Monday, 15 August 2011

August Wine Club: Fruit Bounty

Having skipped our monthly wine club in July due to the conflicting schedules of all three couples during the busy vacation season we were all looking forward to this month’s meeting of delicious food and fine local wines. This month’s features turned out to include a consistently superb white blend from the Golden Mile, a couple of crisp rarities from just down the street, plus a unique fruit wine inadvertently aged in bottle!


Our appetizer course – after much teasing of the hungry diners by the chef – turned out to be a most surprisingly delicious salad containing artichokes, chorizo (or Tofurkey Veggie Sausage for the vegetarians), and cantaloupe. I would likely never have put together those ingredients but they worked marvellously with the subtle dressing and fresh tarragon. The wine accompaniment was the very familiar Tinhorn Creek 2Bench White (2009), a consistent star from Sandra Oldfield. With very fresh and clean floral aromas of peach and melon this wine can be excellent on its own, but the full body and crisp finish make it very food-friendly as well. The current release comes from the 2010 vintage, but the blend remains exactly the same with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, and a touch of Muscat. We were all very pleased with how well this wine paired with such an unconventional salad, but perhaps it was destiny given Anthony Gismondi’s review, in which he professed his love for “the spicy nose and sausage aromas” and the “fine mix of flavours including melon rind.”


When planning the main course I once again started with the wine and worked my way up to food. Having one bottle of Road 13 Chenin Blanc (2009) available I ordered a newer 2010 vintage from the winery to yield a mini-vertical of this enjoyable but somewhat rare wine. The only other major producers of BC Chenin Blanc I can think of are Quails’ Gate and Inniskillin. To add to the scarcity, the 2010 Chenin Blanc at Road 13 is available only through the winery – unlike last year none was sent to stores, private or public. To pair with these exciting wines I sought the advice of Road 13 General Manager Donna Faigaux, who provided the excellent suggestion of Onion Tart or Spinach Ricotta Quiche. Having been convinced not to make both by my oh-so-reasonable wife, I settled for the onion tart with a side of creamed spinach, and a second side dish of Tomatoes Provencal for good measure! Fortunately all the food turned out well and helped the wines shine. The 2009 had all of the big floral characteristics describe by Anthony Gismondi plus lively flavours of peach and nectarine and a noticeable minerality that excited us. The backbone of minerals and acidity that John Schreiner likes so much is back in the 2010 release, along with marginal but detectable increases in residual sugar and acid. I should mention that both vintages contain a small proportion of Riesling, and the doubling from about 7% in 2009 to 14% in 2010 was very noticeable: I was surprised at how easily I could smell the Riesling. Ultimately, the 2009 vintage was our favourite of the two due to its more unique characteristics: although the Riesling is said to help balance the wine and benefit the fruit it seemed to dampen what were for us some of the more intriguing notes of the Chenin Blanc itself.


Our dessert for the evening was a topic of intense discussion given the inexperience of the chefs with this particular dish. The precise cooking time needed to ensure the Pavlova was properly prepared was up for debate, but in the end it turned out absolutely beautifully – as you can see for yourself! Topped with heaps of fresh whipped cream and big juicy berries it tasted just as great as it looked! The wine pairing came from Summerland’s Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery, from which a visit two years ago yielded a bottle of Strawberry Rhubarb table wine described by the winery as “pie in your glass.” After two years in bottle the wine had actually browned slightly and taken on a bit of a sherry-like quality, but the strawberry and rhubarb flavours were still pronounced and complimented the fresh strawberries on the Pavlova. A blue cheese tang was also present that had some bemoaning the lack of late-night cheese shops available to provide a confirmatory pairing – leaders of commerce and industry take note!

Next month we move to desserts as this month’s appetizer team takes on the heavy lifting of entree and hosting duties. I already have something in mind that has been waiting for a long time for the proper fruit to be in season, so I’m very much looking forward to synchronicity! This weekend my wife and I head off to Osoyoos for a weekend to celebrate our wedding anniversary and visit a few of our favourite wineries in the Similkameen and South Okanagan, so I should have plenty to write about over the next few weeks!


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