RICHMOND, Va. – If you're served a pitcher of authentic sangria in a Virginia restaurant, someone's breaking the law.
Since 1934, the state has prohibited mixing wine or beer with spirits. Frances McDonald, vice president of La Tasca Spanish Tapas Bar and Restaurants, found that out the hard way when his Alexandria location was cited for violating the sangria ban in 2006 and fined $2,000.
McDonald and managing partner Shana McKillop appealed their case to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Thursday before going to the Capitol to urge legislators to pass a bill legalizing the red wine, liqueur and fruit concoction.
McDonald said his business received no warning about the ban. He said he was unaware of the prohibition and had he known about it would not have located any of his five restaurants in Virginia. "It's like not being able to serve tequila in a Mexican restaurant," he said.
The Alcoholic Beverage Control Department agent who cited La Tasca even ordered restaurant employees to pour its sangria — about 40 liters — down the drain, said Shana McKillop, managing partner at the Alexandria restaurant.
A ruling on the La Tasca's appeal should take two to four weeks, said Kristy Marshall, a spokeswoman for the ABC Department. In the meantime, the restaurant has taken to modifying its sangria recipe. The brandy has been eliminated and the triple sec replaced with a nonalcoholic orange liqueur.
"It's still sangria but not as authentic as we'd like to offer our guests," McKillop said.