Nearly four years have passed since the departure of a (founding) couple in our wine club, but the time has come to send off another pair in style. Those original members have prospered in many ways in their new home, and our newest fledglings are sure to do the same in the heat of Arizona. Fortuitously some other friends had recently returned to Vancouver and were eager to fill the soon-to-be-empty slot, inspiring a grand transition dinner for ten. The distractions of food and wine served well to restrain most tears, alongside reassurance that many happy visits would follow.
My wife and I provided a mouth-watering dessert of sticky buns at last month’s brunch, so it was up to us to initiate the latest feast with provision of hors d’oeuvres. Still excited about the local wines I enjoyed at the recent Vancouver International Wine Festival I sourced some of Summerhill’s superb new Blanc de Franc from Swirl VQA Store. For easy snacking during the social hour we elected on a creative concoction we named “Savoury Yogurt Parfaits”, essentially individual five-layer dips. Homemade layers of black bean dip, guacamole, and fresh tomato salsa were topped with Greek yogurt and shredded cheddar, to be ravished by Tostitos Rolls – not every meal need by haute cuisine!
Summerhill is renowned for their range of sparkling wines and the newest iteration of pure Cabernet Franc further grows the expansive portfolio to nine different versions! Introduced at February’s Wine Festival after three years en tirage, the Cipes 2011 Blanc de Franc seemed a great match for the “Parfaits”. The same bright red berry nose I adored at the Festival was still in place, with a smooth petite mousse and luscious raspberries & cream palate. The light and airy body possessed superb balance to refresh our palates between savoury, spicy bites, and two bottles were gone in no time with many compliments.
Had we followed the regular venue schedule our hosts for the evening would have been the departing couple, but with their exit preparations well underway a change was in order. Our alternate hosts for the evening welcomed us all to their versatile table for ten, and took on the appetizer course instead of the traditional entree. Their contribution to the meal was an appealingly simple presentation of Braised Artichokes with a pair of light white wines. Accompanied by Hollandaise Sauce and Irish Soda Bread the dish kept focus on the edible thistle’s rich natural flavours.
To sip as we slurped up creamy Hollandaise we chose from Black Market Wine Company’s 2014 “Secret Society White” and another Summerhill treat in the form of new 2015 Grüner Veltliner. Black Market has blended Gewurztraminer, Ehrenfelser, and Chardonnay in a surprisingly dry (3.5 g/L sugar) presentation of intense citrus fruit and fresh greenery. While the White made for an easy sipper, it was the new Grüner Veltliner, with one third higher acidity, that paired most successfully. The Grüner’s higher sugar was well balanced by 8.1 g/L of acidity, making an ideal foil for the Hollandaise. The palate provided refreshment with more citrus, passionfruit, and spicy minerality. As a new addition to Summerhill’s already bountiful portfolio, the small lot (120 cases) Grüner will be quite the rarity until production (hopefully) ramps up in future years.
The upcoming exit of such good friends called for opening an equally superb bottle of wine, and our entree chefs were graceful enough to accept my contribution to the cause. The expertly prepared Spinach & Artichoke Manicotti over which they had laboured was thus paired with my single precious magnum of 2009 Painted Rock Red Icon. I couldn’t be happier for such an opportunity to share this beautiful blend of 30% Merlot, 29% Cabernet Franc, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot, and 1% Syrah. The superbly-aged Lieutenant Governor’s Award-winner was allowed to decant, introducing us to fragrant aromas of cherry, blackberry, licorice, and eucalyptus. Black fruits like currant, plum, and cherry dominated the smooth and very well integrated palate, with a hint of rose petal adding a smile on the finish. The signed magnum made a great souvenir for our decamping companions; fortunately I still have a couple more (regular) bottles for further enjoyment!
After some second helpings of Manicotti we were definitely slowing down, but still found room for Chunky Cheesecake Brownies and real vanilla ice cream. Two wine pairings included the risky venture of dry Road 13 2014 Viognier as well as Hester Creek’s 2013 Late Harvest Pinot Blanc. Somewhat surprisingly the Viognier fared well despite the sweet dessert, with apricot and vanilla aromas matching the ice cream and sufficient fresh acidity to yield a pleasant palate cleanse. The Pinot Blanc offered a tropical honeyed pineapple palate, obviously fuller in body than the table wine given the much higher residual sugar (approximately 75 g/L). A couple years in bottle had developed some deeper, caramelized fruits versus the lighter stone fruit that would have likely have been most present in the past.
Normally dessert would mark the end of our monthly wine and food indulgence, but with an extra-large group present we had assigned one final course of “après-dessert”. The newly joining members were given the challenge of devising something memorable to close the night, and rose to it mightily with an elegant Koko Monk “Blue Moon” chocolate. Joining this perfectly-sized morsel was a rich cocktail – rarely seen in our club but within the informal restrictions given the incorporation of BC wine. The “Portland Manhattan” blended a prodigious quantity of Therapy Vineyards’ Freudified Port-style with an equally generous amount of Smoked Maple Bourbon. Any subtleties of Therapy’s non-vintage blend of two thirds Syrah and one third Merlot were admittedly supressed by the overwhelming maple flavour, but it sure made for an easy-drinking cocktail!
A plentiful meal and nearly too many wines (and additional spirits) to count yielded a challenging Monday morning for many of us, but with such an epic evening we had memories for years. I consider every bottle of wine I buy to be an advance purchase of a memory down the road, so it was a joy to make one more with such fine friends. Within days we’ll wave “see you soon” to a new pair of emergent oenophiles, with promises to share another bottle shortly, over tales of adventure and accomplishment. Happy trails Croftys!
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