There’s a singular thrill about slipping away from a busy workday here on the beach, or maybe sneaking out of a noisy afternoon at your vacation house, and kicking back with a great glass of wine in one hand and a delicious sandwich in the other. My husband and I happily sank into that comfort zone at Bacchus Wine & Beer Bistro in Corolla this week, enjoying a late lunch, cold drinks, and a little shopping in preparation for a get-together with friends.
The Tencza family owns this gourmet retail store where the focus is on high quality, interesting finds that folks won’t see everywhere else. While I talked with Jessica Tencza about their unique wine selection, more than one person came through in search of a Bacon Pepper Dip, which Jessica praises as one of their most sought-after products. It’s a staple in the 100-plus welcome gift baskets they deliver to vacation rental homes each week and is the thing that brings guests into the store on Monday mornings, in search of more. Of course I grabbed a jar to share with friends for our upcoming festivities. One whiff of the roasty, smoky spread and I understood the Bacon Pepper Dip fever.
When my husband and I settled in at the corner bar in Bacchus’s expansive wine section, I chose the White Wine Flight — three options just dying to be your warm-weather companions this summer. Ascending in body, the flight began with a light and minerally Vermentino, proceeding to a crisply refreshing Koha Sauvignon Blanc, and ending with a dry French Chardonnay called Le P’tit Paysan. The highlight was the Koha Sauvignon Blanc, just as Jessica’s dad, Tony, said it would be as he poured for me and assisted another couple in their wine tasting enjoyment. He suggests it to quench your thirst after a day at the beach or pool; it really is perfect for sipping in the shade of a late summer afternoon.
To fill my growling belly, I had to go for the Rueben, which I’d heard was unbeatable. Like any good dining partner will do, my husband traded me half of his French Dip sandwich for half of my Rueben as he dove into a beer flight of citrusy, malty brews, and a new favorite find — Southern Pines Hefeweizen, smacking of juicy grapefruit and banana. A six-pack of that went to the top of our shopping list for the day.
Our sandwiches were exactly what our mood called for, feeding our late-day hunger with generous portions and plenty of flavor. The Rueben lived up to its reputation and I can’t get over the Russian dressing spread on the buttery, toasted marbled rye bread. I was too wrapped up in my own satisfaction to remember to ask Debbie, Jessica’s mom, whether they make the dressing themselves but it tastes as good as homemade. Perfectly sweet and tart with enough creaminess to compliment the tangy sauerkraut layered on top of a mountain of Boar’s Head corned beef. It rivaled my husband’s French Dip, which had the perfect proportions of tender shaved roast beef and provolone, along with a steaming cup of rich and bold au jus for dipping.
Jessica excused herself from our chat for a moment to jot down a catering order of their well-known sandwiches, cookies, and other odds and ends they’d be delivering down the beach later that day. This a regular occurrence for the Bistro, keeping the Tencza’s busy making deliveries to delighted customers up and down Route 12 throughout the week. While Jessica finished up, I perused their selection of house-made roasted tomato and cheddar and sweet pepper spreads and remained thoroughly entertained by Jessica’s 4-year old daughter, Cora, who has spent enough of time around the mouthwatering offerings at Bacchus to develop a taste for Gorgonzola as her favorite dessert. I’ll pick cheese over sweets any day and when Cora bit into a plum and excitedly declared it, “Glossy!” — I felt like I’d made a new foodie friend, for sure. Thanks to Cora’s enthusiasm, I also added a wedge of Gorgonzola to my list of party supplies.
Arriving home feeling content and a little smug about all my new finds ready to share with friends, I thought about how Jessica described the Tencza’s intent in their fourth season as the owners of this 30-year old shop: introduce people to new wine, beer, and food and find interesting ways to help us enjoy it all. How lucky we are to have a place like Bacchus to slip away to and a family like the Tencza’s at the helm, keeping us well-fed and quenched in our pursuit of these simple pleasures in life.