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Category: wine tasting

Long Table Dinner at Singletree Winery

“Handmade and Homegrown” with Tourism Abbotsford

Today I was invited down to Abbotsford to learn more about their new marketing campaign: “Handmade and Homegrown”. We gathered at “Singletree Winery” for a harvest themed event, which spoke to “Abbotsford’s booming agricultural scene, unique food culture, and fall offerings.

The heavy downpour put a damper on the evening’s plans, but with an erected tent and enough rain cover, we made the best out of the wet situation.

Our arrival began the reception, where we were treated to a welcome glass of “Singletree’s” sparkling wine. A light effervescent sipper that paired well with the large help yourself charcuterie board in the corner. This was a rustic platter of assorted meat and cheeses supplied by “Lepp Farm Market” and “Mt. Lehman cheese”. You grazed on the above, pairing it with crisp crackers, rye and sourdough loaf, seeded bread, and crusty baguette. Then dipped and spread your way through beetroot and chickpea hummus; roasted pumpkin, chilli and tahini; and eggplant and roasted garlic baba ganoush. There were also pickled bites and fresh fruit to nibble on. Pitted olives, pickled artichoke, strawberries donated by “Maan Farms”; and candied walnuts sweetened with honey from “Campbell’s gold honey farm and meadery”.

We grazed and chatted while awaiting the main event: the grape stomp. This will be my first ever grape stomp, and another one crossed off the foodie bucket list. The only thing I was missing was being able to pick the grape from the vine, and then drinking the squished product. For hygienic reasons, this is no longer the way juice is extracted from grapes, so it was a treat to be able to kick it old school, literally.

In groups of three we lined up behind the giant buckets filled with grapes still on stem. Then all participants stomped their hearts out, competing to see which team would produce the most juice. Speaking from my own experience it was fun, but tiring. Grapes between your toes, juice splashing against your ankles, and a warm foot bath waiting for you when your turn is done. Our team did not win, but everyone, who got to try, won in experience.

For how the stomping went, and the rest of this one of a kind night, check out my latest vlog, now up on my YouTube channel: MaggiMei.

Then it was time for our long table feast. Two tables set under the glow of strung up lights. Each laid with grape vines and silver plated chalices filled with actual grapes. They set the tone and spoke to the farm land we were dining on.

Our dinner was prepared by “White Table Catering Co.”. It featured plenty of local produce and products from neighbouring farms and businesses in Abbotsford; much like the charcuterie board above was. Their menu was created to reflect the transition of the season from summer to fall.

We started with the “zucchini veloute”, a luxurious soup. Soup so thick and creamy that it ate like dessert. It was given more depth with the roasted tomato tart finish. It was a two bite flaky pastry, topped with a micro herb salad for some freshness.

The next dishes were served family style, featuring locally grown vegetables. Platters that were passed from person to person as we took our fill and went back for more. The two salads were heartier, and exactly like how I want all my salads to be. The “Turmeric cauliflower salad” was crispy florets sweetened by bits of dates and pomegranate, given spice with coriander, and tang with yoghurt. I could eat this and the green salad below, every day.

The “Ladolemono salad” was green bean, asparagus, almond, and radish. More crispy vegetables, seasoned perfectly in butter, to allow them to shine through with their freshness. And the almonds slivers and the radish slices offered a different kind of textural crisp.

The “Roasted eggplant” was seasoned in Mediterranean spices, served with a thick Catalan tomato sauce, raw red pepper, and goat feta from “Mt. Lehman cheese”. You must like eggplant to enjoy this one; but if you don’t, the flavourful sauce and salty cheese does help to mask both the soggier texture and distinct taste of the purple vegetable. Good, but I would have preferred this as side to the chicken below, instead of a main on its own.

I much more preferred the “Roasted Brussels sprouts” with lemon yoghurt, dehydrated strawberries, more “Mt. Lehman” goat cheese, and crushed up hazelnuts. Another well balanced vegetable dish that gave you a great collection of tastes and texture to sort through. If I had access to such dishes more regularly, I would be a lot more healthier.

And lastly “roasted chicken” with a squash and pumpkin purée, and a corn and heirloom tomato succotash salad. This was my favourite of the savoury dishes. Tender and juicy quality chicken breast from “Rossdown Farms”, paired with every taste and textured side I would want with my lean chicken. Starchy purée, sweet corn, and juicy tomato.

And for dessert, it was one of the most beautiful panna cottas I have ever had. Roasted plum compote, pistachio, edible flowers, and honey from “Campbell’s gold honey farm and meadery”. A perfectly light dessert to end on. Just as fresh and beautifully done as all the courses before it. Tart plum and a silken pudding flavoured mildly like coconut. Conversing with my table mates, everyone else enjoyed this and their meal just as much.

And with dessert we enjoyed the 2015 Late Harvest Kerner from the Okanagan Valley. This smaller bottle of sweet dessert wine, left a great impression on everyone. It was so tasty, that I would mind just drinking this for dessert.

