Christmas was on everyone’s mind when the three couples that comprise our wine/dinner club gathered for the final event of 2011 earlier this month. As hosts, my wife and I sought out a festive entree that helped to celebrate the season, and made sure to decorate with gusto, from the tablecloth to the Christmas Crackers. As a bonus appetizer I whipped up a little baked Brie with cranberry caramelized onions to enjoy while we exchanged gifts before everyone split up for their holiday travel: we were honoured to receive a valuable Edible Canada gift card, and my wife received a handy book light and a beautiful pen. As for myself, since the exchange I’ve been busy with tryouts for the contents of my new flask – can you believe I didn’t have one – and have settled on Madeira; could there be a bottle of CedarCreek Platinum “M” in my future? We loved picking out gifts for our friends, including Whiskey Stones, Evan Williams Egg Nog, and a very exciting Molecular Gastronomy Kit, plus a few treats for the new baby: can anyone resist buying a baby toque with antlers on it?
Finally one of our guests (who shall remain unnamed) began to recover from what sounded like a truly horrific hangover – courtesy of enthusiastically hosting his own Christmas party the night before – and we sat down to the appetizer course accompanied by Stag’s Hollow 2010 Viognier. The floral and spicy aromas of the wine nicely complemented the rice paper wraps stuffed with broccoli, coconut, tofu, and lime mayonnaise. Stag’s Hollow recently received a Silver Medal for their Viognier at the 2011 Canadian Wine Awards, and we all appreciated the smooth texture and balanced acidity from a wine that expresses its varietal character very well.
For the main course I had elected on Pumpkin Baked Ziti with Caramelized Onion Sage Crumb Topping, an easy and delicious holiday comfort food from the excellent cookbook “Veganomicon” (ironically “un-veganized” through the use of Ricotta cheese instead of the equally tasty tofu-based substitute in the original recipe). To balance the creamy pasta we served on the side a light mixed green salad with cranberry vinaigrette and candied pecans. It being such a festive season I couldn’t stop at just one wine pairing, especially as I had just received my first Painted Rock Wine Club shipment mere days before, which included the delicious 2010 Chardonnay. Although it’s a Chardonnay that can easily age for a few years I wanted to share a bottle with my friends at present so we could all try it together. John Schreiner reviewed Painted Rock’s new releases last month and reported that the new Chardonnay possesses dramatic aromas and lively flavours, and we certainly enjoyed the golden colour and creamy texture alongside aromas and flavours of lemon pie, pineapple, and dried mango. Following up the tropical freshness of the Painted Rock I brought out a more mature Chardonnay from the 2007 vintage of Nk’Mip’s Qwam Qwmt series. Back in 2009 Anthony Gismondi suggested it would continue to improve in bottle, and judging by his descriptors of hazelnut, baked apple, vanilla, and orange rind it was quite apt that our guests declared “it tastes like Christmas!” The soft and creamy mouthfeel conjured up additional comparisons to vanilla ice cream with maple syrup, and gave everyone a warm and cozy feeling inside as we finished our entrees.
The meal wasn’t complete yet though, and the festive theme continued into dessert with a cranberry bonanza helped along by The Fort Wine Company. We certainly don’t have any hard and fast rules mandating grape wine, so the dessert crew decided to try out a red cranberry wine from this Langley winery to pair with their cranberry upside-down cake. On top of the brightly coloured cake were generous heaps of whipped cream and some bright fresh cranberries. The wine was a bit of a surprise as it smelled sweeter than it actually tastes, which is fairly tart and dry. Overall the pairing worked well because the relatively low sugar in the cake was in balance with the flavour profile of the wine, which certainly wouldn’t have complemented a sweeter dish nearly as well.
With our final mutual meal of 2011 complete we toasted to a hugely entertaining, educational, and successful year together sharing so many great wines. The new release of Sumac Ridge’s Steller’s Jay Brut (2007) served our toasting purposes admirably with lots of citrus blossom aromas and a pleasing mousse texture that was very easy to enjoy. There are currently a fair number of magnums of the similar 2006 Steller’s Jay to be found around town for very reasonable prices ($35-$45), which holds a lot of potential for a great value New Year’s wine. I know I’ll be celebrating the upcoming year as an opportunity to experience even more of the passion and talent shown throughout the BC wine industry!