18 June 2010

Cheese and Rodin

There has been a lot of "Parmeiux Adventuring" in the last couple of months, and Andrea has been doing a great job of keeping the blog-fires burning as I continue my deliquency. Although my better half has already briefed you on some of the best parts of our visit to Amish country, PA (namely the CHEEEEEESE!), I thought I'd share some of my favorite images from this trip:

My favorite Cheese

The world's best Fromaggier, and an angry Shropshire Stilton

...and some fun bits from inside the Clocktower Cheese shop:

We did make into Philly as well on this trip. And having been a couple of times before, I didn't really take many pictures. But I did enjoy the Rodin Museum, and some of the monumenty things surrounding it, and although many of them are replicas of the originals, they're still pretty cool looking.

I particularly liked Rodin's cast of The Gates of Hell which was beautiful and a little unnerving. It called to mind images of The Last Judgement from the Sistine Chapel, except in 3-D, and much, much darker.

It is believed that this work was is based on Dante's inferno, although much has been speculated, no one is aboslutely sure what Rodin's inspiration truly was. I like to think that Dante's influence can be seen there, as I felt that you can practically feel the torment and pain of souls truly experiencing the poetic justice of their sins, much like those from Dante's epic poem. So I leave you with this final photo:

17 June 2010

Vintage Virginia Part 2

Since the part one post I was informed that the Vintage Virginia wine festival was not in some random field in the middle of nowhere Virginia. It was indeed in Centerville at Bull Run, a site of infamy from the Civil War. The park itself, is however, a field in Centerville, Virginia which might as well be the middle of nowhere.

Continuing on with the wine! When we last left Lauren and me, we had tasted wine from three different wineries, sampled some oil, looked at some arts and crafts, and were feeling pretty darn pleased. Next to receive our favor was the James River Cellars Winery. At James River we sampled eight wines:
  •  2008 chardonnay which was stainless steel aged. Hurrah for that, it's the only way I like a chard. Decent wine.
  • 2008 vidal blanc was vidal blacy-nothing incredibly special about it though
  • 2007 chardonnel was very smooth. I'm thinking that I only rated it a 3 (out of 10) on my tasting sheet because of the 'banana aroma.' I'll bet you can't guess whether or not I like bananas.
  • I made no notes about the 2008 Rad Red which more than likely means that I neither hated it nor loved it but wouldn't spit it out if someone offered me a glass.
  • The 2008 Hanover was a nice red. I circled 'cedar' in the description which probably meant that I could taste it but did not feel as though I were licking the inside of a cedar closet.
  • The 2008 chambourcin was lovely. We actually tasted this one twice. Once room temperature (i.e 500 degrees) and again chilled. Chambourcins are sweet reds so it was definitely better chilled. I gave it a 7 and possibly would have gone back to buy some later had I not been loaded down with so many loose papers that I lost it in the jumble.
  • The 2008 Montpelier Blush also received no notes from me which is unsurprising given my general disdain of blush wines.
  • The 2008 Divino, their dessert wine, was lovely. It was somewhat floral which was not off-putting but a wee odd. I prefered the chambourcin though.
Next we wandered over to the Villa Appalaccia Winery. For the most part I was unimpressed with the wine. The pino grigio was meh, as pino grigios tend to be. The "Simpatico" (It really is in quotation marks. I have no idea why.) was a blend of whites that fell in the "it's ok; I wouldn't spit it out" category. Then there was the rose. We've just discussed my dislike for rose/blush wines and this one was made with sangiovese. Why? Why on earth and in the name of all humanity would you do that to a sangiovese?! The sangiovese grape is sacred (or at least it should be) and this was a travesty. Shame. For shame. Onto the reds then. The Primitivo remaines a bit of a mystery to me. The man working the counter was a bit too 'hurry up and slug this all back and I have no time to actually talk to you' for my taste so I have no idea what kind of grape was in the Primitivo.  Then the "Toscanello" (again with the quotation marks) which was a blend of cab franc, sangiovese, and the inscrutable primitivo. I was tentatively looking forward to trying it as a) I like blends and b) sagiovese. Sigh. My dreams of an excellent blend were dashed like, um, well like so many things that get dashed. Next (and at this point I was worried about next) was their cab franc. It was oaky. That is the sum total of my notes. We finished off the tour of red with an Aglianico. I recall being unimpressed.