And with the first 6 of our 7 course meal we enjoyed either/or, or both a red and white from “Singletree’s” collection. Their 2017 pinot gris made from grapes grown in the Fraser Valley, and their 2015 Harness with grapes gathered from their vineyards in the Okanagan. Both wines perfectly reflecting the theme of “homemade and homegrown”. “Singletree” is terroir driven, they focus on the grapes that naturally grow well in this climate, thus giving you a true taste of Abbotsford.

You may have missed this culinary experience, but you can still enjoy the hospitality of the “Singletree Winery” through their events and use of their property. “Wind-down Friday” hosts local musicians as they perform live. And on any dry day, you can grab a seat in their licensed picnic area. Pull open a book, or see if you can spot some of the wild life that visit. The wild animals can be caught nibbling from the wild fruits that still grow in the area; seeing as the property use to be the largest fruit orchard in the city, with a focus on blueberries. Black bears, deers, and birds of prey.

SINGLETREE WINERY
5782 Mount Lehman Rd, Abbotsford, BC V4X 1V4
(604) 381-1788
singletreewinery.com

#handmadehomegrown
#cultivatedcity
#exploreabbotsford

Vintage Ink, wine tasting

In this post I was at “Celebrities night club”, looking to “Get Inked Underground with Vintage Ink!” “Vintage Ink winery” is local to Canada, operating both in the Okanagan and Niagara. And today we were here to try their line of wines, and learn more about them, in this unique setting.

The “Celebrities” basement bar served up their “Vintage Ink Wine” collection. A wild white, a pinot gris, a rosé; and reds in “rebel red”, Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz, and a whiskey barrel aged red.

And if you wanted something different, there were also wine cocktails by Kristi-Leigh Akister. The first was “Rebel with a cause” made with bourbon, lemon juice, ginger cinnamon syrup, Peychaud bitters, sparkling water, and “Vintage Ink Rosé”. And the second was the “midnight handshake” mixing together Odd Society’s Mia Amata Amaro, rye whiskey, caramelized orange and vanilla syrup, angostura bitters, and the “Vintage Ink whiskey barrel aged red”.

And to balance out all this drinking there was a pretzel board with cheese dipping sauce and a help yourself popcorn bar.

And while you grazed and enjoyed your glass, a live DJ dropped beats, the dance floor opened up; and artist, Ciara Havishya, painted a mural inspired by the wine of the night, live.

But my favourite part of the event was the mystery tattoo station. You write down a word describing yourself, and “Ink Tattoo” gives you a temporary tattoo. They are the artists behind “Vintage Ink’s” new wine bottle labels, (which makes sense, given their strong resemblance to classic tattoos). This idea was not only creative, but the perfect way to commemorate the night. I wrote “braggadocios” and earned myself a snake spray on tattoo. The only other options I saw was a rose and a peacock.

And after you had drank, danced, and ate yourself well; they sent you home with a couple of bottles of “Vintage Ink”, to sip and savour in the comfort of your own home”.

CELEBRITIES NIGHTCLUB
1022 Davie St, Vancouver, BC V6E 1M3
(604) 681-6180
celebritiesnightclub.com

Lake Country Wineries

My girl friend and I were in Vernon, enjoying the hospitality of “Sparkling Hill Resort”. And after a two day and two night stay, we were ready to head home to Vancouver. However our morning check out and evening flight meant we had some hours to kill in between.

We decided to use this time hitting up as many wineries in Lake Country as possible. First, the largest: “Gray Monk”, where we tasted and lunched. For the comprehensive review, visit the link below.

Gray Monk Winery

Now with only 3 hours left, we did a lightening round of tastings; attempting to stop at as many smaller wineries as possible, on our way to the airport.

We solicited the help of a cab driver, willing to chauffeur us to the wineries he knew, and keeping the meter running while we tasted at each one. The cost did rack up, but no more than what you would pay for one pass with any professional wine tour bus. Plus we didn’t have to share the space with anyone else, and were able to go at our own pace, and leave when we wanted to.

First was “Arrowleaf Winery”, where we were told their cream puffs were a must try. But unfortunately due to the influx of people trying to keep entertained on this rainy day, they soon sold out. In fact, their in winery cafe sold through of their entire showcase of baked goods. The owner has two daughters, both of which are pastry chefs, who bakes these desserts fresh daily.

As for the wine tasting, they aren’t a large winery, so you get a flight of 4 specific wines for $5, a fee waved if it leads to the purchase of a bottle. But sadly, we flew here with only carry on luggage, and were flying back with no way to bring a bottle of that much liquor with us.

The tasting began with their “2018 Pinot Gris”. A white with notes of ripe apple, pear, peach, and delicate floral aromas. It’s fermentation is done mostly in stainless steel tanks with added yeast. Although 10% of the wine is allowed to ferment in neutral barrels, with no yeast added. For their efforts, it won gold at the 2019 “National Wine awards of Canada”.

