Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Farmers Markets, Unique Wines and a Dash of Serendipity

Since posting my last article, where I threw out that the next articles would feature food pairings with the unique wines that I had picked up on my July sojourn to the vineyards of Loudoun County, I pondered “what on earth were these pairing going to be?” Especially the Rkatsiteli. I tend to skew towards the analytical side of the fence when faced with a dilemma. Translation: I can easily over think, over research, over complicate things and then be paralyzed by indecision.

Ponder, ponder, ponder …and weeks rolled by. Truly, it was Rkatsiteli that had me really stumped. Finally, in an “I give up moment” it dawned on me that Rkatsiteli reminded me of a spicier Sauv Blanc. Brilliant, the needed light bulb moment and then nothing. Sigh, I  still was having an uncreative moment and was really not coming up with ideas for the pairing. I chalked it up to being a long week at work and that I would put it on the weekend to-do list and head home from work. Since it was Thursday night, I figured I had a good buffer of 24 hours until the start of the weekend and maybe my creative juices would flow.
Like many that work in DC, my main form of transportation for my daily commute is the metro. Normally, I am on auto-pilot when I walk to the metro in the evening… basically same path every day.  On the occasion I change up my normal walking route I usually stumbled across something cool or fun and this time was no different. In an attempt to break out of my uncreative rut, I decided I would walk a slightly altered route to the metro. I am glad I did because  I came across the Penn Quarter Farmers Market. I had forgotten about this framers market and what a delightful gem to stumble across. An afternoon framers market on the way home from the office is something that my inner slacker could really embrace. 
I love farmers markets, especially the one that is about twenty minutes from my home on Saturday mornings. What I do not like is the up early on a Saturday morning to venture across the sleepy suburban sprawl to the farmer’s market, where it seems that every red lights conspires to slow my progress. Finally, as I close in to the desired destination there is the jockey for position, stalking to quickly snatch up the prize and that is just to find a legal parking spot somewhat near the farmers market. Sometimes this is all a bit much for my under-caffeinated brain early on a Saturday morning.

As I wandered through the Penn Quarter Farmers Market looking at all the fresh and wonderful local food items, I began formulating pairing ideas, not just for the Rkatsiteli but for all three wines. As I scooped up fresh produce, cheese from a local dairy, crab cakes and empanadas I left the farmer’s market content that I now had ideas on what to pair with my three unique wines.

Number 1 : 2011 Chrysalis Vineyards Albariño paired with beef empanadas and avocado.
This wine was a gem with its dry crispness that balanced out the buttery-ness of the crust of the empanadas. The Chrysalis Albariño displayed all of the true characteristics of the varietal with its flavors of citrus, apricots, peaches with a hint of almond. The wine has a tarty clean freshness that complimented the empanadas and cut through the creaminess of the avocado.

Number 2: Cana Vineyards 2012 Rkatsiteli paired with Maryland crab cake and a roasted tomato goat cheese mixed spring green salad.

This wine is an elegant dry wine with a nose of fresh flowers and herbs that are balanced by hints of pear and apple, crisp acidity and a zingy finish. The wine was able to balance out the creaminess of the goat cheese and sweetness of the roasted tomatoes, while brightening the flavor profile of the crab cake.  
Number 3: 2012 Delaplane Petite Manseng paired with cayenne and curry popcorn.
This particular pairing nearly confounded me as much as the Rkatsiteli. I really did not want to go the normal route with the off-dry wine and pair it with an Asian or Indian dish. In doing research, I came across this pairing recommendation from another Virginia winery that produces Petit Manseng and thought I would give it a whirl. A little out of the box for me (as I am not a big popcorn fan), but it proved to be a delicious stretch for me. The tangy off-dry wine was the perfect match to disarm the heat of the cayenne and compliment the spiciness of the curry. 


Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lazy Summer Days and New Directions.

Sometimes the start of a great adventure begins with something as simple as a text message. Over the long holiday weekend, that I had purposefully left very unstructured and unscheduled as possible, a friend texted me and asked, “What are you doing on Sunday?” my reply “ Sunday is wide open.” Soon thereafter a reply text suggested, “Do you want to catch up and explore a few wineries?” It had been a while since I had been out to the wineries and the change of scenery would be nice. I agreed and later mentioned my Sunday plans to another friend. That friend pointedly replied, “That is perfect, you can do some research for your blog!” I chuckled, most friends had stopped asking me about the blog.

Sunday was one of those typical middle of summer Mid-Atlantic days: Hot and Humid. If we were lucky, as some of the wineries are perched on a hill, hopefully there would be a hint of a breeze. As we made our way along historic route 50 to our first winery of the day, the cramp suburban sprawl of the DC metro gave way to a more rural spread, multi-lane highways became two lane roads. But with the rural spread comes interesting roads both paved and unpaved. The first winery was a mile (it seemed longer) down an unpaved road dotted with ruts, pot holes, darting animals and other obstacles that made for a head rattling ride. Finally, we spied off in the distance the neatly and uniformly spaced rows of grape vines.  We had made it to the first winery.

I was surprised to find at the first winery an Albariño on the tasting list. Albariño, a wine that had become my wine du jour this summer, replacing the Torrontés I favored last summer. I still like Torrontés, but there is something about an Albariño that whispers summer to me. The Albariño lived up to expectations as did a couple of the other wines the winery featured on their tasting flight. We left the first winery discussing the wines we liked and did not like as we bounced and bobbled back along the unpaved road. When we finally made it back to the paved road the next winery was just slighty down the road.

At the second winery, we were intrigued with the wine list. There was a varietal that I never heard of before (not surprising wine is a deep and broad subject). Rkatsiteli is a Georgian (as in the country) varietal with a long and interesting history. I will use one of its nick- names “Rkats” as it is easier to type and spell check won’t go bonkers. The Rkats was the second tasting on the list and I was so intrigued, I almost forgot about the viogner ahead of it in the tasting order. When the Rkats was poured, I sipped it and looking out over the rolling hills of the Virginia countryside, it slowly dawned on me I had found my inspiration for a series of articles for the blog. “Unique Wines” would be a nice mult-part series that would allow me to ease back into this writing adventure. Now to find a third wine. At the final winery for the day I settled on an Traminette. Not as unique, especially for Virginia, as the other two selections, but unique enough.

As we sat on the deck of the last winery enjoying a glass of Traminette, I was distracted with all the directions I could go with the wines selected, a summer storm rolled in over the hills and was the perfect punctuation to the day (not to mention a quick cardio workout as we dashed for the cover of the tasting room).


So yes, I am back and the next 3 articles that will come out, loosely, on a monthly schedule will feature the finds of this fun day in the wine country of Virginia.