Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Eat This, Drink That!

After all the events attended, speeches given and wines sipped, I finally got my tasting club together and we had our first meeting! I only mean 'my' in the sense that I do most of the talking, good thing they seemed to like me! We held our first The GrapeVine Tasting Club meeting at the beautiful Intown Uptown Inn in Washington, DC. There were about 15 guests there that are now official GrapeVine Tasting Club members. And all were excited and eager to learn and taste, and eat!

As the members entered, we checked them in and poured glasses of California champagne (they'll probably get a letter from the real Champagne about that later) for their enjoyment as we waited for other members to arrive. Once most of the members had checked in, they were seated in the tasting room and I began our meeting. Our main topic was food and wine pairings that work, hence the title, 'Eat This, Drink That!' I wanted to give a few basic 'rules' for food & wine pairings and also give some pairings that worked no matter what. We had Chef Raiford on hand that prepared Italian and Mediterranean dishes for us to enjoy with the wines. And with October being Virginia wine month, all the wines we tasted were from Carafe WineMakers in Alexandria, VA.

Starting with whites, we tasted a Pinot Grigio and White Fusion which is a house blend of Gewurtztraminer and Riesling. Paired with the fruit, the pinot grigio stood up well and brought its natural crisp acidity forward on the palate. The White Fusion was great on its own, members loved it and were asking for larger pours. We obliged since we were headed into the food break between the whites and reds.

Chef Raiford brought out the food and explained his rationale behind the food selections after our discussion of the wines that would be served. He also made the point that wine is 'very personable' it's all about what you like. While there are some great match made in heaven combos...at the end of the day it's all about what you like to drink and what you eat. Chef prepared small plates of several dishes and dips so that members would be able to sample all the foods with all of the wines and also learn a few tricks for when they host their own events. The members would be able to serve a wide variety of wines to get something that everyone will like and there will be food to go with all the wines. Members dined on kiwi, pineapple and strawberries with blue cheese and peppercorn encrusted goat cheese. Roasted red pepper dip and a spicy hummus with pita chips. A cured meat platter was next to the olives and roasted garlic. Brie en croute with red & white raspberries finished off the meal. I'm getting hungry again just thinking about it all!!

I tried to look for empty glasses or a lull in conversation before starting with the reds, but I didn't see either. I just had to start anyway because I really wanted people to taste the roasted red pepper dip with the syrah that I was serving. Very peppery and spicy in nature but still having flavors of dark fruit on the palate, the syrah was definitely a crowd pleaser. And for those
that still had a little of the roasted red pepper dip or the peppercorn goat cheese, they got an extra treat because they loved the flavors that the wine brought out in the food and vice versa. The last red was Midnight Cabernet Sauvignon modeled after the Chilean style of cabernet. Very smoky on the nose with pepper, meat and hints of blackberry on the palate. Perfect for pairing with the cured meats, the smoke for smoke match was fantastic. We finished up with a vidal blanc for dessert. For those that didn't particularly care for sweet wines but wanted a little something for dessert, this was for them. Very honeyed and peachy on the palate, the finish wasn't the syrupy sweet taste that is present in some dessert wines. I was fortunate enough to snag a glass of this to pair with the brie en croute. The raspberries and the cheese wrapped in the pastry were perfect!

After the tasting, with wine glasses in hand, most went on a tour of the Inn. Everyone loved the designs of each room and the comfy French country style feel of the inn. And they can't wait to return next month to learn about a new set of wines. I can't wait to do my research ;-)

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