Monday, August 08, 2005

Kluge Estate Winery

We pulled into Kluge feeling fairly ravenous after our journey. The front featured several picnic tables scattered lazily beneath a canopy of tall shade trees.

Opening the front doors, the second thing that we noticed after the welcome cool blast of air conditioning was the flurry of black-and-white garbed employees scurrying about. Heads turned, noted our arrival, and went back to their business without any indication of welcome.

(the photo to the right is courtesy Kluge.)
No matter, we were hungry folk. We walked up to the central counter in a massive wooden room, refrigerated cases featuring a bevy of cheeses, pastries, desserts, and 'gourmet' lunches. Finally, the only employee who was left standing before us made hesitant eye contact, then asked if she could help us. We inquired about lunch, and in particular, about a certain small wheel of cheese that sat unmarked. "I'm new", she replied with a forgiving shrug. No big deal. We walked around to the gourmet foods case, and quickly ordered a ham and cheese quiche, a mushroom-blue cheese quiche, and a pasta salad with fresh tomatoes, kalamatta olives and basil.

She told us that our order would get under way, and if we desired, could go taste a couple of wines to decide what would accompany our lunch. The tasting room was in the front corner of the room, so we went to the empty curved wooden bar, and stood waiting. There were bottles draped with medals, and a display of Reidel glasses, their preferred glassware.

We watched the employees scurrying about the front, chatting, in flux, yet (semingly) carefully avoiding eye contact. It seemed like quite a while, but it was probably about 5-10 minutes before we physically flagged someone down, and asked them to help us.

After a couple of tastes, we selected the Kluge Estate 2001 New World Red, and went to sit in the intimate bistro nook on the opposite corner.

A friendly young lad brought and opened our wine, and we were good to go. The new world red was deep and filled with cherry, a touch of oak, and utterly smooth, sliding down easily even on a hot afteroon. After a few moments of friendly conversation, we noticed a thin and intense looking man having a softly heated (simmering, perhaps?)discussion with some of the employees. He procured a plate of food, and sat at the table behind us.

Just then, our food arrived. Due to my increasing hunger, both of the pictures I took were blurred from my shaking, and I completely neglected to take a picture of my husband's quiche.

The mushrooms were spongey, and still cold, and the blue cheese in the quiche seemed muted and bland. The crust was cornmeal, and each bite was like a taste of windblown, beach-side food. My husband's quiche was another creature entirely. The crust was still cornmeal, but seemed to hold together better; and let's face it, anything featuring ham and cheddar can only be a winning combination.

The pasta salad was another highlight. Spaghetti dressed in a light array of summer-ripe tomatoes, flavourful black kalamatta olives, basil and a touch of evoo (nodding to ms. ray), it was fantastic. I told my husband when he ordered it, that it would be for him alone, but I lied; it was wonderful.

As seems to happen in wine country, we ran into a some interesting characters during our lunch. The thin, intense man sitting behind us turned out to be the winemaker who created the new world red that we were drinking. Shortly after he left, the lively and brash accountant sat down for a most fun visit as she had her sandwich. She was soon joined by another employee, doing that European style lunch of baguette, cheese, and rose. Most entertaining.

On the way out, we tasted what I believe was their Cru, under advisement. The Reidel glass it was poured into caused the bubbles to rise from purely a central point in the bottom. The wine itself was crisp, tart and refreshing, a lively white for the hot humid summers that tend to hang over the Virginia skylines.

It was time to hit the road again. Kluge got off to a bit of an odd start, no doubt influenced by our lack of food, but turned out to be a very fun winery, with some very nice bottlings. We'll definately go back.


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