Last weekend was the third iteration of our small wine and dinner club, with hosting duties rotating to the third couple such that now all of us have hosted and created all three courses. Having started with entree duty, I was finally rotated to appetizers, and had been looking forward to it for ages – I had the perfect unique wine to share. A visit to Vista D’oro in the early fall had yielded a bottle of their fascinating Pinot Noix – a Sherry-like wine made from Pinot Noir that has aged for a year with Brandy-macerated walnuts. At the time of my visit the tasting room staff had suggested it would be the perfect accompaniment to a salty savoury olive tapenade so I immediately mentally linked it to one of my favourite appetizer recipes for Kalamata olive sundried tomato tapenade. Served alongside some Salt Spring Island Feta and a fresh baguette the tapenade was a big hit. The Pinot Noix provoked a great deal of mussing as it tickled our noses and palates: there was fruity Pinot Noir there but also the nutty Brandy walnut flavours, quite a roller-coaster experience and altogether delicious.
Our entree of the night was a truly exceptional duo of lasagnes prepared with almost entirely fresh homemade ingredients, right down to the ricotta! Homemade tomato sauce and pasta yielded results that are actually making me hungry as I write about it: mushroom lasagne for the vegetarians and a traditional meat dish for the other half of the crowd. Sandhill 2007 Small Lots Three was the ideal match – a blend of Barbera and Sangiovese with a touch of Merlot. The bottle had been opened earlier to decant and by dinner was awash in smooth juicy fruit. Considering only 266 cases were made I consider myself lucky to have tried this charming wine, some of which is still available on Sandhill’s website – get it while it lasts!
The final course was quite a sight to behold as we were presented with delightfully arranged dishes of poached pears and Poplar Grove Tiger Blue. The pears had been poached whole in mulled wine, and I’d certainly never had anything like that before! Ironically our dessert chefs pulled out a bottle of “D’oro”, the famous fortified walnut wine from its namesake winery Vista D’oro. Primarily Marechal Foch with Merlot and Cabernet Franc this wine is a unique and treasured treat. The aromatic red wine sauce and sweet pears mixed with the strong sweet flavours of the D’oro and tangy Tiger Blue made for a very enjoyable and memorable final course!
Upon reflection I’ve realized what makes our wine club so enjoyable for everyone: it is a non-competitive distributed compliment system! Since we are all making different courses that fulfill different functions, we are never in competition to “out-do” one another in a given evening; to do so would be attempting to compare apples and oranges, quite literally in some cases. Each course can be appreciated entirely on its own, and thus each amateur chef/sommelier receives unique compliments and praise. Because everyone contributes uniquely the compliments are distributed across all three couples, and everyone leaves happy in the knowledge that they helped make the evening a success! I’m looking forward to our next meeting in January: I’m back on entree duty and have already settled on the menu item and accompanying wine, neither of which I have ever tried before – it should be exciting!