venues for dinners amical by the society, and with the selection and pairing of wines with food.
In 1996 I was chosen by Dom Perignon Champagne to write their advertorial for their Asia campaign, as they launched their promotion and marketing in Asia which has been experiencing dramatic rise in tourism arrivals. My advertorial fused the ideas of champagne as a drink of the gods, and as “water of life” in the Balinese mythology.
I keep two bottles of 1973 and 1975 Vega Sicilia as a memento of my Vega Sicilia vertical grand wine tasting in 1991. In this wine tasting, the owner, and wine master of Vega Sicilia accepted the invitation of the Chaine des Rotisseurs to display and promote their wines which can only be acquired through membership or through estate inheritance. We drank that night the comparable allotment for the country of Canada.
In this unusual wine tasting event, I was impressed that both the owner and wine master humbly declared that in a blind wine tasting, it would be difficult to pinpoint the differences in the vintages and tastes of same varietal wines from their selections. If the venerable owner and wine master themselves of this awesome vintners of tempranillo wines from Spain’s Duero region were prudent enough to remain humble, shouldn’t wine snobs take note? This is an industry where wine snobs’ preference for their particular fermented grape juice has intimidated normal wine lovers. In 1977 I read the book “WineUpsmanship”, and concluded that wine snobs tend to remember the label of a bottle, but have bare familiarity or knowledge of the grape. In vino veritas, truly only the knowledge of the grape will set you free.
My tours are designed for non wine snobs, or recovering wine snobs. I want visitors to see the Blue Ridge and its beauty, and learn about grapes and why they grow here profusely. Touch flesh, so to speak. I also prefer small tours because I want visitors to feel happy but tranquil. And when I bring them back to their hotels after five hours of seeing beauty and tasting good wines, they will say with conviction: “That was truly uplifting!”
This was during the Grand Wine Tasting of six Vega Sicilia wines by the Chaine des Rotisseurs Bailliage Indonesie. Upon invitation of Embassy of Spain the owner and wine master personally arrived to sponsor this grand wine tasting.. Check out my blue ribbon and chain. I was a board member of the Chaine. On my left is one of Indonesia's top writers. Behind me is the Italian consul. Behind him is someone from Japanese Embassy. Serious stuff!
VIRGINIA S. SAUNDERS
Virginia Blue Ridge Wine Tours
WE DRIVE…. YOU IMBIBE!!!
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