The past two weekends have been a lot of fun for us. Well, when you get to sample some nice wines, hang out with blogger friends, throw in some good cheese and other tasty sammiches…how could one not have fun?
Let’s start with the Jersey Fresh Wine and Food Festival at Heritage Winery in Mullica Hill two Saturdays ago. Unlike last year, where we were running very late and had the kids in tow, we were going to have more time to relax this time around and not have to worry about keeping the kids from getting too bored. Let’s be honest: a wine tasting is not exactly high on the list of what gets a kid all giddy with excitement. And we would be meeting up with our favorite South Jersey locavore Robin for some for that good wine, cheese and sammich action mentioned earlier.
But in order to have fun with cheese and sammiches, you need cheese and sammiches. And based on the route we were going to be taking, we decided to make a stop at Carriage Trade Cheese Shoppe on Main Street in Medford. I had remembered that fellow bloggers F Scott and Zelda had paid a recent visit to the location and had liked it, so we decided to give it a try.
What a happy little place this is. They carry quite a number of artisan cheese selections, including some from Jersey farms. We very much enjoyed the Perlitta made by Valley Shepherd Creamery – a combination of cows milk and goats milk that was aged and firm but still had some youthfulness in the middle. We also picked up a chunk of Beemster XO Gouda, a piece of Piave Red Label and a little orphan of Manchego. What’s an orphan? Well, when Carriage Trade cuts a section of cheese for a customer, and then they decide to get a smaller piece, the extra is saved and kept in their little orphan box for someone who just wants a little taste. It cuts down on waste and gives you another size option – kind of like an odd lot of cheese.
And I haven’t even gotten to the paninis yet.
Yes, they make wonderful paninis as well, with the bread and produce coming from local sources. We grabbed a Big Fat Greek Sandwich (with feta and olives), a Summer in Tuscany sandwich (with red peppers and mozzarella) and a Smoky Shroom (veggie and mushroom-loaded). Sadly, well for the sandwich and for Robin anyway, the Summer in Tuscany did not survive the ride; we gobbled that one up even before we were out of Medford!
In staying with the theme of the title, Carriage Trade is run by women only, and even has their own gourmet group called Daughters of the Epicurean Revolution. You go, girls! Keep on doing what you’re doing!
As for us, we had to keep on keepin’ on and get ourselves to the wine festival. Now, if you look at the pics from last year’s event, you’ll pretty much have the look and feel of the festival this year. Robin took copious notes of the wines she tasted, including her famous ‘happy face, sad face and indifferent face’ indicators depending on whether she liked a wine or not. Very cute, those faces. Since she did a really nice job of reviewing the wines we tasted, I’ll try not to rehash what has already been said.
The wine festivals gives us a rare chance to tastes the apple and pear wines from Chestnut Run Farm, since they don’t have a tasting room and they are not available all over. Always enjoy their dry Asian pear wine – it’s not what you’d expect from a non-grape wine. Very pleasant and refreshing.
Although we did try a couple of Hawk Haven wines at the AC Food and Wine Festival, it was great to get to sample from their whole line of offerings – and chat with the owner as well. Was impressed with their Pinot Grigio and their Merlot, although we weren’t about to drop $35 for a bottle.
We then hit some of our favorite South Jersey wineries: Auburn Road, Bellview, Sharrott and Amalthea. Liked the 2009 Traminette and 2007 Lemberger from Bellview, but not the 2008 Dandelion dessert wine. Tasted too much like grazing in a meadow. The Barrel Reserve Chardonnay from Sharrott was surprisingly complex and fun. And, of course, we just adored Europa III blend from Amalthea (took a bottle home). They also had a 2008 Rkatsiteli, an unusual wine that we had not tried before. Had a nice smokey shading to it, and I could see you enjoying a glass with some barbecue.
Not only did we get to hang out with Robin, but lo and behold Elizabeth Stelling aka Chef E from Cook Appeal found us as well. Good times. And here’s a pic that Chef E took of us enjoying the aforementioned good times:
Amalthea and Chef E would figure into our lives again this past weekend, when we packed the whole family and drove up to Pennington to enjoy the Wine Art Music Poetry Project.While the event could have used a few more attendees, there was an enjoyable mix of music and poetry, activities for the kiddies – even child care (!!!), and some good food thrown in for good measure. Local eatery Barone’s Tuscany Grill was there, making some wonderful chicken and rib eye sandwiches. So simple, yet so well executed. Thomas Sweet was there as well, serving cups of vanilla and chocolate. No Blend-In capabilities were available, though.
And once again, there was Lou and Amalthea, serving samples of their vintages. With a smaller crowd this time around, we had more time to chat with Lou – and Lou will chat your ear off, but it’s always fun and entertaining. But the passion for his craft never wavers. Although we do love Amalthea’s Europa reds, we decided to go lighter and get a bottle of their Elara table white.
Of course, we got to spend some time with Chef E, even though she was pretty busy making sure things were running as smooth as possible. Our hope is that next year’s WAMPP will be even bigger, and will help to raise even more money for congenital heart failure research.
Oh, and I couldn’t write this post and not mention our stop at Sweet Life Bakery after the Jersey Fresh Wine Festival. We had ordered a cake for our children’s baptism, and we wanted to see their newly expanded location. So not only can you get cakes and pastries, but fresh baked bread and sandwiches as well. The place is lovely, and the cake they made for us was fabulous. Thanks again, Stephen and Jill!