It was a great time away from home and everyone brought great food... in fact, an abundance of foods! I may post about all the foods if others send me photos they took, but for now, here's our Saturday adventure...
We loaded ourselves into a couple of cars and went over to the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday to both a winery and a cidery I've wanted to visit for 2-3 years. The Château Morrisette wine tasting was really quite lovely, and very entertaining thanks to our bartender. Other than the omission of any palate cleansers for 12 different wines (including 2 ice wines), it was both professional and great fun.
One wine I would normally have never tried actually surprised me by being quite tasty; it was made from Scuppernongs, aka Fox Grapes. I generally shun sweetish wines but this was nicely complex rather than sickeningly sweet. (The winery gave us the glasses with their name etched on them that we used for tasting and several of our group bought multiple bottles of wines to take home, so their excellent presentation and marketing paid off!)
The Foggy Ridge Cidery (hard ciders) tasting was disappointing. Being just 3 miles down the Parkway from Château Morrisette, they probably need to do a better job of marketing at the cidery site itself if they continue to be on the "tour". You never know just who may drop in for a taste!
It was the same cost to taste 5 hard ciders as 12 wines from Château Morrisette, but the cider samples were barely a teaspoonful and the bartender was not fully educated on the products (at least not on the fortified ciders, nor did she present how any of the ciders could be served or used in recipes)... also she was not very personable. I will excuse her as she may have been having a bad day from many tastings earlier, but if that's the case they should have a back-up plan.
I did like the Pippin Black, a brandy-fortified cider made with Arkansas Black apples and Newtown Pippins.
The Thos. Jefferson / American style cider was tart but not dry, but I liked the English-style cider better as it was dry and not too tart. I wouldn't even taste the sweet cider one. The fresh raw cider I bought and fermented last fall was too sweet for my taste after it fermented, even with no sugar added. To be fair, that fresh cider I bought was made from eating apples whereas good hard cider is a mix, but other than sweet, it was good. I just don't like sweet drinks as a rule. (We didn't get a cidery glass etched with their name to keep, either.)
Once back at the cabin, we had our own private cheese tasting with wines everyone had brought along for the weekend. All three of my homemade cheeses (gorgonzola, farmhouse cheddar and a young Caerphilly) were well-received, plus we had about 8-10 imported cheeses our friends had ordered online.
I have to brag a tiny bit and say I finally made an edible blue cheese... the gorgonzola dolce shown above, which the blue cheese lovers deemed a success. (Remember I had to toss out my first 3 attempts at making a blue cheese?)
The imported cheese varieties (which I had helped choose from a short list of cheese specials) were tasty and interesting but not great, excepting the very stinky and well past it's prime Tomme Crayeuse we had to re-wrap quickly... but the selections didn't contain any cheese that I think any of us would particularly order again except possibly the 2 year old Avonlea Extra Sharp raw milk Cheddar from Canada (very dry/crumbly almost like Parmesan because of the age, but would be lovely grated on certain dishes).
I guess it's my fault for not knowing the vendor who is not a cheesemonger... nor did I know anything of the creameries/artisans for each cheese. I take full responsibility since several were cheese types I wanted to try in case I wanted to try to make one.
One of the imported cheeses was a Welsh Caerphilly [cheddar], and VERY different from the ones I've made so far. It was a lot softer, creamier and not as traditionally salty; it was rather more like an American mild cheddar. But at leasdt now I know I need to work on "creamier" in general when I make more cheese.
As a surprise gift for me personally, our organizer had ordered a wedge of Rogue River Blue straight from the Creamery because I had said rather emphatically I wanted to try it sometime. (Is that a great friend or what??) I put it out to share along with the other cheese, and everyone who liked blues raved over it. If you like blues at all, you really need to try this cheese sometime when you have a special occasion; IT IS OUTSTANDING!!! No wonder it won Best in Show in combined American, Canadian and Mexican competitions for 2 of the last 3 years.