Next Stop: The Rheinhessen

Monday morning came way too early, and after a quick dip in the salt water pool, I met our group in the lobby with suitcases and backpacks to start on our new adventure heading south.

Less than 20 minutes via bus, our crew came to Weingut Gunderloch located in the Nackenheim village of the Rheinhessen.  We were met at the winery by a teddy-bear-like Fritz Hasselbach, husband of the owner Agnes Hasselbach.  He greeted us with with open arms and invited us to into his family’s breakfast room that looked right out into the vineyard Egelsberg.

Fritz Hasselbach of Gunderloch

Gunderloch began growing vineyards in 1890, and Fritz kindly invited us to taste through a host of his different Rieslings of many styles, including an Auslese.  He mentioned that in the summertime, he and his family sat in the exact room where we were sitting and enjoyed a nice glass of Riesling before lunch.  Interestingly enough, two small tanks sat in the corner of the room. He later informed us these were the 2011 Beerenauslese and Trockenbeerenauslese that needed a warmer environment than the winery so that they could achieve minimum alcohol levels.

BA & TBA

Weingut Gunderloch

After a fabulous tasting, Fritz led our bus up to the top of some of his vineyards to enjoy a fabulous view and educational dialogue.

The Vineyards of Hipping

From the steep vineyards of Nackenheim, we moved onward into Saulheim, a village also in the Rheinhessen.  Delicious Riesling, Weisburgunder, Silvaner and Spatburgunder met us as we stopped at Weingut Thorle for lunch.  Very exciting, the wines of Thorle are brought into four states, and North Carolina happens to be one of them.  The wines were stunning, and I cannot be happier that I will be able to enjoy them again once we get home. The handsome Thorle brothers, new generation winemakers, put on a super yummy picnic of meats, cheeses, spreads and bread.  It was a perfect spring time lunch, and I couldn’t help myself but take pictures.

After our glorious lunch, we travelled to Weingut Wittman in Westhofen where the beautiful Eva Clusserath-Wittman and Phillip Wittman representing the estate of Weingut Keller greeted our group.

We tasted through the 2010 vintage of both estates as well as travelled to the vineyards where they grow these fabulous grapes.  It was a fantastic afternoon of tasting and taking photographs, and by 5:30, we had arrived in the Pfalz at the charming Steigenberger Hotel in Deidesheim.

No time for chit chat or for a nap, we convened in the lobby promptly at 7 p.m. to walk a few blocks to Ketschauer Hof for a three course dinner paired with the weins of Dr. von Basserman-Jordan.

Sebastian Wandt, the estate’s sales manager, met us at the door and welcomed us into one of the most modern-looking dining establishments in Deidesheim.

Beautifully decorated and super sleek, we enjoyed a meal of Aspragus Soup, Pan Seared White and Green Aspragus and Cheese.

In case you are wondering, yes, Grosses Gewachs Riesling from the Pfalz is a stunning pairing with Asparagus.

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The Fair

Call me a country bumpkin, but when someone tells me we are going to a fair, the first things that come to mind are fried dough, cotton candy and ferris wheels.

You can imagine my surprise when we drove up to what looked like a large car showroom in the middle of Mainz.

What is this, I thought to myself.  Where in the world are we?

This, my friends, was the Mainzer Weinborse, otherwise known as the VDP Fair, and this was where 200 and something producers, all within the VDP, had set up shop to taste anyone fortunate enough to have a ticket on their 2011 vintage.

VDP Wine Fair

We spent the entire day at the fair tasting wines from all 13 anbaugebeits (English translation:  wine regions).  From the Nahe to the Ahr to Franken to the Mosel, these winemakers and owners brought their A-game, and anyone that was into German wine was there.

Below is a photograph of me with Stuart Pigott, one of the great lovers and writers of German wine.   As you can tell, I was happy to be introduced.  By the way, I’m not quite sure who the other gentleman is, but doesn’t he look important?

German Wine Mania

Of course, I have to give a major shout out to one of my great Mosel loves, Clemens Busch, who was was there with his wife pouring insanely good juice.

This past September, On the Square hosted an End of Summer of Riesling wine dinner with our beloved friend Dan Melia of Mosel Wine Merchant where we served a few wines from Mr. Busch.

Just like a young girl seeing Justin Bieber for the first time, I asked the Busches if they wouldn’t mind taking their picture with me.  It was a dream come true.

Mr. & Mrs. Clemens Busch

At 6:00, we took a bus back to the town of Wiesbaden for our last dinner before travelling to the Rheinhessen.  As you can see below, I had a light supper of Pork and Cabbage.

 

Pork Shank with Cabbage & Mustard--Yes, I'm aware it looks like a whole chicken.