The “Field Collection 2018” is a blend of Germanic and Alsatian grapes that thrive in the cooler parts of the Okanagan. Floral freshness and lemony acidity is what you get here.

“Archive Pinot Noir 2016” is a full bodied red with dark cherry, raspberry, hints of spice, and rose petals. It is aged in French oak barrels for 12 months, resulting in an distinct oakiness. It is best paired with richer dishes.

The “Field Collection 2016” is a medium to full bodied red with dark cherry, plum, vanilla, and hints of black pepper and sage. It too is aged in barrels, but here, both American and French barrels; thus giving it a different oak finish.

With no food for purchasing, we only stayed a little while longer. We enjoyed a drink on their patio, overlooking their sloped vineyard. My girlfriend a glass of their Pinot Gris, and me a cup of tea to stay warm with.

Next, we stopped at “Ex Nihilo Winery”. They serve food under their covered area, but our limited time meant we couldn’t try any of it. It is a fairly large winery with various areas inside to sit and enjoy a glass of their wine, and the company of your loved ones.

“Ex Nihilo” means “out of nothing” in Latin. It is named after a famous sculpture. Here, tastings are $7 for five wines of your choice. The following is what we tried between us two.

The “2018 sX Imagine” is a refreshing processco fermented in stainless steel vats. It is fragranced with plenty of fruit flavours like lychee, melon, clementine, and lime.

The “2018 CHAOS Vampata” is their favourite rose. Its name means “blush” in Italian, a name given for its colour, earned through the leaving on of the skins for 16 hours. 100% pinot noir grape with flavours of ruby grapefruit, strawberry, citrus peel, and rose petals.

The “2017 Pants Down Riesling” is fun for its name that serves as an inside joke. In 2017 there was an early and sudden snow fall. Their grapes had not been picked yet, so they were left scrambling to collect the crop. The result, a white with more concentrated flavours of orange peel and floral, lemons and limes, and honeydew to finish.

The “2018 Pinot Gris” boasts the perfect balance of acidity and sweetness. D’anjou pear, green apple, and orange; wrapped around notes of ginger, and white nectarine.

The “2017 Privata Chardonnay” is exclusively from “Ex Nihilo’s” estate vineyard. It is described as having intense tropical flavours of pineapple and mango, complimented by a creaminess of butterscotch and honey.

The “2016 Merlot” contains grapes from “Black Sage Bench Vineyard” in Oliver. Aged in French and American oak barrels this wine is dark with fruit, reminding you of a Black Forest cake.

The “2016 Night” is their priciest bottle of their tasting menu, listed at $50. This is a Bordeaux style wine and their best selling red. It is balanced with aromas of blackberry and red plum; with notes of white pepper, all spice and chocolate on the tongue.

Winery number three was “Intrigue”, a smaller winery stocked well with plenty of white wine, due to their location well up North.

Here, tastings are $3 for 5. The best deal yet! And like with all the other wineries, it is waived if you purchase a bottle for them. Once again, we weren’t able to bring a bottle of wine back with us to Vancouver via plane. So we spent the money we saved from their inexpensive tasting on their giftshop. They boasted a great collection of wine themed odds and ends, including wine flavoured popcorn.

“Intrigue’s” tasting menu lists 7 whites, 3 reds, 1 rose, and 2 sparkling wines. But a chalk board at the back of their tasting bar mentions the only 5 that were actually available for trying today. No quirky names here, just the grapes that went into them.

The “Chardonnay” was lightly oaked with a nice minerality, and buttery fruit. Pineapple, peach, almond, and apricots. Crisp citrus and a touch of nutty caramel. Oddly enough, it smelled like durian to me, but in a good way.

The “Reisling” is their flagship varietal. It starts with aromas of nectarine and dried apricot; and finishes with high acidity in green apple and pineapple. So good that it was awarded double gold at the “Cascadia Wine Competition”.

The “Pinot Gris” comes with a little bit of colour, from 16 hours of skin contact. From it you get passion fruit, strawberry and lychee; for a clean finish. Its sweetness is best paired with seafood.

The “2018 Gewurztraminer” is fresh on the tasting block, having been opened and released a mere 1 hour before our arrival. It has a lower acidity, and is softer on palate with tropical notes. Lychee, nectarine, elderflower, orange, blossom, and soft white pepper. It is recommended as an accompaniment to spicy food like curry and/or chilli prawns. For me it was a little too sweet, giving me a soreness in the back of my throat.

The “Social Red” was the only red available today, and the lightest that they can make. Described as a sipping red; rich with vanilla, blackberry, and black cherry. Perfect with pizza or their charcuterie made with locally grown blackberry and sourdough. Shame, we were in a rush and couldn’t enjoy some of the latter.

