Sunday, August 2, 2009

Aquavina, I Heart You

My BFF Kiley and I were in desperate need of some catch-up time. Both of our jobs have had us traveling, and general life busy-ness had resigned us to a daily e-mail or blackberry message. SO, we decided to have a little happy hour time at a good old stand-by, Aquavina. We have gone here many times before, including her surprise 26th birthday bash (so much fun). This Thursday, the bar was a little empty, as a torrential downpour began just in time to drench happy hour. Yes, in Charlotte, heavy rain is enough to deter the crowds from after-work drinking.

But not us!

We walked in and noticed that some sort of event was going on - we would later find out it was a fundraiser for a mayoral candidate. We were greeted by Blerim Meta (who I understand goes by Blair, or some version of that spelling). He and Kiley go way back, in terms of happy hour encounters. I believe he is the GM at Aquavina and Latorre's. He is always accommodating, and usually has an interesting wine to recommend. I rarely steer from my staple at Aquavina - the Opolo Zin, which I adore - but he recommended an "excellent new pinot from Chile" - Pinot Black. He gave us a taste and poured us a glass after we enthusiastically approved. This pinot was perfect for us! It had lots of fruit and lots of spice - it was actually pretty substantial for a pinot. We snacked on some manchego and brie cheese, and some delicious slices of sopressata...all of which (especially the sopressata) were absolutely delicious with the Pinot Black. I googled the wine for this posting, and found that it's very affordable - about 15 bucks a bottle.

As we were munching, Blair visited us again to recommend another delicious wine: Writer's Block Zinfandel. It was amazing. I'm not good enough yet to explain how amazing it was, except that I would describe it as deeply satisfying, with a rich cherry, spicy flavor with lots of tannins. So you are more properly informed, here are the winemaker's tasting notes:

A medium to full bodied red wine showing its varietal characters of red fruit, spice, clove, herbal tea, and bramble with approachable aromatics that open quickly in glass. The aromatics are complex, and move from red fruit to green herb and some kind bramble, some toasted oak, to citrus transitions occur fairly quickly. A supple mouth-feel shows bright fruit flavor transitioning into an accentuated finish with bright acidity and some spice. Significant tannins on the finish, textually good and young, prolonged after-taste increasing as wine continues to breathe.

Someday! Someday, after about a million more tastes and a formal wine education, I'll be able to (accurately) describe wine this way. I'm getting there. By the way, what the f&%# is bramble?

The last delicious tasting that Blair offered us was a sip of icewine (forgive me - I don't remember who made it). Now - I am scared of icewine. You read my post about Conundrum. I loathe sticky sweet wines, and what else can we expect from icewine? Kiley inquired how it gets it's name, and he simply told us they freeze the grapes as part of the winemaking process. Of course, it's meant to pair with dessert, or be the dessert itself! We both enjoyed it immensely. He served it freezing cold, and while it was very sweet, I was pleasantly surprised to find some decent acidity and tartness. It was served in a mini-wine glass, and was overall very fun. I have a bottle here at home that I received as a gift - I'm now less scared about giving it a whirl.

After all the great tastings, we did some fun stuff with the staff - took some silly photos behind the bar, in the storage room, at the bar, etc:

The last fantastic thing I will share is that Blair told us that he does private parties, in which a variety of apps are served with any combination of wines desired - anywhere from 6 to 15 wines. The theme is up to the host, for instance: US vs. France, where you can taste a chardonnay (for instance) from each, and note the differences. He also mentioned Around the World, which I believe they were doing for the event on Thursday - one wine from each of 15 different countries. He said the parties start at $25 a person, and can be as small as 6 people or as large as 50. He hosts each one, providing his expertise on the selected wines. How fabulous! I am 100% planning to organize one of these in the near future.

So, my love affair with Aquavina, Blair, and of course Kiley had to end when my husband texted to remind me that I had to pick up dog food on the way home. And because Kiley had other fab plans after our happy hour, naturally.

But, I said it once, and I'll say it again: Aquavina, I heart you.

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