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The Tasting Lodge at Arrington Vineyards
There are wonderful things about having a great vineyard near you. One of these things is the occasional Event. Arrington Vineyards in Williamson County, Tennessee is an active place. From May through October, there is a weekly Cigar Night on the porch, and from April through December the weekends belong to Music in the Vines. But for Valentine’s Day, there is the Perfect Pairings.

Inside the Barrel House

This weekend, the staff at Arrington Vineyards, with their partners at Simply Living Life and The Blushing Berry hosted a tasting event for members of Kix’s Wine Club, showcasing the way wine and food complement and change each other. The wine club provides quarterly delivery of selected wines with the added benefits of discounts and events such as this. Even with space for twelve couples at each of the twelve tastings scheduled over the weekend, the spots went quickly, with good reason. Himself and I managed to get in on the noon tasting.

Sarita, Katie, Jennifer and Marissa
The staff in general was friendly and willing to talk about the wines and the food, without the old school sommelier snobbishness that some might be afraid to find. Sarita, Katie, Jennifer and Marissa were very welcoming and made the event fun from the start. If your local winery has an open tasting room, take a chance on your winemakers. Arrington’s regular tasting room is open seven afternoons a week, with some adjustments for severe weather.

Our Chef
Besides showcasing the products of an award-winning winery, the Perfect Pairings tasting this year also aimed a spotlight on the food by Simply Living Life, a catering company that has been preparing picnic baskets and box lunches for many of the public events at the vineyard. This was my first time sampling their food, and I have to say, it was an excellent introduction.Our food guide was Jackie, and she explained the balance of trading off sips and bites to expand the flavors of both the food and the wine.

Menu 1 pastry cup
The tasting started off with strawberries and champagne, but with a twist. The first hors d'oeuvre presented was a pastry cup filled with mascarpone cheese, topped with an organic strawberry, drizzled with balsamic glaze and topped with a fresh mint leaf. A touch of sweet, with a touch of bite that was well-supported by Sparkle, the champagne-style wine that is one of the more labor-intensive wines made at Arrington. A blend of Riesling, Chardonnay and Chardonel, each bottle is riddled and disgorged by hand, which also makes it a limited edition to their line each year they produce it. It has been worth the wait anytime I have been able to get it.

Menu 2 rosemary flatbread
Next, we had rosemary flatbread layered with ricotta, prosciutto, lemon arugula and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts. The wine paired with this was the Chardonel, a nice dry white that stood up well to the spicy flavors of the bite, without fighting for supremacy. I can see this wine as a great one to pair with zucchini carbonara in the summer, thanks to the flavor profile of this tidbit.

Menu 3 pimento cheese
This was followed by a bite of “not your mama’s” pimento cheese, presented with flatbread and half a cherry tomato, garnished with freshly cracked black pepper and a sprig of rosemary. It certainly was not the bland sandwich spread one might find in the average southern grocery store, not by a long shot. With such an assertive hors d'oeuvre, the wine chosen to partner it was a young merlot, this year made with locally-grown grapes. Both were bold flavors, again a good balance. I will be seeking out both the merlot and the pimento cheese, come springtime.

Menu 4 brie and jam
Our next course was fruit and cheese, but still not an ordinary pairing. Baby brie resting on a water cracker, with a thin slice of honeycrisp apple, and topped with a jam made from the Red Fox Red. Rather than going to the obvious route of serving this with the Red Fox wine, it was paired with Encore, the winery’s port. The deeper taste of the port was the right choice, as the jam had a very concentrated taste of the wine. The creamy base of the brie and the sharp high note from the apple were excellent additions. The jam is not yet in production, but I will be looking for it, especially next fall.

Menu 5 the sweet
The sweet bite at the end was from The Blushing Berry in Nolensville. A decadent chocolate brownie with a layer of cheesecake topped with a blackberry reduction sauce made from Arrington’s blackberry dessert wine, finished with a white chocolate garnish - and a drizzle of raspberry wine. This was also served with the vineyard’s raspberry dessert wine. Those who know me know that I absolutely, positively, without a doubt loathe raspberry anything, to the point that I will turn down a beautiful chocolate presentation if there is even a hint of raspberry coulis anywhere on the plate. That being said, I loved this dessert! True enough, if I am serving it later, I would present it with the blackberry wine instead, which will be back sometime this spring.

Blackberries and chocolate are a much better pairing, and I hope the rest of the culinary world catches on soon.

Sampling the Antebellum
One last special touch to the tasting was the sampling of the next batch of Antebellum, due to be released in July. This is a special blend of Chambourcin and Noriet red wines aged in the usual oak wine barrels for 16 months, then it is transferred to barrels that had previously held whiskey (within days of the whiskey being decanted, actually) and aged another six months or so. What started as an experiment in 2011 is now an eagerly awaited limited edition wine each year they produce it. It was a little young yet, but another wine to look forward to this summer.

Waiting Until July
If you find yourself in the area, especially this summer, definitely make a stop in Arrington. If you are not in range, look around for your local winery, and see what they produce. Life is too short to drink bad wine, go out and find your favorite!


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