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Archive for the ‘Wine Lovers’ Category

THE VINEYARDS PLIGHT AT INN AT MEANDER PLANTATION in Orange Virginia.

Thanks to our friend and neighbor Dean Gruenberg, who has his own Castle Gruen Vineyards and Winery just around the corner from our Virginia wine country bed and breakfast, we have about 2 acres of beautiful grapes growing here at Meander. The vineyard is about a half-acre each of Cabernet Franc (a staple Virginia varietal) and Petite Manseng (our favorite white varietal) at the top of the field to right of the driveway. We’ve had devastatingly(ok, don’t laught!) bad luck the last two years with the harvest. Year before the grapes were so gorgeous and a herd of deer agreed and cleaned out the whole lot! If it weren’t so sad it would be funny.

Suz and I were returning from the tiny garden up the hill when we wondered when in the world Dean had picked the grapes. All was lost!  Then last year we had 19 inches of rain before harvest so nothing could be done but drop the fruit due to the rot. WE hate spraying! In the field to the left of the drive is an acre of Crimson Cabernet, a brand new hybrid cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton. This is an extremely new hybrid and we are, to our knowledge, only the second vineyard in the state to plant this grape (Dennis Horton at Horton Vineyards and Winery is the other) that has the taste properties of Cab Sauv with the disease-resistance, hardiness of Virginia’s native grape, Norton.

For some reason this small planting just would not thrive! It just seemed to get nipped in the bud (pun intended) every time it showed a little progress. Turns out it was a large population of ground hogs just munching those tender shoots right to the ground! Dean cleaned out 27 groundhogs!

Please don’t send me any more recipes! Thanks to Dean for all his hard work of planting and maintaining the vines and thanks to Ron Kilby, our extraordinary gardener, for keeping the rows tidy. What a beautiful site as you approach The Inn to see grapes growing!

This was the single most perfect way I could have possibly spent these few days. If you are at all interested in wine, you won’t want to miss the Virginia Wine Academy at Meander Plantation. The most impressive part of this package is the number of experts involved, all willing to share their knowledge and their passion for wine in general and Virginia wines in particular. Meander’s restaurant (which took an award from the wine industry last year) serves VA wines exclusively.

When I arrived Sunday evening, there was a champagne reception for all the folks attending the ‘academy’. Traveling alone, it’s always a concern about meeting and mingling, but the small class quickly became a group of friends with a common interest: wine! We tasted a couple of wines, had our introductions and some time to visit, and then all went off in their separate directions for dinner.

Next morning, we met in the ‘library’ dining room for a private breakfast just for class attendees. There were others staying at the inn who were not part of the wine school package. We were served just-from-the-oven muffins with berries, a plate of fresh fruit, and were given a choice of sweet or savory breakfast. Since my preference is for protein in the morning, it was a relief to not be faced with french toast and pancakes, without other options to start my day. Breakfast was perfectly delicious, generously portioned, with all local foods. Nicely done.

We immediately got down to business with an introduction to wine -starting world wide and bringing it all the way to Virginia in short order. The overseer of the academy is Warren Dunn, an extremely knowledgeable and entertaining guide, who is obviously enthusiastic about his topic. Notebooks are provided with all sorts of information, from wine descriptors to why certain glasses are used all the way to bottle shapes, corks, labels, and openers. We tasted and learned about five separate wines in the first session alone! You learn pretty fast that you really need to pour out your glass, instead of drinking everything that goes in it. It’s about tasting, not drinking (at least until lunch!) and there were some serious lessons that went with every taste.

Next, we were visited by a winemaker (who brought wines to taste, of course) who gave a seminar about the terms used to describe wine, and then he paired wines with each course of our lunch. The food pairings were really interesting, and apparently we could have taken an entire course on that alone.