Following my feast, I went back to the hotel to Skype with my husband and kids.  You’ll be delighted to know my children’s only two concerns:  Was my Riesling tattoo real and did the hotel have a pool.

My Newest Body Art

I have to say ya’ll, this trip is pretty awesome, and as much as I miss my family, I am having a total blast.  Just you wait.  The fun and beauty of Germany just keeps on coming.

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Ball des Weines

As if it were like any other Saturday night in my life (NOT!), the Wines of Germany included us in a most extravagant wine ball held at the Kurhaus Wiesbaden, a short walk from our hotel.

To call it fancy is an understatement, and my only regret of the night was not bringing my phone to photograph the dresses, the wines and the incredible venue.  For a small glimpse at where the ball was held, please visit www.balldesweines.de.

If I can convince my new best friend Steven Solomon to email me some of his photographs, I will post them so everyone can see the beauty of the evening.

The invitation encouraged the ladies to wear long dresses, a habit I am even less used to than going to glamorous balls.  Because I had one long item in my closet from 1999, I bucked the system, and along with my American counterparts, wore short.  I’m not sure anyone noticed with all of the delicious Sekt being poured, but I thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the gorgeous Wine Princesses (all 13 of them) in their evening gowns.

In one ball room, there was an orchestra playing while many waltzed the waltz, and in another ball room across the hall, a DJ played fun dance music in a lounge-like setting.  In the main corridor, wines flowed freely along with oysters on the half shell and other whimsical delights.  It was an amazing amount to take in, and even now, I know for a fact I didn’t capture it all.

When Mariya told me it was 12:30, I could hardly believe it, and we finished our bubbly so we could run home to sleep in order to be ready for our jam-packed Sunday.

Many of our cohorts stayed until 5 a.m.  Am I jealous?  Maybe.  But I’m not tired so I guess there’s the balance.

 

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Geisenheim Institute

So Saturday was an interesting yet extremely busy day.

Our group had to be in the lobby of our hotel at 8:45 a.m. to pack in our bus and head out to the University of Applied Science Fachhochschule Geisenheim, on of the world’s most famous wine universities.

We were met by Professor H.R. Schultz, the unversity’s director, in a classroom style setting to discuss “A Journey to Different Varieties & Terroirs in Germany.”

Professor Schultz not only spoke of the terroir in relationship to German varietals, but he also took us through a wonderful historical trip of the Rheingau’s rich heritage.  As part of the seminar, we tasted Rieslings from the Rheingau, the Nahe, the Saar and the Mosel as well as other grapes such as Scheurebe, Silvaner, Grauer Burgunder, Spatburgunder and Lemberger.  Sounds like we should have had a Hamburger as well, but unfortunately, the class was void of food.

After the class, the group split up into two tours:  Tasting Vintage 2011 and Tasting “The Pinot Trio:  Gris, Blanc and Noir.  I opted for the Vintage 2011, and one hour later, we came out of the underground cellar having an amazing understanding of the vintage in regards to many grapes, Riesling included, of course.

Seminar successful as I will be sure to return to North Carolina to buy as many 2011s as I possibly can.

We broke away for a picnic style lunch of delicious Ginger-Carrot Soup and open-faced bagel sandwiches of many styles.  I opted for Prosciutto and Cauliflower with Mayonnaise, a classic combination.

After our quick noshing, we moved on to hear the famous and wonderful Paul Grieco talk about the Summer of Riesling, a phenomenon he has created in the states where restaurants dedicate at least three glass pours to Riesling for the entire summer.  Not a challenge for me in anyway, I will have you know.

On the Square, get excited!  We have new T-shirts coming very soon.

Paul spoke of the importance of Riesling and proclaimed his love and passion for the grape with complete and utter enthusiasm, no surprise that I had been very much looking forward to his presentation.

We again made our way to the bus and rode to the village of Deidesheim, where we then hiked up to almost the top of the vineyard and met Theresa Breuer of Georg Breuer and Tobias from Josef Leitz.

We tasted the 2010 Berg Rottland of Georg Breuer and Leitz overlooking the vineyard and listening to the wineries and the wines speak to us.  Absolutely incredbile and completely magical, it was truly a spiritual moment.  Just in case you can’t read how happy I was, I’ll insert photo.

This is me happy!

Just as surely as we had walked up to the vineyards, we walked down as well.  Easier on the feet but harder on the soul.

We adjourned to the cellar of Leitz where we tasted wines of both Weinguts going back until 2001.  While we didn’t get back to the hotel until 7:15, the day ended way too quickly.

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Weingut Flick

A dear sweet Fabio met seven of us at the international meeting point of the Frankfort airport and drove us to the Hotel Radisson in Weisbaden.

