Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Sunny Delight

Another day where I love what I do.

Today's work involved driving to the northern neck to interview a winery owner.

Given the glorious, warm weather, I'd have been willing to drive out there just to taste wine, much less earn a living.

So for the first time this year, I pulled out a summer dress and sandals, despite my whiter shade of pale legs and hit the road.

When I arrived at the winery's courtyard, I found a woman busy planting annuals and asked her where the bathroom was.

She looked at me, cocked her head and said, "Weren't you at the Hague Winery last week?"

Why, yes, I was, but how in the world had she remembered a random stranger?

"I recognized your beautiful hair," she said, making for a rare compliment about my head, before pointing me in the direction of the loo.

Then it was back to work.

After interviewing one of the winery owners in the shade of the garden, we moved inside for a tasting.

There I met a writer for Virginia Wine Lover magazine doing some research of his own but also providing some lively conversation.

Since he, like me, does restaurant reviews, the two of us got off on a tangent about restaurants who claim local sourcing and have no Virginia wines on their list.

As you'd expect, this got major support from the winery staff pouring for us.

As I began my tasting, I discovered the primary benefit of doing a tasting after a wine writer: wines not usually available for pouring are miraculously already open and available for tasting.

So it was that I got to taste Ingleside's crisp and fruity Pinot Grigio (this is the first year they've had one), the Petit Verdot Reserve 2007, a beautiful red that cried out for a steak, and their Virginia Brut, creamy with fine beads, which had won a silver at the 2012 L.A. wine competition.

I also found a lot to like about their Sangiovese, a medium-bodied red that I hadn't realized was being cultivated much in Virginia, and the 2007 Syrah, which would be divine with lamb.

Midway through, a man came into the winery and before long we were all knee-deep in a discussion of oysters and local wine while the newcomer began his tasting and mine wound down.

Seems he owns an oyster company and was planning a luncheon pairing local seafood and wine and was there to decide which wines.

When he made a comment about how a particular wine would pair well with ostrich carpaccio, I did a double take.

My favorite ostrich carpaccio pairing happened in Stellenbosch, South Africa, I told him.

It immediately became clear that we had loads to talk about, and it was suggested that I enjoy a glass of wine while he did his tasting and the talk continued to flow.

A sunny afternoon, a winery offering me wine and a stranger eager to talk about one of my favorite wine vacations ever, South Africa?

I'll stay as long as you want me to.

Turns out this guy lived in South Africa for eight years, so we had all kinds of things to talk about as far as their food and wine scene goes.

It's rare I can talk springbok carpaccio and appropriate pairings with a random stranger, but this guy delivered.

And while he tried to convince me I should return to the northern neck yet again tomorrow for the luncheon, after driving to the Neck and back four times in the last twelve days, I had to politely decline.

Still, it's always nice to be asked.

Just like it's nice to get to taste wines that aren't usually poured for the hoi polloi.

And nice to be remembered for your beautiful hair.

Come to think of it, maybe I do need to visit the northern neck more often.

I can call it work all I want, but it's feeling an awful lot like pleasure.

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