Regular readers will know that I’ve spent the last few years nurturing a monthly BC wine dinner club in partnership with my wife and several close friends. Although some members have come and gone over time as lives have grown and changed, we’ve maintained the focus on home-grown wine and homemade food. To better accommodate the myriad work schedules of the eight people now involved we decided last month to try a weekend brunch instead of the traditional dinner. It would provide for new food pairing opportunities and take advantage of the sunny days we’re starting to enjoy as spring takes hold in Vancouver. (I think most of us were thinking it might provide time to try out more wines too!)
Arriving at our hosts’ beautiful home, awash in the aforementioned spring sunshine, we greeted each other gleefully after a couple of months since our last great get-together. I wasted no time in sharing a bottle of brand new 2013 Fort Berens Riesling, having just welcomed it on to the shelves of Swirl Wine Store last week. Estate grapes from Lillooet have yielded another superb vintage bursting with zingy fruit salad and a fresh, honeyed palate – altogether reminiscent of an Ehrenfelser in fact. Off-dry, with 13 g/L of sugar, the wine is nonetheless well balanced by mouth-watering acidity. My wife and I liked last year’s version so much we ordered a case for summer enjoyment, and the superb value price of only $18 will ensure many more bottles make it through the door this year.
Our previous club configuration provided for three courses (appetizer, entree, dessert) by three couples, but with four couples now involved we made the simple decision to allow for a second pre-entree course. The first of these highly anticipated dishes was particularly ideal for the circumstances: homemade vanilla coconut granola had been lovingly layered with creamy, yogurt and similarly homemade raspberry-blackberry sauce. To pair with this fresh and light starter the chefs had pulled a unique bottle of Elephant Island Cherry wine from the cellar. The Reserve 2008 vintage from Naramata turned out to be an excellent companion, particularly to the toasty granola, having taken on some earthy, savoury hints over time. Tart cherry flavours and a long finish ensured the wine held its own against the unsweetened yogurt and berries, and provided for some great exposure to the excellent fruit wines of BC!
As everyone finished their cherry wine and the remaining Riesling my wife and I got to work on our contribution, frying up a few dozen perogies we had painstakingly assembled from scratch the night before. There is no doubt that handmade perogies are time-consuming – given the many steps involved – but they seemed like the perfect starter course, and I had some stellar wines with which to pair them. Along with the buttery Carrot & Brie and Potato & Smoked Cheddar dumplings we enjoyed another new release in the form of 50th Parallel’s 2012 Pinot Noir. This young winery north of Kelowna was joined last year by former Quails’ Gate winemaker Grant Stanley, who has been helping founders Curtis & Sheri-Lee Krouzel develop 50th Parallel for the past several years.
I couldn’t resist developing a theme by unearthing a bottle of Quails’ Gate 2008 Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir from my cellar for a little Stanley comparison. Although technically the 2012 vintage at 50th Parallel was initiated by inaugural winemaker Adrian Baker, it was bottled by Grant and only just released this month. We found the younger wine to be fresh and bright, with a nose of delicate smoke and cranberries, followed by a smooth and light berry-focused palate. It proved to be best with the Potato & Smoked Cheddar perogies, while the more subtle Carrot & Brie versions were on good terms with the older Quails’ Gate. The Stewart Reserve Pinot has aged well, retaining a nose of spice and cherries and a rich but soft palate with hints of red currant and clove.
Although a few more perogies were sorely tempting, we knew we had only just reached the halfway mark, and so stood back as our hosts leapt into action assembling a clearly complex entree course. Fortunately there was plenty of wine to sip on as we observed the chefs, including a bottle of Orofino 2012 Home Vineyard Old Vines Riesling, courtesy of our first-course contributors. The wine is the richest of Orofino’s three vineyard-specific Rieslings, coming from nearly 25-year-old vines on a small parcel under an acre in size. Winemaker John Weber uses the wine as a bit of an experimental undertaking, opening up the entire bag of tricks, including barrel fermentation (including Acacia wood), wild yeast, and lees stirring to enhance the texture. Twenty grams of residual sugar remain, and contribute to the round, full body and key lime pie flavours. We smelled and tasted a basket of citrus fruit – lemon, lime, grapefruit – and green apples to boot; it provided for a superb palate cleanser and discussion topic.
After our hosts had finished in the kitchen we were treated to a spectacular vegetarian breakfast plate of Sweet Potato Hash with Kale & Brussels Sprouts, Grilled Chickpea “Tofu” Patty, and Vegan Waffles – all homemade from scratch! It was all irresistibly scrumptious, garnished with plenty of real Maple Syrup, and the savoury Chickpea “Tofu” – made entirely from chickpea flour – garnered well-deserved praise. Versatile pairings came in the form of Arrowleaf 2012 Pinot Gris and Sumac Ridge 2011 Cabernet Merlot, both yielding some pleasant surprises. The Pinot Gris, from Lake Country vineyards north of Kelowna, was drier than expected, providing for zesty lemon and green apple flavours and food friendly acidity. The earthier Cabernet Merlot turned out to be ideal with the whole wheat waffles – definitely not something one would expect to find on the winery’s tasting notes! From the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot we were particularly struck by the spicy cedar character contributed by the Cabernet Franc, with some hints of unobjectionable green pepper to finish.
Our dessert course turned out to include a bevy of beverages, from homemade 16-year-old Whiskey (source withheld, for obvious reasons), to some crisply floral and nutty homemade beer courtesy of our hosts. A couple of local dessert wines were included as well, all to pair with luxurious Chocolate Gingerbread Cake, with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce. As we paid tribute to the cake and continued socializing well into the afternoon we enjoyed Road 13’s 2011 Late Harvest Chenin Blanc, a very rare sighting considering only 223 cases were produced. Soft floral aromas and flavours of honeyed linen and apple basket garnered many contented smiles before the little bottle was empty. For additional enjoyment we also delved into Tinhorn Creek’s 2011 Kerner Icewine, superbly representing that traditional profile of honey, apricot, guava, and mouth-watering acidity. With so many delicious memories fresh in our palates it didn’t take long before we had scheduled the next brunch – this could become an exciting new tradition!