I’ve mentioned before how much Eric and I love Virginia wine. Many people don’t know that Virginia even grows wine grapes; we certainly didn’t until moving here. Our honeymoon was in Sonoma, so I’ll admit that we were skeptical when we first visited a winery here. However, that skepticism quickly turned into excitement once we realized how much promise lies in Virginia wines. Even before moving here, I knew that Thomas Jefferson had unsuccessfully tried to grow European grapes in Virginia. In fact, he tried for more than thirty years and never got a single bottle from his grapes. George Washington tried for eleven years and also came up dry. (I’ll cut them some slack since they founded our country and all.) I think our former presidents would be impressed by how far Virginia winegrowers have come since then. I’ll spare you a lengthy history lesson, but suffice to say that there’s a good deal of it tied into wine in this state.
A few weeks ago, Eric and I volunteered to pour wine for Horton Vineyards at a wine festival at Montpelier (James Madison’s home). We came home with six bottles of their wine and knew almost immediately that those wines were the perfect basis for a 24×24 party. We decided on a menu and were all set to start planning. Eric and I have been to so many wine festivals that we had exactly enough tasting glasses for each of our guests, which allowed them to sample the wines before deciding which ones they wanted to drink. I didn’t set the party up so much as a tasting where each person would take notes, but rather as a laid back way to introduce the wines to our friends.
I knew I wanted several small plates for people to eat while enjoying their wines, so that defined what foods we decided to make. I feel good pairing one wine with dinner, but I’m not confident enough in my pairing abilities to have planned for each plate to have a corresponding wine. Still, my friends all found wines they enjoyed and ended up kind of pairing them on their own. Here’s what the menu looked like:
Caramelized Onion Dip and Crackers
Roasted Pepper and Goat Cheese Crostini
Mozzarella and Roasted Tomato Phyllo Pizza
Crab Cakes with Homemade Tartar Sauce
Smoked Salmon Tea Sandwiches
Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Dipping Sauce
We had several bottles of wine, and we saved the fruity wines to have with dessert. Otherwise, we just let everyone choose which wines they wanted with their meal. Our wines, all from Horton Vineyards, were:
Black Cat Chardonnay
There are a few notable things about the wines that I’d like to share. Cabernet Franc is a wine we’d never heard of until moving here. This wine continues to be one of our favorite red wines, and I even heard a few non-red wine drinkers say last night that they liked this one. Norton is a native Virginia grape that was actually cultivated here in Richmond. My friend Elise loved it and couldn’t get enough of it when paired with the roasted pepper and goat cheese bruschetta. Xoco is a red wine with a hint of chocolate essence. It was the perfect wine to serve with our chocolaty desserts.
We had such a fantastic time sharing these wines with our friends. If you’re ever in Virginia, don’t miss out on its beautiful wine country. There’s a lot going on with Virginia wines, and I hope they continue to grow and flourish. This party just highlighted one specific winery, but there are so many wonderful ones here. We’ve actually got a few bottles from Jefferson Vineyards, and I’m pretty eager to open them. Being the history nerd I am, I can’t help but think of what Jefferson would think now about the grapes being grown on the same land he used and having a winery named after him.
I’ll post many of these recipes in the coming weeks. Since the crostini was such a favorite, that recipe will be making an appearance soon.