It was a weeee bit rainy. A tad splashy. A tish bit damp, if you will. And as my hair erupted into its requisite rainy day Ronald McDonald wig of frizz, Brandy arrived with a floaty strapped to her back pack.
“Duh, for FLOATING. Because it’s raining. A LOT.” <eye roll>
I guess I’m so accustomed to it raining at ALL our events that I don’t even think to prepare for it. But others did, too. Like these gals:
We might have actually needed that floaty. Not that the three of us could ride on it… but Brandy informed Michael and me that there was even a chance of tornadic activity. Good grief, Auntie Em. “Do you get some kind of alert for every weather situation?” I asked her. She answered, “I get that from my Nanny, okay? I used to call her for the weather.” Awwww… Nanny :)
Anyhoo, at three o’clock on the dot, one could hear a chorus of corks popping against the harmonious backdrop of rain and The Woodshedders, this old-time, bluegrass, jazz-country quintet who warmed things up for us quite cozily. The first Rocktown Wine and Dine Festival had commenced! And with neat-o wine sampling glasses in hand, we were off!
A note of clarification before I delve into all the deliciousness of that afternoon. The Wine and Dine Festival was different from the Beer and Music Festival of last April (and coming again April 20, 2013!!) in that the wine vendors served pairings–samples of a particular wine accompanied by a complementary dish. (Local chefs Alex Fitzgerald and Jon Alley created the appetizers and Brock Cappers from Robins Cellars picked perfect wines for each.) It wasn’t like the Beer and Music Festival where you filled up your mug and wandered around for a bit. It was more like an art exhibit, where you move through the gallery, stopping at each piece and eating/drinking the display. So the three of us, along with everyone else, were under the pavilion for quite some time, sampling the goods at all ELEVEN tables.
Also, as you perused the goods, if there were any (and believe me, there were) wines that you wanted to buy, you could go to the Downtown Wine and Gourmet table, place an order, and then pick up your wine the following Saturday at the shop. And Jay and Amanda offered substantial discounts if you ordered one, three, or five mix & match cases. A lot of people in my life are getting wine for Christmas this year.
Okay, Table One: World Premier Wines. Here we sampled the Paul Cluver Close Encounters Riesling from South Africa… and the Paul Cluver Gewurtztraminer paired with a southwestern chicken egg roll. The spicy egg roll with the crisp, apple-y sweet wine was a lovely start to the afternoon. Thumbs up.
Next was the Robert Kacher table, where we tried the Tariquet Classic–dry and fruity from France–paired with a traditional gazpacho. We also tried their Andre Brunel VDP Grenache, which was refreshing and really reasonably priced.
Frontier Wine Imports offered a grilled chorizo (sausage) with their Senda 66 Tempranillo 2008 from Spain–man was that a good combination. I ate a few of those little spicy things. And might I add, it was at this table that WE FOUND PORT. Aaaaggggghhhhhh <drool>. The Feist Madeira Full Rich Port AND the Feist Tawny Port. From PORTugal. Ha. I think I left that table about ten degrees warmer.
The fourth table was also a favorite in our little group–Small Vineyards served their Palama Negroamaro with these yummy little shredded pork barbeque sliders. Yowee. It was one of those slow-motion moments: We saw the wine. We saw the sliders. We started over there. People would not get out of the way. And when at last we skidded to the table, the sliders were gone! No worries–we just stood there and waited, and soon another batch arrived, all warm and fresh. We also tried their Tre Donne La Perlina Moscato and their Bibbiani Chianti. At this point we were really digging the festival.
The Avery Quinn table had these shrimp things–money bags, spring rolls, and wontons, along with a very nice California chardonnay. That combo was so good I burned my mouth–twice. We liked that table.
Bluestone Vineyard, one of the hosts of the festival, along with Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and Downtown Wine and Gourmet, presented a reeeeallly good cabernet franc ($25-a-bottle good) and one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life: bacon-wrapped sausage bites, rolled in aged chili peppers and sweet brown sugar. I admit that for the rest of the evening, I stalked that table for meat like Hannibal Lecter. I apologize for the creepiness of it. Anyway, Bluestone also debuted their new Moscato at the festival–a sweet, kinda fizzy fruity number. It’s a good thing there were no chairs under the pavilion or we may not have moved for days.
Around this time, the Woodshedders finished up and Chatham County Line took the stage. These guys have been around for thirteen-ish years, from Raleigh, and recently finished up a tour in Europe. Here they were in little old Harrisonburg, providing a warm and lively soundtrack to a now sunny evening.
B&L Brands was a fun table, not only because all their wines were great (and among the three of us, I think we tried them all), but because many of their wines have literary names–like “Foreshadow” and “Bookmark.” The nerd in me appreciates that. They offered Rooiberg Chenin Blanc (South Africa) with assorted cheese.
Vici Wine, our eighth stop, offered several South American wines (Chile and Argentina) including the Oveja Negra Chardonnay/Viognier and the Chilensis Chardonnay, and one from South Africa–the Obwika Moscato–paired with Bananas Foster Bites served with warm caramel sauce. Apparently I wasn’t the only food stalker there because we never did get a bite, and after all that meat I really needed some dessert :) Our friend Seth was working that table:
Cave Ridge and Cross Keys shared a table, which suited us just fine because we love those vineyards. Cave Ridge is the vineyard that runs Wine on Water, which offers tastings daily at its downtown location and houses Cuban Burger; Cross Keys Vineyard is a really great place to visit for a first date or an anniversary or a ladies’ nite out or an after-golf outing. The terrace is beautiful and the view is breathtaking, and if you get a chance to take the tour, you should. We sampled pretty much everything at that table and chatted it up with Katrina and Debbie. The pairing was the Cave Ridge Viognier with assorted fruit, but we also had their Chambourcin and Cabernet Franc. Cross Keys served their Joy White–one of my favorites of all time– and Joy Red, and the luxurious Meritage.
William Harrison Imports had several Argentinian selections and a few from France. And just before my sausage high wore off, they rescued me with a grilled kielbasa with mustard paired with the Don Manuel Malbec, a really hearty, spicy number that was a good end-of-festival selection.
And although we were “stuffed to the collarbone,” we couldn’t say no to the final table of the evening, Castle Rock Winery. Brandy and I sipped on the Mendocino Zinfandel and had gotten really mingle-y, wandering around, chatty and sorta unfocused. But they had a really good appetizer, too–chicken skewers with a tangy molasses barbeque sauce–and after an amount of time I’m just not sure of, Michael emerged from the crowd, marching toward us triumphantly, holding three chicken skewers high over head. We thanked him excitedly and then I, in my haste, stabbed my throat with the skewer.
Time for a break.
Having sampled all the pairings, and feeling quite satisfied, we moseyed to the lawn with our chairs to listen to the band play. We noticed the patch of earth that was torn apart by revelers at the Beer and Music Festival last spring–it was covered with hay to protect the tiny grasslings growing beneath. But it didn’t stay covered long, as an army of small human plows arrived and started making a hay pile. I mean, that’s what you do with hay–you gather it up into a pile. As the kids jumped on the hay pile and shouted and squished their feet in the mucky lawn, one of the band members asked them, “Which one of you is the Lord of the Flies?”
And so we watched the kids. And we listened to Chatham County Line. And Michael decided they needed a sample, too, so he commandeered four glasses and brought them a round. As the singer graciously accepted his wine, he said, “You know, I see a lot of signs that say ‘No bracelet, no wine,’ but… (brandishing his bare wrists)… come get me!” And they played on. Later he said, “Don’t discriminate, my brother. Integrate. That’s why God invented rosé.”
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