This past weekend, I was able to attend an event that is every Virginia wine and food bloggers dream; Epicurience Virginia (thank you Virginia Winos!!!) This is an annual event where Virginia’s finest chefs and wine makers come together to make some of the finest pairings around. Education sessions are also put on to learn more about Virginia’s wines and food pairings. I won VIP tickets from Virginia Winos (again, THANK YOU!!!), so my mom, husband, and I were able to experience Epicurience in style…with swag, private tastings, and other added perks 🙂 The entire event was well put together, and I felt that I left learning so much more about Virginia wines than I did before. Below is my own recap on everything that I tasted, paired, and learned.
Several Virginia wineries were at the event sampling a few wines from their tasting menus. There were far too many to try them all, so I went to the stands of some of the wineries that I had always wanted to try. While my husband was off enjoying some whisky from Catoctin Creek (which is also amazing!), my mom and I first went to Horton Vineyards. All of their wines were quite fantastic. Their Albariño and white blend were great wines to have on a fall day when you don’t quite want to admit that summer is over. What blew me away the most was their Blanco Xoco, a chocolate port styled wine. It tasted exactly like Hershey’s kisses, which sounded gross at first, but was out of this world! They had a red version, which they were not sampling, but they had only a few bottles left. Our taster said that if you liked the Blanco Xoco but are more of a red wine person, that I’d like the Rojo Xoco better. I ended up buying it. When would I ever find another wine like it? I have since tried it, and am not disappointed. It tastes like a chocolate covered bing cherry, like the ones you get from Harry & David’s around the holiday time. I very much enjoyed the wines that we sampled today, and would love to go for a full tasting another day!
Later that day, mom and I went to Zephaniah Farm Vineyards stand. This was a winery that has always been on my go to list, so I bee-lined it to their stand to try their wines. I was impressed with all of the medals that they won, and apparently, their Cabernet won an award just the day before. Congrats, Zephaniah! There wasn’t a wine that I wasn’t impressed with. My mom is not much of a red wine fan, yet she loved them all. Their rosé was one that my mom liked the best, so we bought one for thanksgiving. It will be a great turkey pairing! Again, this winery is one with exceptional wines, and I was only able to try a handful. I have to go back and try some more!
Tarara winery is one that I have never been to, but my wine shop sells their wine, so I am no stranger to their wonderful reds. While their whites are delicious, it is their reds that I feel are more complex and flavorful. They were sampling some food with their wine, and not overly ornate food, but food that one might have any day of the week. My favorite pairing was their Boneyard Cabernet Sauvignon with a sweet potato chip, deli smoked turkey, and a sauce of something which escapes me now. The Cabernet really brought out the sweetness of the potato and sauce, and the turkey added a nice salt component. They gave out coupons for a free tasting, so you can bet that I will be back to try out more of their amazing wines!
Being a VIP ticket holder gave us access to some fancy schmancy wine and food pairings by award winning chefs and wine/beer/booze makers in the VIP lounge tent. Sadly, we left before all of the chefs had a chance to do their pairing, but I can only hold so much wine in me before I have to call it quits. Quits for me was around 5:00.
My favorite of the food pairings that we saw was Magnolias at the Mill with Catoctin Creek. Magnolia’s chef, Erik Foxx-Nettnin, hauled out a 90lb tuna, which he filleted in front of us, a process where you could hear the tuna’s collarbone cracking on my video. I got creeped out after about 20 seconds and had to stop recording! He paired this gorgeous raw fish with a coleslaw and Catoctin Creek’s Gin punch. The fish was so fresh and went so well with the crisp coleslaw. The refreshing gin punch was a great pairing, not masking, but only enhancing the quality of the ingredients.
Four Wine Education sessions were offered throughout the day, and I was able to make it to three of them. All three I attended were spectacular.
Virginia Wines & Food Pairings:
Neal Wavra, a sommelier at a local restaurant, offered three different appetizers to go with three Virginia wines. The first pairing was Early Mountain’s 2015 Rosé with a roasted tomato and caper tuna. The rosé was one of my favorite rosé of the day; nice, dry and crisp, just like how I like my rosés. I felt this was a better summer rosé than a fall one, as it was very refreshing for warmer days. The pairing, however, was quite scrumptious. The dryness and acidity of the wine really made the flavors of the roasted tomato and capers pop. The saltiness of the tuna helped bring out some sweeter strawberry notes of the wine. A good pairing it was, but education wise, there wasn’t anything new from this pairing that I didn’t know already.