 

Because it was on to the last winery. With 10 minutes before they closed, the staff out front were still encouraging us in.

Right across the street was “O’Rourke’s”. Where as “Intrigue” looked like a cozy chapel for intimate weddings, “O’Rourke’s” looked like an sterile government-run clinic. At the entrance your choice is left to the stainless steel vats and their fermentation operation, or right to their tasting room. With the latter a handsome wall greets you. Bottles against a stone wall, and more housed on shelves under it.

Across the way is their bar that mimicked a barrel with its oak and steel build, not to mention its round shape. $5 gave us a tasting of 4 out of their 10 wines made available. The following was what we choose based on how unique they read.

The “2017 Pinot Gris” is kept in French oak barrels for 3 months. It is easy to drink, beginning with citrus and pear, leading into apple and peach.

The “2018 Gruner Veltiner” was a new one for both of us. Only half of the wineries in the Okanagan produce it, making it pretty rare. If wine has volume, you can taste it here. Pineapple, thyme, and peach skin.

The “2018 Fielding Block” is a blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer. All the above juices intermingle during the fermentation process. It has notes of lime zest, Mandarin, green apple and pear. With a palate full of lemon, lime, peach, apricot, baking spice, and a hint of fresh ginger.

The “2018 Pinot Noir Rose” was fruit forward. Light and dry with lots of berry: strawberry, raspberry, and red liquorice. The palate is long and tasty with more strawberry, and raspberry; coupled with pomegranate and blood orange.

And with that last sip, our Lake County wine tasting, speed trial ended. Then it was a mad dash to the airport. Having drank around 2-3 glasses through tastings, we were ready for an easy 40 minute airplane ride home. Half the fun of the Okanagan is being able to visit all these wineries, learn where your wine comes from, and to taste as many as you want, to learn what you like. And as West Coast Canadians, we are so luckily to have it all here in our backyard, for an easy getaway.

Time Winery: tasting, tour, & bistro

Today we were at “Time Winery” in Penticton. They have just celebrated their one year anniversary, and as happy as that occasion was, it was marred by the passing of their founder and patriarch, Harry McWatters. We would learn more about him and the modern, “Time Winery” through a tour and comprehensive tasting.

Harry has seen many years in the wine industry, beginning with “52nd Vintage” winery, and following up with “Sumac Ridge” and “See Ya Later Ranch”. “Anyone who is growing grapes for wine must give a tip of the hat to Harry”, according to our tour guide, and hospitality manager, Kelley. The “god father of BC wine” passed away in his sleep at the age 74 this July. But will be remembered for pioneering the business, where previously the Okanagan only dealt in orchard fruits. Fast forward, Western Canada is on the map as a destination for wine.

He latest legacy was “Time Wines”. Wine is about time, and the experiences that are measured in time and a place; so what better a title than one that has you reflecting on the above. Fun fact, each clock used on the winery’s labels or merchandise has a special time and its own meaning to Harry. For example, the clocks on the employee’s aprons is the time they signed over the building.

Located in the middle of downtown Pentiction, “Time Winery” was converted from an old theatre. They have kept a piece of this history through the curvature of the old wooden roof, the slanted floor Cinemas, the historic seats, and projector room. More on that later.

We started our tour with 2018’s new release, the “Tribute Brut”. This vintage helped to mark and celebrate their one year. Here, we noted that they pour and serve their wine tasters in a full-sized wine glass, this is so that you are able to fit your nose within it. As for the bubbles, it had a richer mouthfeel, thanks to a secondary fermentation. Another fun fact, all of “Time’s” employees get to end their day with a glass of wine, of their choosing; and currently everyone is choosing this Brut.

We followed it up with the (at the time) not yet released 2018 Sauvignon blanc. Lovely and fresh with citrus and vibrant acidic.

Next was the “Time winery meritage white” with white peaches and a blend of two grapes. Their Meritage plays homage to the French wine of Bordeaux. They got idea from a Bordeaux so call it “meritage” as a merger of the words “merit” and “heritage”. A term Harry McWatters brought to the wine lexicon, standardizing the term. The white used a softer grape with a lower acidity, balancing out its richness.

The grapes needed for the “Time winery viognier” is not indigenous to BC. Here they are good eating grapes, but bad grapes for wine. With a viognier you want a rounder, softer acidity. And sadly will never find a low acidic BC wine. Our cooler climate has it so that the fruits grown here will never get so hot that the acid is removed. But growing in sugar, and softening in acid you get apricot and honey flavour with this white.

The “McWatters Collection Chardonnay” Is barrel fermented and aged for 9 months. With regular stirring, a creamy mouthfeel is created. Multiple yeast strains are also used to produce this complex, yet balanced wine.