There are 11 Americans on the trip, three of whom I had met before today.  There are 45 people in total, who are invited from Spain, the UK, Hong Kong and various other countries.  The 45 of us will spend time together until Sunday when the Europeans will head to the Mosel and the Nahe and the Americans will travel to the Rheinhessen and the Pfalz.

As of today, we are exploring the beautiful Rheingau.

Once at the hotel, most of us checked in our rooms and took a brief one-hour power nap.

At 15:45 (that’s 3:45 to me), we reconvened in the lobby of the hotel and bussed it to Weingut Flick in Florsheim.

Absolutely incredible, we were shuttled off of the bus only to be met by the gorgeous German Wine Queen, Anika and glasses of pink bubbly, Spatburgunder I presume, but not sure.

Maria, Anika & Me

From there, the operations manager of the Weingut, Joachim, took us down to his cellar to taste us on his 2010 Charta Riesling, inform us with the history of the vineyards as well entertain us with mood lighting.

We were then taken into the large building upstairs on ground level to learn about German Wine Facts and Figures from a brilliant Ulrike Lenhardt, head of the Wines of Germany organization that invited us on this trip.

Afterwards, an unbelievable meal was served of Wild Boar and other accompaniments.

Shot by Flick himself

In case you believe I am rushing my words, it is because I am trying to get ready for Day 2, to begin in 10 minutes.

More later, when I come back from our day at the Geisenheim Institute.

Gesundtheit!



 

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Dear Germany,

Dear Germany,

I was so excited about coming, I could barely contain myself.

I started packing on Sunday in hopes of a an easy flight and tons of sleep on the plane.

As luck would have it, my flight from Raleigh-Durham left one hour later than it should have, getting me to Toronto at 9:45 p.m.  Connecting flight to Germany left at 10:20 p.m.

While frantic and completely stressed, the lovely Canadians were not.

As I anxiously went through customs, each person at the airport assured me I would make my flight as I trucked my body (along with two large carry-ons) all the way to the international terminal.

The mild-mannered, calm Canadians were correct–I did make my flight, but it is worth mentioning I was the last person on the plane.

Seven and a half hours later, I woke up in Frankfort after getting to watch two full adult movies.  When I say adult, I do not mean porn.  What I mean is not Mr. Popper’s Penguins or the Muppets or the Smurfs.  It was bliss, and I highly recommend both My Week with Marilyn (thank you, Tiffany) and Jack and Jill.

Cheers to being here safely and learning more than I could ever imagine about German wine from afar.

 

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Pink Drinking

Almost 11 years ago, I met Jeremy Seysses, son of winemaker and owner Jacques Seysses of Domaine Dujac in Morey St. Denis.

It was a warm June morning, and Allison, our sales representative at Martin Scott called to tell me she had Jeremy Seysses with her, and could she bring him up to the Greatest Bar on Earth to taste me on the Seysses Family’s newest project, Domaine de Triennes located in the Var.  She kept throwing his name around like he was the king of England, and I just kept saying “Sure,” “Absolutely,” “Come on up,” as if I knew exactly of who she was speaking.  Of course, I will admit now, I had no earthly idea who Jeremy Seysses was but I loved Allison and I loved to taste wine and it was a Thursday so why in the heck not?

I called one floor up to the Greatest Bar on Earth and reserved a table near the window on the west side, right beside the Sushi Bar where Richard Wong would be rolling sushi in his New York Yankees baseball cap.  When Stephen got into work, I asked him about going up with me to taste, and once I told him who it was, he almost started gushing (something he isn’t prone to do).

“Jeremy Seysses is coming for lunch?”  “Hell yeah, I want to come!”

“So, you know who this guy is?” I asked.

Stephen looked at me like I had three heads (something he did and still does often).

“Of course, I know who he is.”

“He’s the owner of Domaine Dujac’s son, one of my all-time favorite domaines in Burgundy.”

After Stephen established that I very much should know who this guy was, we grabbed our tasting books and walked up the one flight to the 107th floor from our office.

And, of course, waiting for us were Allison and Jeremy, and a satchel of wine from Domaine de Triennes.

Jeremy opened the St. Fleur Viognier first, and then the Rose, and then the red blend labeled St. Auguste.

We tasted the wines, and agreed on how delicious they tasted and what great wines to pair with food.  In fact, I vividly remember eating the Philly Cheese Steak with the St. Auguste while Stephen sipped Viognier while inhaling a Sushi Roll.

There are days that go by so fast you almost believe they didn’t happen and I remember that this day and the two that followed it rushed by at lightning speed.

Because Stephen worked as a sommelier in the dining room on most nights, I attended functions and events by myself.  On this Thursday evening, I held two tickets to the Central Park Conservancy Gala held in Central Park outside with a large band and the whole nine yards.  It came to pass that Jeremy had no plans for the evening so I invited him as my guest.

