In 1814, while his friend and Governor of Virginia held office,  Thomas Jefferson designed and began constructing what would become the mansion at Barboursville.    

Jefferson was a lover of wine, and Italian wine in particular.  I’ve written about his many dinners serving Vino Nobile at some of the most critical moments in this country’s adolescence.   Jefferson dreamed of planting vineyards and making wine in Virginia,  but it was a dream that was never realized by a harvest.  
The Barbour family maintained the estate throughout the 1800’s but it was in 1976 when the illustrious Zonin family, from Veneto, purchased the estate and set it on the course it follows today.  
~ Gianni Zonin planting vineyards at Barboursville in 1976 ~

In honor of Thanksgiving,  we’re focusing on this blended historical story; of wine, food,  and patriotism   Like Italian culture, Jefferson understood the kinship between food, wine and togetherness.  In that spirit we offer…….  

Fennel Crusted Pork Roast

This is as simple as simple can be and it packs loads of flavor and a myriad of textures.  I post it today because you can easily adapt this recipe to Turkey breast if the mood strikes. 

1 boneless Rib Roast 
1 vidalia onion, diced 
1 small fennel bulb, diced
1 cup panko bread crumbs
1 egg, beaten
1 jar fennel seeds

Saute the onion and fennel in some extra virgin olive oil until softened.  Add the panko and stir through, allowing the panko to brown slightly and gain some crunchy texture.  Transfer to a mixing bowl.  Once cool, stir in the beaten egg, season with cracked black pepper and mix.

Either butterfly the roast yourself, or ask your butcher to do it for you.  With the meat lying flat on a cutting board,  spread the filling onto the meat.  Roll up like a jelly roll and tie with butchers twine.  For a 3-4 pound roast, you should tie in 3 places.  Rub the tied roast with a bit of olive oil and then coat with fennel seeds.  Roast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes per pound.  This is heaven. 

~ This is the finished roast before carving.  You can see the places where it has been tied.  This was a 3.5 pound roast and took less than an hour to cook.  It was medium rare and juicy inside. ~

Today, the Zonin Family preserves the Barboursville heritage and along with winemaker Luca Paschina, crafts not only some of the best wines in Virginia, but also in the United States.  Barboursville Cabernet Franc Reserve is among the best domestic Francs I’ve ever tasted.  

Octagon is named for the similarly shaped drawing room that is the center of the historic Barboursville mansion.  In rooms centrally located such as this,  Jefferson often sat and reflected – read and considered the issues of the day and the history behind. Contemplation is fitting for Octagon.  

An estate blend of only the finest grapes,  Octagon is comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.  It is only produced in ideal vintages.  It is Barboursville’s flagship.  

The 2006 Octagon is a deep, plum to purple red in the glass that fades ever so slightly to ruby at the edge of the rim.   The nose of the wine is elegant, stately.  Crushed plums and black fruits are punctuated by cedar, tobacco, floral and herb tones.  It’s compelling.  Equally suave on the palate, the wine is full bodied, with fine tannins, fresh acidity, and wonderfully ripe cherry and plum fruit flavors that are accented with cigar box,  fennel, spice and leather notes.  94 points – and a lovely gift from a friend. Current vintages sell for $50+.
Octagon was wonderful – absolutely wonderful – with the meal,  but it’s interesting enough to enjoy by itself.   It would excel with a simple wedge of cheese, in your library or study as you sit, sip and contemplate all that has passed this year; all that you are thankful for – the history, the struggles, and the joys;  the moments that help frame and create the present.  For as Jefferson himself said:  “Wine brightens the life and thinking of anyone.”

~ The 2006 Octagon from Barboursville Vineyards ~

Happy Thanksgiving all!

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