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What Do You Get When You Cross Local Beer, Nuts, and a Bankrupt Winery? A New Series – Local Wine and Snack Food Pairings

The Christmas and New Years holiday season holds different meanings for everyone.  For me, this end-of-year holiday means reconnecting with family members I haven’t seen in a year and don’t want to see for another year, spending more quality time with my immediate family, catching up on an ever growing backlog of reading, and guilt-free couch time watching as much football as I possibly can.

The result of this reconnecting, reading, and watching football, is a relaxing of my exercise and dietary standards by indulging in non-discriminatory eating – meats of all types, cookies, cakes and especially snack foods.

One of my snack foods of choice this holiday season is Belmont Peanut’s new Chesapeake Bay Spice Blend created by fellow Tidewater, VA resident Patrick Evans-Hylton. Since Belmont Peanuts are grown here in Virginia, and Patrick is a Virginian, Chesapeake Spice Blend Peanuts make a great ‘local‘ snack to kick off a new semi-regular series here at Drink What You Like – snack food and wine pairings. Most of the pairings in this series will focus on local wine and snack foods.

Belmont Peanuts, based in Capron, VA, has been producing gourmet Virginia-grown peanuts since 1993, and Patrick has been a food writer since 1995, and is currently senior editor for food and wine at Hampton Roads Magazine. He is also executive editor for Virginia Wine Lover Magazine, and author of six books, including two food history books and a cookbook, Popcorn.

Chesapeake Bay Spice Blend – a flavorful mix of over a dozen spices – was developed as a result of several years of experimenting with various herb and spice mixtures.  The aromas of this spice blend reminds me of eating fresh steamed Chesapeake Bay crabs on the deck of the in-laws beach cottage on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.  Amazing how certain aromas can bring back summer memories. Unlike many seasonings, like Old Bay, this Chesapeake Bay Spice Blend is not overwhelming.  I appreciate spices and blends that accentuate the flavor of the food, in this case peanuts, rather than overwhelm or mask it.

In keeping with the local theme, I paired the Chesapeake Spice Blend nuts with a Kluge Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine.  Despite the recent demise of Kluge Vineyards, I have been, and always will be, a fan of Kluge sparkling wines. This may be a biased pairing recommendation since I hold the belief that sparkling wine pairs well with anything, literally.  Although I wouldn’t typically pair wine with peanuts, the Kluge Blanc de Blanc matched well with the spices.  Bright straw color in the glass, this 100% Chardonnay sparkling wine made in the méthode traditionelle showed lively aromas of green apple, pear, flint, and lime zest on the nose.  The lively nose coupled with the green apple, yeast, and light floral flavors on the palate proved a perfect contrast (yes, contrast) for the spice blend and football.

Although I tend to limit my alcohol consumption almost exclusively to wine, I’ve recently received a number of Virginia Ciders and Beers for an upcoming series so I decided to include a more traditional pairing of nuts and beer.  The beer of choice was the Star Hill Festie made by Starr Hill Brewery in Charlottesville, VA.  Starr Hill has a number of different brews including Irish Red Ale, Lager, Hefeweizen, Stout, and this Festie – an Oktoberfest lager available seasonally.  I liked the amber, dark orange color in the glass with flavors of caramel and hints of baked peach.  I’m not sure this was the right beer for deez nuts.  Though I’m far far far from a beer expert, I feel the Starr Hill Pale Ale may have been a better pairing.

For those readers in Virginia – Buy Local – check your local gourmet shop for Chesapeake Bay Spice Blend ($9.99 for 20 ounce tin), or you can order directly from Belmont Peanuts website.  If you can find it, I highly recommend scooping up as much Kluge sparkling wine as you can – once it’s gone, it’s really gone.  Star Hill beers are sold at wine shops throughout Virginia. For those readers in the rest of the world, please buy Virginia products; we need your tax revenue!

Happy New Year!


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