After lunch, yet another vintner visited to spend the afternoon explaining the process of planting and tending the vines throughout the growing season. After that, it was off to the inn kitchen for a quick demonstration about cooking with wine, given by the chef. We saw a couple of reduction sauces and got a taste of things to come…

One of the couples attending class were partners in a winery and brought along a few bottles for us to try during the break before dinner. Hard to believe nobody was tipsy, but we had all been careful during the tastings and sat out on the wonderful verandah and watched the sun set over the mountains in the distance that clear, cool afternoon. Heavenly.

Dinner was five courses all paired with wines by – you guessed it – another winemaker. Actually, this one was a large operation and the owners and wine maker and hospitality manager were all there from the winery. Each wine was introduced as the course was being served, and the winemaker described the wine – how it was made, the decisions made along the way to achieve the wine, and told us what to look for in flavor, color, taste. It was fascinating! And the dinner? Oh my goodness! Sea bass, quail, steak, and chocolate cake. (Ok, there are far more perfect descriptors for each, but you get the drift.) Course after course of exquisite morsels perfectly matched with excellent wine. How’s that.

I fell into bed. Next morning, more breakfast?! No. I made arrangements for coffee only, and while I’m happy with that decision, the rest of the class had their muffins and fresh fruit and everybody ordered the egg dish, which was a creamy baked concoction filled with herbs and looked delicious. They were full of praise. I had my coffee and was quite content. Off to the wineries! First we picked grapes at Meander and crushed them and tested for sugars. Then off to a wonderful tiny one-man operation. Then a tour of one of the largest wineries in Virginia and lunch with the vintner. Information, information, information!

Dinner (dress) was the culmination with crabcakes, duck pate, tenderloin and then ginger cheesecake with red wine poached pears. And wines! All introduced by the delightful couple who own the winery who shared their stories as well as teaching us about their wines.

In the morning, one more delicious breakfast (I wasn’t about to pass that up again) with eggs baked with gruyere and cream, and sausage, and the prettiest fruit plate you ever saw. We all traded addresses and promised to stay in touch and then agreed to meet up at one last winery on our way out of town for a tour of the operation.

LOTS of information, LOTS of new things learned, LOTS of incredible food, LOTS of wines -some I liked, some I didn’t, all were interesting- and lots of new friends, too.

I can’t say enough good things about this class. But before I finish: Meander Plantation is steeped in history, remarkably beautiful, well-staffed, and well cared for. Service was impeccable at every turn. Amenities in the room (and tripled sheeted beds, which I love) were top notch. The inn was spotless, and the innkeepers gracious and warm.

What a delightful experience.

Sandee

The Inn at Meander Plantation
Wine Pairings Dinner August 19, 2008
A Celebration of New Southern Cooking School

Featuring the Wines of Linden Vineyards
and the Cuisine of Executive Chef David Scales

Amuse Bouche

First Course

Fried Green Tomato Napoleon with Basil and Roasted Sunflower Seed Pesto
Linden Vineyards 2007 Seyval

Second Course

Pan Seared and Roasted Red Snapper with Succotash and
Chioggi Beet Relish
Linden Vineyards 2007 Avenius Sauvignon Blanc

Third Course

Jumbo Lump Blue Crab and Grits with Shrimp Fritter and
Rosemary Lobster Cream Sauce
Linden Vineyards 2005 Hardscrabble Chardonnay

Fourth Course

Maryland Chicken Fried Quail with Wilted Greens and
Buttermilk Ranch Panna Cotta
Linden Vineyards 2004 Claret

Fifth Course

Roasted Wild Boar, Carolina Gold Rice, Grilled Squashes and
Blackberry Cayenne Sauce
Linden Vineyards 2005 Hardscrabble Red

Dessert

Georgia Pecan and Cane Syrup Pie with Whiskey Ice Cream
Linden Vineyards 2005 Late Harvest Vidal

NEW VINEYARDS

And then there’s our other new venture, our very own Vineyards.

