Thursday, July 28, 2011


I was in Charleston for a couple days last week, and on Les & Kathy's recommendation visited a few places, including the Social Restaurant & Wine Bar, Pearlz, and the Bar at Husk. The Social started out as a wine bar, or so I'm told, and it really does have a super by-the-glass list, but it also has gone the big-flat-screen-TV route; it just looks like a bar now. Similarly, Pearlz started out as a Champagne bar with oysters; now it's just a bar with oysters. Geezer that I am, I found both the Social and Pearlz too young and too noisy; 20 years ago I probably would have loved them.

The buzz on Husk (the restaurant) and it's next-door bar had reached Asheville some time ago. All our favorite chefs knew about the fearsome Sean Brock of McCrady's and his new ultra-locavore place. “If it doesn't come from the South, it's not coming in the door,” is one of his better-known declarations. Husk is the apotheosis of this attitude: Everything, and I mean everything, is “house-made.”

Except the wine, thank goodness. I got to chat with Sommelier Adam Burnelle for a bit about his by-the-glass list, which included such goodies as the Do Ferreiero Albariño and a wonderfully fresh Vouvray from Lionel Gauthier's Domaine du Viking. The bar menu offered “Smoked Trout Paté with Heirloom wheat thins,” which cause a certain amount of eye-rolling, except when the dish arrived damn if those wheat-thins weren't house-made. There was a burger on the menu, also, and Weaver, the bartender, explained that it was made with three different cuts of beef (all, of course, raised south of the Mason-Dixon) plus a little bacon thrown in for lagniappe. Adam happened by, and recommended a new Valencia red he'd picked up:

Bodegas Enguera Dis-Tinto D.O. Valencia 2008: This is a 50/50 blend of Tempranillo and Syrah, from mostly 25-year-old and older vines, grown in sand and limestone (the former retains heat, the latter provides good drainage, both important for the relatively cool and wet climate). Diego Fernandez is the winemaker. There is no indication, but I'm guessing this never saw any barrel age. The nose is floral, with black and blue berry notes; tangy dark fruit flavors follow, with some black pepper notes and just a bit of mineral edge. I don't often talk about color, but in this case it's worth remarking on: A very dark, yet vivid, almost black ruby hue. The medium weight and dark fruit/pepper combination was in fact an excellent match with the burger. I would imagine this retails for less than $15, if you can find it (5,000 cases made; no idea how many of those make it into the U.S.). It's imported by Olé Wines.

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