Less than 24 hours after sampling the Clos du Soleil portfolio with the BC Wine Appreciation Society I was once again sitting down with many of the same wines. On Wednesday evening I visited the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts’ lovely False Creek dining room overlooking Granville Island for a highly anticipated Winemaker’s Dinner. The winery’s talented Events Coordinator Valerie Stride had worked with PICA’s charming Food & Beverage Director Tim Ellison to assemble an exciting six-course menu for several dozen guests to enjoy. I noticed a substantial number of BCWAS members in the crowd, some of whom mentioned having regretfully bowed out on the previous evening to attend the dinner instead.
I was more than happy to be present for both events, in order to sample the wines both with and without food. An omnivorous menu was set to feature a range of proteins, but my wife and I settled on the vegetarian-friendly version graciously offered by PICA, and for which I had great expectations. Everyone began with a beautifully photogenic Jicama & Apple Salad, with Mango Yuzu Vinaigrette. The perfectly paired 2013 Fumé Blanc sang alongside the tart mango, with an ideal synchronicity of flavours that immediately impressed. While the carnivores diverged next, we enjoyed White Bean & Celeryroot Mash with Heirloom Tomatoes and Chimichurri Sauce. The 2012 Capella provided sufficient textural power to stand alongside, although a slight surfeit of garlic in the bean puree risked overpowering the more subtle flavour characteristics of the wine. We soon moved on to Broccolini and Sweet Pepper Relish with Black Salt, paired well with the 2013 Rosé. The rich sweet peppers and smoky salt happily intertwined with the wine’s candied berries and long, intense finish.
The second half of the vegetarian dinner began with a brand new wine: the 2012 vintage of Celestiale is just being released, and provided plenty to talk about over Tomato Provencal with Asparagus, Potatoes, and Coulis. While the 2011 vintage was no slouch, the new release really impressed, with very generous ripe fruit and an easily approachable palate. Black cherries, milk chocolate, and blackberry aromas continued through to spicy flavours, bright acidity, and manageable tannins. The long finish kept us coming back for more, and excited to see this wine show up on store shelves soon! A final savoury course served up Rice Vermicelli with Zucchini & Japanese Eggplant Gastrique, plus more mango hints. The 2011 Signature worked well with the Vermicelli’s sesame vinaigrette, which helped manage the tannins and yet avoided washing out the wine’s natural acidity.
I would be remiss if I neglected details of the equally attractive courses our tablemates enjoyed, similarly artfully presented with delicate precision. Guests savoured Chicken & Spinach Ballotine with the Capella, served pleasantly in a Citrus, Almond, & Vanilla Cream. The Rosé made nice with Steelhead Trout Rillette, joined by capers, aioli, and toasty baguette. For the Celestiale, Roasted Coffee-Cocoa Lamb Sirloin was on the menu, served with a Sour Cherry Gastrique in what I’m sure was a very well-matched pairing. Then the bigger, bolder Signature saw Alberta Beef Tenderloin Sous Vide, with Celeriac Mousse & Green Beans; another inspired combination I’m sure.
We all joined together once again for a closing of Peach Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream, and a highly anticipated glass of 2013 Saturn – if only I could enjoy this treat every night! Along with our BCWAS tablemates we also sampled a couple of surprise bonuses from Spencer: an unlabelled bottle of Clos du Soleil Mead kept us guessing before BCWAS President Brian derived it in a moment of brilliance. Unfortunately the winery won’t be able to sell their mead (produced from the estate’s own honeybees) commercially due to the vagaries of liquor licensing, so it was a one-time curiosity I was grateful to experience. In addition to the mead, a small amount of Long Table Distillery’s new “Marc du Soleil” also made its way to our table, giving me a chance to finally taste this unique local spirit I’d been hearing so much about recently. Made from barrel-aged fermented pomace (leftover grape pulp) it provided a hefty kick that a few guests weren’t expecting! Hopefully Long Table’s collaboration with Clos du Soleil will prompt other interesting projects going forward, as I’m sure there is plenty of creative space available between these two similar industries.
Pleasantly full we nibbled on some unexpected petit fours, and congratulated our tablemate for winning the magnum of 2011 Signature. The dinner was an unabashed success: we relished the skills and passion of PICA’s talented culinary students. I left with even more enthusiasm for the focus shown by Spencer, Michael, Ann, and the rest of the Clos du Soleil team. In particular, many thanks to Valerie for putting together such a great event, may there be many more (after a little time off of course)!