Sunday 26 January 2014

January Wine Dinner: Winter Whites

It’s been too long since our last wine club dinner, so last weekend an augmented group of eight brought together our best homemade culinary creations with a great many bottles of BC wine once again! Normally we hold these dinners with six people – three couples – who each contribute one course and a wine pairing. However, there was so much good cheer (and miraculously easy scheduling) going around we brought some other friends on board as well. It didn’t hurt that our hosts have a wonderfully large table that can seat eight, or even ten in a pinch.

With our hosts putting together the entree course, and my wife and I devoted to dessert already, there was little opposition to a duo of starter courses from the other two couples. Our appetizer chefs actually coordinated with one another to avoid duplication, but we reminded them that this wine club requires no advance planning – and it’s always worked out wonderfully in fact. Case in point: without anyone planning it or notifying others, we all brought white wines this time, once again yielding an unintentional theme.

Howling Bluff Sauvignon Semillon & Spinach Salad

The first course was soon revealed to be an attractive spinach salad, accessorized with red onion, toasted hazelnuts, dried cranberries, and a homemade balsamic dressing. To pair with it was Howling Bluff’s superb 2012 Sauvignon Blanc Sémillon, with sufficient – balanced – acidity to stand up to the onions and tart dressing. The wine’s fresh floral nose still reminds one of summer even in winter months, and tropical flavours like star fruit kept us intrigued while pear and hints of cedar and mineral also showed up on the finish.

We continued to sip the Sauv-Sém and catch up while Round Two was put together with earnest in the kitchen. The intoxicating aromas of butter and herbs got us all wondering, while we were tasked with choosing which of two wines to enjoy next. Burrowing Owl’s 2011 Pinot Gris was deemed the best pairing for the extremely rich Ricotta Gnudi with which we were soon gleefully presented. A brown-butter sage sauce and crumbled fresh Romano made these little hybrid dumplings shine. The full-bodied, creamy Pinot Gris was an excellent match, with flavours of apples and pears, and a tart finish that cut through the buttery food pairing.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris & Ricotta Gnudi

Despite the surprisingly filling gnudi, there was plenty of food and wine to come, particularly the Indian-inspired feast our hosts had assembled. Butter Chicken and Butter Tempeh were accompanied by authentic Aloo Gobi, Quinoa-Wild Rice Pilaf, fresh Chickpea Salad, and Naan Bread. It was dangerously tempting to load up on everything, even three courses in, especially the rich, flavourful, vegetarian-friendly butter tempeh.

An Indian-inspired Vegetarian Feast!

Such a bounty of food called for plenty of wine, and our hosts had acquired two bottles each of Dirty Laundry’s “Say Yes” 2012 Pinot Gris, and Thornhaven’s 2012 Gewürztraminer – more than enough to go around! The beautifully-bottled Say Yes was actually the sweeter of the two wines, with slight floral aromas, tropical pineapple flavours, and a full-bodied texture thanks to fairly high sugar. The Thornhaven really shone alongside the spicy food, with textbook floral, sweet lychee aromas, and superb balance. Thornhaven is legendary for their Gewürztraminer, winning top medals and Best of Class awards every year, such as the Gold last fall at the BC Wine Awards (along with another Gold for the winery’s 2011 Syrah).

Thornhaven Gewurztraminer & Dirty Laundry Pinot Gris

We all had to hold off on serving too many second helpings, as a rich closing course was on the way. My wife and I had prepared dessert in advance, needing only to pop it in the oven when the time was right. While awaiting tell-tale baking aromas, we all sipped from Team Gnudi’s second bottle, a charming Riesling from La Frenz they had obtained at the winery during a visit last summer. With a fresh citrus nose and no earthy/petrol aromas as of yet it made for a superb palate cleanser. Lots of lemon-lime and mandarin orange flavours were accompanied by a tart finish balanced with just enough residual sugar.

La Frenz Riesling

After a great deal of eying, checking, and even some poking, dessert was finally out of the oven and ready to serve. It was quite a process to ensure our individual Molten Chocolate Lava Cakes were sufficiently cooked to come out of their ramekins neatly, yet retaining that ethereal moistness necessary for full enjoyment. A dusting of powdered sugar, some fresh whipped cream, and a few drops of homemade cherry coulis rounded out the plating with pride, before we cracked open a bottle of Nk’Mip 2012 Qwam Qwmt Riesling Icewine.

Although long a successful wine for this Nk’Mip, the 2012 vintage of their Icewine has recently been burning up the airwaves thanks to a 100-point review from John Schreiner. A striking 93-points from Anthony Gismondi and inclusion in his semi-annual list of the Top 10 Wines of British Columbia haven’t hurt matters either. In fact, Gismondi’s review suggested serving this elegant gem with chocolate, so the Lava Cakes seemed an ideal pairing for such a striking wine. Even with rich cocoa aromas filling the room the intense, vibrant nose of the wine stood out, with a basket of tropical guava and lychee aromas jumping forth. The tart acidity deftly cut through the cake, showing extremely pure honeyed mandarin flavours that lasted for ages. I’m definitely looking forward to adding another bottle to my cellar for a bit of aging, if I can keep my hands off of it!

Nk'Mip Icewine & Chocolate Lava Cake

To finish off the evening in style I broke out a rotund little bottle of Saxon Winery’s VIP Port-style fortified Pinot Noir. I picked up a couple bottles last fall during the BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour, which was based in Saxon’s home community of Summerland. Two years in barrel and fortification with Foch Brandy have yielded a surprisingly spicy wine that everyone enjoyed. In particular, the lower sugar than expected and some meaty hints beyond the cinnamon and nutmeg flavours provoked plenty of commentary; the smile-inducing “grapey” finish was just icing on the cake.

Saxon VIP Fortified

We all left sufficiently stuffed and feeling very learned about several new wines; I was particularly pleased to share the Icewine and Port-style with everyone. Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of everyone involved I’m sure we’ll do it again soon!

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