After a several-month intermission and a busy summer season of travel our wine club finally reconvened this month in what is hoped to be a more permanent fashion. Our hosts were pleased to finally accommodate us in their snug new home, with some inspired furniture reconfiguration to provide seating for seven. The upcoming holiday season and falling temperatures had inspired some cozy winter comfort foods with a pleasant burst of bright white wines to keep the mood upbeat as the longest day of the year approaches.
Having been assigned hors d’oeuvres duty my wife and I needed to bring something ready to go immediately, to assuage any hunger pangs and provide a solid base for the wines to come. Always striving for something new we elected on soft pretzels, having never before made them, and excited to do so when I came across a delicious recipe in BC Liquor Stores’ Taste Magazine. It was the Roasted Jalapeno & Beet Dip that caught my eye, and I was soon scouring my CellarTracker database for the appropriate wine pairings.
With our Smoked Salt Pretzel Sticks and Beet Dip we shared a pair of big name wines; starting with Mission Hill’s 2009 Martin’s Lane Riesling, the inaugural vintage of this limited edition series in honour of Proprietor Anthony Von Mandl’s father Martin. A few years in bottle provided us with potent petrol aromas that gave way to generous pineapple and citrus. The tropical flavours continued on the palate, where relatively low acidity and a viscous texture emphasized the wine’s Germanic roots, courtesy of consulting winemaker Fritz Hasselbach. With the spicy Jalapeno Dip plus salty blue cheese crumbled over top the off-dry Riesling made for an excellent introduction to the evening.
Another cellar selection came out to kick start the meal in the form of Osoyoos Larose 2007 Le Grand Vin, a Christmas gift from four years ago ready for its day in the sun. With the understanding some decanting would likely be necessary we deconstructed the savoury first impression. The nose provided hints of olives and dates, with some guests discerning almonds and Brandy cherries as well. The palate was certainly shedding some of the legendary Grand Vin tannins, but noticeable dusty indications remained as we tasted restrained red currants. Revisiting the bottle later in the meal showed how much it had opened up and softened, releasing more elegant textures and fruit flavour. Ultimately a touch dry to fully synchronize with the Pretzels & Dip, but the earthiness from the beets colluded nicely regardless.
Seated at the table we soon tucked in to the appetizer course. The Caramelized Onion Tart was charmingly presented with a garnish of fresh microgreens atop the rich Emmental-infused base. Our most curious wine of the evening was on hand as we were presented with a 2014 Pinot Noir from the previously unknown Black Star Vineyards. The wine showed off classic aromas of raspberry, cherry, and earthy mushrooms wafting from the glass, with similarly predictable pale ruby colouring. The smooth texture was a surprise given the recent vintage, with a pleasing flavour profile reminiscent of raspberry lemonade with hints of cloves.
Descriptors aside, we spent more time discussing the wine’s provenance than anything! None at the table had ever heard of the winery/vineyard, and the label indicated only a Lake Country origin from north of Kelowna – no contact information, virtual or otherwise, was provided. Extensive web searching that evening and later turned up no clues either, until assistance from the BC Wine Institute finally revealed the work of Ex Nihilo. The charismatic winery – visited in person last fall – recently created the Black Star label as an exclusive for western Canada Liquor Depot stores. Many restaurants and resorts are sourcing their own custom-branded wines, and it now seems the retail industry is jumping aboard as well; wine shopping could soon become an even more complicated affair!
Dining at the home of creative vegetarians ensured we would receive a delicious main course to satisfy any palate. A pair of beautiful white wines were partnered with homemade Seitan Cutlets over mashed potatoes and crisp green beans, topped with savoury Olive & Caper Picada. From Blasted Church, the newest 2014 Mixed Blessings provided aromatic intensity from 90% Viognier, 7% Ehrenfelser, and 3% Pinot Gris. There were suggestions of fresh laundry from the clean, citrus and orchard fruit nose, while the creamy palate provided additional fruit flavours accented by vanilla and even some intriguing hints of licorice.
Should the very enjoyable Viognier have not sufficed, a second bottle of intense 2014 Riesling was on hand from Kelowna’s quintessential Tantalus. Working with the tangy picada the Riesling provided substantial refreshment, wafting mouth-watering key lime pie aromas. The apple and lime palate was luscious thanks to 12 g/L of residual sugar, deftly balanced by a bracing 10 g/L of acidity. (The sought-after Old Vines version sweeps you off your feet with only half the sugar.) A mention of “limeade concentrate” was put forth as we savoured the tart finish and discussed the obvious differences from the earlier, aged Mission Hill example.
Dessert came courtesy of a late-arriving member, coming straight from an earlier engagement with an easily acceptable penance of Chocolate Bundt Cake from the acclaimed Uprising Bakery. Homemade Strawberry-Honey compote provided a touch of colour and juicy fruit, and La Frenz’s sumptuous Liqueur Muscat pulled it all together. Sipping the Muscat – from a multi-year, neutral barrel solera – encouraged a bevy of beautiful captions such as tropical toffee and orange Amaretto. This wasn’t the first bottle we have enjoyed together, and will most certainly not be the last either, as it effortlessly concludes many a wonderful evening.