Gary Swiggett and friends.

A sellout crowd that jammed Calvert’s Restaurant Wednesday night for a dinner featuring Burly wines had a real treat. As always at Calvert’s the wine and food were perfectly matched.

You run out of superlatives talking about the food at Calvert’s, and they never bring in a winery with mediocre wines. The wines always are first rate.

Hank McCrorie

That was the case again Wednesday, but in addition to the great food and wine, there were some extra added attractions. For instance, Gary Swiggett–known as the unofficial mayor of Napa Valley–was there to show us how to enjoy wine and chocolate together. (More on that later.)

Hank McCrorie, owner of McCrorie Family Vineyards and Burly, was in Augusta for a Calvert’s wine dinner last year. The wine drinkers remembered that great evening, and they packed the house for the return engagement. The mood was festive from the start.

McCrorie spent his working life in the pharmaceutical business. When he retired his California wife wanted a home in California. McCrorie is from North Carolina so they built homes in both states. Eventually he got lured into the wine business and named his winery with his nickname from his college football days at Lenoir-Rhyne. It’s an apt description of the man and his wines.

The label features an immense oak tree, reminding McCrorie of the live oaks of Carolina and his wife Bernice of the oak trees she remembers from California.

Because Burly produces only Cabernet Sauvignon and one Sauvignon Blanc, Calvert’s and Ninth Street Wine Market partnered with Prime Wines and Spirits to supply a sparkling wine, a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir.

We started with light hors d’oeuvres and Chameroy Brut, non vintage. It’s a French sparkling wine from the Burgundy region, made in the methode champagnoise. That means it’s made the way Champagne is, with fermentation in the bottle.

It was an excellent, inexpensive sparking wine, light bodied, with good structure. The flavors were citrus and tropical fruits, with nice bubbles and a pleasant finish.

Garden gazpacho

The first course was garden gazpacho with olive-pesto grilled cheese, accompanied by Burly Sauvignon Blanc 2011. McCrorie said he only made 80 cases of this wine, the first white he’s made, and he designated 5 cases for Georgia. Halfway through the evening four of those cases had already been sold, so it’s unlikely there will be any more on the local market. If you can find it, buy it. It’s spectacular. McCrorie hopes to buy more of the grapes from the vineyard next year and produce 400 cases.

The wine is light and crisp, with a bright finish. It matched the gazpacho well. It probably would be good as a sipping wine, but it is much better with food.

Scallop strudel

The second course was curried scallop strudel with Chardonnay sauce paired with Mount Eden Vineyards Saratoga Cuvee Chardonnay 2008 Santa Cruz Mountains. What a wonderful explosion of flavors, with the curry and the pastry and the silky smoothness of a nice Chardonnay.

The wine is a medium-bodied Chardonnay with a minerality and a fruit-forward style. It has a long, pleasant finish and matched the scallop strudel very well.

Pear salad

The third course was Pinot Noir poached pear salad with pecan-crusted goat cheese and Vidalia onion vinaigrette paired with Evening Land Blue Label Pinot Noir 2010. The salad had a marvelous mix of flavors, ranging from the pungent goat cheese to the silky sweet pears and the onion vinaigrette. I thought it would be difficult to find a wine to pair with this, but the Evening Land Pinot did fine.

Joe Bowden

The blue label is considered Evening Land’s entry level Oregon Pinot Noir from the famed Seven Springs Vineyard. There are three other tiers above blue. The wine is good, with well-balanced cherry fruit, but the finish was a little short and with a slightly unpleasant aftertaste. It would be interesting to taste the other levels of Evening Land because the Seven Springs Vineyard is known for supplying fruit for great wines from Adelsheim, Bethel Heights, Domaine Druhin and St. Innocent, among others.

The fourth course was spicy lemon and garlic marinated flat iron steak with roasted Yukon home fries and Cabernet chipotle sauce. The wine was Burly Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Napa Valley. This was the most spectacular course and pairing.

I didn’t get to eat the steak and fries until they were cold because I was busy talking to people, but the food still was incredibly good. The flavors in the steak were beautifully complex and were matched by the layers of flavor in the wine.

It’s a difficult wine to describe because so many flavors race across your mouth, but I picked up notes of blackberry, blueberry, licorice and plum. The wine is still tight and likely will keep developing in the bottle for another 5-10 years.

Chocolate roulade

The final course was a decadent dessert, chocolate raspberry roulade paired with Burly Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley. This was the wine of the night, combining a wonderful complexity of flavors with a warm mouthfeel. It is a silky, seductive elegant wine.

There are dense blackberry flavors with an overlying minerality and a balanced structure. This wine will be drinkable for another 5-10 years.

Gary Swiggett and Craig Calvert.
Gary finishing the chocolate.

When we had the dessert course Craig Calvert brought Gary Swiggett up to show us his technique for tasting Cabernet Sauvignon with chocolate. Basically he said take a piece of chocolate, start chewing and then take a big gulp of the wine. It was sensuous and wonderful. I’ve long enjoyed red wine and chocolate but mixing them together was a new treat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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