On one of the many beautiful July evenings in Vancouver we joined a few friends for our monthly BC wine dinner. After many weeks of waiting we’d finally finished rotating through the three courses we share and my wife and I were back on appetizer duty – full of excitement to share our long-awaited idea! With everyone’s courses and wine pairings chilling or heating up as necessary we enjoyed some time on our hosts’ balcony with visually stunning summer cocktails of Campari and Limoncello. All the refreshing sunshine of late had put everyone in a festive and relaxed mood, which a few bottles of wine and plenty of inventive food were soon to amplify.
It was quite nice to sit down and relax in fact, because we had spent the better part of the day baking from scratch three loaves of bread, and churning a bevy of homemade butter. After discovering the ease with which one can produce fresh butter at home we had been inspired several weeks ago do the same, but resolved to wait for just the right time to share the riches. I’m not sure why it never occurred to us beforehand: just churn whipping cream in the food processor (with whisk attachment) until it almost magically becomes butter several minutes later. Even better, you’re left with a substantial portion of fresh buttermilk to boot! We’d done precisely that in three batches, variably adding additional ingredients to easily yield compound butter.
Our smoked salt butter, herb butter, and sundried tomato & basil butter were destined for the fresh bread we’d laboured over for hours. Even using our bread machine for most of the kneading and rising cycles, it was still a day-long affair to allow for the full rising and independent oven baking of all three loaves. At the end though, we had a solid whole wheat loaf, a light three-cheese bread with Asiago, cheddar, and ricotta, and a rich chewy country French loaf with Kalamata olives and (home-grown) rosemary.
Deciding on a wine pairing for such a simple yet simultaneously opulent dish led rather quickly to traditional method sparkling: creamy textures and yeasty notes would mesh nicely, whilst cleansing bubbles and acid would keep the rich butter in check. A couple of bottles from the cellar were natural selections, and having two different wines would provide for an interesting comparison as well. We began with Salt Spring Vineyards’ “Karma” Sparkling, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir produced from the superb 2009 vintage, and winner of a gold medal at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships. The winery also reports having placed as a finalist at the recent Lt. Governor’s Awards as well. The Karma’s light melon and caramel aromas opened into a soft mousse texture with bright citrus flavours and a dry, green apple finish. Overall very cleansing and tart, definitely one to awaken the palate!
Knowing we weren’t the type of people to stop at just one bottle, I had brought along a recently acquired sparkling from Okanagan Crush Pad’s Haywire Winery: “The Bub” is a bottle-fermented blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes just like the Karma, this one from the more recent 2011 vintage. We found The Bub to exhibit a very fresh and clean nose, slightly finer bubbles than the Karma, and a medium-bodied, smooth texture with reminders of crème brûlée. Being big fans and consumers of Road 13’s Sparkling Chenin, some of us couldn’t help but draw parallels to that superb wine. Overall The Bub was deemed to be a favourite amongst the two sparkling wines on hand, but there was little stopping the enthusiastic consumption of both bottles!
Although very tempted to fill up on bread, we managed to leave room for the entree course, prepared in both vegetarian and omnivorous fashion to appeal to everyone. Diners had their choice of savoury marinated and grilled tofu, or flank steak from local butcher shop Pete’s Meat. Alongside our proteins was the “Bowl of Green Goodness”, a cashew and avocado dressed melange of red quinoa, fresh zucchini, peas, and a triplet of beans – green, purple, and yellow. The creamy avocado basil dressing made for a richly-flavoured mouthful, with roasted cherry tomatoes and raw cashews accessorizing the dish.
The ideal wine to enjoy with such a combination turned out to be a lightly chilled 2010 Gamay Noir from West Kelowna’s Mt. Boucherie. Opening with a nose of strawberry jam the Gamay expanded into additional aromas of raspberry and currant, with a noticeable earthiness present as well. Lots of strawberry flavours followed through on the palate, which revealed hints of cranberry and even a little bloodiness. The complex profile held up well to the varied flavours and textures on our plates, and the chill kept things light and summery without seeming to restrain the wine from expressing itself.
A few second helpings, and a second bottle of Gamay later and we were ready to enjoy dessert, a very promising-looking fruit pie. A happy medley of apricot, blackberry, blueberry, plum, and peach came neatly packaged in a shortbread crust served alongside organic vanilla ice cream. A couple of recently-acquired late harvest wines gave us plenty of thought-provoking flavour combinations. Gehringer Brothers’ 2012 Riesling showed off a very pretty nose reminiscent of much more expensive icewine, with fresh and clean aromas of orange blossom. The honeyed palate was definitely sweet but quite well balanced, with flavours of elderflower and lychee leading into a lemon finish. Neighbouring winery Hester Creek’s well-known Late Harvest Pinot Blanc was sweeter and more viscous, with an even more focused citrus profile: additional orange blossoms and a mandarin orange palate kept the fruit flavours swirling readily.
Cool ice cream and chilled dessert wines made for a superb conclusion on a warm evening. We tried not to think about how much butter we had just enthusiastically consumed, and instead focused on the many tasty wines and creative food pairings, all shared with great friends; cheers!