We enjoyed a beautiful night with beautiful weather and lots of fun people of all ages.  In fact, we had so much fun we agreed to go to my favorite barbecue joint on the lower west side the following night so he could try some incredible ‘Cue and Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Allison and Stephen were totally hip on the idea so on Friday night, we trekked to the Hog Pit and ate what I believed to be the best barbecue in Manhattan.  In case you are wondering, it no longer exists, but I think that’s because I moved.  When I lived in New York, I ate and drank there almost once a week.  In fact, my 25th birthday party was there.

After a super-fun evening, the four of us ended up back at Allison’s apartment to enjoy several bottles of Domaine de Triennes Rose, to this day my most favorite Rose made.

We talked and drank way too late, and before I knew it, my Cinderella experience was over and I was at home in Brooklyn getting ready to go to work the floor at Wild Blue for what was destined to be a busy Saturday night.

When what to my wondering eyes should appear!

Jeremy walks into Wild Blue asking for a table for one.

Stephen and I had a blast opening bottles of wine to pair with his menu, and it was our opportunity to enjoy a last moment to serve one of the all-time great people of the wine world.

It just so happened we discovered Stephen and Jeremy share the exact same birthday.

It also just happened that we became friendly enough for Jeremy to invite Stephen and me to come work the harvest at Domaine Dujac and then travel south to do winery work at Domaine de Triennes.

Fast forward to today, where I arrive at work to find my 3 cases of Domaine de Triennes Rose 2011 in the wine room, a wine I pre-ordered to make sure that my memories of 11 years ago continue to mesmerize my thoughts.

The beauty of wine:  it makes you think of and relish occasions and people as if they were right beside you.

Jeremy lives many miles away from Tarboro, and I am fortunate if I get to see him once every two years for a brief 10 minutes.

But, fortunately for me, I still get to drink his juice, bringing back a host of great memories that started with wine and ended as friends.

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Brooks Wines

Over a week ago (I know, I know, I’ve been extremely slow about blogging), Chris Williams, winemaker at Brooks Winery in Eola-Amity Hills, made a guest appearance at On the Square for our second wine dinner of the month of March.

This dinner, however, put no added stress on me as I didn’t have to perform in any way, shape or form.  The only obligation I had was to make sure Chris sat at a different table for each course so that all of our guests could have the opportunity to listen to his amazing story of making incredible wine in one of the great sub-AVAs of the Willamette Valley.

In thanks to Chris’ remarkable talents and our wonderful sales representative Alexander Gray, we were all treated to some of the finest Rieslings and Pinot Noir in Oregon.

For a play by play of the menu, please see below.  Pictures will follow shortly.

Reception

Short Rib Taquitos, Panko Crusted Rock Shrimp, Cucumber-Goat Cheese Rolls

“Runaway White” Pinot Blanc, Willamette Valley 2010

 

Scallops

Sweet Pea Veloute, Turnip Puree

“Sweet P” Riesling, Brooks Estate Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills 2010

“Amycas,” Willamette Valley 2009

 

Escolar

Uni, Soy, Mushroom

Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2010

“Janus” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2009

Duet of Beef

Beef Cheek Purse, Sliced Strip, Truffled Potato Gratin

“Rastaban” Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2007

 

Maytag Blue Cheese & Fried Apple Pie

Golden Raisins

“Tethys” Late Harvest Riesling, Brooks Estate Vineyard, Eola-Amity Hills 2010

 

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No Wine This Morning

At the risk of alienating any readers who just want wine speak, I am going to preface this blog by writing there is no wine today; only heartache at the home of one grieving Princeville family.

Some may know both of my children attend Princeville Elementary School in Princeville, a small town adjacent to Tarboro where we live.  Cynthia is in the midst of her second grade year, and my son is in Pre-K with the same teacher who made us fall in love with the school almost three years ago.

If anyone in the area wants to feel warm and fuzzy inside, I encourage you to drop by the school on any weekday at any time between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. and look inside a classroom where you will find some of the most precious children you have ever seen, excited to be learning and ecstatic to be with lots of friends.

When I took Stephen into Mrs. Gianino’s classroom this morning, she pulled me aside to tell me both parents of a young boy in Stephen’s class were shot and killed last evening at their home.

Immediately, I felt sick and completely devastated. There aren’t any words to describe how my heart ached.

She went on to say it was execution style, and that five children are now in custody of the grandparents.

This past winter, a small group of women studied the book of James.  I was one of those women, and part of the study was to try to memorize the entire book.

While I did not memorize the book in its entirety, I was able to learn the first chapter.

As I drove home from school wondering why this horrific tragedy occurred, I started saying to myself “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, to face trials of many kinds because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance.”

