Raleigh, N.C. — The cure for a case of the Mondays could possibly be a monthly wine dinner at Bia at Solas located on Glenwood Avenue.
Bia features contemporary American cuisine with a flair. Each month the restaurant's wine director Mark Morrow works with executive chef Dan Yeager and executive sous chef Bryan Kowalski to create a special menu with dishes paired with a featured vineyard's wine. Sometimes, they select a North Carolina vineyard, as was the case Monday night.
Childress Vineyards, located in Lexington, NC, is owned by NASCAR racing mogul Richard Childress. Acclaimed winemaker and general manager Mark Friszolowski was on-hand at Bia to talk a little about the vineyard's history and Childress' friendship with the late NASCAR Dale Earnhardt.
The first wine we sampled was the 2011 2011 "Trio" White Blend. It was named for the legendary No. 3 car that Childress owned and drove until he decided to focus on management and operations. He turned that number and car over to a young Dale Earnhardt. The wine is made from three grapes, hence the name.
This wine was paired with an appetizer-sized shrimp "shooter" with pineapple, green apple, wasabi and coconut. The only problem with my shooter was that it didn't "shoot." It was stuck in my shot glass. A bartender got me a small fork and I was able to taste it. The coconut, pineapple and shrimp really created an odd combo for me. I couldn't really focus on the wine pairing as much because I was overwhelmed by the oddness of it.
Dinner started with a jumbo lump crab cake over a watercress salad with apple, spec and heart of palm. This first course was paired with Childress' 2011 Riesling. The crab cake was hearty with much more meat than breading. A perfect balance and nice size for a first course! In the salad, the speck (an Italian smoked meat similar to ham) really took over. It was good, but a strong enough flavor that I didn't want to eat too much of it. I devoured the crab cake and really loved the sweetness of the Riesling.
In between courses, diners snacked on warm, homemade cornbread. YUM!
The second course was one of my favorites - a potato wrapped branzino with a red pepper lemon beurre blanc. It was paired with a 2009 Childress Chardonnay. Spot on pairing! The chardonnay really helped enhancer the branzino's flavors. The presentation was beautiful as well.
Before we knew it, it was time for course three - a tagliatelle carbonara with salami, garlic, EVOO, Parmesan, peas and egg yolk. This pasta was rich, especially with that salami on top, but the 2008 Childress Merlot that it was paired with helped tame those robust flavors and provide a balance. I am not always a fan of reds, but this Merlot was smooth and delicious!
The fourth course was a delightful combo of a coffee braised short rib, over seasonal vegetables and paired with a 2007 Childress Cabernet Franc. The wine really helped enhance the coffee flavors in the ribs. I am now a fan of reds!
The night ended with a white chocolate pave with dark chocolate feullitine topped with a caramel powder and blueberry sauce. Now, let me explain what this was in non-foodie terms - white chocolate cream over a dark chocolate bark topped with caramel powder and drizzled with a blueberry sauce. You couldn't really cut this with the fork and since the servers had taken our knives, we picked it up and ate it with our hands! So good! And what made it better was the wine pairing. The most perfect pairing of the night - NV Childress' Starmount Blueberry dessert wine. This wine is made from North Carolina rabbit eye blueberries. The tones in it were amazing and the way it paired with the sauce and the white chocolate - yum!
One of the best parts of these dinners - besides the amazing food and fine - is being able to talk with and dine alongside the winemaker. Definitely an event that every wine enthusiast should attend at least one.
Bia plans another wine dinner next month.
Note: Bia is an advertising partner of WRAL.com, but did not provide any compensation for this editorial content. The reviews and opinions are strictly those of the author and other WRAL Out & About contributors. It is not an advertisement for the business featured.