During our tour we learned more about the grapes they bring to their winery. Located in the city, they don’t have their own vineyard, so they source all their grapes from various farms that surrounds them in Pentiction. Thanks to Harry they have plenty of grower partners that give “Time” the best of their fruit. The result, “the best expression of their fruit to these wines”. This year the map is as shown above, however, this may change as they cherry-pick which grapes and from where, in order to get the best fruit in the valley. Grapes that are site specific, with the soil samples to prove it.

The backroom tour gave us a look at the theatre’s former glory and its beautifully done wood ceilings that they kept and exposed. A theatre Harry remembered visiting as a child, with floors sticky with gum and soda, and admission was but 25 cents.

Each room was a separate theatre, refurbished with seismic upgrades. Theatre one is adjacent to the the crush pad, where all the grapes come in on trucks. This connecting space also doubles as their event space. In fact, every square foot of their property is licensed for a party. Imagine company gatherings and celebrations being held her with wine so readily available. The floors are even heated and they have installed a great sound system to boot.

Theatre two held the multiple barrels needed for the production of red, and the door that once housed the projection room. Here rests 1200 barrels that are topped up regularly. They sit and ferment, the heat from the reaction causes the product to evaporate, thus making it more concentrated. But you don’t want oxygen in contact with wine so you need to top off the barrel regularly.

Here, we learned how to read the coded serial number for each barrel. The toast of the barrel (the level of char that they see to varying degrees), where it was sourced or built, the year, the place, and the location.

And even got a chance to tap one of the barrels for a taste of “teenage” wine, a wine mid way through the fermentation process. Which we would later be able to compare to the finished product. The “teenage” 2017 Time Merlot has a dense quality to it, you can taste vibrant fruit and all its acid. As it ages this colour will fall out.

Moving along with our tour, Theatre three houses their fermentation tanks from Italy. Using temperature control to cool and stabilize their product, wine is moved from tank to tank so that it can be cleaned, while gravity helps to naturally clarify the wine. Clear wine is cleared off the top, so that by the time you get to the last tank you have less sediment.

And Theatre four will soon speak to the building’s heritage. It is a work in progress, but they hope to reupholster the original seats from the theatre and equip them with wine glass holders. So that guests can stop by on special nights, where they will be hosting original vintage cinema and foreign movies, in this historic building. Each one will be hosted by a sommelier that will pair their wines to the picture on the screen. Imagine a dropped ceiling, a dark room, and popcorn with a side of brut.

We then headed back to the main tasting room for some red wines, including the “Time winery Merlot” as an adult. Here it is richer and more toned down. The fruit backs off, and it drinks softer.

“Time has two meritage” wines. One is time Merlot based with 65%. It is the sweeter of the two. The “McWatters signature collection” is a bigger and fuller blend with 50 % cab sav. Its deep colour speaks to the richness of the wine. This would be best paired with a grilled ribeye or lamb.

But our host’s favourite red is the “2014 Syrah” made with grapes from the south end of the valley. He described it as having power, but with finesse. A smokiness that is reminiscent of mushrooms, with hints of black fruit and spice.

And here, I have to mention that the entire tour was made all the more enjoyable thanks to our host Kelley. Our cheeks were not only red from the wine, but from all the laughing. He brought us into the experience through storytelling and his natural relatability. If you ever get a chance to taste and tour with him, you must. After all, he believes, “If you are not having fun you should go home. Don’t waste a minute of it!”

And after all our laughing and drinking, we would take a pause to enjoy their bistro for lunch. Here, everything that comes out from their kitchen is sourced locally.

We grabbed a seat on their spacious patio, with its prime real estate for people watching. And enjoyed a full glass of the “2014 Syrah”, as we too found this our favourite of the reds we tried.

We started with the highly recommended “Time frites”, Triple cooked and tallow fried; seasoned with herbs, Parmesan, cracked pepper. And served with a black garlic mayonnaise. For a more traditional fry taste they have a “Time frites 2.0”, this version comes with a Cabernet Merlot catsup for dipping, instead. This was created in reaction to customers asking for a more more traditional dip. We treated ourselves to both dips, although the fries really already have a flavour all their own. They were cooked crispy, the way I like it, but my partner found them over cooked. The dips just elevated the starter and created more interest. The garlic mayo was decadent and creamy, and the ketchup tangy, but with less bite than regular ketchup.

I followed it with the feature “Quail scotch egg” with blueberry duck sausage, and a bed of peashoots served with hot honey. I like the idea of crispy breadcrumbs coating juicy meat, surrounding a runny egg, and have never had one this creative. So easy to pop into your mouth whole, these little quail eggs were prepared perfectly runny. The duck meat was light, it didn’t take away from the egg. It was complimented by the peppery greens, the earthy mushrooms, and a the sweater sauce. It was a lovely refined plate, making eggs approachable any time of the day.

My partner enjoyed the “Time burger”. Like the scotch egg, this was a pub classic elevated and made timely with their wine. 1/2lb house ground chuck and brisket, Pacific Rock, pickles, crispy onion, bacon jam, pecorino, and a green peppercorn mayo. It was a juicy burger, with a really satisfying patty, all the flavours just came together.