Those words seemed comforting so I decided to say the first chapter aloud to myself in the car.

For those who may be familiar with this book, you already know what the last verse of Chapter One says:

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this:  to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”

Wherever you are, whoever you are, if you read this, remember that at least five children for no reason at all became orphans last night.

It is my hope we may all try to bring comfort to those who are suffering and hurting as they struggle through life that just keeps getting harder.

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Rematch

Lobster & Avocado Salad

Last time I blogged, I told of my amazing experience at the Fearrington House in Pittsboro, duking it out with Wine Director Maximilian Kast at the first Battle of the Sommelier dinners.

I now blog to you live from Tarboro the day after our rematch where my husband Stephen prepared a magnificent meal, and I dared to pick the best wines to highlight his food.

Firstly, I would like to sincerely thank each and every one of you who attended.  It was a wonderful night, and you all made me so proud with the warm welcome you extended to Max, full of  amazing grace and hospitality.  Max had a wonderful time, and we hope to make this a yearly occurrence.  You all are the bombs for coming!

Pan Seared Sheepshead with Crispy Collard Cake and Creole Stew

Also great thanks to John Clay, one of the talented kitchen cohorts who took these wonderful photographs in hopes of making Inez Says a little more visual and intriguing.

I will definitely admit in the days leading up to the event, I was quite nervous.

Mostly in part to being a girl and the other about my husband executing a menu without my help.

Duck Confit Crepe with Fresh Sage and Blue Cheese

Obviously, I give myself way too much credit, because many of you confessed the meal was one of your all-time favorites.

My nerves were subsided the moment Max arrived at On the Square with a wonderful smile and plenty of zen-like calmness.

We each drank our beer of choice from Mother Earth Brewery in Kinston, and then we took off the gloves in anticipation of choosing the best wine to pair with each of Stephen’s dishes.

Sliced Leg of Lamb with Carrot Sformato & Sweet Pea Beurre Blanc

The complete menu is as follows, and the wines in blue are Max’s whereas the wines in pink are mine.  If they are in bold, they indicate the winner.

So, here goes the drill:

Reception

Pimento Cheese Beignets, Fried Oysters, Corn Bread Foie Gras

Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Brut NV

1st Course

Lobster & Avocado Salad with Caviar Vinaigrette

Nora Albarino, Rias Baixas, Spain 2010

Hopler Pinot Blanc, Burgenland, Austria 2010

2nd Course

Pan Seared North Carolina Sheepshead with Creole Stew and Crispy Collard Cake

l’Agape Riesling “Expression,” Alsace, France 2009

Evening Land Vineyards Chardonnay “Etoile,” Burgundy, France 2009

3rd Course

Duck Crepe with Cranberry & Blue Cheese

Tenuta Rapitala Nero d’Avola “Alto,” Sicily, Italy 2009

Thierry Puzelat “Le Tel Quel,” Loire Valley, France NV

4th Course

American Leg of Lamb with Carrot Sformato & Sweet Pea Beurre Blanc

Edmunds St. John “Rocks & Gravel,” Dry Creek Valley, California 2010

Storybook Vineyards Zinfandel, Mayacamas Range, California 2008

Dessert

Frances’ Amazing Pistachio Snack Pack–Pistachio Pudding, Poundcake & Brittle

Ventosa Estates “Carlos,” Scotland Neck, North Carolina NV

Domaine Huet Vouvray Moelleux “Le Mont,” Loire Valley, France 2008

Pistachio Snack Pack--Puddin', Brittle & Pound Cake

As you can probably see, I did not win.  No hard feelings, no regrets, no un-drunk wine.

The night was more fun than I can remember and I loved every moment of it.

My day was made complete when my dear friend Tiffany emailed this afternoon to tell me what a special evening she enjoyed.

When you get the reaffirmation that people love to enjoy wine because of the lively conversation and the magic of drinking it with food, it’s all worth it.

And that is because, just like life, winning doesn’t matter, it’s all about the fun you have taking the trip.

 

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Battle of the Sommeliers

Let the games begin.

This past Sunday, I had the honor and the privilege to travel to the magnificent restaurant at Fearrington Inn in Pittsboro, North Carolina to choose wines to pair with an elegant five-course menu created by Executive Chef Colin Bedford.

The catch:  each course would be paired with two wines, one that I had chosen and the other that Max Kast, Sommelier at Fearrington, had chosen.

The other catch, we didn’t get to look at the menu until exactly two hours prior to dinner.

What an amazing and challenging time it turned out to be.

At 4 p.m. on Sunday, Max and I met in the cellar where Chef Bedford relinquished the menu to us both at the exact same moment.  We were allowed to ask any questions about the preparations as well as taste any key components in the dish, i.e. Horseradish Foam, Verjus, Ice Wine gelee.  It was quite impressive to see the menu that was comprised of beautiful yet complicated elements for pairing wine, making it even more fun and exciting.

