La Dolce Vita: A different twist on wine tasting events

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Anyone who attends wine tasting events knows there are any number of formats. They can be huge and offer a bewildering number of wines to sample. Or they can be more intimate, like the annual Creston Valley Rotary Club WineArt fundraiser, which is content to hold the number of participating wineries down to 10 or 12. Even at that size, guests are able to sample as many as 50 wines, which should be more than enough for most of us.

Recently, I accepted an invitation to a tasting in Cranbrook that I thoroughly enjoyed, in large part because there was an emphasis on food and wine pairing. As I often point out in this column, I think that food and wine are meant to go together.

The Cranbrook event, hosted by the Junior Chamber International (JCI) was held in a golf club dining area and featured only three wineries, all from the Creston Valley. Also in attendance were a couple of brewery reps. While the winery representatives were welcome to set up and offer samples, they were not under obligation to do so. The format involved volunteers serving samples of a different wine and beer each half hour. During that period a pair of appetizers were also set out and each was designed to pair with the wine or beer.

My first observation about the format was that it really encouraged socializing and networking. The crowd, mostly young business people and young professionals (though former MLA Ann Edwards was there and we two old-timers had a lovely chat) mingled freely. There were no long lineups and it was easy to get a beer or wine sample, pick up an appetizer on a napkin and move around the room to find a conversation to join. At the booths set up by the winemakers, guests had ample opportunity to chat with the reps. In this case, two of the winery’s owners were in attendance — Bob Johnson from Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery and Michael Wigen from Wynnwood Cellars. Sales rep Brenda Silkie handled Skimmerhorn Winery and Vineyard wines.

As a wine and food guy, I will say that the organizers did a nice job of offering suitable pairings. Including beer in the mix was a great idea because beer offerings are incredibly different in scope and they invariably go well with the right food choice. Following are the wine pairings on offer. I’ll describe the beer and food pairings in a future column.

Baillie-Grohman Gewurztraminer: This wine is full of floral notes highlighted with a delicate perfume of exotic spices. The rich texture leaves a nicely balanced display of rose petal and passion fruit on your palate. It pairs well with the traditional trade spice profile of curry chicken topped naan bread.

Wynnwood Cellars Chardonnay: With its notes of apricots and apples and the creaminess of butterscotch, this Chardonnay complements well with these earthly pumpkin pancakes topped with a citrus and garlic infused prawn.

Skimmerhorn Ortega: This wine stands out with its ripe peach aroma and full peach flavour with hints of cantaloupe. It has a nice, clean finish and pairs well with this with Shrimp and crab filled phyllo crisp, garnished with a cilantro lemon aioli.

Skimmerhorn Pinot Rose: This wine has a lovely raspberry nose with hints of strawberry and pairs with delicate ginger and cilantro chicken cakes served with fresh mango which complements the full fruity flavour of this wine.

Wynnwood Cellars Pinot Noir: This delicately layered wine features tones of plum and cherry with hints of cedar. The earthliness of juniper leaves a bright finish and supports the smokiness of the salmon with the fresh beetroot-orange salad.

Baillie-Grohman Pinot Noir Reserve: This aromatic wine is accented with rich tones of wild red and black fruits with hints of cedar which leaves a long finish with notes of lavender and plum and pairs nicely with the rich flavour of roasted duck with a red currant glaze.

Skimmerhorn Marechal Foch: The Marechal Foch, deep in colour, has a complex earthy nose with undertones of ripe plums and black currants with a hint of cocoa, which delivers a full, pleasant finish. Both pair well with the semisweet bitterness of Sweet Gestures chocolates.

Lorne Eckersley is the publisher of the Creston Valley Advance.