We definitely enjoyed our time with “Time”, leaving far more knowledgeable and happy than when we arrived. For wine, dinner, or a good time in Pentiction, I highly recommend making them a must stop!

TIME WINERY

Summerhill Pyramid Winery

We were at “Summerhill Winery”, one of Kelowna’s largest wineries, well known for their pyramid. And today we were lucky enough to have gotten a personal tour of the property with Ezra Cipes, the CEO of Summerhill himself. It was such a treat to be able to experience the winery and his father’s legacy through his eyes. The following are the authentic highlights I captured.

“Summerhill” is an organic winery, priding themselves on their sustainable methods, disrupting as little of the land as possible while operating on it. They have 80 acres, yielding grapes on 42 of them. The property includes a large gully that serves as a wildlife preserve, and wetlands that empties out in to a creek. All waste water from their wine processing gets funnelled under ground to the wetlands, giving it nutrients to flourish. They also make their own compost, utilizing biodynamic farming techniques; which allows them to grow enough in their green house to serve garden fresh fruits and vegetables at their restaurant. (More on the restaurant later.)

The vineyard has been in place since 1940. The Cipes family took over in 1987. Back then it only grew table grapes and hybrid grapes, more suited to the old wine industry with “jug wine”. When they took over, Stephen Cipes introduced Riesling grapes, to prove that European grapes would grow in Canada. And when he was successful, they began replanting and rebooting the winery, specializing in sparkling wine, that the land was so well suited for.

And we would get a taste of this sparkling as our tour started at their indoor tasting room, where we sampled their “Cipes brut”. This is Canada’s most awarded wine, year after year it has won gold medals internationally. They use the same methods to make their sparkling as they do in France to make champagne, but with non traditional European grapes. At “Summerhill” their grape blend is Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir. The result, a sparkling with a natural vibrancy, and an acidic freshness. Truthfully I am not a fan of sparkling wines for their fizziness, but the “Cipes Brut” is an exception. It was delicious and light, easy to drink without that soda feel.

With our glass in hand and its taste still on your lips, we explored the property, starting at the cellar. Normal tour groups get a look at these large vats behind a glass window, but we were able to walk amongst them. And here, our crash course on wine making began. (So excuse the abbreviated explanation).

Yeast eats sugar, and converts in to carbon dioxide with heat and alcohol. This juice will then become our wine. The crushed grape yeast that lives on the grape skins turns into wine or vinegar.

The equipment necessary for this process requires a lot of cleaning and sanitizing. It is very important that no bacteria exists to spoil the wine. And being an organic winery means they don’t use any harsh cleaners, instead they use steam to clean: ozone, which is an anti microbial. They are also constantly cleaning, as the wine process creates an environment for bacteria to naturally grow.

All reds are fermented in the large barrels. Whites spend their time in stainless steel, with a dimpled cooling jacket. This allows them to temperature control their environment.

And as for sparkling wine, making it is like doing things twice. You add more yeast and more sugars. It is then bottled and allowed to age in crates before it is clarified and they work to get all the solids out. The “Cipes Brut” we tried earlier is their youngest sparkling.

Once bottled all the sparkling wine gets slotted into a gyro-pallets. It rocks the bottles back and forth, shifting its axis steadily. It moves every three hours, until after 4 days it is turned fully upside down. This is so all the yeast and sediment settles in the cap.

Next comes the riddling, where all the bottles are submerged upside down, so that the neck of the bottle is in a solution that has a low freezing point. The result, the neck is frozen and the dead yeast is incased in a block of ice.

A very specific machine gets rid of the ice block, while simultaneously topping the bottle of wine up. The finished bottles go through a washer and quality control. The labels are checked, bottles are turned upside down to ensure there are no leaks; and the wine is inspected for clarity, to make sure all the sediment has been removed.

All completed cases then go to the pyramid to rest, like we would. They are aged for 15-18 months, and as long as 12 years. The first version of the pyramid was built in 1989, the current one is the second rendition, both were created for and used only as their wine cellar. They were built by Stephen Cipes, who studied and experimented with pyramids before embarking on building his own. He even went to Egypt to learn the architecture necessary. His inspiration came from a trip to Europe, when purchasing equipment and grapes for his own winery.

In Europe they age wine underground, traditionally in cellars lit with gas lamps. There, Cipes felt the energy of the space, and immediately recognized that it was an integral part of the wine making process. However, the ground composition of Europe versus Canada varied. And what was in place there, couldn’t be imitated here. So the next best thing was to mimic the limestone available underground in Europe, in his Canadian pyramid. A strong foundation with four pillars and capstone, all continuously fused with concrete and reinforced with fibre glass, using not a single nail. The Pyramid was built to represent the geometry of nature, with angles taken from nature, like the Fibonacci sequence; and set with an alignment to the stars. The sacred geometry of the room saw many using it to celebrate the moon and the stars. The community uses the pyramid as a gathering space to engage in group meditations during full moons and the equinox. These events are an open invitation, with admission being a vegetarian potluck item to share. Attendees eat, meditate, dance, and drum. Similar gatherings happen at their pit house as well. (More on that below.)

