Dinner in the Wine Cellar
I knew I’d be back. And by back, I meant back to Chamard Vineyards. After attending their Wine, Cheese and Chocolate tasting in February, it was a delight to visit the Clinton winery again for their Walden Hill Acorn Pork Dinner; a five course meal inspired by one of Chamard’s favorite farms.
Entering the winery on Sunday evening, March 19, I followed the large crowd of other attendees to the wine cellar, which was exciting for me as I’d never been to this part of Chamard in any of my prior visits.
We made our way down a long flight of stairs to enter a room full of wine bottles and wine barrels. Each place setting on the long wooden farm table was adorned with a card of the five course menu, a wine glass, a water glass and the cutest little porcelain pigs with our last names attached by a safety pin. We quickly learned, upon hearing the noise that came out of them when we picked them up, that they were not, in fact, porcelain, but adorable squeaky figures.
As everyone gathered around the table and started drinking the wine that was being poured, conversations flowed and the over 30 participants were at ease with the atmosphere of the cellar and anticipation for what our first course would be and what was in store for us.
Josh, an employee of Chamard, came around to refresh any glasses as some of us had been sipping the wine. He explained that we were drinking a Stone Cold Sparkling white wine made with a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc grape. It was refreshing and crisp.
Next, Claire, the events manager at Chamard, welcomed us to the event and our first course was brought out by several servers. We were given a charcuterie plate. It contained: Pâté de Champagne, Head Cheese, Salami, Dijon, Cornishons, Apricot Mustarda, and a baguette from Whole G. Bakery (a local bakery where Chamard gets all of its breads). Combining the various flavors of pâté, cheese, spreads and bread really had a great taste and texture. The Stone Cold Sparkling wine helped add a little extra zest to the first course.
The second course arrived and we were treated to a crispy pig ear salad. The thinly sliced fried ears looked almost like tortilla strips in a Mexican salad. The Granny Smith-Celery-Fennel combination along with the rosemary aioli and Shisito Peppers paired together so nicely. A little bit of crisp bite and a little bit of sweet crunch. Delicious! And the 2015 Estate Reserve Chardonnay served with the salad really worked well. It was aged in a nine month treatment with just a hint of oak flavor. As someone who is not good with oaky Chardonnays, this one was quite easy to drink – buttery and smooth – and combined with the greens to make it a wonderful tasty treat.
Our third course was the slow roasted pork belly. Wow! The combination of the pork, the butternut squash spatzle, braised red cabbage and chardonnay whole grain mustard jus paired so well with the 2015 Estate Rosé. The pork was just a bit crispy and the spatzle and cabbage just melted together; such a powerful taste and one that did not disappoint. The wine had a sweetness that really melded well with the whole entrée.
When the fourth course was brought out there were sounds of “I am so full,” but seeing the Braised Pork Shanks in the creamy polenta with sautéed Swiss chard, rosemary-pistachio gremolata and cabernet pork demi was quite a beautiful dish, we all knew we wanted to dig in and enjoy the experience. And it was an experience! The pork fell right off the bone and with the spinach and creamy polenta, the dish was amazing. Paired with the 2014 Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon with grapes from the Suisun Valley just added to the taste of the whole course. It was smooth, rich and delicious. I was more than delighted when Josh came back to pour us all a bit more wine.
Our fifth course arrived quite quietly but oh so beautifully. The lemon meringue tart made from Walden Hill’s Lard Pastry Crust, lemon crème, candied lemon peel and poppyseed meringues was like a melt in your mouth lemon drop. Everything was so creamy and appealing. And paired with the 2014 Estate Chardonnay Port, it had a flavor concoction like no other. It was sweet and the port was light and a bit more refreshing than any port I’ve ever tasted. I actually drank all of it, when usually I can’t have more than a few sips. I was delighted.
While we were enjoying our dessert and port, Jennifer Milikowsky, of Walden Hill Farm, spoke to us about how the pigs were raised that supplied us with our delicious dinner. To learn more about Walden Hill, please visit www.waldenhill.co.
Claire also brought out Matthew Bouffard, the head chef at Chamard, and Cooper Westerkamp, the pastry chef, to let us meet them and thank them for our amazing dinner.
As the night came to an end, I learned that the two ladies next to me, Dani and Tracey, had come to Clinton from Westchester, NY. They really love Chamard, especially the Heritage Cabernet Sauvignon. They said they had enjoyed another dinner like this one at the winery and always found the trip to the vineyards a great experience.
And I have to say, I agree with these ladies wholeheartedly. An event or even just a visit to taste the wine at Chamard Vineyards is always worth the trip. Make sure to make them a part of your next itinerary along the CT Wine Trail.