Monday 10 January 2011

Holiday Wines & Food – Part 1

Now that December is fading into the background at a rapid pace I’ve finally got enough of my wits back about me to reflect on the many wonderful wines we celebrated with this holiday season. In particular I finally got to enjoy some of the wines I have been holding for celebrations or carefully aging in the limited space I have available. This Fall brought the “release” of the 2006 Chardonnays I’ve cellared – not exactly a long-lost vintage but just enough aging to provide some extra character. Considering most of BC’s reserve Chardonnays are in the 2008 vintage at present, and others are seeing the release of the 2009 vintage I was looking forward to opening my 2006 wines and pairing them with delicious holiday feasts!

December 23: Five Courses of Food and Wine

Some friends who were unable to join on Christmas day came by to celebrate with us a couple days early, and I was inspired to create an honest-to-goodness five-course meal with designated wine pairings. It was an adventurous meal considering I had spontaneously come up with the first three courses while laying in bed the night before!

With assorted cheese phyllo-pastry appetizers we first imbibed the very enjoyable See Ya Later Ranch (NV) Brut – a crisp and refreshing sparkler that SYL describes as “reminiscient of freshly baked bread rounded out by orchard fruit.” I ordered a full case of this 90-point wine when it was on sale earlier in the month, and this was not the first nor the last time a bottle was opened with glee over the holidays! Unfortunately See Ya Later’s website isn’t completely clear regarding which release the current offering consists of: the latest tasting notes pertain to the Fall 2008 release, which may or may not be the wine currently for sale in stores and via the winery.

As we sat down at the table for our salad course I was happy to finally open my Quails’ Gate (2008) Dry Riesling: it was an excellent pairing for the mixed greens with feta and pomegranate seeds, drizzled in tart mustard vinaigrette. The herbaceous citrus tang and lip-smacking dry finish kept the wine in play alongside the flavours of the salad. My 2008 bottle was only one year removed from the currently available 2009, and in fact Quails’ Gate suggests their Riesling can be aged for up to five years for further development; as John Schreiner suggests: “this is a serious cellar-worthy Riesling.”

For the soup course I broke out a cherished red from Church & State: their Gold-medal-winning 2007 Hollenbach Vineyard Pinot Noir. The 2009 Canadian Wine Awards lavished gold upon this wine, as did this Fall’s BC Wine Awards at the Okanagan Wine Festival. It pained me to hear last year that Church and State recently ended their relationship with the Hollenbach vineyard and would be forgoing Pinot Noir until they could develop their own vineyard(s). The soon-to-be-released 2009 Church & State Pinot Noir will be the last for some time. In any case the 2007 was marvellous, much more fruit-forward then I had anticipated with charming bright cherry notes. Fortunately the French lentil soup I had prepared contained plenty of tomatoes and the caramelized onion & goat cheese crostini on the side was a triumph with this wine. Each crostini was spread with caramelized onions on one half and fresh Salt Spring Island goat cheese on the other – each topped with a cherry tomato half. The sourness from the goat cheese and sweetness from the onion were exquisite with Church & State’s delicious Pinot Noir. I’m so pleased that I have another bottle to enjoy next year – I’m interested in how it will have developed with additional cellar time. This wine is still available in stores so don’t miss this chance to try a bottle before it disappears for what could be a long time!

Finally the entree I had planned on all along could make its appearance, paired with Mission Hill’s (2006) Select Lot Collection Chardonnay. On our plates was a fully vegan Cauliflower & Mushroom Potpie with Kalamata Olive Crust. We’ve enjoyed this particular recipe many times before as the rich and creamy (yes, creamy!) filling soothes while the biscuit-style crust surprises you with mouth-watering savoury olive bites. The potpie was a natural match with the buttery Chardonnay, and the wine held its own against the tart olive flavours due to good natural acidity. The SLC Chardonnays from Mission Hill are consistently an excellent value for a premium wine only one step removed from their top-tier Perpetua. The price difference is rather staggering at $22 versus $40 to step up to Perpetua. Although I add a bottle of Perpetua to my collection each year the Select Lot Collection is a clear value winner when looking for excellent BC Chardonnay.

We ended the meal with assorted Christmas cookies I’d been baking all week (and only just finished eating a week into January) and another Quails’ Gate winner – the Fortified Vintage Foch (2007). Following Quails’ Gate’s advice I’d cellared this Port-style dessert wine until now, although it would still have been fine for a few more years no doubt. The FVF is sweet and rich, but not at all cloying or syrupy; it was an excellent end to the meal alongside some fruitcake, rum-balls, Nanaimo bars, and many other sweet treats. For fans and collectors of BC dessert wines, in particular the rare Port-style variety, the FVF is a must-try.

Soon to come is an account of our Christmas dinner feast in all its over-indulgent glory. Could seven side dishes been too many? Never!

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