At the centre of the pyramid, surrounded by wine racks and palettes of packaged cases of wine, we were invited to disconnect and enjoy the space. To close our eyes, breath deep and take in the silence and harmony. I found the stillness of the space easy to relax in, and melt into.

During this part of the tour we didn’t close the push open doors behind us, and as a result visitors found themselves venturing in to the dark of the pyramid, un-accompanied. And instead of telling them that the space was closed to tourists, Ezra welcomed the family with two young children in, catching them up on what we were discussing prior to their entry. It was here that I was impressed by his customer service and learned how he fully represents and lives according to the principles of the winery. He embodies that welcoming energy. Similarly I witness him picking up trash off the property and pocketing it each time. He stated if he didn’t, who would. He had been speaking to the care he had for the land and here he showed it.

Next our tour took us to the above mentioned pit house. The “Makwala Memorial Kekuli” is a scared space built in respect and reverence for the ancestors of the land. For those who wish to enter they ask that there be no “idle talk”, alcohol or parties, and no ceremonies without permission. It is here the moon celebration potluck is held. Here, Ezra spoke to nature and the need to have a different mentality and relationship with the earth. A way to fill all ecosystems so that there is balance. For example when you use pesticides you dominate and control the environment, and dictate what you want to survive. At “Summerhill” everything coexists and the tent represents them being a part of nature.

I have visited “Summerhill” once before and when I look back at my time there, not only do I associate them with the pyramid, but also all of their unique photo ops and play things for children. See saws, putting practice, a overturn giant bottle of Sparkling pouring into a fountain. A stain glass pyramid, a hand carved door, and the ability to stand on top of the world. This makes them the most family friendly of all the wineries, giving plenty to keep both parents and kids occupied during their visit. This creative direction comes from a place of doing good. They want to welcome everyone, so that no one feels intimated, as you would be at other more stuffy wineries. Given all the kids running around today and all the laughter you hear, I can say that they are doing a great job in this regard.

Next we went back indoors to their tasting hall, to try another one of their sparkling wines. The 2012 “Cipes Blanc de Blanc” is the white of the whites. Its name refers to to traditional grapes of the champagne region that they use in this. Layering on 6 years before uncorking for a more classic bubble. A bone dry sparkling that is highly acidic with a sugar layer added. Ezra described this as having a “Creamier, finer bubble from that of traditional methods. A buttoned up version compared to the everyday Processco.”

Our tour eventually ended at their restaurant, where we fully enjoyed the fruit and labour of the land we were on. We naturally gravitated to their patio, overlooking their vineyard and event space set up with arch and rows of chairs, wedding ready. This was the ideal space to enjoy the freshness of the land and their mostly vegetarian menu. The following were what Ezra recommended, and the perfect wine to go with it.

The “Organic caperese salad” with garden tomatoes, herbed oil, garden basil, local bocconcini, and balsamic pearls. Normally their tomatoes are fresh from their own garden, although due to a smaller crop yield they have had to source their tomatoes locally, from neighbours. This was a beautiful salad, and as refreshing as it looks.

By comparison the “Organic vegan “calamari”” was a lot more denser, with deep fried tempura oysters mushroom and house made organic tzatziki. The crunch was good and the flavour amazing. A great one to share and nibble on as you drank.

Together our two plates were paired with their 2017 Summerhill Organic Vineyard, SV Riesling. It was sweet and bright with fruit, balancing everything out perfectly.

They also have a new secondary kitchen, operating out of a shipping container outside, adjacent to their outdoor tasting room. We missed getting a chance to taste their cuisine here, given it’s shorter operating hours. Here, they served up international fare, giving visitors a quicker meal option that they can pair with a glass of wine outside. It also cost less with snack items most child would like. Fish tacos, hummus and naan, sweet and sour pork, bratwurst and sauerkraut, butter chicken, crispy ribs, and chicken souvlaki to name a few. Everything ranged between $8-9 a plate.

In conclusion, I highly recommend taking the tour at “Summerhill”. You think you know a wine, but there is nothing like learning about the vision behind its winery. Throughout this experience, we grew a new found appreciation for “Summerhill”. And we certainly wouldn’t have felt that way if not for the informative tour, coupled with glasses of their trademark sparkling. What a great afternoon, in a great winery, enjoying an amazing product cultivated through looking at more than just the process and out come of the wine; but also considering the environmental responsibilities and the people behind the product. Creating the right conditions for something natural to happen, not making it happen. The tour and Ezra have made me a brand fan. A humble CEO with approachable staff. I will definitely be recommending and drinking more of their sparkling!

