Tuesday 15 November 2011

November Wine Club: Family Edition

Our monthly wine club met for the first time since September this month. A planned October get-together at Trafalgars – for their Taste of the Harvest dinner – was scuttled at the last minute due to the unexpected birth of one precocious baby girl. It seems she just couldn’t wait two more weeks to meet all of us, as her somewhat shell-shocked father relayed to us early that morning. Considering the same six of us had been out living it up the very night beforehand to celebrate his upcoming birthday, it was no surprise he was a little beside himself! Still, not being ones to pass up an opportunity to celebrate, we welcomed her to the world with a baby shower and a few magnums of Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut earlier this month; she politely declined a glass but was nice enough to pose for photos.


This month’s get-together was bountiful, with no less than six additional guests including the admittedly teetotaling baby. Her newly-minted Uncle was present as he passed through from Australia to Denver, as were our host’s Aunt & Uncle, Cousin, and Grandmother; fortunately the table included lots of leaves! Everyone stepped up to the challenge of feeding twice as many people as usual, and the delicious BC wine flowed just as readily. As leaders of the appetizer team, we relished in serving a warm and comforting soup to combat the greying skies of Vancouver autumn. Last month I acquired two beautiful bottles of Therapy 2010 AlterEgo, a new premium white blend from the Freudian-themed Naramata winery. A glowing review from Daenna Van Mulligen suggested creamy corn chowder, and I could not argue with that excellent suggestion. We spent the afternoon whipping up a vegetarian-friendly version of Smoked Chicken Chowder, and baked an accompanying Zucchini Cornbread for good measure. Not one to stop there, a batch of Goat Cheese Croutons provided a little extra oomph and continued the corny theme. The wine itself was a big hit, as everyone admired the golden colour and rich aromas of tropical and tree fruits. The majority components of Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc provided for crisp but very well balanced acidity, and the addition of Viognier added noticeable floral characteristics. I think everyone was sad to see both bottles emptied so quickly, although I recently heard that Firefly Vancouver received a few bottles of this very hard-to-find wine just this week!


With so many people in attendance, we were able to enjoy two excellent entree courses, in addition to three charming Chardonnays. Our hosts prepared a hearty pasta with lentils plus crisp grilled leeks, while guests brought not only a mouth-watering squash and root vegetable medley for all but some admittedly tasty-looking prosciutto-wrapped halibut filets for the omnivores. Plenty of wine was to be had with three individually unique Chardonnays from the 2008 vintage: Joie Reserve from Naramata, Road 13 Jackpot from the Golden Mile, and Robin Ridge’s version from the Similkameen Valley. Once again, without consultation we avoided any duplication and managed to assemble an exciting gamut of wines. Joie’s creamy wine is a worthy follow-up to the Lt. Governor’s Award-winning 2007 vintage, with John Schreiner describing it impressively as “like drinking marmalade” due to the complexity! We enjoyed the round texture and the apple cider and citrus palate; plus it gloriously amplified the rich flavours of the root vegetables. The Road 13 Jackpot Chardonnay won a gold medal at last year’s Canadian Wine Awards, and provided a significant side-step in character to the Joie: more acidic and perfumed, it was lighter in body and possessed very noticeable crisp mineral flavours that reminded some of the Chablis style. Lastly the Robin Ridge wine took some time to open up but when it did a buttery texture emerged, while also possessing similar acidity to the Road 13 – almost a combination of characteristics of the two preceding wines. It was quite an illuminating trip through BC Chardonnay as we travelled the gastronomical highway!


With everyone seemingly stuffed from dinner we settled down while the dessert team went to work rolling out pastry and filling the room with rich baking aromas. A few glasses of Bourbon and a glass of Road 13 Rockpile kept us busy in the meantime, and soon enough a few bottles of Gehringer Late Harvest Riesling arrived on the table to accompany the beautiful apple galettes fresh from the oven. This superb value ($18) dessert wine is part of a pair from Gehringer, with a late harvest Cabernet Franc filling out the red side of the equation. High sugar is balanced by cleansing acidity that ensures flexible food pairings, and the butterscotch, apple, and pear aromas went hand-in-hand with the delicious dessert that everyone raved about. That lucky little baby has many years of enjoying her father’s amazing pastries ahead of her, and if we’re lucky he may share a few more with us as well.


Next month hosting duties return to my wife and me. So we are looking forward to coming up with a festive entree that shows off the winter harvest and synchs up with a warm and toasty winter-appropriate wine. We should have the holiday decorations up by that time, so it should be a very merry celebration of BC wine!

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