Pair off: Chocolate and wine arrive downtown together
Who here likes sweet wines? Anyone? Bueller?
Donna Henrickson is usually met with cricket chirps when she asks a roomful of wine tasters how they feel about dessert wines. Most people turn up their noses when a bottle of Moscato makes its way to the tasting bar, but that’s something Donna and her husband Carl are trying to remedy with their new Downtown Mall shop, Wine Loves Chocolate.
Owners of Little Washington Winery, which is about halfway between Charlottesville and Washington, D.C. off Route 211, the Henricksons started offering “wine boot camps” in the spring of 2013. Carl starts the lesson with a discussion about the differences between reds, whites, and rosés—“We don’t go into too much detail about the winemaking process, because who cares?”—and different vintages. He then turns it over to his wife, who teaches the guests about the science behind pairing food and wine—particularly chocolate and the ever-misunderstood sweet varietals.
“There’s a reason why they call it dessert wine,” Carl said. “It’s a fairly simple rule: Pair big with big and sweet with sweet.”
He went on to explain that pairing a dessert wine with a piece of milk chocolate almost invariably elicits surprised reactions.
“It’s counterintuitive, but the sweetness of both the milk chocolate and of the wine go away,” he said. “It flattens both of them, and the result is astonishing.”
When ticket sales to the weekend seminars started creeping up into the thousands, exceeding their expectations ten-fold, the Henricksons opened up a separate space near the winery for the events, called Wine Loves Chocolate. And a couple weeks ago, they set up shop on the Downtown Mall in hopes of drawing in both the local and regional winery-hoppers. They carry Virginia wines, of course, but also bottles from all over the world, including Italy, France, and Spain. As for the bite-sized sweets, Carl said they work with chocolatiers who are willing to “keep things interesting.” Current truffle flavors include whiskey maple, blueberry cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and Guinness.
“Wine and chocolate are somewhat of an impulse buy, initially,” Carl said. “But as we build relationships with the customer base, it becomes more of a destination.”
The shop still needs some downstairs renovation before the space is ready for events, but keep an eye out for things like “Virginia vs. the world,” a blind taste test that pits local and regional wines against the same varietals from different countries across the globe. The tasting bar is up and running, so you can pop in for a “choco-vino challenge,” which pairs three wines with three truffles, or grab an empty box and fill it yourself with whatever chocolates from the DIY truffle bar strike your fancy.
There’s a talented new brewer in town. But he’s not starting a new brewpub or tasting room. He’s taking the reins behind the mash tun at C’Ville-ian, Steve Gibbs’ five-month-old nanobrewery on West Main Street.
Billy McWood, who learned his trade in beer-crazed Portland, Oregon, started brewing for C’Ville-ian on September 23, and the results have garnered positive reviews. The brewery has since released C’Ville on the Rye’z, a new West Coast-style rye IPA; Pavilion Porter, a “session porter easy on the ABV but not lacking in flavor”; and Albemarle Amber Ale—all McWood’s own creations. Gibbs said McWood has also been working to dial in some of C’Ville-ian’s original recipes. Gibbs’ goal is to give his new brewmaster full creative control, he said.
Gibbs said he’ll continue to run the front of the house and the business side of C’Ville-ian. In addition to bringing in the new brewer, he’s added a few new touches to the loungey space on West Main and upped the ante on his live entertainment offerings.
“This is a fun business, and I’m passionate about it,” Gibbs said. “I enjoy hanging out with friends and socializing over a beer.”
What’s a slice?
One Barracks Road pizza place is looking to change your thinking about the definition of a “slice.” Chris Herring started his portion-of-the-whole revolution by adding quiche, frittatas, and breakfast pizzas to the Slice menu on August 4. He’s now offering these outside-the-delivery-box slices to patrons starting at 7am Monday-Saturday and 8am on Sunday.
But breakfast slices (think chicken and waffle pizzas and pesto, egg white, and country ham pizzas) are only the beginning. Herring said he’ll add sweet pies to his lineup of New York-style pizza in the next few weeks. He plans to slowly roll those offerings out, starting with pumpkin and apple and upping the ante by the holiday season. The final frontier, Herring said, would be savory pies, such as chicken pot pie and steak and mushroom pie. He’s even tinkering with the idea of making sausages in-house.
“We’re taking ‘slice’ to a different level,” Herring said. “It’s not just pizza anymore.”
Herring said he’s tentatively looking to expand his restaurant reach in town, but he wasn’t ready to offer specifics.
“It’s just me and my wife right now, but we’re looking to make a local impact on the pizza scene,” he said.