Saturday 18 June 2011

June Wine Club: Summer Wines

Our wine club dinner this month not only included a very special guest – our host’s Mom – but finally gave us the chance to explore some wines and cuisine to celebrate the warm weather of Summer! In perhaps our most geographically-diverse event to date we enjoyed three different Rosés, a couple of top-tier Sauvignon Blancs, a mind-boggling white blend (with 18 grape varieties) and even a charming and delicious Tawny Port to finish the evening. It seems that our original proposition for each of three couples to bring one bottle of wine is fast flying out the window as we get more enthusiastic – and knowledgeable – about the many great wines BC has to offer!

Our turn to manage the appetizer course had finally arrived, and we thought long and hard about how to best approach what can often be the most creative and entertaining part of the meal. Lately I’ve been reading from a truly incredible book my wife got me for Christmas called “Taste Buds and Molecules” and was pleased to see it had a chapter about Sauvignon Blanc. Having started our monthly club last Fall we haven’t yet had any Sauvignon Blanc, as we had trended towards red wines and hearty winter fare. Learning about Sauvignon Blanc’s compatibilities with various herbs, fruits, and vegetables inspired my wife and I to develop a homemade rice paper wrap served alongside a tropical fruit salad. Our wraps included shredded carrots and golden beets with fresh dill and parsley, plus cucumber, avocado, smoked tofu, and pea shoots, along with a fresh ginger-carrot dip on the side. The fruit salad included Granny Smith apples, honeydew melon, kiwi, mango, and papaya, plus some fresh mint. Many of these anise-flavoured ingredients contain similar aromatic molecules that pair quite naturally with Sauvignon Blanc – or so we hoped!

To drink we sourced two hard-to-come-by new Sauvignon Blancs from South Okanagan’s Le Vieux Pin and Naramata’s La Frenz for a little comparison. Both bottles come with impressive accolades behind them: John Schreiner feels the 92-point Le Vieux Pin is “one of the most expressive Sauvignon Blancs to come from the Okanagan” while La Frenz reports that theirs “has already been proclaimed by consumers as better than the 2008” (which won Best of Class at the All Canadian Wine Championships). We thoroughly enjoyed both wines, although the intense bouquet of grapefruit and lime exhibited by the Le Vieux Pin gained it the most followers. The La Frenz was a bit more mild overall – and the favourite of my wife – with a little more sweet tropical fruit. The wine and food pairing was also very successful, and the harmony of flavours was equally enjoyable.

Our entree course – prepared by the evening’s host couple – favoured other fresh, local ingredients, somewhat deconstructed to accommodate all tastes. A delicious pasta with cherry tomatoes and feta was accompanied by fresh spot prawns and mussels, or crispy stir-fried tofu for the vegetarians. Our host, a card-carrying carnivore, is always wildly successful in cooking tofu despite little experience in the past (I think the secret is lots of oil!), and we are always grateful for his sensitive inclusivity.

The entree wine, without any coordination between us, turned out to be Le Vieux Pin’s newly released Pinot Noir Rosé “Vaïla”! With even fewer cases produced than the Sauvignon Blanc don’t expect it to last long in stores, especially because of the great reviews it has received already – which Le Vieux Pin gladly provides on their website. I actually tried this wine (along with that Sauvignon Blanc) earlier this Spring, but found it to be better now than I remembered, with some of the earthy Pinot notes having faded a little, allowing for the fruit to emerge. Beyond the beautiful colour, we detected sweet aromas of strawberry – almost cotton-candy, but the palate was appropriately dry, with hints of grapefruit on the finish.

Two bottles of Vaïla went down easily, and while we waited for dessert to finish baking we sipped on a another Rosé from brand new Kaleden winery Krāze Lēgz, this one a red-white blend according to John Schreiner. The wine was quite approachable, with some fairly strong strawberry jam elements to complement the vibrant colour.

Dessert was served, and an unexpected third Rosé came out to accompany it! This time it was to be Fort Berens’ Petit Verdot-based wine, with a dry, almost savoury approach that had some of us throwing out phrases such as turkey sandwich, and cold cuts. The Lilloet winery’s use of Petit Verdot for Rosé is a bold and exciting move, showing the great versatility of this wine style, and it has yielded respectable reviews as well. Also making an appearance was a bottle of Glenterra Vivace, a white blend from Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley. Vivace contains an almost unbelievable 18 different grape varieties but starts with nearly half Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc, finishing with grapes we had never even heard of such as Huxelrebe and Cantaro! It was very floral and mouth-filling, even a little bit tawny on the nose, and was a great pairing for the individual rhubarb cakes we were enjoying fresh from the oven. In the same ramekins the cakes had been baked was the most incredible cold strawberry soup that garnered heaps of praise. Just thinking about the fresh aromas and smooth flavours that caressed our palates is making my mouth water!

At the very end of the night, again unplanned and unexpected, our hosts introduced a bottle of La Frenz Tawny Port to round out the evening. This fairly unique offering is a delicious treat, with flavours of dried apricot, raisins, and walnuts, one that evokes an almost tingling sensation in the sinuses for which I coined a new term: “nose-feel.” Apparently I’m at my most creative eight bottles in!

No comments: