Wednesday 25 July 2012

July Wine Club: Going Away Party

Last weekend was a huge milestone in our little wine club, as it represented the last meeting of the original three couples, at least for a while. Sadly, one of our founding families – new baby and doctoral degree in hand – is moving to Kentucky for the next phase of their lives. Naturally they will return for visits, as will we visit them, and plenty of delicious wine will be had at those times, but a big shift has certainly taken place. To make the most of our last hurrah we enjoyed an extended afternoon-to-evening event with some exciting bonus wines, and plenty of luxurious foods to match.

Pinot Noir Tasting

We gathered together mid-afternoon to catch up after a couple of busy summer weeks, with some tasty treats and a trio of BC Pinot Noirs to blind taste. I had recently received a bottle of the brand new first harvest of Spierhead 2010 Pinot Noir as a sample, and decided to see how it would compare against a couple of industry stalwarts from Church & State and Howling Bluff. Considering the pedigree of the two competitors it was hoped to be a very revealing blind tasting: the Howling Bluff bottle comes with a Lt. Governor’s Award from 2011, and Church & State has done great things in the past with the Hollenbach Family Vineyard grapes used for their Pinot Noir. With everyone – including myself – blind to what we were tasting the final judgment found all three wines to be likeable, with the famous Howling Bluff Summa Quies bottle coming out on top. A delicate, silky texture combined with light earthiness, bright berries, and subtle mushroom flavours had us all in agreement it was a fabulous Pinot Noir. The Church & State wine – descended from a Canadian Wine Awards gold-medal winning 2007 vintage – was also juicy with an earthy nose, but the short finish left a bit to be desired for some. The youthful Spierhead wine was particularly impressive considering the respectable entry level $18 price point – an intentional approach taken by the winery while they work to identify the most successful blocks/clones within the vineyard. A sharp nose of chocolate and berries led to a sweet raspberry finish that reminded some drinkers of Lambic beer; a promising start with a challenging grape for this ambitious Kelowna winery.

Burrata and Figs over Arugula

Sufficiently loosened up we soon began preparations for dinner, with everyone having brought their respective ingredients for preparation in our kitchen. The appetizer team, our soon-to-be Kentuckians, was grilling and blending away behind closed doors before revealing a mouth-watering salad: crisp arugula provided the bed for grilled figs and fresh Burrata cheese drizzled with homemade strawberry vinaigrette and a sprinkle of smoked sea salt. As a showpiece cheese, Burrata is not only richly delicious, but also quite pricey – we were honoured to each receive an entire piece! To pair with this bright summer offering was the well-known effervescent aperitif from LaStella – Moscato D’Osoyoos. Having just visited the winery the month previously it came as little surprise – and much glee – to the rest of us to see a bottle of this fine wine on the table. A better pairing with the salad would be hard to come by, for the wine displayed an ideal ratio of sweetness to acidity, and the nose of grapefruit and pineapple kept the fresh focus of the dish intact. The peach flavours and clean finish of linen and flowers were well loved as we longed for more from the rapidly emptied 500ml bottle.

Sesame Lime Soba Noodles

As the last vestiges of Burrata were savoured my wife slipped into the kitchen and started to put together our entree course. With me serving as sous-chef she was enjoying taking the lead, having selected our dish out of Dreena Burton’s “Eat, Drink, and be Vegan” cookbook. The vibrant flavours of Sesame Lime Soba Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms & Snow Peas would be sure to benefit from a pairing with tart local Riesling. The food selection led me to seek out the quintessential BC Riesling – winner of Best of Varietal at the 2012 Okanagan Spring Wine Festival – that of pioneering white wine veteran Wild Goose. Although Wild Goose produces a bevy of vineyard specific whites, including sought-after “God’s Mountain” and “Stoney Slope” Riesling, it was the “regular” classic 2011 Riesling that would grace our table. Not to be one who serves “only” one bottle of dinner wine I was fortunate enough to have received a sample bottle of Riesling from Spierhead along with the aforementioned Pinot Noir; it seemed the ideal opportunity to open it up.

With a few substitutions having been made given seasonally availability and affordability, the Soba Noodles came together wonderfully. Cremini mushrooms and snap peas had no trouble filling the gaps, and sautéed sesame-garlic-marinated tempeh strips helped add protein and additional variety. Both wines would prove to be excellent pairings, starting with the grapefruit and apple aromas of the Wild Goose. A dry palette with generous citrus flavours and a lovely round mouthfeel had us all loving it, so much so that the bottle was soon empty and our glasses looking for more. The Spierhead iteration (only their second vintage) showed subdued lime aromas alongside lychee and a hint of diesel. There was suggestion it may have been a bit too dry (and the 12g/L of sugar is lower than Wild Goose’s 19g/L), but the lime flavours emerged and were particularly well received when paired with the food.

Individual Peach Pie

Sipping on the remaining Riesling we watched with curiosity as the dessert team slipped something secretive into the oven. Our patience was soon rewarded with individual peach pies and another bottle of LaStella Moscato; our visit to LaStella had certainly inspired some of us! Each “pie” was an entire halved peach stuffed with creamed lemon honey, wrapped in homemade pastry dough and baked on site – an ingenious idea we all applauded. Served alongside creamy vanilla ice cream, peach jam, and some fresh raspberries, it elicited quite the chorus of delight when our mouths weren’t full! Naturally the peach flavours and excellent balance of the Moscato paired perfectly, and the clean effervescence refreshed our palates while concluding another amazing meal.

After dinner we spent some time cleaning up and reminiscing about the many great culinary experiences and exciting and interesting BC wines we have shared over the past couple of years. We had no trouble planning which wonderful wines we’ll toast with at our next meeting, with a few special magnums in the cellar biding their time until then. It being such a significant occasion worthy of one final bottle, we ended the evening with some delicious cheeses from Benton Brothers and a prized bottle of Mission Hill 2005 Oculus. The heady aromas of chocolate, coffee, and rich, dark fruits had us all swooning as we admired the Christmas cake flavours. It being the first bottle of Oculus I’ve personally opened I was impressed with the many layers and polished character – just the right wine to send off two equally impressive characters and their adorable babe. Bon Voyage!

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