Photography by Jeannine Steinkuhl
As the weather gets hotter the need to find ways to cool down becomes imperative, especially if you’re like me and you’d prefer to sit outside on the porch no matter what the temperature is outside. I tend to prefer my drinks dark and strong but when summer hits, a heavy drink just makes me feel, well, heavy. I was always a little wary of white wines until I asked the local experts for suggestions and, I must concede, they’ve got me converted.
When asked which wines he thought would be popular this summer, Faulkner Warlick, of White Horse Wine and Spirits, said he anticipated, “The shift will go towards lighter and refreshingly zippy offerings. Vivacity and enthusiasm is what begins to happen when the molecules start to move rapidly, so we look for wines to match this attitude shift. Alternative whites is where you will see this, I love Chenin Blanc, Vinho Verde, and some French varietals like Roussanne and Viognier.”
Specifically the Vinho Verde by Casal Garcia (Portugal) he affirms is sure to be a crowd pleaser. “Verde”, translates to “Green”, indicating that the wine is new, or “young.” It can generally be relied on to have citrus and fruity notes with a hint of effervescence that really brings it to life, perfect for the oppressive heat of a Saturday afternoon with friends. Make sure you keep it chilled to between 45-50 ̊ F for optimum drinking and you won’t want to leave that porch until long after the sun goes down.
His favorite blend though is the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier. It has “a zippy acidity and a touch of melon and fruit aromas” he tells me. This Californian wine is versatile and light and at $12.99/bottle at White Horse, it’s a complex wine at an unassuming price. This is when I confirm that the experts must know what they’re talking about as I moved across Surrey Center to talk to Finch & Fifth’s bartender, Brett Gorrell, who then unknowingly lauded the exact same blend, proving that just because a wine is affordable doesn’t mean it’s “cheap.”
I love his enthusiasm almost as much as I love the drink that he puts in front of me – a Rosemary Grapefruit Spritz, finished off with the aforementioned Pine Ridge Blend. It’s “taking something that’s approachable and making it more approachable.” Whether you prefer a mixed drink to a glass of wine or just want to get the most for your money, a sangria or spritzer or any variety of creative combinations make a refreshing white wine endless. Balance the acidity of the wine with fresh fruit or juice and/or simple syrup. Mix it up in a pitcher for a group or ice a wine glass for your own classy at-home brunch compliment. Whether you’re looking for an inexpensive refreshment or are a purist through-and-through, grab yourself a bottle of white wine, sit back, relax, and sip your way through the summer.
Brett Gorell of Finch & Fifth gives us an creative, simple, and refreshing “Porch Pounder.”
Rosemary Graperfuit Spritz
• 1 oz Hendricks Gin
• 1/2 oz Creme de Pamplemousse by Marie Brizard
• Splash of lemon juice
• Top with Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier
Directions: Combine the first three ingredients in an iced wine glass and finish with Pine Ridge blend. Garnish with a slice of grapefruit and sprig of rosemary.
Passionate about history and food, I instantly fell in love the first time I set foot on the Rose Hill property in Aiken. Taking up an entire city block, the estate was originally built in the late 19th century as part of the city’s “Winter Colony,” allowing Northerners an escape from harsh weather. There are a total of 12 buildings, including a chapel, mansion, and the thoughtfully converted Stables restaurant.
Since 2002, The Stables at Rose Hill Estate has been serving up “American Cuisine with international flavor with an emphasis on freshness,” according to owner-operator Stephen Mueller, who purchased the estate with his mother, Eva. Together they have breathed life into a historic part of Aiken. The restaurant retains its rich wood paneled interior, giving it a cozy and intimate aura with a rotating selection of art by local artists. The outside boasts a huge patio with string lights and live music on Fridays nights.
The seasonal menu is an offering of creative entrees based on the idea that a menu doesn’t have to be extensive if it focuses on a smaller selection of quality dishes. That said, there’s definitely something for everyone with dishes ranging from steak to vegetarian options to internationally inspired selections such as might be found in Eva’s home country of Germany. Anything from hearty filet mignon to Southern favorites like shrimp and grits can be found alongside refreshing salads and inventive approaches to traditional dishes like pasta and chicken. The grill outside serves lighter fare during the summer as well. The restaurant caters to all sorts of events like showers, rehearsal dinners, and large groups but can also cater at any of the other venues on the property.
The Stables bar has a comfortable vibe with an impressive beer and wine list and seasonal cocktails that make it the perfect place to meet up with coworkers, friends, or family. There’s even a Single Malt Scotch Club that meets once a month! Don’t feel like staying inside on a beautiful summer evening? Feel free to grab a drink and explore the gardens that cover the unique and historic grounds of Rose Hill. Fabulous food, good drinks, and a setting with a story definitely check all the boxes for me.
Marie-Hélène VandenBrugge-Smith, who goes by Bébette, was born in Belgium near the French border but landed in Augusta like many others when her husband was stationed at Fort Gordon. Almost 15 years ago, following a rewarding career in teaching, she decided, during a visit to family, to take a chocolate class for fun. She was hooked. “It was like divine intervention,” Bébette says. Since then, she’s continued to study under some of the top chocolatiers both nationally and internationally, perfecting her process and creating new flavors, as she travels and gains inspiration from chocolate shows around the world.
Bébette shows me around her charming chocolate shop, La Bonbonnière, tucked into a cute shop off Furys Ferry that has grown consistently over the years. It’s gone from making a handful of traditional Belgian chocolate variations to having almost 30 different flavors, including some fun Southern-inspired chocolates like Key lime pie and red velvet cake. I narrowed down my personal favorites to gingerbread, filled with European biscoff cookies, lemon zest, made with a homemade Italian limoncello liquor filling, and peanut butter, which is decidedly American and perfectly balanced (and also one of Bébette‘s favorites). Never to worry for those in favor of more traditional chocolates though. The extensive list includes combinations with caramel, orange, coffee, cherry brandy, and the decadent chocolate ganache filled dark chocolate to name a few.
Each chocolate flavor is made into a different shape, making them as pretty as they are delectable. The perfect gift and ultimate crowd pleaser, seasonal chocolates are also available and all sorts of creative variations are available depending on the holiday – traditional chocolate bunnies at Easter, chocolate hearts at Valentines Day, chocolate golf balls for Masters week, and so on. From wedding favors to corporate gifts, to a daily selection of by-the-piece treats, La Bonbonnière really does it all, bringing a little piece of Belgian bliss to our hometown.
Article appears in the June/July 2018 issue of Augusta Magazine.