After a thorough examination of the menu with about two dozen questions answered, I was allowed to go into the cellar with Assistant Sommelier Paula to choose wines for each course.

Paula was patient and kind as I asked questions in regards to inventory and vintage.  She even opened a few bottles for me to taste so that I could confirm whether or not they would match the dish.

Because I am a daredevil, I only chose one wine that we also have on our list at On the Square.  The other four were wines I had yet to ever taste, and I was extremely excited about seeing the results.

Max, being the perfect gentleman that he is, chose his wines after I had chosen mine.  Partly because we see eye-to-eye on many things wine-related and partly because of the wine, we actually chose an identical bottle, although for different courses.

Of course, Max and Paula had already thought that could happen (although highly unlikely because of the depth of the list) so Max had to return to the cellar and choose another wine.  What a great guy to let the visitor have the advantage.

All in all, it was an extraordinary night.  Lively conversation, amazing food and incredible wines that we introduced before each course.  No one in the dining room knew who had chosen which wine, including my husband who was sitting at a table nervously casting his votes on paper.  Max and I even shook it up a bit by introducing one another’s matches so that no one had a clue as to who had chosen what.

The results:  I won two courses and Max won three, making him the champion sommelier of the evening.  For the full menu with wine pairings, please see below.  Note:  I am Wine A and Max is Wine B.

Oh, and for those of you who would like to know Stephen’s voting (because you know I checked), he voted for my pairings in every course except dessert.  The result:  he was allowed to sleep in the room with me at the end of the evening.

First Course

Smoked Arctic Char with Prosciutto & Ikura Roe

Beet, Mustard, Horseradish, Tapioca

Wine A-Leth Roter Veltliner, Hofweingarten, Wagram, Austria 2009

Wine B-Hans Wirsching Silvaner, Iphofer Julius-Echter-Berg, Franken, Germany 2009

Second Course

Salad of Wild Mushrooms with Celery Root & Shaved Foie Gras

Quail Egg, Truffle, Ice Wine, Salsify

Wine A-Enderle & Moll Pinot Noir, Baden, Germany 2009

Wine B-Sono Montenidoli “Il Caniuolo” Rose, Tuscany, Italy 2009

Main Course

Seared Striped Bass with Vichyssoise & Caviar Cream

Duck, Fennel, Yuzu, Hazelnut

Wine A-Azienda Agricola COS “Pithos” Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Sicily, Italy 2009

Wine B-Domaine Ostertag Pinot Noir, Franholz, Alsace, France 2008

Cheese

Baked Chapel Hill Creamery New Moon with Truffle & Quince

Arugula, Celery, Walnut, Verjus

Wine A-Reichsgraf von Kesselstat Riesling Kabinett, Graacher Domprobst, Mosel, Germany 1997

Wine B-Westmalle “Trappist Ale,” Tripel, Belgium

Dessert

Lemon & Vanilla Parfait with Pinenut Caramel

Marscapone, White Chocolate, Yoghurt

Wine A-La Yunta Torrontes Tardio, La Rioja, Mendoza, Argentina 2005

Wine B-Coffele “Le Sponde,” Recioto di Soave, Veneto, Italy 2009

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Mulligans & Heaven

Two and a half years ago, when I started this blog with the help of my dear friend Mary Haviland, we thought about calling it “Inez Says Wine.”

I am so glad we didn’t, however, as I have a lot more to say than just wine notes and taste descriptors.

In fact, I think about things that would be wonderful to share albeit they have absolutely nothing to do with the nectar of the gods.

Today was a day when I started thinking about love and marriage, and all of the drinking that goes on as a result.  O.K., so maybe that’s just my marriage, but Stephen and I love to love each other as well as love our vino (in particular, Cava).

When Stephen and I first met, we were working together at Windows on the World, and we shared an office on the 106th floor of 1 World Trade Center.  When we met in June of 2000, about the only thing we had in common was our love of fermented grape juice.

I was from eastern North Carolina and thought Chicken Tettrazini was the best thing I had ever eaten; he was from the Hudson Valley region of New York where he grew up on liver and stuffed shells.

If you had asked me what a stuffed shell was, I would have said a hermit crab.

Stephen moved at a faster pace than I did whereas I was the nerdy type, afraid of getting into trouble or doing the wrong thing.

If any of you had seen us during the first few months together, you would have said we had about as much chance of being a couple as Shiraz and Viognier.  We were completely different people from two completely different worlds, and our only likeness was our love of wine.

So, I guess that’s where you can say wine is pretty magical.

