Sunday, June 16, 2019

Gourmet Lunch Features North Carolina Wines

P1040620Combine a quartet of North Carolina wines with some culinary wizardry and the results are delicious.

Birth of An Idea

I was determined not to miss the North Carolina Wine Bloggers Summit this year. Last year I made a note of the date but somehow it slipped me by. Not this year.

The 2019 North Carolina Wine Bloggers Summit was held in Yadkinville at Hanover Park Vineyard. The event also included an optional tour with visits to Jones Von Drehle and McRitchie wineries. It was there that I became acquainted with Arthur Barham. I noticed that he was bringing wine into the hotel labeled Holly Springs, NC. That’s just a short hop from our hometown of Fuquay-Varina. We struck up a conversation and a friendship. Also taking part in the event were Michele Nidiffer of Wine, Women & Style and Natalie Hampton of Tarheel Taps & Corks.

NC Gourmet Wine LunchIn addition to being a budding winemaker, Arthur has experience in fine dining establishments and is a sensational chef. He conceived the idea of continuing the comradery of the wine summit with a wine get-together in the Raleigh area. Arthur is preparing to launch his blog Merlot2Muscadine, which will feature video profiles of North Carolina wineries.

Uncork The Bubbly!

The lunch, hosted by Arthur and wife Mary, was a celebration of great food and North Carolina wine. The party included the four social media influencers and our spouses: Natalie and husband Kyle, Michele and husband Jim, Arthur and Mary, wife Kathy (aka Green Dragon) and I rounded out the group. Every delicious bite was prepared by Chef Arthur.

The afternoon soirée started with Arthur uncorking a bottle of sparkling Brut from Biltmore Estate. Biltmore has more than 1 million visitors annually and is the most visited winery in the country. This traditional method bubbly was the perfect start while enjoying an outstanding selection of cheeses.

Chilled Peach Apple Champagne SoupGazpacho is the most well known soup served cold – but with near-summertime heat, Arthur instead prepared Chilled Peach and Apple Champagne Soup. Smooth and refreshing, our gourmet lunch was underway.

The Wine Is Slightly Askew

It was time for more North Carolina wine! The appetizer course was Grilled Marinated Shrimp in Fruit Salsa. The salsa was a mash-up of strawberries, kiwi, onion, cilantro, jalapeño and fresh peach. The wine served was Slightly Askew Penny for Your Thoughts white wine. Slightly Askew is located in Yadkin Valley, but is slightly different from other wineries in that it uses local juice as well as juice from wine regions around the world.

The Penny for Your Thoughts is made with Australian Chardonnay juice and is vinted at the Slightly Askew winery. It is a crisp Chardonnay with just the right kiss of oakiness. An outstanding match for the shrimp.

IMG_20190608_122422~2An amuse bouche is a “mouth amuser” designed as a single bite. It provides a glimpse into the chef’s style and – in our case – the light refreshment before plunging into the main course. Our amuse bouche was a mini Caprese salad consisting of a roasted tomato, burrata, fresh basil with a  balsamic drizzle.


A Jolt Of Jolotage

Arthur’s gastronomic skills went into overdrive for the next course: Bacon Wrapped Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney and Pepper Relish. Michele provided a bottle of wine from her favorite North Carolina winery: JOLO.

The 2018 JOLO Jolotage is a proprietary red blend. The grapes include Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and – what sets it apart from a regular Bordeaux-style blend – Chambourcin. The Chambourcin has vibrant raspberry notes and Jolotage has silky tannins. This was a delightful pick for our pork.

My task for the meal was to pick a North Carolina wine to go with the dessert. Arthur said he wanted to give me the most difficult assignment because he knew I could handle it. Hmmm.

The dessert was Lemon Custard with Whipped Cream and a Lemon Truffle. The original plan was to torch it tableside, but Mary didn’t want Arthur playing with fire (kidding!).

Make Mine Mead

For the wine I decided to bring a North Carolina mead – wine made from honey. I selected bottles from Starrlight Meadery in Pittsboro. Honeyed Peach is a traditional mead. This has nice lush flavors of fruit and honey. However, it isn’t thick and syrupy and wasn’t over-the-top sweet. (I also brought a bottle of Gallberry Honey Mead, but the bottle was off.)

Merlot2Muscadine 2The mead was definitely better when sampled before the dessert. The citrus and sweetness of the dessert negated some of the delicious notes of the mead, but a sip of water allowed the enjoyment of mead to continue. Starrlight has a new tasting room in the Pittsboro Beverage District, a great location to explore this unique artisan beverage. Mead – it’s not just for hobbits!

Great conversation, wizardry in the kitchen and outstanding North Carolina wine – that’s a recipe for an appetizing afternoon. Thanks to our wonderful hosts and guests.

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