Jason Drotar: a sweet sommelier looking for love

Hello, everybody. I think this is the longest I’ve gone without posting in the 10-plus years of writing the Blue Streak. Sorry about that. The fact is, I still have a more than full-time job in the public relations field and, as you can imagine, it’s been a busy time for all our clients — and thus for us. I hope that you will enjoy the next few posts I put up. They are about events in our community that occurred when we were still allowed to be in close contact with each other. I look forward to getting back to that situation. -Cynthia

Sommelier Jason Drotar holding the massive wine list at The Barn at Blackberry Farm.

Jason Drotar is 44 years old and single. And he’s not that happy about it. “I am so single,” he cracked recently, “that if I stood on the edge of a canyon and shouted, ‘I love you!,’ the echo that came back would say, ‘I just want to be friends!’ ” See, he’s funny, too.

Jason is a sommelier at tony Blackberry Farm in nearby Walland. One perk of working at Blackberry Farm is that four times a year, Jason gets to book dinner for a table of four “on the house.” He only has to pay for alcohol. And, since he is the sommelier, he gets to bring his own wine.

So, what does a seriously single guy do when he’s taking advantage of this awesome perk? He invites three married women to be his guests. Last month, Jason invited Laura Cole, Gay Lyons and me (yay!) to dine with him. Read on and I’ll show you the amazing food and wine we had at Blackberry Farm. And I’ll tell you more about Jason. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can find him a girlfriend!

Some of the beautiful scenery as we approach The Barn at Blackberry Farm.

The Barn houses a James Beard Award-winning restaurant that offers multi-course menus of what Blackberry calls “Foothills Cuisine,” which is rooted in Appalachian ingredients from around the region as well as products sourced at Blackberry Farm itself.

The view at the coat check. Blackberry’s style runs to elegant simplicity. I have a special fondness for these branches. They are called forsythia. But I call them “for Cynthia.” Ha.

Here are my compatriots prior to seating. That’s Jason with Laura and Gay, at right.

I have always loved the chargers at The Barn. They feature many of the plants and animals grown at Blackberry.

First things first. Drinks. Gay had a French 75.

Laura had a Kir Royale.

Jason chose a gin drink called a “White Lady.”

More simple elegance in the centerpiece.

This amuse-bouche featured carrot puree and Brussels sprouts from Blackberry Farm’s garden. Delish.

This is Joey Edwards. He was sous chef the night we visited, but he’s been promoted to executive chef at the new Three Sisters restaurant in the nearby Lodge at Blackberry Mountain. Congrats!

He was delivering twice cooked sunchokes, much like twice baked potatoes. Only the sunchokes were stuffed with roasted garlic and the last black truffles of the season.

And then these delicate Rappahannock oysters arrived.

The first real course was a North Carolina apple salad consisting of butternut squash, smoked pecans, chewy apples and preserved garden flowers. Wow.

Jason selected a Krug champagne to accompany the salad. “It’s Krug’s entry point, but it’s actually their best juice,” he noted. “Krug is one of the best champagnes in the world.”

The next course is my favorite course Blackberry serves right now. Shelton Farm grits and peekytoe crab with a country ham and leek emulsion, pickled celery and chicory.

Sommelier Sean Beeler brought a bottle of 2017 Redoma Douro from Niepoort in northern Portugal. “Jason has an eye for the rare,” he confided.

And then this little treat came out encased, appropriately, in what looked like a little treasure chest! Guinea hen confit with chive, celery and truffle oil on crispy chicken skin.

The next wine was this unfiltered Pinot Noir.

OK. This is weird, but delicious. Hickory barbecued celery root with black truffle and citrus. The server is pouring smoked root broth over it.

By now, the lovely dining room was filling up.

Folks in the open kitchen were humming along like a well-oiled machine.

And, at our table, the next wine came out: A 2017 Booker Vineyard Fracture. 100 percent California Syrah.

It accompanied pinto beans. Yes, pinto beans! But not your grandmother’s pinto beans. These contained foie gras, charred cabbage, smoked chicken broth and herbs. Fabulous.

Next up: a 2012 EPISODE, a highly rated red blend from Napa Valley.

It was meant to be paired with this entree: Elysian Fields lamb with creamer pea panisse, herb puree, crème fraîche, cauliflower and garden carrots, which received rave reviews.

I don’t eat lamb, so Jason got me this awesome chicken plate. God forbid I skip a course!

And then the desserts started. They weren’t all on the menu and we’d had all that wine! So, possibly apples and cream?

A little plate of pistachio and cranberry nougat.

This was on the menu: dark chocolate soufflé with Gianduja ice cream.

I think Jason said this was a banana cream puff.

No clue! But fab!

Cute pic of Jason and Gay. Because we really needed more to drink!

Here’s the reason the descriptions went to hell at the end of this post! All the wines we had!

Jason and Laura. Besties. I want to give a shout-out to Laura — she actually paid for the wine that Jason selected. Gay and I paid for transportation — but that turned out to be a longer story than I can tell here!

Then, Jason took us on a tour of the wine tunnel.

It’s located four feet under ground and has several tasting areas.

Here come my buddies.

Some of the 150,000 bottles Blackberry has on hand. “It’s a little bit of a party,” Jason noted.

Gay in a beautiful setting.

Jason and Laura in one of the wine tasting rooms.

Actually, wine’s not the only thing stored down there. This valuable Pappy Van Winkle is there, too.

And we ran across some hams and cheese in the midst of the aging process.

Thanks so much to our generous host.

OK, ladies. What do you think? Is he not a catch? One important thing to note, though. Jason’s girlfriend (and I know she’s out there!) needs to be the independent sort. He works crazy long hours, so he’s not going to be available when many “dates” normally occur. But he’s sweet and fun and interesting. (If this post results in him getting a girlfriend, I’m going go give Match.com a run for its money!)

 

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