The second pairing was Granite Heights Winery’s 2014 Petit Manseng with a scallion, miso, ginger, pineapple chicken salad (at least I think it was chicken…it could have been tuna? I really don’t remember…so much wine and food!). I learned so much from this pairing. Neal taught us that how dry/sweet a wine is, is perceived on the back of the tongue. When you taste a wine, if your tongue is dry, the wine is dry, and visa versa. Petit Manseng is often thought of as being sweet. It is similar to a Gewürztraminer. There are often acidic and tropical notes in the wine which can cause this mistake, but in fact, Petit Manseng leaves your mouth somewhat dry, showing that it is actually a dry wine. While the flavors can be sweet, and are sometimes too sweet for me, the combination of dry (wine) and sweet (flavors) makes Petit Manseng an extraordinary pairing wine, as was this combination. Neal also mentioned how umami flavors, such as the miso in the chicken(?) salad, amplify flavors of dishes, giving them more roundness and body. My mouth was exploding with flavor with this combination. If a mouth could have ADHD, it did now. So many flavors exciting the palate that I didn’t know what to concentrate on first! The tropical flavors of the wine matched the pineapple vinegar of the food. The ginger helped to bring out some herbal flavors of the wine, and the miso enhanced everything. I wish we could have had more! I will have to buy a bottle of this wine soon and make something similar!
The last pairing was Ceder Creek Winery’s 2009 Cabernet Frank with a pork something (why didn’t I write it down??!). This Cab Franc has won several awards, and it is no wonder. Delightfully tannic with dark red fruits (like plum and cherry) and pepper, this wine was more easy drinking than its dark, ruby red complexion would let on. The pork something-or-other was able to stand up to the tannins of the wine. While I can’t remember what the food was, I do remember the pairing. I remember the wine being definitely improved with the food, being able to taste the fruits on the front of the tongue and the spices on the back. When having the wine on its own, the tannic structure overpowered some of the softer fruits. With food, there was a nice cycle of fruit to spice that made the wine more balanced. No offense to the food. As delicious as the pork probably was, I just can’t remember for the life of me what it was…
Meet Viriginia Reds and Uncommon Virginia Whites:
These two sessions introduced us to some red wines that flourish in Virginia, and white wines that are less common. The reds we tried, along with my notes, were: Fabbioli Cellar’s 2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve (love this winery! good tannin, lots of green pepper character, great pairing wine), North Gate Vineyard’s 2014 Meritage (WOW!!!, easy drinking, balanced tannin and fruit, reminds me of a petit verdot, where can I get some more?), and King Family Vineyard’s 2013 Petit Verdot (gorgeous wine, late ripener, has a chalky taste that would do well with a stew, delish, Would love to visit them one day). For the whites, along with my notes: Chrysalis Vineyard’s 2015 Albariño Verde (intense fruit, dry/sweet, like the Petit Manseng, delicious!), Breaux Vineyard’s 2015 Sauvignon Blanc (award winning! Where can I get some more? crisp, dry, clean w/ pineapple), and North Gate Vineyard’s 2015 Rkatsiteli (gorgeous, Georgian wine, unique grape that reminds me of Sav Blanc, lots of lime, grass, and is that basil? Love the uniqueness of this wine. Must go try their other wines!). My notes are very official, I know, but they help me to remember which wines I liked, which wineries to (re)visit, which wines I need to get more of, and what flavors they had so that I might be able to pair them another time.
Thank you to all of the chefs, sommaliers, wine makers, presenters, and coordinators for making this an unforgetable evening!
Wineries, Distilleries, and Restaurants Mentioned (in no particular order other than the order they appear on my camera roll): Horton Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, Zephaniah Farm Vineyard, Tarara Winery, Fabbioli Cellars, North Gate Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, Early Mountain Vineyards, Granite Heights Winery, Cedar Creek Vineyards, Chrysalis Vineyards, Catoctin Creek, Magnolias at the Mill