The Charlottesville 29

If there were just 29 restaurants in Charlottesville, what would be the ideal 29?

Tag: Virginia Wineworks

Five Finds on Friday: Ben Jordan


On Fridays, we feature five food finds from local chefs and personalities.  This week’s picks come from Ben Jordan, winemaker and general manager of Michael Shaps Wineworks, which has just launched a brand new tasting room and also introduced wine growlers, a great new way to buy wine.  Jordan also has his own side project in aromatised wines and bitters, and has bottled the cult-favorite War & Rust.  Jordan’s picks:

1)  Grandpa’s Favorite at Pad Thai.  “Fried catfish, fried rice, and an omelette was a new combination for me, but now I have to work not to order it every time.”

2)  Dealer’s Choice at The Alley Light.  “The option of drinking-off-menu taps into the creative energy behind the bar, always a fun way to drink.”

3)  Sunday Lunch and Brunch at The Shack.  “I grew up in Augusta County, and it’s great to be able to stop in for the biscuits and gravy or the fried quail on the way to visit family. And, the drive to Staunton is shorter than some brunch lines.”

4) Dry-Aged Burger Grind at JM Stock Provisions.  “We make thin patties with this, and there is so much flavor that they work as simple burgers, without much need for adornment.”

5)  First Three Cheese Suggestions at Flora Artisanal Cheese.  “My strategy is to walk in, say something vague about what I want, taste what Nadjeeb offers, find it delicious, and then buy it.”

Five Finds on Friday: Michael Shaps


On Fridays, we feature five food finds selected by local chefs and personalities.  This week’s picks come from Virginia Wineworks’ Michael Shaps, widely regarded as one of Virginia’s top winemakers.  Next Thursday at The Ivy Inn, Shaps’ wines will be part of a very special wine dinner, featuring a multi-course meal, paired with some of Shaps’ best wines, all for $75.  Spots are going fast.  Book yours at (434) 977-1222. Other than “everything at The Ivy Inn,” here are Shaps’ picks:

1)  Mushroom Crepes at The Alley Light.  “I was there recently with the whole staff of the Wineworks.  We were a fairly large group lounging on the couches and sharing plates.  The plates of crepes barely made it halfway around before we needed to order more.  Nobody wanted to share these!”

2)  Croissants at Albemarle Baking Company.  “They remind me of the croissants I get in Meursault.  Fresh, flaky, buttery.  No need for jam.”

3)  Vegetable Soup at C&O.  “We eat this for lunch during harvest. It’s on the late-night menu at the restaurant and would be great then, too. It is light but satisfying, seasonal and delicious.”

4)  Cheese from Feast!  “No matter what you are looking for, they will have it and help you find it. The service at the cheese counter is friendly and enthusiastic and the cheeses are of the highest quality, best selection outside of Fromagerie Hess in Beaune.”

5a)  Country Pate from JM Stock Provisions.  “It is smoky and wrapped in bacon. What more could you want?”

5b)  Martinis at Bang!  “My current favorite is Da Bomb Basil. So darn refreshing on a hot night.”

Two for Tuesday: Virginia Wineworks and Champion Brewing

Food 196

1)  Bag in the Box 2009 Cabernet Franc from Virginia Wineworks.  Is boxed wine the new screw cap?  After meeting some resistance from wine traditionalists, the screw cap has now turned the corner and appears destined for broad acceptance.  Could boxed wine be next?  Don’t get us wrong.  We enjoy the ceremony of opening a proper bottle of wine.  There are sensory experiences to wine beyond mere taste: the feel of the glass bottle, the pop of the cork, the wine splashing into the glass.  But, if the price is right, some consumers may be willing to forego the pomp and circumstance.

Virginia Wineworks is betting they will, with last year’s release of the value-oriented series of Bag in the Box wines, made with grapes grown throughout Virginia.  Our favorite is the 2009 Cabernet Franc.  While it may not earn record-breaking scores from Robert Parker, it has already won well-deserved praise and succeeds at being just what it claims to be: a soft, approachable red for everyday meals and occasions.  Best of all is the price: $35 per box, which contains four bottles of wine.  With a shelf life of many weeks after opening, this hits a price point that can be difficult for Virginia wines to reach: the $8-$10 per-bottle range targeted by many household budgets for everyday wines.  The recyclable packaging is also eco-friendly, and the transportation of the boxes is much less costly than that of trucking bottles.  Well-priced and eco-friendly?  That seems like something that could catch on in Charlottesville.  Perhaps other area vineyards will follow.  Available now at Beer Run.

Food 194

2)  Missile IPA at Champion Brewing Company.  Hunter Smith’s new brewery, recently opened on 6th St SE at the foot of the Belmont Bridge, is off to a promising start.  Of the Champion beers we’ve tried, our favorite is the Missile IPA (7% ABV, 65 IBUs), but that may be because it is tailor-made for hopheads like us.  While some IPAs seek to balance the style’s signature heavy dose of hops with a solid malt backbone, Champion’s well-named Misile IPA is all about hops, which come right at you.  And, we like it that way.  Unapologetically bitter, the dry-hopped West-Coast style IPA’s blend of Simcoe, Cascade, and Summit hops dominates the malt.  The fact that there is no food served on site means customers can bring their own or, better yet, order delivery.  We’ll be back to see how Champion progresses.

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