Monday, October 31, 2011

Debriefing the Wine Dinner

As we were settling into our seats at Dudley's Farmhouse Grille, meeting some folks for the first time, a friend asked me if I was nervous. Pausing for a few heartbeats, reaching for that familiar butterfly stomach and hot forehead, I surprisingly replied "no."  Don't get me wrong here, I needed a drink, stat, but confidence was quite the snuggler for the evening.  Having successfully, and nonsuccessfully unfortunately, conducted many wine dinners in the past, this first in a new home environment felt, well, right.

I took the remainder of the weekend to ponder this revelation.  A little background information here:  I can be intense and I'm sure I've scared away many many people. It's a wonder the Hubs has stayed around this long.  Anyhoo, the one quite important realization I've made in the past few months is that shit happens and how we weather it defines us as human beings.  So, all the planning in the world can never guarantee success, it can certainly help, but when so many personalities are involved, it's just impossible.  So in that moment when my friend asked if I was nervous I realized that although there is some anxiety about talking in front of a group, I also realized that the dinner really meant something to me:  I was promoting Virginia food and wine.

Thankfully, no "shit" actually did happen and the night went rather well.  Courtney Mailey's cider was breathtaking, tart and fizzy with quite a bit of depth:  appley and leesy. Her blog is quite comprehensive, the consummate cider maker:

First course was the butternut squash, apple and applewood smoked bacon soup paired with the 2010 Annefield Vineyards Viognier.  This was quite the favourite pairing for most guests.  The tart acid cut through the richness of the soup, the smoky bacon playing nicely with the distinct smokiness of the viognier and the fruit of the wine connecting with the background flavour of apples. Yum.

The only time I had elk was more than fifteen years ago at the home of an avid hunter.  Insert the word "gamey" here.  Shiver.  Jim, the chef, assured me that would not be the case with his elk and pear sausage with pear chutney. I paired this dish with my friend Angela's 2009 A Tribute to Grace Grenache from Santa Barbara Highlands.  (I know, shame on me, it's not a Virginian.)  Most wines would have paired fabulously with the sausage but I was concerned with the chutney which is sweet, tart and a little spicy.  Well, that sums up Angela and her wine superbly so that's my reasoning.  Throw in a meaty quality and I loved the pairing.

The main course was jumbo quail stuffed with Foie Gras, black truffles, smoked bacon and fresh herbs and frankly the only Virginia wine that could hold its own is the 2010 Ankida Ridge Pinot Noir.  An absolute gem of a wine that sung next to the quail.  The minerality and earthiness danced with the truffles and herbs while the cherry scents awakened the quail wonderfully. Christine and Dennis Vrooman, owners and winemakers are an absolute joy to be around.  Their enthusiasm and vitality was contagious!  Next visit will surely be to their vineyard.

The goat cheese cheesecake rocked it!  Light, delicate, the perfect combination of richness and sweetness.  I had a wonderful time.  I caught up with old friends, made new ones and most importantly I'm hoping that this dinner was the first in a series of wine dinners showcasing Virginia wine.  More to come:

Happy Halloween!

some spectacular websites to visit:

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