After what was, quite frankly, a drunken brunch last month [“Drunch”©], our wine club was feeling the need for restraint and order this time around. Fortunately we came up with a plan to mitigate the effects of our inevitable cocktails and/or reception wine. My wife and I, assigned to provide the first course, embraced the hors d’oeuvre concept with a hearty selection to provide a solid base for the many rounds of wine to follow. We laid it all out under the sky on our friends’ beautiful Commercial Drive rooftop patio, with stunning views of Vancouver and the North Shore along the horizon.
Having received sparkling cocktails upon arrival we hustled to serve our early nibbles, including three types of Deviled Eggs delicately assembled and carefully transported across town: Feta Dill, Curry, and Chipotle varieties provided something for everyone. Homemade Kalamata Olive Tapenade joined three cheeses from Village Cheese Co. in Armstrong, BC, plus some fresh grape tomatoes for a pop of colour. To pair with this varied and full-flavoured spread I had selected Le Vieux Pin’s always impressive “Ava” Rhone-inspired white blend. The 2012 vintage of Ava provided for a challenging descriptive experience, being so well balanced and blended it was hard to pull out specific descriptors from the mix of 61% Viognier, 21% Roussanne, and 18% Marsanne. The delicate nose eventually revealed notes of melon when given time to breathe, with stone fruit and exotic floral character mixed in. This is a white wine longing for decanting! The rich, layered palate kept us all talking as we picked up on the barrel aging (45% of the wine spent nine months in used and new oak). The wine, while thoroughly enjoyed, could easily spend more time in bottle to continue its road to ever-more-interesting maturity.
With a foundation of protein and fat to steel ourselves for several more bottles to follow, we soaked in the sun as the appetizer chefs prepared their course in the kitchen below. They soon blessed us with a beautifully decorative Blue Cheese Risotto: on top we admired Shredded Beet Salad and perfectly cut strips of fresh carrot. To serve with this earthy, creamy delight we were presented with the legendary (amongst our group) 2010 Pinot Noir from Herder Vineyards, and the 2012 Pinot Noir from Tyler Harlton Wines. A few of us had fallen in love with Herder’s Pinot during a group visit a couple of years ago, and this last bottle of the 2010 was to be cherished. Fortunately the bright cherry nose and very smooth texture fulfilled our high expectations, and we relished flavours of more sour cherry, cranberry, and milk chocolate. The newer wine from Summerland’s Tyler Harlton provided an equally solid presentation, with cherries, cloves, and caramel chocolate on a fresher finish that made for a superb pairing with the creamy Risotto and fresh beets.
The revelry continued as we cleared the table and gleefully anticipated the next course, which sounded like a fairly complicated collection of items based on the effort of the chefs. On the table in advance we observed two chilled white wines: Gehringer Brothers’ 2012 Ehrenfelser, and Red Rooster’s 2012 Riesling. Both wines excited me, as I know how rare it is to encounter varietal Ehrenfelser (there are only a handful of wineries producing it in BC), and I had recently enjoyed sampling the racy Riesling at the Naramata Bench Spring Release Tasting. Our entree course for these summery wines was the mouth-watering combination of Szechwan Green Beans, Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Roasted Beets (an unplanned appetizer parallel), and either Teriyaki-glazed Salmon or Boursin-stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps.
The food was all-around delicious, and the wines showed off a range of exciting qualities. The Golden Mile Bench Ehrenfelser enticed with a sweet orchard flower nose, an off-dry palate and nicely balanced acidity. The typical fruit salad palate was present, with some intriguing spiced notes of cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. From nearby vineyards outside Oliver, the Riesling was an ideal palate cleanser, with very clean, very dry flavours of fresh lime beyond aromas of citrus and light, sweet petrol. Although one may have expected a Pinot Noir with foods like salmon, mushrooms, and beets, both wines went over quite well due to their deft opposition to the heavier food.
As the evening’s final course arrived, the assigned chefs discovered the perils involving in serving dessert after so many glasses of wine. These enthusiastic new members had yet to appreciate the focus required by that point in the night, and I happened upon them comically stumbling about the kitchen trying to scoop ice cream and neatly plate a challenging Strawberry-Rhubarb Crumble. Ultimately very little ended up on the floor, and the essentials made their way on to our plates, devoured with gusto under a slowly setting sun. To enjoy with our sweet, tart, and creamy treat we were presented with Gray Monk’s brand new 2013 Kerner. The wine is very off-dry, with 53 grams per liter of residual sugar, but it worked well alongside the fruit-focused dessert. The sweet, very fresh palate reminded us of Elderflower Syrup, and the aromatic qualities nicely emphasized the vanilla notes in the ice cream.
To polish off the remaining crumble we gladly turned to the equally new 2013 Rosé from Clos du Soleil. This superb Similkameen Valley winery sources Rosé-designated Cabernet Sauvignon from Osoyoos for their wine, which makes it stand out amongst an increasingly crowded field of competitors: Cabernet Rosé is very rare in BC. On the nose we enjoyed aromatic cotton candy and bubble-gum, leading into a dry palate that conjured up descriptors like “Raspberry Ginger Ale.” Despite being very different from the Kerner, the Rose also served as a nice match for the Crumble dish, particularly the strawberries and rhubarb. The refreshing fruit and long finish provided for the perfect solo sipper with which to end the meal as we cleared our plates.