By Patrick Szabo
For those who love the culture and sophistication of craft beer and wine, nothing would seem better than being chauffeured around in class to Loudoun’s numerous tasting hotspots.
Cork & Keg Tours is the county’s newest winery and brewery touring company. Tentatively opening for business the second week of April, C&K will offer clients upscale tours to wineries and breweries in a new Mercedes limo van that seats 12 and is outfitted with several 40-inch televisions.
Don and Renee Ventrice, both 46, are the creators and co-owners behind the enterprise. Loudoun residents since 2003 and passionate about wine and craft beer for even longer, the Ventrice’s developed the initial concept of C&K last November.
“It didn’t even take a week before we had researched it, came up with a name, came up with a concept and we just went for it,” Renee Ventrice said. “We didn’t even hesitate, we just knew that this was going to be our thing and our future.”
Tours will take place on weekends year-round and will last six hours, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. There will be two types of tours—private and blended. Private tours will enable groups of up to 12 to customize their venues, while blended tours will allow clients to purchase individual seats on a preset tour. Clients will be able to select their pick-up and drop-off locations.
According to Don Ventrice, if a group chooses a winery tour, there will be time to visit about four to five wineries. For breweries, the number will be about three to four.
These numbers are far from set-in-stone, however.
“The tour group themselves, they’ll kind of dictate if they’re having a real good time at a location and they don’t want to leave,” he said. “We do what the customer wants and we let them hang out there for a little bit longer.”
While C&K will encourage clients to stick to one type of alcohol, clients on private tours will be able to stray from that recommendation and visit both wineries and breweries if desired.
Pricing for private tours will be set at $1,175, while spots on blended tours will be priced at $115 per guest.
Renee Ventrice said they will focus on creating a sophisticated and luxurious atmosphere for clients. “It’s not anything that anybody who was on a super tight budget and looking for a bargain would want to do. There’s stuff out there, they don’t need us for that.”
“I am excited for Cork & Keg Tours because it is something we have not seen in Loudoun County,” said Tammy Skov, a Leesburg resident and friend the Ventrices. “It will be a breath of fresh air for our county.”
The overarching concept of C&K is to focus more on the culture and education aspect of wine tasting and craft brewing and less on the excessive drinking.
“The whole idea is getting people to try and buy,” Renee Ventrice said. “The idea is to find your favorite wineries and/or breweries.”
Instead of drinking multiple glasses of wine or beer after every tasting, C&K clients will be encouraged to taste different wines and beers to find one to buy and take home.
This business concept has captured the attention of local wineries and breweries, especially Quattro Goomba’s in Aldie. According to Group and Events Sales Manager Dave Armentrout, C&K will be the only company to provide group-tasting tours to its winery and brewery.
“They will only be bringing small groups of wine savvy guests to our venue and not a drunk bus full of 20-somethings looking to get hammered,” Armentrout said. “Their price for the tours will weed out the undesirable guests. … They will target a demographic that fits what we have deemed to be acceptable.”
Although the tour groups will be small, each tour will be coordinated with the venues.
“We don’t want to do anything that’s going to disrupt their normal flow of business,” Don Ventrice said. “We’re not a big fan of 30 or 40 people pulling up and just opening the door and letting that many people out on the property.”
The Ventrices hear there is a clear need for the small group tours.
“I am trying to plan a 70th birthday party for my mother-in-law who loves wine and I couldn’t think of a better way to travel,” said Krista Woods, owner and inventor of GloveStix. “The ‘party bus’ for parents just doesn’t seem to cut it.”
Aside from the upscale and more personalized atmosphere C&K will offer, it’s also about community safety.
“Drinking and driving, it’s a real issue,” Renee Ventrice said. “There’s a big benefit I think even just to the community to have a service that will do this and do it in a higher-end style.”
Learn more at corkandkegtours.com.