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Taste – Winter II 2019

SIP

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By Griffin Nelson | Photos By Sara Wise

People from around the world have been making and drinking wine for as long as there have been grapes to crush and ferment. I’m sure, in retrospect, that those first wines would have fallen into today’s category of “boutique wines,” but the term wasn’t really necessary for definition within the wine community until more recently, as technology advanced enough for mass production. In the 21st century, generally speaking, the term “boutique” can be attached to wines that come from smaller vineyards, smaller batches, and are made by vintners who are passionate about what they’re doing.

These parameters can be applied to every single wine on the menu of Butcher & Vine. The team has carefully selected a list of reds, whites, rosés and bubbles that both stand alone and can be paired beautifully with any of the charcuterie boards available. So, not only are the wines individual and unique, they have been specially chosen, making the selection available at the new wine bar in Watkinsville truly one of a kind.

The wines themselves are chosen from all over the world with the understanding that certain wines will be better from certain regions. The Scenic Valley Pinot Noir has quickly become a house favorite, in addition to the Can Feixes Blanc Seleccio. But it’s not all whites at Butcher & Vine; my personal favorites are the reds. As the days cool off, I prefer wines like the complex and dry Le P’tit Paysan Cabernet Sauvignon and Chateau la Gabarre Bordeaux Superieur. Many of the wines are available either by the bottle or the glass, making it easy to try a few different options, whether you’re with a group of friends or on a date.

The goal at Butcher & Vine is to make the curated selection of wines accessible. Each wine on the menu has a description, so you have a good idea of what you’re going to be drinking, even if you’ve never had that specific wine before. As Justin Barnette, one of the owners, says “We’re not fancy. We just like wine!”

EAT

Over the years I’ve traveled to lots of different places - some stateside, some internationally. But one of the countries I have yet to have the pleasure to see is the Dominican Republic. So when I walked into Punta Cana for the first time, I had no idea what to expect, what the environment might be like, and what kind of food they might serve. Walking through the door I was immediately greeted with a warm welcome to the unique, bi-level and recently renovated interior of their location on Prince Avenue. We started off with the Bandeja Tradicional appetizer - a selection of all sorts of Dominican specialties to get a taste for several of their dishes - house-made sausage, fried cheese, yuca, sweet and savory plantains, and more.

The newly opened restaurant is owned by Steising and Frank Cambero, both originally from the Dominican Republic. Steising grew up cooking traditional food, especially when she moved with her family to the United States 11 years ago. Steising and Frank, high school sweethearts, realized that there wasn’t a place in Athens to get Dominican food and decided to fill the gap themselves. With their expertise cooking dishes from home, experience working locally in the service and food industry, and a whole lot of support from family and friends, they knew they could be successful and jumped in head first.

Their incredible menu is paired with a full bar on the upper level that includes Presidente Beer from the Dominican Republic, Tiki-style drinks, mojitos, and fresh squeezed juices like guava and passionfruit that are impressively refreshing whether they’re plain or mixed in a cocktail. Made from scratch with fresh lime and agave, the “Skinny Margarita” is without a doubt the number one, best margarita I have ever had.

Both the bar and the restaurant can be rented for events and it’s a great place for lunch with friends or a date night. It’s a perfect choice for a group as well since the food is flavorful but not spicy and other Latin dishes and vegetarian options have been added to the menu to make sure there is something for everyone!

If you ask me though, the absolute best items on the menu are those from the Dominican Republic and you’ll find me ordering the traditional Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes - plantains with onions, salami, cheese, avocado and a fried egg, and one of those amazing margaritas.

ARTISAN

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Having a place like Butcher & Vine in Watkinsville has the potential to be an incredibly positive addition to the community. It’s worth the drive for the conceptual space designed to allow people to gather and enjoy a glass of wine and a hearty selection of charcuterie and cheese. It’s not a restaurant in the traditional sense or strictly a wine bar either. It’s a happy combination of the two, serving up a selection of boutique wines and hand-selected meats and cheeses in an environment that invites you to sit and stay a while. “It’s about social eating, gathering, and sharing,” Justin Barnette tells me.

Barnette along with his wife, Jennifer, and business partner Andrew Wallace, opened Butcher & Vine at the beginning of September, with Josh Aaron as head chef, butcher, and curator of the impressive charcuterie and cheese board menu. The environment has been beautifully designed to invite you to sit down and stay a while, with the ability to open a tab, play board games, chat with friends in cozy chairs, and order from a list of boards that are traditional, vegetarian, or even dessert. Each one is made to reflect a special idea or cultural perspective, with meats and cheeses selected for appropriate and balanced flavor profiles.

Perhaps the most unique part of Butcher & Vine though is its meat counter. Everything in the case is as fresh as it can possibly be. Even the seafood is top notch. Aaron makes it clear that he settles for nothing less than the absolute best, working with as many local producers as he can.

Everything from tomahawk ribeyes to lamb chops, whole chickens and oysters, to dry-aged pork chops may be available on any given day. Custom orders can be placed over the phone or in person, and even whole sides of beef can be ordered with enough notice.

The advantage to having a chef as your local butcher is that not only is he able to provide a discerning eye for quality, but can also tell you exactly how to cook the meat.

Butcher and Vine, located at 37 Greensboro Hwy, has become an asset to the community overnight. Whether you’re picking up steaks to cook at home with the family, need to order a charcuterie board to take to a party, or are looking for a comfortable environment to spend time with friends, this is the place for you.