A while ago I promised that I’d make Columbia’s Iron Bridge Wine Company my I spot because I felt the restaurant had been dealt an unfair hand by animal rights vandals. My sense of righteous indignation, which usually leads me into trouble, led me to a nice wine spot.
IBWC, located in what I remember from childhood as a biker bar, is perched along Route 108 facing one of the few pastoral scenes left in Howard County. Inside, the décor is all dark wood and rich red draperies that stop just this side of the Moulin Rouge or a R&B slow jam video. The bar is beautiful, and I wish we’d spent our happy hour there, especially since they have a $20 bottle special on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Instead we went for a wine tasting class in the adjacent dining room from what the restaurant calls “Iron Bridge University.”
IBU was a deal for $25 – samplings of two whites, two reds and a port from Spain and Portugal. The students were arranged around a tall center table set up with five different wine glasses and the teacher (Waiter? Bartender? Sommelier?) talked for 45 uninterrupted minutes about older versus newer vines, appellations, and Portuguese geography. It was like drinking from a fire hose hooked up to a hydrant full of wine. The grapes were good, and the price was right (especially since it got us 10% off our total bill), but I didn’t learn one single thing. Maybe my cohorts and I aren’t ready for Iron Bridge University. We’re more Iron Bridge Community College, or Iron Bridge Reform School for Naughty Girls who Sit in the Back of Class and Giggle.
My favorite selection was a not-quite-sparkling white that we ordered a bottle of after class . I’m a sucker for anything carbonated (soda, beer, seltzer, champagne, prosecco, etc), and it was a decent match for Annie’s roasted veggie pizza as well as the complimentary tuna tartare appetizer that came with the class. My two fellow “students” were offput by the super-sweet port, but personally I think tastings are for sampling the more outlandish stuff that you wouldn’t necessarily buy a whole bottle of on spec. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I generally like port (albeit more in winter), but it was still too sweet for me.
We also ordered “grilled cheese” off the menu, which was a grilled round of brie served with crostini and macerated strawberries. Grilled brie sounds weird, but was quite tasty and I’d love to try it on the grill at home. Lulu, as she did at the Diamondback Tavern, housed a plate of risotto quite happily. In honor of the original foie gras protesting that inspired my trip, I order the chicken liver and foie gras pate, oddly presented in two Chinese soupspoons with crostini (a bit bready for the task at hand) and truffle butter (to die for). I enjoyed all the richness, but I still don’t quite understand why people throw down over this stuff. Doesn’t seem worth the fuss to me, from either the gourmet or animal rights angle.
The service wasn’t as silky smooth as I’ve seen in some high-end spots, but it was still quite good. They were generous with the extra crostini, and when our server didn’t know the answer to a question, she admitted that she didn’t, looked into it and relayed an answer back to us. I asked for a wine to go with my pate, since I have no idea what the traditional pairing would be, and the bartender offered up a crazy-rich white that was a terrific match. It was the only drink I tried that wasn’t from the tasting menu, but it was great. The wine list at IWBC has some great bargains for down-and-outers like me, and some pricier choices for the fat cats. Definitely worth the trip to HoCo.