Although our group of wine and food fans has enjoyed quite a few epic dinner parties, it’s fun to change things up now and then and drink in the daylight. Once or twice a year we bring back the legendary wine brunch, a risky venture given its proclivity to lead into a “festive” afternoon and potentially regretful evening. However, for young parents it can be a chance to enjoy the full meal without an early departure for baby’s bedtime. Since our March meal was to be hosted by just such a couple, we gave into temptation and relished the opportunity for some non-traditional food pairings and lighter lunch-time wine styles.
Following an enthusiastically welcomed round of reception Mimosas we prepared for the much-cherished Hors D’oeuvres course, oftentimes the best opportunity for kitchen creativity. Those expectations were well met when the pair of chefs revealed their mouth-watering Pancake Sliders. Two versions were available for all tastes: one with fresh Ricotta and blueberry reduction, and another sporting Turkey sausage. The obvious introductory wine for a sunny spring morning was sparkling, with Unsworth Vineyards’ Charme De L’ile providing cleansing bubbles from a blend of 50% Pinot Noir, 30% Pinot Gris, and 20% Sauvignette. This Cowichan Valley Prosecco-style (non-vintage) gave off generous peach and hazelnut aromas, a crisp and fine mousse, and clean flavours of apple and linen with a touch of tasty yeastiness.
To help wash down any remaining sliders the hors d’oeuvres team was happy to open Black Widow’s crisp and dry 2014 Pinot Gris. From the Lancaster family’s meticulously tended Naramata Bench estate vineyard, the Gris had obviously enjoyed a brief period of skin contact to yield the blushing peach colour. The profile was similarly stone-fruit inspired, while the surprisingly dry palate and light tannins amped up the curiosity factor. Given time to warm slightly from its highly chilled introductory state we found a hint of flint amongst the white peach bunches, plus some lychee and Rainier cherries providing further complexity. The 2014 vintage is now sold out at the winery, but fans can expect newly released 2015 any day now, with even fresher fruit flavours ready for summer enjoyment.
Sitting down for the plated Appetizer course brought us another pair of wines, both from the same celebrated Similkameen winery. Robin Ridge’s 2013 Flicker Rosé and 2012 Pinot Noir were next in line for discussion alongside Baked Tomatoes with Herbed Eggs. The savoury appetizer was well-paired with the dry Rosé blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, offering aromas of honeyed and Balsamic-infused cranberries. The tart palate showed a bit more appealing Balsamic with crab apples to nicely match the ripe tomato. The Pinot Noir’s delicate earthy spice synched rigtht up with the fresh herbs amongst the eggs, plus a very well balanced and smooth palate offered ideal varietal character with bright red fruit flavours.
Pinot seemed the name of game going forward, with another iteration of Noir plus more juicy tomatoes in our Entree course. Our hosts had excitedly prepared an authentic Shakshuka of baked eggs in red pepper tomato sauce, topped with creamy nuggets of Feta cheese plus fresh parsley. JoieFarm’s 2012 Reserve Pinot Noir came boldly out of the gate with sharp and intense dark fruit from a mix of vineyards surrounding Penticton. The twelve best barrels were assembled for the “En Famille” selection, and extended bottle aging after eight months in oak has yielded silky smooth textures. Another Similkameen diversion of Orofino’s 2013 Scout Vineyard Riesling matched the tomato with a lovely burst of cleansing citrus fruit. One the nose some grassy petrol aromas mixed with apple, pear, and orange blossom, while the palate laid out juicy melons and lemon meringue pie for our enjoyment.
Having lovingly tended trays of rising dough my wife and I were naturally eager to present the day’s dessert course, fresh from the hosts’ oven and nearly overwhelming in aroma. The Zesty Citrus Buns couldn’t have been more brunch-appropriate, brushed with sweet orange glaze and hiding a citrus-infused cream-cheese filling. I was even more excited for an opportunity to open my sole full-sized bottle of Clos Du Soleil’s “Saturn” dessert wine, made in the spirit of France’s famous Sauternes. While normally found on retail shelves in 375ml sizes, the 2013 Saturn graces the winery’s tasting room in larger bottles for those seeking to impress a crowd. The intent was easily obtained when the heavenly aromas of honey and mandarin orange wafted from the bottle. I doubt a better pairing for the Citrus Buns could have been found, with the wine’s passionfruit and dried pineapple flavours bouncing around the tropics before a very pleasant fresh citrus pith finish.
The carefree afternoon included visits to some of the nearby Commercial Drive breweries, including group favourite Storm Brewing. The morning’s wines and well-crafted food dominated our flavourful memories however. It would seem another unintentional theme had emerged upon reflection, as three of the four courses featured the viticultural bounty of our local Similkameen Valley. The pleasing variety of wines that included Vancouver Island and the Naramata Bench was admirable as well, providing inspiration for the inevitable brunches to come. I can only hope for an aged example of Saturn to share one lucky day in the future.