Tuesday 24 April 2012

April Wine Club: Spring is Sprung!

Our wine club dinner last weekend showed how much everyone is looking forward to summer, with several fresh white wines making appearances. There were some brand new wines from the 2011 vintage and others from last year’s 2010 release, still youthful plus benefiting from some additional complexity. As we put bets on whether reds would make any appearance at all, I shared a newly acquired bottle of Red Rooster 2011 Viognier. A brand new release with only 382 cases produced the Red Rooster was part of a split case of Viognier and (very limited) Rosé I ordered last month when the winery offered free shipping and 15% off – it definitely pays to get on those winery mailing lists! Some of us had participated in a BC Viognier blind tasting panel earlier in the week, so it seemed fitting to try a bottle from one of the few wineries we had not yet tasted (this week at least): the verdict easily put Red Rooster among the favourites. With such youth, the wine showed beautiful fresh and clean flavours on a very well balanced palate that followed aromas of vanilla, peach, and citrus. I’m quite pleased to have five more bottles to enjoy!

The full lineup

Seeing as we have enthusiastically taken to comparative and blind tastings, it came as little surprise that the appetizer team had two paper-bagged bottles for us to judge. On our plates were very attractive Carrot & Parsnip Fritters, with creamy lime-cilantro yogurt and a topping of fresh mixed greens with Mirin-peach dressing. Resisting the urge to dig in immediately we sampled the two wines, about which we knew next to nothing save at least one was from BC. The first showed a subtle nose with hints of pear and vanilla, and a palate rich in lime that drew out the yogurt’s flavours. The second bottle had more citrus on the nose, along with vanilla and a hint of green apple. The rounder palate drew out the cumin and spices in the fritters, with flavours that reminded some of us of starfruit and other exotics.

Fritters & Sauvignon Blanc

After a few rounds of guessing with not a hint of success, the bottles were finally revealed to great surprise as two BC Sauvignon Blancs from the 2010 vintage: 8th Generation and Cassini Cellars. We were uniformly surprised, as neither wine had the hallmark grapefruit and grassy characteristics expected – clearly erroneously in some cases – from Sauvignon Blanc. The experience certainly provided food for thought among those who too quickly dismiss Sauvignon Blanc as one-dimensional, as these two wineries have shown the impressive versatility of this food-friendly grape.

Taco toppings

While discussion continued and the bottles emptied we were treated to the sight of an impressive array of delicious foods as the entree course was laid out by our hosts. An entree “starter” of spot prawn & scallop (or tofu) ceviche in coconut milk was enjoyed alongside tropical Sangria topped with Sumac Ridge Sparkling Gewurztraminer. Along with apricot Brandy, the Gewurztraminer amped up the Sangria with layers of complex flavours. That’s not to say this exciting sparkler can’t do just fine on its own, as the delicate bubbles and crisp fruit make for an excellent palate cleanser.

For the main event we enjoyed homemade fish tacos (with a marinated, grilled tofu alternative) with a bevy of toppings. Not only were fresh avocado, home-pickled carrots and onions, crisp cabbage, and spicy grilled pineapple available, but the tortillas themselves were fully homemade and freshly grilled – my mouth is watering just thinking back to it! A perfect partner for such a dish came in the form of Quails’ Gate’s newly released 2011 Chasselas-Pinot Blanc-Pinot Gris. The nose showed mineral and steel, tree fruits, and a bit of grass, with loads more tree and tropical fruits on the palate, including peach, pear, mango, pineapple, and lime. A real fruit salad in a glass, the fresh, clean flavours were very impressive and showed masterful blending of the three grapes. I look forward to enjoying more of this superb summer sipper.

Tacos & Quails' Gate

For dessert we went traditional with a classic Tiramisu, paired with La Frenz’s marvellous Liqueur Muscat, and a bonus bottle of Prospect Winery’s new Tawny Port. Having never made Tiramisu before, my wife and I were excited to try making it from scratch, including homemade ladyfingers. Unfortunately our ladyfingers flattened out too much in the oven, so we dipped them in melted mocha chocolate and served them on the side, which complemented the dish quite nicely in fact. Store-bought ladyfingers ended up saving the dish, providing the necessary volume to balance the creamy mascarpone and whipped eggs. Fortunately the rest of the dish worked out perfectly, with rich flavours and light textures befitting a spring meal.

Tiramisu and dessert wines

The two dessert wines were both delicious, especially the Muscat Liqueur, which impressed us immediately with a deep rusty colour from over a decade of solera-style production. The nose reminded me of burnt orange, while other guests suggested apricot, maple syrup, fig, and ripe berries. The acidity helped to cut the creaminess of the Tiramisu, and the flavours actually paired well with both the raspberries and the mint garnish! This is definitely a wine to get every year, given its rarity and luxurious flavour profile. Sadly, with only a half-bottle available, we were soon finished with it; but at least we could move on to a very nice Port-style Tawny from Mission Hill’s Prospect Winery label. Writer John Schreiner recently described the history of this Tawny, pointing out that it comes from barrels approaching twenty years of age. For only $18 per half-bottle this represents excellent value for such a well-aged wine, which showed off rich aromas including mocha and dates, with a hint of barnyard that I enjoyed. Naturally the mocha flavours were a superb pairing for the Tiramisu, which included shaved coffee-infused chocolate throughout, and soon yet another bottle was polished off!

The spring weather can only continue to improve into summer sunshine, so next month’s dinner will likely continue to show off the newly released wines alongside more delicious fresh food. We move up to appetizers next month, and are looking forward to getting the creative juices flowing for a course with so much potential. Keep watching to see if we do it justice!

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