As the days turned into months, I found Stephen to be extremely funny.  He was quirky, yes, but he also had a hilarious sense of humor, constantly shocking my lips into curved smiles.

It took a while, but after six months, I could not deny the fact that I absolutely loved this sommelier who knew more about wine than anyone I had ever met.

We took the plunge, and after convincing ourselves we could go out without anyone else knowing, we decided to become exclusive.

I will never forget our conversation after almost a year of dating.

We had gone out one night, and I had acted like a complete fool….super mean and completely obnoxious.

As per usual, one wakes up the next day, realizing they didn’t make a great showing the night before.

I apologized profusely, and I asked him was he going to be able to forgive me and continue to be my boyfriend.

His answer is one I will always remember.

He asked, “Do you know what a mulligan is?”

“Is it a bird?” I wondered aloud.

“Close,” he said, “It is when you swing your club in golf and it is such a bad shot that you don’t have to count it.  You can take another one with no penalty.”

“You,” he said to me, “have a never-ending amount of mulligans.”

And that was the day, I knew I would marry this man who would forgive me of all my faults and flaws.

Rewind to 35 years ago, long before I met Stephen.

The setting is the dining room in Tarboro, circa 1980.

My grandparents, affectionately known as Gran and Papa Bear, are the players and they are eating supper with friends and family.

Gran asked Papa Bear, “Do you think you will know me in heaven?”

Papa Bear beamed at her and said, “It won’t be heaven if I don’t.”

Love comes in many sayings and with many words.  I will always appreciate hearing any that have to do with  the unconditional and the other-worldly.

Stephen never met my grandfather, but I think he would love to know he tied him with one of the most romantic sayings my ears have ever heard.

 

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The French are Phenomenal

Every now and then, I get so caught up in what is new and hip in wine, I forget about the classics which is a huge reason why I am so excited to be teaching and Wine & Beverage Management Class at East Carolina University this semester.

Wine is so ever-changing, and I am completely amazed by the new varietals I have never heard of coming to play at our restaurant’s dinner table.  Call me ADD, but I love to change courses when it comes to all beverages, and it ain’t no big thing for me to have a Chimay Rouge followed by a glass of Rose and then a shot of grappa.  Just kidding on the grappa, I don’t care for my throat to catch on fire.

Anyhoo, because of this Wine & Beverage 101 class I am teaching, I have to begin with the fundamentals of wine, and there is no argument for me that you have to begin in France.  Now keep in mind the course is 12 weeks, and in that very short amount of time, I have to cover the entire world of wine as well as beer and spirits and wine & food pairing, my very favorite  of course, as it is tres subjective.

So, here I begin to break down France in two classes, one held for the white wines and one held for the reds.

Because technology is so ever advancing, and I missed the train a long time ago, while I re-familiarize myself with the vins de France while learning Blackboard, a tool the university uses to upload powerpoint presentations and any other valuable information the needs to have to make an A in the course.  If I could figure it out, I would upload the Powerpoints to my blog as I was quite impressed with my presentations.

While teaching the course on white wines, I chose to highlight four major regions:  Alsace, the Loire Valley, Burgundy and Bordeaux.  As part of the class, we tasted a Riesling and a Gewurztraminer from Alsace; a Pouilly Fume and a Vouvray from the Loire; a village Chablis from Burgundy; and an Entre Deux Mers and a Sauternes from Bordeaux. It was quite fun to go back to these wines I know well but taste rarely, only because I am intent on tasting a grapes I haven’t tasted before as opposed to the timeless classics.

Shame on me, I might add, as these wines, just like Kirsten Dunst, never go out of style.  O.K.  so maybe Kirsten is a little young, so think U2 or Dave Matthews Band.

All of the wines were distinct and beautiful in their own special way.  The Alsatian Riesling was fat and appley while the Gewurztraminer smelled like roses.  The Pouilly Fume was yellow grapefruit mixed with white chalk and the Vouvray tasted like baked apples and chamomile.  The Chablis was steely yet powerful and the Entre Deux Mers smelled like Parmesan Cheese Rind and orange zest.  We ended on a sweet note with the Sauternes that was like nectar from the gods of wine.

More fun than anything was tasting with 35 undergrads who were tasting these wines for the first time.  They gave me new descriptors, and they asked me questions in regards to winemaking where I had to say, “I’ll get back to you on that one.”

It was a wonderful experience that got me excited about the red wines of France…more to come on that class in my next blog…..coming soon.

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Back in the Saddle

If you frequent our restaurant, chances are pretty good that you have met Xavyer.

One of On the Square’s longest employees (the only one who has worked with us longer is our beloved Frances), Xavyer is a serious, great-looking, well-spoken man who does exactly the opposite of me.  He thinks before he speaks.

A wonderful characteristic to have in any job, Xavyer has become a right hand to On the Square in ways too many to count.