Villa Appalaccia saved itself for me though in their two dessert wines. Their raspberry was lovely. I prefered the Horton Cellars version but Lauren was quite taken with this one. Then there was the "Allegra." It was like heavens had opened up and the sun was doing that cool visible ray shining down thing it is often wont to do with an accompanying chorus of Bacchian angels. I'm really quite serious. The "Allegra" is a prosecco-style wine and I found it odd how much I liked it. Prosecco is usually considered the alternate for people who do not like champagnes (i.e. me). I have full-on dislike of most champagnes because other than a wee thimblefull of them, they're all either sec or brut and make me sick within mere sips. In theory then I should like prosecco which is a sweeter sparkling wine. True to my contradictory nature, I do not like them as I think they're too dry. However, true to my statement from yesterday that I'll try anything at least once, I dutifully held out my glass for a splash of the "Allegra" and...

I bought a bottle.

The third stop of part two was at the AmRhein Wine Cellars. They stood out right away for having the most innovative, eye-catching costuming.

(Lauren's pic)

Aren't those fantastic? They're decorated paper grocery bags. AmRhein followed through the promise from the hats with an excellent selection of wines. Of which we bought three. The first three whites, a pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, and viognier were all pretty decent. Of the three I liked the viognier the best but then I tend to like viogniers. The next four whites were all great. The Saffire was a nice drinkable blend of whites but it was the Traminette that took the cake. The tropical fruit overtones combined well with the sweetness from the German-style of winemaking. They followed with a Petit Manseng which was very pleasant with a variety of fruit flavors. The last white was beautiful....the Vin de Peche was, as one might expect, very peachy. I loved it. Loved it loved it loved it.

Then the reds. The Aglianico was a spicey wine made from a grape that the Italians apparently borrowed from the Greeks. Much better than Villa Appallacia's. The cab sauv was cab sauvy as they tend to be and the merlot was...well...merlot. Sigh. The signature AmRhein wine was a petit verdot which was very spicey but in a good way. It was, however, the Melange that caught our attention. I totally cannot remember why we loved it so much...but I know we were mad for it. Whatever it was it was great and you should buy one. Or maybe two and come visit us and bring one. The Verdana had a big flavor and probably would go well with chocolate (although that's like saying that cheese would go well with wine because you should always have one or the other or both with wine). The last red, the Ruby completely threw me off. I've mentioned a few times now already that I don't like blushes...but this...I think it was the raspberry flavor that won me over. We also discovered that our very favorite STC usher was volunteering as a wine pourer at AmRhein which made us like them even more.

All thumbs up for AmRhein! Go visit. They're located in Bent Mountain, VA.

Seriously I'm not making up the names of these cities.

Then we took a brief break to marvel at misspellings and incorrect punctuation and wonder why in the world, as a professional company, you would do that. Spot the mistakes:

While it was not our last stop of the day...the Peaks of Otter Winery was definitely a show stopping tasting. It's not like the wine was mind blowingly fantastic, but it was insanely fun and creative. First up, the Pure Passion, a wine made out of passion fruit juice. We bought a bottle and enjoyed it on the spot.

All of it.

Next was the Blue Ridge Mountain Grape, the Strawberry Shortcake, and the "breakfast" wine, the Blueberry Muffin. I joke about these even less than the crazy Virginia city names. The Mango-Tango was pleasantly juicy (ha ha, pun intended) followed by the Sweet Heart which was a mix of apple and pomegranite and then a nice sangria. That's when it got really fun. I know, like strawberry shortcake wine isn't already fun and unusual? The Salty Frog is a margarita flavored wine and we did the tasting with the salt on the hand and everything. We ended up buying a bottle for the sheer fun of it. Then the Chilli Dawg. 3% chili and 97% apple wine. We did the tasting by first licking easy cheese off our hands. That combined with the wine and it was like having pepper jack cheese in your mouth!

(Lauren's pic)

Then...there was the Kiss the Devil. If you're hearing ominous dun dun dun-style music in your head there's a reason. Peaks of Otter says that this wine, made from 30 different types of peppers (30!) is better for basting than tasting and boy howdy are they not kidding. I think there were about five minutes there when I could not feel that my mouth was an actual mouth. It was more like I had a pit of BURNING FIRE where my mouth should be. We got stickers for trying it and not dying.

(Lauren's pic)

Peaks of Otter, which is sadly like four hours away from us, it totally worth a visit. They have 31 flavors of wine including, wait for it:

Pumpkin pie

Apple Truffle

Cherry Cherry Cheesecake

It's like Baskin Robbins for adults.

