Monday, November 19, 2012

Swine & Wine 2

There is something about Black Ankle Vineyards that captures my interest.  Maybe it is their dedication to making Bordeaux-style wines in the State of Maryland.  Or it could be the fact that they have a working farm, with Piedmontese cows, heritage pigs and chickens.  Maybe, it is both.

Recently, I had the opportunity to experience the work that goes into the wines and into the farm.  This work is showcased in a multi-course dinner where each course features a dish prepared with the meat from the heritage pigs raised on the farm and a pairing with one of Black Ankle's wines. The owners have dubbed the event "Swine & Wine." I missed the first  dinner (which took place last year), but I was very fortunate to have a seat at the second dinner, "Swine & Wine 2." 

Reception: First impressions are important, especially during a multi-course dinner.  It sets the expectations for the entire evening.  For this dinner, the first impression came in the form of Glouchester Old Spot Prosciutto.  According to the Glouchester Old Spots of America, Inc., the this heritage breed has the oldest pedigree of any spotted pig. It also has a high body fat ratio, which is said to produce more flavorful meat and lardon.  This particular Glouchester Old Spot was raised by Black Ankle on its farm and it was slaughtered for the first Swine & Wine.  However, they kept one of the haunches, which the caterer cured and aged the meat for several months.  Although sliced a little too thick, the prosciutto was nevertheless excellent and the perfect way to start the meal.

As for the pairing, the winemakers selected  Black Ankle's Viognier.  The light fruit flavors of the wine -- peaches and apricots (as well as maybe a little pear) -- and its smoothness worked very well with the prosciutto.  In all, a great start to the meal.

First Course: The first course was a Miolea Red Russian Kale & Mustard Green Salad served with a Confit of Pork Shoulder and a Verjus Vinaigrette.  This course embodied one of the sub-themes for this event ... buying local.  The greens were purchased from the Miolea Organic Farm in Adamstown Maryland, and, were "paired" with a nice sized helping of the pulled pork shoulder along with goat cheese and nuts.

This course was paired with Black Ankle's 2011 Passeggiata.  This wine is the lightest red wine offered by the vineyard, and, it was a great match for this dish.  Obviously, a light red wine can pair well with salads and lighter fair.  The Passeggiata's lighter body, as well as its full fruit flavor, worked well to round out the bitterness of the greens and the creaminess of the goat cheese. Both the dish and the wine were very good.

Second Course: The second course was a Grilled Pork Loin served with Pork Belly Lardon and Roasted Summer Creek Acorn Squash, which came from the Summer Creek Farm in Thurmont, Maryland.  This course compensated for its small size by providing a surprising amount of flavor.  The rub used on the pork loin, as well as the sauces on the plate provided a lot of character to the dish. 

This course was paired with the 2011 Bedlam, which is a white blend.  Although I do not have the percentages or grapes for this particular vintage, Black Ankle has produced this wine in the past using Grüner Veltliner, Albariño, Viognier, Chardonnay and Muscat grapes.  The wine complemented the dish well, adding a little apple to the flavors of the dish, as well as smoothing out some of the black pepper used in the rub and cutting through the sauce served with the loin.  As far as this course went, it was another very delicious dish and pairing.

Third Course: The third course was a Porchetta Roast, served with Candied England Acres Sweet Potatoes and Sea Salt Smoked England Acres Rainbow Swiss Chard.  (The sweet potatoes and chard came from England Acres Farm in Mt. Airy, Maryland).  For me, this dish was the most decadent of the night, with the slightly fatty pork shoulder having been cooked perfectly over top of the sweet potatoes and the Swiss Chard.  The sea-salt smoked chard was interesting, and it had much of its original bitterness.  That bitterness was cut down with the reduction, which was made from Black Ankle's Terra Dulce II.

This course was paired with Black Ankle's 2008 Leaf Stone Syrah.  The Syrah is a blend of 81% Syrah, 7% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 3% Viognier, 1% Malbec, 1% Merlot.  This is one of Black Ankle's bolder red wines.  The pairing worked very well because the Syrah could stand up to the fatty nature of the porchetta roast.  

Fourth Course: The fourth course consisted of Smoked Pork Ribs, with Rosemary and Chilled Poached Catoctin Mountain Sekel Pear.  (The pear was from the Cactoctin Mountain Orchard in Thurmont, Maryland.)  Two ribs were served with this course.  The ribs had just the right amount of smoke flavor, along with a sweetness in the sauce or rub.  The sweetness was a subject of debate amongst the people at my table. One guest suggested that the sweetness was due to the use of an Asian-inspired rub or sauce.  The rest of us were a little skeptical.  To be sure, there was some form of sugar (perhaps brown sugar) and, if I focused enough on it, I could detect the flavors of soy sauce.  But I sided with the skeptics.    (Quite frankly, I was enjoying the ribs too much and tasting the ribs with the wine to get entangled in the argument.)  

Speaking of the wine, the fourth course was paired with the Black Ankle's 2010 Rolling Hills.  Personally, I thought the pairing was perfect.  The Rolling Hills is a Bordeaux-style blend that has flavors of black raspberry and cherries with just a little spice. The wine is just mellow enough to complement the smoke flavors of the pork, without compounding or clashing with such strong flavors. 

Fifth Course: The final course was an Autumn Spice Cake with Cranberry Terra Dulce Compote and Cinnamon Anglaise.  The spice cake was delicious, especially with the cinnamon anglaise.  

This dessert was paired with the Terra Dulce II, Black Ankle's dessert wine.  Produced in the style of a port, the Terra Dulce is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Chardonnay, Albariño, Grüner Veltliner and Muscat. 

Serving the Terra Dulce as the final pairing allows all of the grapes to take the stage for a bow.  The sweetness of the port, along with its boozy character, provided a nice complement to the spices in the cake.   It was a good way to end a great meal.

As the evening drew to a close, I felt compelled to thank the owners personally.  I felt that need because, even though I paid for the dinner, it was still a great opportunity to have a meal prepared with humanely raised pork, local produce and some amazing wines.  The only thing I can say is that I hope that I am lucky enough to go to Swine & Wine 3.  Until that time, 


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