Thanks to our friend and neighbor Dean Gruenberg (who has his own Castle Gruenberg Vineyards and Winery just around the corner from us on Meander Run Road and set to open in August), we now have nearly 2 acres of grapes growing here at Meander.

The vineyard actually started last year with planting of a half-acre each of Cabernet Franc (a staple Virginia varietal) and Petite Manseng (our favorite white varietal) at the top of the field to right of the driveway. There is fruit on the vines and Dean says we’ll make about 30 bottles from them this year. But it will be 4 years before we will be able to produce the quality of grapes we want.

Just planted in the field to the left of the drive is an acre of Crimson Cabernet, a brand new hybrid cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton. This is an extremely new hybrid and we are, to our knowledge, only the second vineyard in the state to plant this grape (Dennis Horton at Horton Vineyards and Winery is the other) that has the taste properties of Cab Sauv with the disease-resistance, hardiness of Virginia’s native grape, Norton.

Thanks to Dean for all his hard work of planting and maintaining the vines and thanks to Ron Kilby, our extraordinary gardener, for keeping the rows tidy. What a beautiful site as you approach The Inn to see grapes growing!

We’re thinking of naming the new vineyards Elim Vineyards which comes from the original name of this property in 1726. When the plantation was patented by Col. Joshua Fry, he named it Elim which is an oasis mentioned in the Bible.

Welcome to the new Inn at Meander Plantation blog! We’ve got some exciting Meander happenings to share with you!

NEW “VIRGINIA WINE ACADEMY”

First is the launch of our new Virginia Wine Academy, which premieres June 22-24. What a fun, fascinating, information-packed “experiential learning vacation” this 3-day package promises to be … after all, what could be more fun than learning, drinking good wine, eating fabulous food, making new friends and savoring the serenity of Meander.

The “Dean” of our new Wine Academy is Warren Dunn. Warren brings extensive wine knowledge and teaching experience to our new school. Our thanks to Warren for all the excellent work he has done.

For us, this is a culmination of a wine journey we started 16 years ago when we first moved to Virginia and started The Inn. Soon after planting our roots in the Piedmont of Virginia, often compared to the Piedmont of Italy, we were surprised to learn of the state’s fledging wine industry. As we developed The Inn and its philosophy, we made a conscious and strong commitment to use local products and support the local economy.

Virginia wines were at the top of the list. We knew we wanted to offer wine to our guests, and we decided in the wide universe of wines, we could at least get our minds around, and become somewhat knowledge, of the world of Virginia wines. Thus was born our commitment to serve only Virginia wines, a decision we have never regretted and, which in fact, has come to be a point of great pride!

Admittedly, back then the selections were limited. There were about 40 wineries and, quite frankly, some not-so-good wines. But fortune brought a wonderful couple, Diane and Steve Eisenach from Virginia Beach, to our door. True “pioneers” in the appreciation of Virginia wines and visionaries of the shining future viticulture had in the state, Diane and Steve were extremely knowledgeable about the wines that were out there.

So we asked Diane and Steve to help us develop our first wine list … which consisted of about 12 wines. We were on our way! We started visiting wineries and finding more wines we liked. We started meeting and making friends in the Virginia wine industry, and they recommended wines from their peers. Other guests started mentioning wines they liked.

And our list kept growing, as did the number of wineries, until today we offer more than 100 different wines from about 20 different wineries. (And, yes, we have sampled every one of them … it’s a hard job, but someone has to do it!) Our wine list is an ever-changing entity, as we continually seek out the state’s finest to share with our guests, often introducing them to Virginia wines.

With the Virginia Wine Academy we want to take that a step further and offer not just a greater appreciation of Virginia wines but a learning experience that can be fun and life enhancing. We are looking forward to learning more ourselves! We hope you’ll join us as we take the next lap on our wine journey!

Check our website at http://www.meander.net/ to see complete Wine Academy details and upcoming dates.

Suzanne Thomas
Suzie Blanchard