Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Birthday Party: Part 1 - Wineries

My birthday this year was on a Wednesday.  I turned 27.  Such an awkward number.  My birthday also happens to fall the day after Valentine's Day.  Annie and I had made plans to visit the most highly regarded winery in KY that evening.  Well, they were so busy on VDay that they decided to close for my birthday.  Kind of a bummer.  So, Annie took me out to dinner at a local place that was trying so unbelievably hard to be straight outta San Francisco.  It's called Table 310.  The food was great, but the wine wasn't spectacular (for a wine bar), and we both expected a little more from the dessert menu, since the pastry chef is in line for some big award.

So, we had decided to push the winery back to the Saturday after my birthday.  We actually decided to hit up three wineries in the same area southeast of Lexington.  We had a Groupon for one, and we were recommended another, so it all made sense.  We planned to leave at 4pm.  At almost 4 exactly, I opened my door to check my mail.  2 friends of ours were stepping up onto our porch.  Apparently, Annie had lined up another couple to hang with us for the day (and one to be a DD).  Spectacular!

We started off at Grimes Mill.  This winery is brand new (opened in September), and it's not even on the KY Wine Map that gets handed out at most of the local wineries.  I like 'off the map', and I liked this place.  They only have 6 wines, and they don't have the cheapest tasting ($6 for 3 wines), but it truly feels like a small, family winery.  We bought a bottle of their Bianca, which is a fan favorite.  I met both of the owners, one of which was the grower/winemaker, and we were served by the Tasting Room Manager.  Yeah, not a huge staff.  The best part was where I got all technical with the owner.  I asked him how crush worked in KY, what the residual sugar was on his moscato, and why he didn't have any Italian varietals considering his strong Italian heritage.  I told him I thought that Nebbiolo or Barbera might grow well here (my favorite Piemonte grapes).  That caught his attention.  Though he didn't know if he could find those vines anywhere nearby, he asked if I had any interest in working there.  More about that to come, I hope!

We then progressed to Talon.  Earlier that week, I had actually put in an application to pour in the tasting room at Talon.  They never responded.  I understand, I have 2 Master's degrees in engineering, but I totally would have worked for them.  I had already tried a bunch of their wines, but this gave me a chance to hit a few more on their list of at least 15 wines.  Tastings are typically $5 for 6 wines.  A couple wines weren't bad, but one was absolutely atrocious.  I seriously thought that I had found my first example of cork taint, but the flavors didn't match.  It didn't smell like trash, but a little like horse poop.  Apparently, that's a common thing for one of the local, popular varietals.  Though, they won't say 'horse poop'.  I did.  It was staffed by a bunch of guys that looked like UK students, so at least they kept the convo light.

We ended at Jean Farris.  Their cab just won a double gold at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition, which is a big deal, especially for a KY wine.  I don't believe any KY wine has ever won such a prestigious award.  And the wine lived up to it.  Between the few of us that were still going (one girl hit her limit by winery #3), we managed to try most of their reds.  Their pinot was nothing special, but I really liked their merlot, and their cab sauv was delicious and perfectly balanced.  As we were sitting there enjoying a delicious cheese tray, another pair of friends walked in and wished me Happy Birthday.  'Cool,' I thought, 'Annie got another couple to come for dinner.'  Before I knew it, there were 11 people there, and we had a private room.  I felt so cool.

Though the service at the wine bar left a lot to be desired, our waiter in the private room was really cool.  The whole winery had an air of pretentiousness, which I'm really surprised with in KY.  Don't they know who their typical clientele are?  However, having lived near Napa Valley, we were used to it.  The food was amazing!  I got duck confit for the appetizer, and it was one of the better things I've eaten in the past year.  The large amount of wine may have had a little to do with it, but it was really, really good.  Twice now, I've considered walking in and ordering it by itself for a quick, delicious bite.  Most people got the special, and we went through 2 bottles of merlot and a bottle of riesling.  We spent a good deal of money, but again, coming from Northern California, it was a great deal.

This day is getting long, so I'll split it into 2 parts,

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