Meramec Vineyards Chambourcin Dinner
I have been taking retirement lessons courtesy of my bee buddy David Draker, who has made it clear I don’t quite have the hang of sitting around not doing anything. My “lessons” include joining him, his wife Gina and his wife’s best friend Ginger Schneider at Meramec Vineyards monthly wine pairing dinners, a delicious and informative evening of tasting local wines and getting ideas of how to serve them with a variety of dishes.
It was a cold, rainy, overcast day for this particular November 1, 2018 wine-pairing dinner, the last one for this year. This was Ginger’s special evening since she won the drawing for a free dinner at the previous wine pairing. I also felt like I was a winner since this menu included, to my delight, a marvelous discovery; this dark chocolate cheesecake. Who said I can’t start discussing a dinner with dessert first?
When I was working full time and traveling a lot, I made it a mission to try to find the best cheesecake wherever I was working. I had tried a chocolate cheesecake somewhere, decided it was not tasty and returned to sampling over flavors until tonight.
This dark chocolate cheesecake made by Meramec Vineyards Owner Michelle Boulware was a scrumptious surprise in every bite, the savory dark chocolate paired with the Chambourcin sweet cherry reduction sauce a perfect balance. I splurged and added a cup of coffee, which contrasted nicely against the Chambourcin cherry topping reduction. I can’t say this is why we ended up being the last people to leave the winery - again - but it certainly was a factor in why I was lingering. I was thinking how was I going to pursue finding other dark chocolate cheesecakes since I don’t travel as much when it struck me I don’t have to go far at all to revisit this one!
Ok so the dinner wasn’t about desert but it certainly was a highlight. Every course had Chambourcin in the dish so a word about this intriguing wine. According to the Meramec Vineyards website, the Chambroucin is a “medium body red wine featuring the complex Chambourcin grape. Cherry notes and smooth, peppery finish. Great with substantial beef dinners or enjoyed by a fire with a cigar for an after dinner wine.”
Our assessment during the dinner was the Chambourcin was rich and complex with “a touch of spice,” Gina said, a very interesting wine to pair with the other winter meal dishes.
The staff do a very nice job of setting the tone for these special evenings. Instead of sitting at tables set up in a U-shape, this November 1, 2018 the tables were separated into small separate seatings, which was a nice intimate setting, easier to have conversation. A chef friend of mine from the East Coast used to say half of any meal is the visual, from the meal surroundings to how it is plated.
I love peeking through the glass doors as we arrive to see how the room is set up for the special evening.
The evening meal started out with a very interesting dish featuring a cheese I am not particularly fond of using - again another charming discovery. The baked Brie with a strawberry reduction, walnuts and figs was a surprising complex combination topped on the toasted bread.
I would have been happy to have just this dish as my meal!
The baked Brie was followed by a creamed mushroom soup that was thick with cooked mushroom pieces. I have yet to meet a fungus I didn’t find tasty so the generous number of mushrooms ensured several in every bite.
What do we do in between courses? Usually we talk but this evening we had the added entertainment of having “Girl Scout” Ginger teach us how to tie the knot used to tie up the evening napkins.
Wait. It was more like she figured it out then tried to teach the rest of us. I never did get the hang of it but David came close. Gina was smart to not even try and calmly sipped her wine as the rest of us made a mess of the pieces of string, and our own fingers!
The main course was Chambourcin braised short ribs with creamy garlic mashed potatoes and a homemade roll with olive pieces that commanded my full attention. I took a photo of the dish but it was not in focus.
I did catch a followup photo of the creamed mushroom soup as the staff was sitting down to their meal.
These dinners include live music by William Owen on the keyboard. This particular evening some at our table were singing along, stopping only long enough to check their phones for some trivia, such as who was the first artist to sing “King of the Road.” Mr. Owen has been the live music at most of the monthly dinners we attended earlier this year and he has a wide ranging repertoire. He also takes requests. Luckily for everyone there I was not in the mood to sing or I would easily have cleared out the place, I am well-known within my family for being basically tone deaf but it doesn’t stop me from singing. My niece makes up for it, she’s been in Honors Choir and now is part of a Washington University a cappella group, the first sophomore to make the try outs. Yes, she more than makes up for her tone deaf aunt.
And since I mentioned the Meramec Vineyards staff, they are a welcoming and fun group who make these evenings extra special. As new owners of the winery, Michelle and Joseph Boulware have introduced a variety of menus and outside weekly live music events during summer. They are also planning seasonal events for the holidays. Follow their adventures on their “#grapelife Behind the Vine” blog and Facebook page.
Meramec Vineyards will be taking a break from offering these special $40 per person monthly wine pairing dinners through the holidays but they will be back January 17, 2019 with a Norton wine pairing dinner. I suggest you make reservations, these dinners are an excellent value and were almost sold out most of the nights we attended.
In the meantime, they have a Bistro daily lunch menu I plan to carefully study, daily soups and sangrias, beer and a number of special upcoming events. Who is with me on the December 13 Ugly Christmas Sweater contest??