So I don't have another picture of Lauren and me. By the end of the day (i.e. 4:00 when we couldn't take it anymore) we were not quite as pleased with ourselves as we were at the end of part one. The 600 degree heat which only got worse when the sun started bursting out of the clouds to beat down mercilessly on us and humidity that could only be compared to being in a steam room in the middle of a rain forest had done us in. So I will leave you and the end of our Vintage Virginia tour with a picture of something almost as good as one of Lauren and me.

Chocolate covered cheesecake and banana.

15 June 2010

Vintage Virginia Part 1

Last weekend Lauren and I went to the Vintage Virginia wine festival in field somewhere in Virginia. I heard a rumor that it was a field in Centerville but all I know is that I got on a bus and (after much wrong turning because apparently the bus drivers were given poor directions) we arrived in a field in Virginia. There were close to 50 wineries represented at the festival along with vendors selling nuts, cheeses, oils, art, jewelry, etc and carnivalesque food stands (the gyro was horrendous).  While we did not make it to all almost 50 tastings, we did a good job considering the almost 90 degree heat and thousand percent humidity.

I tried to grab a tasting sheet from each place but may have missed a couple so we'll just tour those I have. Also in no particular order except the order in which I haphazardly stacked them on my desk.

First up is the Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery. They're tasting list was much longer than there were tastes to be had...but I suppose it would be a teaser to venture out to Nellysford, VA and try the rest. Their Virginia Blackberry Wine was first and is apparently made with blackberries that they not only grow themselves but that are frozen before being crushed. I don't know what kind of a difference that makes but holy tartness Batman! Maybe it's because I don't like blackberries? But wow. We were given absolutely no time to recover before the Mountain Apple Wine was splashed into our glasses. I believe I heard him say that there were six different kinds of apples in the wine. All I tasted was some apple up front and then nothing terribly special after. Next came the Sweet Cherry wine. As our wine splasher said, don't let the name fool you. My only note on the sheet was TART!! which I also underlined a couple times.  What really attracted us to this particulary tent was their sign.

They also make mead! For those of you unfamiliar with mead...it's fermented honey. Have I mentioned that I don't like honey? We tried the Blue Ridge Mountain Mead, the Perry, the Lavender Metheglin, and the Dragon's Blood. My notes for the first two were just HONEY, for the third I took no notes and just shuddered (I also dislike lavendar) and the Dragon's Blood which is a pomegranate melomel (mead with fruit) was both tart and honey. Hill Top also mixes their own sangria and that was pretty good. Very fruity and crisp and much appreciated on such a hot day. I did actually buy a bottle of the lavender but it was for a gift.

The Mattaponi Winery from Spotsyvlvania (no I didn't make that up) somewhat underwhelmed us at first. The chardonnay was meh as chards tend to be-although Lauren pointed out that it kind of tasted not so much oaky as wood chippy. I never thought I would think about the difference between the taste of wood in barrell versus chip form. She was kind of right though and then I started thinking about rabbit warrens and hamsters...and was then jarred back to reality with a merlot that was actually hot. Ok so two things wrong with this. One, as a small winery why waste your time with what is possibly the most disdained wine at the moment and still suffering from Sideways's slam...and two, yes I know it's 200 degrees out here and red wines are (generally) not served chilled but it's 200 bloody degrees out here! It's ok to chill it a bit. We then had the first of their two dessert specialty wines. The first was a blueberry. No. That's all I have to say. The second was the Odeimin or strawberry wine. The Odeimin made up for the first three magnificently. It had a really interesting amber color from the berries and tasted like strawberry heaven. We bought a bottle.

