Fork & Cork: The Sherwood Inn with White Birch Vineyards
It's no secret that Chris and I love food; we love to shop for it, prepare it, order it, and share it. I have always felt an affinity with food and never found it intimidating. A voracious reader from a young age, cookbooks were in my hands as often as a good fiction book. I remember fondly sitting with my grandfather when he was cooking dinner one night when I was around nine and declaring rather resolutely that the tomatoes from the garden would be that much better if I sprinkled them with sea salt before bringing them to the table. The milestones of my life are often marked by meals and more often than not, I can't remember what I was wearing on any given day but I can tell you what I ate. That's just how it is with food. Wine, on the other hand, is a relatively new experience for me. I enjoy drinking wine, but have very limited knowledge about it. There are so many varietals and regions, and people who love wine often seem to be speaking a foreign language. I live in fear of someone handing me a glass and asking me to discuss the tasting notes or guess the region it's from. There is so much information and I want to learn, but the entire process is rather intimidating. So, when Chris and I were invited to attend the five course wine dinner at the Sherwood Inn featuring White Birch Vineyards, I was excited to dip my toes into the water and learn a little more about local wine in a more intimate setting.
Morten Hallgren - Winemaker of White Birch Vineyards and Ravines Wine Cellars
Morten explaining the rise of and subtleties of the wines of the Finger Lakes to the guests.
Our evening began with a glass of Riesling and a beautiful cheese and crudite display before sitting down with our friend Jen Hudson, the wife of executive chef Dan Hudson, and the rest of our table mates. Riesling wines are one of the flagship wines of the Finger Lakes and not usually one of my favorites due to its overt sweetness, but this light and crisp Riesling was the perfect start to our evening. I can see myself drinking this with a cheese plate on evenings this summer while watching our children play on the swing set. The wine maker of White Birch Vineyards is Morten Hallgren of Ravines Wine Cellars. He presented the wines before each course and managed to be informative and make wine seem accessible to those of use with limited knowledge.
The first pairing was the 2016 WBV Pinot Noir Rose with a spring lettuce salad featuring pickled baby vegetables and Lively Run goat cheese. Hallgren informed us that rose is one of the easiest pairings out there and I was pleasantly surprised by this wine. I usually steer clear of any rose made outside of Provence, but Hallgren hails from the Provence region of the South of France and the influence is apparent in the wine. The wine paired beautifully with the salad. The tang of the goat cheese, the sweetness of the young lettuce leaves and the acidity of the pickled vegetables and herb vinaigrette were highlighted by the floral rose and even though snow was starting to fall outside, you could close your eyes and feel that spring was around the corner.
The second pairing was a cream of asparagus soup and WBV 2016 Sauvignon Blanc. According to Hallgren, 2016 was the warmest and driest vintage in his experience and the Sauvignon Blanc, aged entirely in stainless steel, had a brightness and acidity that complemented one of the absolute best soups we have had in a very long time. The Cream of Asparagus soup with creme fraiche, cured egg yolk, and smoked paprika oil was rich and fresh, with a hint of warmth from the paprika oil. "Dan Hudson has a way with soups," said his wife and you can't disagree with her there!
Next came the third course featuring lemon sole with wild mushrooms, saffron risotto, and fines herbs. I was eagerly anticipating this course because I adore sole and when it is perfectly cooked it is one of my favorite spring dishes to enjoy. This dish did not disappoint. The flaky lemon sole on top of the creamy risotto was enhanced by the light oak of the 2016 Chardonnay. WBV ages their Chardonnay wines in French oak barrels which gives the wine a less intrusive oak finish.
The fourth course was a roast lamb loin with English peas, mint, and balsamic lamb glace paired with WBV 2013 Nine Notch blend of cabernet franc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The wine was fruity and on the spicy side which played well with the balsamic glace on the lamb. The light freshness of the minted peas were the best part of the dish for me.
We ended the meal with a vanilla-lavender cake with lemon curd and local honey made by Jessica Deyo of Jessica's Cakes and a 2015 Pinot Gris. The cakes were sweet and flavorful and the wine had a hint of citrus that brought out the flavor of the lemons.
Events like this one are a fantastic way to try a number of different dishes and wines without feeling overwhelmed. Chris and I will be stopping by White Birch Vineyards tasting room on our next visit to Skaneateles to pick up some bottles of the wines we enjoyed. We left the Fork & Cork dinner smarter about Finger Lakes wine, a little more hopeful that spring would come eventually, and adamant that we need to return to the Sherwood Inn for another meal sooner rather than later.