Friday, August 30, 2013

Vidi, Vino, Bici: Bainbridge Island

Vidi, Vino, Bici is a bit of a play on the old declaration of Caesar, "veni, vidi, vici" after his campaign in Britain back in 55 B.C. In other words, "I came, I saw, I kicked some ass (well, conquered actually).  It's also a partnership between myself and Il Corvo chef Mike Easton. So instead of conquering and all that it's more like "we're going to go somewhere great on our bicycles, drink some wine and have a killer meal prepared by Mike" so more or less, just like Caesar, but with bicycles, and without the violence, plus food.

Mike approached me about joining him over our mutual love of the bicycle, and our complimentary interests in food and wine. It should be noted though that Mike is an actual chef, and a talented one at that. I just write about wine, I'm talented at drinking it. Our goal was to give folks an experience on the bicycle and off. Great views and pleasant riding, good company, and great food and wine. We weren't totally sure it would go over, it sold out in about 30 hours.

And so it was that we began to put together our first iteration of Vidi, Vino, Bici. We decided to keep it close to home (Seattle) out of the gates and Bainbridge Island seemed a natural choice. It had everything we were looking for. Bainbridge is a bit of destination for Northwest cyclists, it hosts one of America's most popular early season rides in the Chilly Hilly. In addition it's bucolic, and has some working farms and a handful of wineries that we could visit.

We rolled off the 9:35 ferry to Bainbridge Island about 25 deep. (That's slang for there were 25 of us.) A couple quick hills and we soon found our groove as a group. There were certainly varying skill and fitness levels but as the ride wore on we fell into a good pace. Bainbridge Island provided ample scenery, open fields, sweeping vistas of the Puget Sound, Eagle Harbor, Rich Passage, Port Madison Bay and Murden Cove. The cloud cover gave way once we reached the west side of the island and the day was perfect for riding. Local bicycle builder Steve Hampsten joined  us and his girlfriend Jenny piloted our support vehicle.

Our first stop at Port Madison Farm and Dairy had us meeting Beverly. Her and her husband Steve started the dairy after leaving their careers. They make some of the Puget Sound area's best goat cheese. Port Madison Dairy isn't open to the public, but Mike's a big fan of their cheese and he was able to talk Beverly into showing us around the farm and showing off some cheese. We checked out the goats, the wild turkey and then sampled an array of goat cheeses some fresh and others aged. Folks polished off some cheese samples, and we loaded lots of cheese into the follow car and headed out for the Rolling Bay Winery.

A couple more hills and then a long sweeping downhill left us in Murden Cove and at Rolling Bay Winery. We were greeted by winemaker Alphonse deKlerk who led our guests and myself on a tasting of their line up, including some 2012 Cabernet straight from the barrel.  The wines at Rolling Bay are largely undiscovered and they are quite good. The emphasis is on fruit, a prominence of acidity and really well balanced wines. As it turns out, great with the meal Mike and his culinary staff were prepping while we tasted.

Once the barrel tasting wrapped we stepped outside to a family style Italian picnic spread courtesy of Mike and the Il Corvo team. Goat cheese and bread from Port Madison Dairy along with some charcuterie that included a house-made pancetta. There was a caponata,  Sardinian couscous with summer squash and mint, a unique tomato salad with soft boiled eggs and a caper and anchovy dressing and grilled pork dressed in a Salmoriglio sauce. A long with a few white and red wines from Rolling Bay, notably their Fusion as well as food friendly Syrah and Cabernet.

Frankly, the first edition of Vidi, Vino, Bici was spot on perfect, not even a flat tire. We learned a lot from our guests and certainly walked away with some lessons for future iterations. Mostly what we learned was that it's tough to beat a great day on the bicycle, some engaging conversation and local food and wine made with both care and skill.


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