When we cater weddings, he organizes the checklist, making sure we aren’t taking off to a venue with no cocktail sauce for the shrimp.  When he works as a runner, he is acutely aware of the reservation schedule, making sure the table is ready for the next guests to arrive.  And, of course, this past New Year’s Eve, when we had a brand new dishwasher on staff, Xavyer took all of his time and energy to assist in the dish pit, making sure there was plenty of room for dirty plates and glasses so the restaurant could operate at maximum efficiency.

All of those things make me happy, but none make me happier than Xavyer’s love of wine and his passion for wine service.  Recently, I have asked him to take over the wine program on nights when I cannot work, and the result has been amazing.

Meticulous and thorough, he makes it an obsession to know where wines are located (not an easy feat since I have no rhyme or rhythm as to where I place our wine–I call it job security although the real name is disorganization).  Xavyer also is intrigued by the magic of the grape, not a trait you can teach.  He pours as eloquently as any sommelier I have ever encountered, and when he talks to a table, he is professional and courteous without being stuffy.

In fact, I have to say more than anything, Xavyer has gotten me excited about wine again.

He is totally into it, and sharing wine and wine thoughts with him has brought a new smile to my face.

During the month of January, we have traveled together to Raleigh twice:  once for a distributor tasting and today for a blind tasting class presented by one of my most favorite people, Eric Crane.

During the two-hour seminar, we blind tasted six wines.  The first flight were two whites both made with Sauvignon Blanc (one was Sancerre and the other was from Marlborough).  The second flight was  Pinot Noir from Beaune in Burgundy and a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley; and the third flight was Barossa Shiraz and Crozes Hermitage (Syrah from the northern Rhone).

Xavyer and I sat beside each other and listened as our group of about twelve smelled, tasted and discussed.  It felt really good to be able to talk to Xavyer about helpful hints I had found useful in blind tasting.  He digested the information, and he asked questions as he grasped major concepts.

This past June, Xavyer passed the Introductory Course for the Court of Master Sommeliers.

In April, he will travel to Virginia Beach to take the Certified.

In preparation, I will blind taste him on wines as well as quiz him on theory.

All of a sudden, I am back in the saddle of wine.

As if I didn’t know already, the key to happiness is sharing your love and passion with someone else.

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The Wonder Years

In the past few months, my daughter Cynthia has decided she is quite the night owl.

I think part of it is genetic (like her father who loves to stay up way past his bedtime), and part of it is wanting to be awake when we get home after work.

I have to say selfishly, I love the fact she is up and waiting for me so we can get in our pajamas together, kiss and hug, and most importantly, talk about the day.  Her favorite question is “How many people did ya’ll serve, Mama?”

Sometimes, if I am feeling like I just don’t want the time to end, we watch a little television.

Recently, I have been going on Netflix to see if there is a show that will entertain us both.

For some reason, I remembered the television series The Wonder Years as one of my favorites, a show I thought she would enjoy as well.  The irony is Fred Savage, the protagonist, is now the voice-over of Oswald, one of my children’s favorite cartoons on Nick Jr.

Watching the show made me wonder about what the wonder years really are.

Are they the years you live where you are full of wonder or are they the years you consider to be the most wonderful ones in your lifetime?

I cannot help thinking about the wonder years of wine as they relate to our selling and drinking.

Honestly, the  summer of 2000 continuing into Fall of 2002 were wonderful years in my wine adventure.  From drinking aged Savenierres at Montrachet in Tribeca to exploring the cellar at Domaine Dujac in Morey St. Denis where we would open Burgundy from my birth year, the days were few and far between where we didn’t drink a wine that was absolutely amazing and different.  Each day was thrilling because each day we sold, served or drank a wine that had so much “newness,” so much excitement.

Those years were very much full of wonder for me.  I was learning about wine with every sip and with every step, and as I explored, I felt more and more compelled to make wine my career.

Wine glass forward to now where wine is very much a part of our lives albeit not a part where there is much wonder.

Not because we know more.  In fact, I would daresay we know less since the world of wine has become much bigger and much more complex.

No, I believe our wine wonder has been replaced by the wonder of my daughter telling me she cannot wait to begin her career as a cook-slash-house decorator in New York City.

Or my son telling my 92-year-old Nana to “get up and walk” as he uses her cane to hit her into gear.

We are much more consumed and entertained by what our children will do next, and regardless of what we try to control, our precious lovechild wine is no longer at the forefront.

As Cynthia and I sit in front of my laptop watching Kevin and Winnie’s first kiss, I think a lot about my personal wonder years.

Fortunately for me, they haven’t stopped, they have just evolved.

Funny, isn’t it?  That’s almost exactly like wine.

 

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