Side by Side Wine Pairing, Charleston

It seems appropriate the day before Thanksgiving to publish this story about a night amongst friends in Charleston, SC. A great night at a great home.

Not that The Week that Was: Charleston, SC wasn’t anything but non-stop nights to remember, the exclusive Side-by-Side dinner pairing a vertical of three of my wines, Heritage, Double Barrel and Blueprint with the Insanely Good (oh ya, that’s trademarked) cuisine of Chef Brett McKee was certainly the night never to be forgotten.

The second I walked through the front-door of the Kingsland and Rebie Bland’s home, I was struck with energy. I’ve been to enough dinners over the years and plenty of homes to know when an event has spark, action, a vibe about the room; this was one of those nights.

It’s collective and contagious energy. Margaret, my host since day one in Charleston, exudes energy. Bill Lehew is one of the most positive guys I know. I instantly felt a sense of elation as Rebie welcomed me into her home and I was greeted with a glass of my own wine from her husband Kingsland.

(A quick post script: Flash forward to October 27 in Healdsburg. Bill, Margaret, Rebie, Kingsland and I were all at dinner together at Chalkboard and we picked up where we left off in Charleston, sharing food, stories, and a little bit of wine; a genuinely great group of people to be with.)

But the vibe doesn’t end there. Because I haven’t met Chef McKee. Chef McKee was born and raised in Brooklyn and Long Island, New York. He graduated first in his class from the New York Restaurant School and first established himself in Charleston in 1989. He went on to open Brett’s and Brett’s at Wickliffe House, as well as Oak Steakhouse, recognized by the New York Times, Bon Appetit and Esquire Magazine.  He walked away from the restaurant business to start his own brand, Insanely Good.

Chef McKee lived up to his persona; gregarious, chummy, professional, an imposing figure but not intimidating, experienced but not arrogant. The kind of guy who has got your back and the first to tell you you’re saucing his duck improperly.

I received the world-wind tour of the cuisine and the kitchen. I also was introduced to the individuals assisting Chef McKee that evening. Everyone is positive, upbeat, looking forward to the next couple of hours.

As we dined, the positive rhythm of the evening continued throughout dinner. Courses of food and wine easily flowed from kitchen to table, bottle to glass. The guests naturally gravitated to the kitchen at the conclusion of dessert for another glass of wine and more conversation.

This is the last story of The Week that Was: Charleston, but certainly not my last trip to visit fine friends from the Palmetto State.