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Wine Seminars

The National Conference Center is the only conference center that employs a Chief Wine Officer. Mary Watson-Delauder has been with The National since the new ownership and management team, LaKota Hotels and Resorts, took over the property in 2014.

She has been in the wine industry for over 30 years, since her first wine job as a retail consultant and salesperson. At the National, she creates the herb garden and is also bar manager for the Black Olive Bar & Grill. She performs a variety of wine programs and seminars for clients, works directly with the Executive Chef pairing wines for the monthly Chef’s Tables and is an integral part of the food and beverage program at The National Conference Center.


Mary was the spokesperson for Virginia Wine Tourism in 2007 and 2008 and is a Certified Sommelier, a Certified Specialist of Wine, and a judge for the Virginia Wine Growers Association for over 20 years.

Mary has created 10 different wine and beer seminars that can be used as teaching modules or as a team-building exercise. The complete list is below. Seminars can be added to any Complete Meeting Package, starting at $25/person.


Individuals or teams smell and try to identify aromas commonly found in wine, i.e. lemon, raspberry, vanilla, etc. An illustration, by way of tasting, with four to six wines follows the aroma identification and scoring.


This addresses the basics of food and wine pairing, illustrating why some pairings work perfectly while others don’t work at all. This exercise involves seasoning and cooking methods and how each of these influences wine selection. 4-6 wines are tasted and discussed.


This exercise is for the more wine-savvy group. Wines are bagged and numbered for the group to taste and identify. This can be done individually or as a group for team building. Wines are then tasted and identified with varietal characteristics discussed and de-mystified.


Participants are given six wine descriptions and six wines to taste and correctly match to the appropriate description. The wines are then identified and tasted, with identifying characteristics discussed.


The basics of blending wines are discussed and then illustrated with as many as five component wines. Each grape’s characteristics are discussed and how those characteristics affect the blend, i.e. Cabernet Sauvignon adds structure and backbone, Cabernet Franc adds bright berry fruit flavors, etc. Each is tasted individually and then two to five of them are used to create individual blends. This can be used as a team-building exercise with small teams trying to create the best blend. Rhone varieties, as well as Bordeaux varieties and anywhere in-between, white or red can be used for this exercise. The teams give their blends a name and a wine label is created by the team.

Mary Serving

Four to six wines and cheeses are paired and discussed at length, according to origins, methods of production, and types of cheeses.


White, milk, semi-sweet and dark chocolates are paired with appropriate wines and discussed at length. Some flavored chocolates.


A minimum of four wines are tasted, each individually with at least two or three herbs to show how each herb affects the taste of the wine. This is almost a master-class in food and wine pairing. This exercise can also be done with different spices or a combination of herbs and spices.


Tasting and discussing different types of beers, their characteristics, how they are made and how they relate to food. An appetizer-type food is paired with each of the four to six beers.


Acid, sugar, fruit, oak and tannin – each of these components are explained as to where they come from and how they relate to the taste and flavor of wines. For example, the three most common acids in wine are tartaric (cream of tartar), malic (green apple) and citric (lemon). We taste all of these components, as well as wines that illustrate them well.

About The National Conference Center

Located in Northern Virginia, 12 miles from Dulles International Airport and 35 miles from Washington, D.C., The National Conference Center is one of the largest and most comprehensive conference centers and training facility in the nation. With 917 guest rooms and over 265,000 square feet of meeting and group function space, including the West Belmont Place catering complex with its 16,552 square foot ballroom, The National has become the nation’s headquarters for productive meetings and West Belmont Place the hub for Loudoun County and surrounding area social functions and special events. Facebook Twitter Linkedin

West Belmont Place was named 2013 Best Venue by the International Special Events Society. The National Conference Center is also on the GSA schedule. The National is owned by NCC PS Enterprises LLC, a venture between PCCP, LLC and Stoneleigh Capital, LLC., which retained LaKota Hotels & Resorts to oversee all aspects of the day-to-day operations. Facebook Twitter Instagram

For information call 703-724-5111 or visit www.conferencecenter.com and www.westbelmontplace.com.