Horton Cellars was up next. I take away points from them right at the beginning because their people were giving us contradictory information and no one seemed to be communicating. Onto the wine then. They had an impressive selection of 25 wines. We did not try all of them. We began with the reds which were fairly typical of reds. A cab franc which was pretty good actually, quite jammy which I like in a red. A malbec which I was predisposed to enjoy because, well I like malbecs. The raspberry notes in this one were particularly strong. A pinotage which must not have impressed me since I didn't write down anything, and a Norton (native Virginian) which had a nice spciness to it. I'm sorry we didn't try the whites as Horton offers a rkatsiteli which is a Georgian (think country not state)/Russian type wine and I am curious how they did with it. Next up were their fruit wines which is what drew us to the tent in the first place. All of them were a blend of fruit with a wine (unlike the Mattaponi Odeimin) and there was:
  • Pear/viogner
  • Peach/Viogner
  • Strawberry/grenache
  • Raspberry/cab franc
  • Pomegranate/syrah
  • Blueberry/petit verdot
  • Blackberry/petit verdot
  • Cranberry/cab franc
The last three all made me shudder but possibly I was a) still suffering the after effects of the Mattaponi blueberry wine and/or b) I just don't like balckberries and crandberries. And yes mom, I am a picky eater but I'll at least try anything once. I didn't see you clamouring to eat fish eyes and fried bumblebees in Taipei. The pear I enjoyed as did I the peach (I heart peach) and the strawberry was good but could not hold a candle to the Mattaponi. What was a revelation though was the raspberry. I was pretty bowled over by it. It was tart and mixed beautifully with the cab franc and perfect. I bought a bottle of that. Then we tried two of their dessert wines. The Xoco blanco and rojo. Wines infused with chocolate. I know what you're probably thinking. That is is freaking brilliant, right? I totally get it because I was thinking that too. Then I tried them. The Xoco blanco tasted...like peanuts. *cricket cricket* Peanuts. I was actually intrigued because I cannot recall ever having drunk anything that tasted like peanuts. Peanut butter sure but not peanuts. And the blanco turned out to be my favorite. Lauren rightly stated that the rojo tasted like stickers. Remember scratch and sniff stickers? Have you ever smelt one that was supposed to be chocolate but really smelled like the fake chocolate of stickers, candles, and body dust? That's what this tasted like. A for effort I guess but...fail.

We decided to take a break and have a gander at some of the vendors. One of the hottest commodities at the fair, other than the wine itself, were wine caddies.

(Lauren's pic)

Tons of vendors had these and you could get them made out of all sorts of things. Some were fancy and made of copper, others knitted or crocheted, some leather, and so on. The point being that you wear the loop around your neck and nestle your wine glass in the caddy so as to keep your hands free and make sure to not lose your glass.

We also stopped by Oil & Vinegar from Charlottesville.

Some interesting flavors but I find that I vastly prefer the oils offered by Fig & Olive in New York. Oil & Vinegar did have a bruschetta mix that was to die for though. I could have stood there eating the sample all day. Or until I needed more wine.

So by about the halfway point of our day we were feeling pretty good. It was, as I mentioned, about 500 degrees out with about 3000% humidity but it was overcast so at least we weren't feeling the sun. Lauren had cleverly bought some bottled water before we arrived to prevent our being gouged for a basic need out in the middle of nowhere Virginia, we'd had some wine and some oil and were feeling pretty good about ourselves.

(Us feeling good about ourselves)

06 June 2010

Twin Brook Winery

Over Memorial Day weekend we vivited our excellent friends A&J in Pennsylvania. On our first day there, and because our friends know us so very well...they took us to a local winery: Twin Brook Winery in Gap, PA. I really enjoyed the visit, friendly staff, good wine, beautiful setting, and a lot of wine. Often when visitng local wineries you find a place that might only have a handful of wines. Not so at Twin Brook. They have an impressive list of wines and Lauren and I walked away with three each; although we could have bought a lot more.

And because I happened to metion to the lovely woman who did our tasting that we were bloggers...she gave us a quick tour of the area where they do the aging and bottling.

(Lauren's pic)

And because it goes so brilliantly with cheese, after our visit to Twin Brook, A&J took us to the Gap cheesemonger/fromaggier Bill Houder at the Town Clock Cheese Shoppe (find him on Facebook!). Mr. Houder is probably the first fromaggier I have met and he certainly knows his cheese! I don't believe I've ever had a cheese tasting or would have even known how to start. But Mr. Houder took us through his vast selection beginning with the sheep cheeses, my favorite being the Ewephoria. From sheep we traveled through goat, gouda, brie, cheddar, blue, and swiss...although not necessarily in that order. We finished with the dessert cheeses, yes dessert cheese. My favorite there was the apricot stilton although my overall favorite was the English Cheddar Cheese with Garlic. It was like eating a roasted garlic clove that had maybe been sitting in the vicinity of some cheese. Pure awesomeness.


(Lauren's pic)

(Lauren's pic)

(Lauren's pic)

So if you're ever in Gap, PA...you know where you need to go!

Me in cheese heaven
(Lauren's pic)