It’s been a number of years since I’ve driven through the sleepy, industrial town of Phoenixville, which is situated on the northeast edge of Chester County bordering Montgomery. The first thing I noticed was that it’s no longer all that industrial and it’s woken up quite a bit. Upscale shops, restaurants and bars have popped up everywhere, turning Phoenixville into another trendy Chester County hamlet in the same fashion as West Chester and Kennett Square.
Earlier in the month we decided to attend this wine & chocolate pairing class at Sand Castle’s tasting room on Phoenixville’s bustling Bridge Street. Fran & I met our friends Debbie & Greg there at 1:00. Both said couples were cutting it close on time as we didn’t anticipate the traffic being as heavy as it was. We were alerted to a Groupon for the event, which made it even more attractive. However, our discount was later cancelled out by a parking ticket by the Phoenixville Borough Parking Gestapo … the town is more like West Chester than I thought.
Sand Castle’s tasting room sits right in the middle of Bridge Street, surrounded by a nice selection of eateries. They chose to integrate their tasting rooms with a culinary theme. Olive oil tastings and pairings are available along with the wine, and they offer a diverse number of food/wine pairing classes.
About five couples were in attendance and we were greeted by Pete, who was heading up our little event. I’m getting pretty proficient at the wine tasting thing but I learn something new each time I do one.
Pete was an engaging host and he shared some information about Sand Castle before we got into the actual tasting. I am continued to be impressed by the amount of knowledge and passion that is exhibited by people who work in the wine industry.
Sand Castle Winery is located in upper Bucks County, north of New Hope along the river. They are what’s considered an ‘Estate Winery’ which basically means that they grow their own grapes. The climate at SC works well for grape harvesting as the fog from the river shrouds the vines and protects them from bud damage. The class was designed to introduce us to Sand Castle’s wines and how they pair with select high end chocolates, Which were provided by Bridge Street Chocolates right up the street.
1. Johannisberg Riesling 2005 (Dry) & Cappucino Truffle – This appley Riesling pairs great with many different foods. The cappucino truffle took away some of the acidity which made for a nice match.
2. Chardonnay Classic 2005 & Almond Butter Crunch – This citrusy chardonnay is Sand Castle’s most popular wine. For each of these tastings, the group was encouraged to take a bite of the chocolate, let it permeate through your mouth and then drink the wine over it. Trust me it works.
3. Pinot Noir 2008 & Chili Harsh – More similar to French Pinot than California, due to the cooler climate in Bucks County. Complimented very well by this spicy truffle.
4. Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 & Dark Chocolate Cup – This was my absolute favorite. Not only because I love Cab, but the wine was served right in this tiny chocolate cup, like a shot glass. Great presentation. I could have knocked back twenty of these. Yes, chocolate & all.
5. Johannisberg Riesling 2004 & Orange Chocolate – The ’04 is very versatile and has more of a tropical fruit finish. The orange truffle flavors well with it. I’m learning that with chocolate and wine, the flavors come out slowly and linger. It’s not something that should be rushed through.
6. Late Harvest Johannisberg Reisling 2003 & Rum Truffle – Yum. Nuff said.
7. Claret, Non Vintage & Raspberry Truffle – Claret goes well with fruit and makes a good Sangria. I just might have to mix it into my next batch.
8. Alpine Spice, Non Vintage & Key Lime – The Alpine Spice smells like Christmas. It consists of Chardonnay, Riesling, secret herbs & spices and a shot of rum.
The tasting lasted about 90 minutes so we all had time to really enjoy the experience. In a society of multitasking and 24/7 connectivity, it’s really great to be able to slam on the brakes and exercise the senses. That’s part of the reason I’m so fascinated with the culture. Thanks to Pete and Sand Castle for the detour from reality.
It turns out that this isn’t the only tasting room on the block. After a unanimous vote, my group decided why not another one? I’m not sure when I’m coming back to Phoenixville so off we go. More to come …