Last weekend we had the opportunity to attend Epicurience Virginia; a food and wine festival held annually in DC’s Wine Country. Located for the first time at The Barn at One Loudoun, the event is a true showcase of Virginia Wine Country’s unique terroir as well as the talents of local chefs who are guiding the state’s reputation as a foodie haven. The day couldn’t have offered more perfect weather for us to taste, learn, socialize and enjoy the fabulous event.
Upon arrival we checked in at the VIP quarters where we began our day with one of our favorites, Stone Tower Winery (stay tuned for next week’s Taste of Terroir feature on STW). Stone Tower was pouring a few of their wines, including the Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc as well as the Hogback Mountain later paired with meatball from Matchbox One Loudoun. While sipping and chatting with two of our favorite wine educators, we enjoyed some oyster soup from Ford’s Fish Shack that was simply divine and complimented the Sauvignon Blanc quite well. Palates whetted, we headed out into the sunshine for a stroll around the grounds to see what the day was all about.
Inside the tented areas there were many participating Loudoun County wineries conducting tastings. We sought out a few of the wineries that were on our radar and visited with Tarara Winery, Zephaniah Farm Vineyard (big congrats to Bonnie on being named Loudoun County Wine Ambassador of the Year!), 868 Estate Vineyards, and North Gate Vineyard. Also located in the tents were several Loudoun County restaurants, offering some small bites off of their menus, including this delicious deviled egg from Ford’s Fish Shack.
Another unique feature of Epicurience Virginia is that the event offers chef demonstrations and wine education classes from some of the local talent. Throughout the day Chris Edwards (Salamander Resort & Spa), Justin Garrison (The Wine Kitchen), Jim Drost (Matchbox), Jason Lage (Market Table Bistro) and Bryan Voltaggio (Aggio), conducted some fabulous cooking demos for an inquisitive audience. We popped over to Chef Edwards’ class and enjoyed hearing what he had to say about creating flavorful meals and letting the ingredients speak for themselves.
While we obviously love food, for us the main event was the Virginia Wine education classes taking place throughout the day. Four classes were planned for the day; Virginia Wine & Food Pairings, Meet Virginia Reds, Virginia Junk Food Pairings and Uncommon Virginia Whites.
The first session, Virginia Wine & Food Pairings, featured sommelier and restaurant owner, Neal Wavra of Field & Main Restaurant in Marshall, VA. Neal selected three wines, a 2015 Rosé from Early Mountain, a 2014 Petit Manseng from Granite Heights Winery and a 2009 Cabernet Franc from Cedar Creek Winery to pair with his small bite selections. What was interesting about this session was that it focused on preparing foods that pair well with wine, rather than the typical reverse mindset (cooking a meal and then deciding which wine to have). Each of the three pairings featured dishes with chicken as the main component, but Neal described how each of the dishes were customized to maximize the pairing–the Rosé paired with chicken and accented with sundried tomatos and capers providing a contrast between the savory flavors of the dish and the fruit forward strawberry notes of the wine. The Petit Manseng chicken dish was accompanied with a hint of spice and ginger to offset the floral sweetness of the wine, while the Cabernet Franc was paired with chicken that had actually been cooked in the wine to match flavor profiles. We loved his take on complimenting and contrasting the wines. Neal was so interesting to learn from; it was truly an educational and delicious session!
The second session, Meet Virginia Reds, and was hosted by Jen Breaux from Breaux Vineyards with a panel of Virginia winemakers including of Doug Fabbioli of Fabbioli Cellars, Mark Fedor of North Gate Vineyards and Matthew Brown from King Family Vineyards—what a line up! Each winemaker selected a Virginia red for us to sample– the 2012 Cab Franc Reserve from Fabbioli Cellars, the 2014 Meritage from North Gate Vineyards and the 2013 Petit Verdot from King Family (have we mentioned Petit Verdot is one of our favs?)! Jen did a phenomenal job and facilitated a fascinating discussion among the winemakers including conversations about their approach to winemaking, blending and harvesting their beautiful wines, as well as a deeper conversation about the future of a red state grape of Virginia (we vote PV!). They entertained questions from the audience and we were impressed hearing them speak about their passion and experience. All of the wines we sampled were top notch—it was difficult to choose a favorite among them as they all exemplified the unique qualities of each varietal and highlighted some of the best in the business.
The third session was whimsical and fun—Virginia Junk Food Pairings! We were admittedly a bit skeptical by the sound of this session at the start—let’s be honest, one typically associates an exquisite charcuterie board or rich, dark chocolate truffles to pair with delicious wine—but junk food? Seemed like a waste—until we tasted! Moderated by Matthew Brown from King Family Vineyards, this session was a blast. The featured wine pairings included a sumptuous Blanc de Blancs from Thibaut-Janisson Winery paired with salty potato chips (our personal favorite), the 2015 Estate Chardonnay from Stone Tower Winery paired with some good ole’ buttery popcorn, a classic hostess twinkie (can’t say we’ve had one of those in a while, paired with a lovely 2014 Riesling from Ox-Eye Vineyards and last, but definitely not least, chocolate covered Krispy Kreme doughnut paired with the 2014 Seven from King Family. Forget a fussy palate—these pairings rocked and felt sinfully decadent—proving that wine goes with absolutely everything! (But we already knew that!)
Rounding out our day after the educational sessions, we headed back to where we started—the VIP Barn to sample one of Stone Tower Winery’s premium estate wines, the Hogback Mountain. This beautiful bordeaux-style blend was paired with a delicious meatball crustini creation from Matchbox, the perfect bite to end the afternoon!
Our palates were tickled and treated to so many fine wines and sumptuous food pairings, and our Virginia wine education was certainly brought up a notch or two! The Virginia wine industry is chock full of expertise, hard work and dedication to making outstanding wine and we feel so fortunate to be able to listen to and learn from the best in the business. We love attending this event and being part of this amazing and ever-growing community of winemakers, bloggers, chefs and enthusiasts. Until next year– cheers!