Story, Recipes, and Photos by Kaitlin Hill

Queen of the kitchen and champion for home cooks, Julia Child once said, “Wine is one of the agreeable and essential ingredients of life.”

This motto certainly rings true in Middleburg, where our many winemakers produce award-winning and truly unique vintages, ideal for drinking by the bottle or adding depth of flavor to sweet and savory dishes. In celebration of Virginia Wine Month, you can do both with these six festive and wine-forward recipes that, as Julia would have it, are accessible to any level cook.

Greenhill Winery & Vineyards

Mussels and Garlic Toasts with Greenhill Winery’s
2017 Chardonnay Reserve

Jed Gray, general manager at Greenhill Winery, suggests the 2017 Chardonnay Reserve for mussels.

“We all know Chardonnay tends to do magical stuff with mussels. This Chardonnay is not over-oaked or over-buttered, it’s much more balanced in fruit, oak, and acidity so it will pair naturally with the wide range of different expressions of mussels.”

Serves: 2 -3 | Time: 25 minutes

  • 1 baguette 
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 small shallot, minced 
  • 1 pound of mussels, scrubbed 
  • 1 cup of 2017 Chardonnay Reserve 
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • ½ cup of parsley, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. 
  2. To make the garlic toasts, slice the baguette on the bias into slices that are about half an inch in thickness. Arrange the toasts in a single layer on a baking sheet and brush with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Flip the toasts to coat the underside with oil as well. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove the baking tray from the oven and use tongs to flip the toasts over. Return the tray to the oven and bake for an additional 10 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Remove the bread from the oven and immediately rub with one of the garlic cloves and sprinkle with salt. Set aside.
  3.  While the bread is toasting, you’ll have enough time to make the mussels. Place a large Dutch oven over medium flame and add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and cook for about 3 minutes until they begin to soften.
  4.  Slice the remaining garlic cloves and add them to the shallots. Season with a pinch of salt. Cook for about 30 seconds until the garlic is fragrant.
  5. Add the mussels and stir to coat them in the oil, shallot, and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
  6. Next, add the wine to the pot and cover it to steam the mussels for five minutes or until they have opened.  
  7. Once the mussels have opened, remove them from the pot using a slotted spoon and divide them between two or three serving bowls. Discard any unopened mussels.
  8. With the heat on low, add the butter to the cooking liquid and swirl until melted. Add the parsley.
  9. Spoon the sauce over the bowls of mussels and serve with garlic toasts.

Red Wine Chocolate Cake with Greenhill Winery’s 2017 Petit Verdot

Gray recommends the 2017 Petit Verdot for anything chocolate.

He says, “It is our biggest, boldest red that we have in the portfolio. The strength of the tannins and the fruit naturally pair well with chocolate.”

Serves: 12 slices | Time: 2 hours 


For the cake: 

  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1 cup of light brown sugar 
  • 2 ¾ cups of all-purpose flour 
  • 1 ½ cups cocoa powder 
  • 1 tablespoon of baking soda 
  • 1½ teaspoons of baking powder 
  • 1 teaspoon of salt 
  • 4 eggs, at room temperature 
  • 1½ cups of sour cream, at room temperature 
  • ½ cup of milk 
  • 1 cup of Petit Verdot 
  • ¾ cup of vegetable oil 
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract 
  • ½ cup of boiling water

For the frosting: 

  • 2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature 
  • 4 cups of confectioners’ sugar, sifted 
  • 1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon of salt 
  • 8 ounces of dark chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 4 tablespoons of Petit Verdot


  1. Grease three 9-inch cake rounds and line the bottom of each with parchment paper. Grease the parchment paper. Set aside. Preheat your oven to 350°F.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.
  3. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the eggs, sour cream, milk, wine, oil and vanilla extract.
  4. Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined.
  5.  Add the boiling water and mix until combined.
  6. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans and transfer them to the preheated oven. Bake for 25 – 30 minutes until the cakes spring back to the touch and an inserted toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool completely in the pans, before inverting the cakes onto cake boards or wire racks.
  7. While the cakes cool, make the frosting. Using a hand or stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy. Add the confectioners’ sugar a little at a time until completely incorporated. Follow with the vanilla, salt, melted chocolate, and wine.
  8. Blend on low speed until all the ingredients are combined and the frosting is smooth and spreadable.
  9. To assemble the cakes, place your bottom layer on a cake board or serving platter. Slather the top with one-fourth of the frosting, spreading it to the edges.
  10. Top the first layer with the second and repeat the process with the second fourth of frosting.
  11. Finally, top the second layer with the third and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides of the cake.
  12. Serve and enjoy with a glass of Petit Verdot. ML

This article first appeared in the October 2019 issue of Middleburg Life.