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Updated: May 9, 2023

Q&A Blog Series: Melanated Queens of the #VAWine scene

You may recall from my last #wcw feature, I mentioned that there are two highly successful and well regarded Virginia wine bus tour companies that are both led by Black women – and that I would be featuring them both! Well, this week I want to introduce you to Renee Ventrice who owns Cork & Keg Tours with her husband Don. I met Renee a few years ago on the wine trail in casual passing (we were both with a larger group together and we didn’t have the chance to really talk) but I remember thinking, wow, she is probably the first person who I have seen in all my years venturing around the Virginia wine trail who looked like me and was just as passionate about the local wine industry.

More recently, she and I have started connecting on social media and becoming friends. She was gracious enough to invite me on a tour this past December so I could get first hand experience to share with my followers. So, I hopped on one of their “blended tours” for a fun-filled Virginia wine excursion in Loudoun County. And, it was a top-notch experience that I highly recommend.

In addition to Cork & Keg Tours, Renee also finds time to produce a podcast called “Start Wine-ing” which is all about wine, craft beer, relationships, parenting, and a variety of other topics. And, if that wasn’t enough, she started hosting a Facebook live tour bus karaoke series during Covid-19 quarantine. I was lucky enough to join her for one of them (we won’t talk about my karaoke skills though lol).

Before we get to know Renee a little bit, I should also note that they are currently in the midst of a pretty exciting campaign to be voted as the Best Wine Tour Company in USA Today’s “10 Best” Readers Choice Awards. So, if you have a moment please check it out and give them a vote!

Renee Ventrice IG @corkandkegtours FB: /CAKTours Web: LinkedIn

Question: What originally led you to become interested in Virginia wine/wineries?

Answer: I first discovered my taste for wine as something to pair and enjoy, not just to get drunk from in Florida in 1998! After we moved to Loudoun County in 2003 and discovered wine country, we explored different wineries and realized there are so many different varietals and flavors to explore that we had never heard of. We have friends who own wineries in Loudoun County, so it started as social thing; as my palate expanded and improved, it became a real passion that I am pursuing to become a Certified Specialist of Wine by the end of 2021.

Question: Tell us briefly about the genesis of your company and why you started it?

Answer: Cork and keg tourist started back in 2016 when my husband was laid off from a job and was having trouble finding a new position that fit all of his criteria. After a long drive we decided that we wanted to be in control of our own financial future and started our own business, and- of course- within days after establishing the company, he got the full time job that he currently has today! I went full-time with Cork and Keg tours back in October 2019 with a goal of growing it with multiple operators by the end of 2020. Covid-19 has delayed us somewhat but it has not derailed that goal and we plan to have additional vans before the end of 2021. As for the diversity in Loudoun County wine country, it is definitely growing, and we’re excited to be a part of that! The number of female wine makers and tasting room managers of color in the county and state for that matter is wonderful to see. I think it brings a new level of inclusion to all people who visit wineries to meet and see folks who look like them in pivotal roles.

Question: Do you personally have a preferred Virginia wine varietal or style of wine? If so, what is it and why? If not, just tell us your favorite Virginia wine these days!

Answer: I have too many favorite Virginia wines to name just one, it literally depends on the mood I wake up in, the food I’m going to eat, or the weather! I would say two of my favorite varietals this summer have been Vidal Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc- the crisp acidity, tropical or stone fruit notes and minerality of these varietals has paired perfectly with the scorching heat. In Virginia, both of these varietals grew so well and they are superior to any that I’ve had any place else in America! I am also a huge fan of Virginia Rose’ wines right now! Loudoun County wineries make exquisite still and sparkling Rose’ wines out of so many different varietals- they all are distinctly different at every winery! Is wonderful to taste them all side-by-side and enjoy each one for their different characteristics.

*** Thanks so much to Renee for her time and interest in this blog series. It’s my joy to bring to light the many women of color who are making waves throughout the wine industry, and in particular here in Virginia.


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