SUMMERHILL
4870 Chute Lake Rd, Kelowna, BC V1W 4M3
(250) 764-8000
summerhill.bc.ca

Mission Hill Family Estate Winery

I was visiting Kelowna with a friend who was a wine enthusiast, yet has never visited Canada’s wine country. So for her first visit to Okanagan we made sure to hit a few of the largest wineries in the area, starting with “Mission Hill”. And the best way to take in this landmark winery is with one of their guided tours. Not only does it take you to places otherwise sectioned off, but you gain a new found appreciation for the winery in question.

We started our afternoon exploring the compound on our own, arriving early enough to avoid the bulk of the tourists, for people-free scenery photos. We would be forced to linger here and at the gift-shop as their “Terrace restaurant” doesn’t open until 11:30am on the nose.

Its location is unique with a raised view overlooking their grape fields. However, with a sun shade draped over it, you don’t get an unobstructed view. That and if you are a table of two, only one person gets the face the fields. The other stares out at the property, with kids rolling down their lawn, that doubles as a “stadium” for live musical performances.

At “Terrace”, we enjoyed a lunch with two full entrees. Both were delicious, and surprisingly filling, but we had to pace ourselves because we would have a wine and cheese tasting to follow.

The “Fresh made tyner durum wheat orecchiette” was perfectly firm pasta with wild mushrooms, garden herbs, and triple island Parmesan. It and each menu item was listed with a suggested wine paring. But we discarded the option of a Pinot Noir and opted for a glass of their “Mission Hill” Pinot Gris instead.

The “Dry aged brisket burger and triple cooked fries” was a familiar flavour, but elevated with a thick and juicy, medium rare patty. Terrace pickles, aged cheddar, and double smoked bacon; all on a sesame seed bun. It was deliciously messy with plenty of jus and a patty that crumbled apart.

We enjoyed each other’s company and the view before heading indoors for our tour. You check in at their reception desk where you are given a pin designating your participation in the tour. Your guide greets you with a glass of sparkling to start. Then as a group you walk the property pausing at points of interest.

We began at the entrance, sipping amongst the vines, as she gave us the history of their grapes and its European origins. We then walked to the bell tower where we were told the significance of the bells that rang every 30 minutes. Four in the total, each representing the main family members. Visitors aren’t allowed up into the tower as the sound of the bells can be deafening. Instead you can take in a fifth bell that hangs on display below the tower. The intention was for it to join the others, but due to a small imperfection with its circumference it is now a bell you can rap your knuckles on and take photos of.

Next it was a walk down to their wine cellar, a scene that made the whole tour worth it. Here, under cool temperatures sat 800 barrels, each held 310 bottles of wine. We learned how the barrels were topped off and where the practice first began. It dated back to when they made wine and the barrels were transported by horse. However when the barrels got to their destination, half of the wine was always missing. And back then, they didn’t have the science to figure out why, so instead, they contributed it to angel’s drinking the wine. Though the reality was, it was just evaporating.

We took a peek behind the cast iron gate and large padlock that secured their oldest bottles and collection of historic vessels that once served wine. Urns, pots, and decanters. Here, we were told a tale of how they won the “2013 Decanter World Wine Awards” for their “2011 Martin’s Lane Pinot Noir”. A surprise to so many that they had to register and compete twice, and really work for their win. And with both blind taste tests, they won. People just couldn’t believe that wine made from grapes that is not local to Canada could win. And with that “Mission Hill” completed what they set out to do: to show the world that their wines could stand up in the international market.

Our tour ended at one of their salons, past the above mentioned award. Out of the 5 they have, this was my favourite. A glass room surrounded by wine barrels, centred around an extravagant white glass chandler with a majestic black table under it. We each sat at one end, and began grazing as our tour guide spoke to the pairings of local made cheeses and “Mission Hill” wines. A white, red, and dessert wine paired with a sharp, a creamy, and a blue cheese.

 

Then we ended in the gift shop, with her showing where we could find our own bottle to take home.

Truth be told, you can read all the above and more for yourself online, but being able to hear and interact with the space in a different way is a much better way to explore a winery.

Mission Hill Winery
1730 Mission Hill Rd, Okanagan Valley BC, V4T2E4
250-768-6467
missionhillwinery.com

40 Knots, BC Seafood Festival 2019

Terroir Meet Merroir Dinner

In these series of post I was on Vancouver Island, visiting Comox Valley for the annual seafood festival, including taking in some of their ticketed events. This was one such.

For $150 you are invited down to 40 Knot’s winery for a long table dinner amongst their grape vines. An intimate occasion with other wine and food enthusiasts, seeking to “experience Old World elegance with the finest preparation of their “New World local products”. Winery owners Brenda and Layne are your hosts, and in their serene backyard, they take you on a tour of their winery through their wines, paired with canapés and courses. The latter of which was prepared by Chef Alain; who has expertly paired each course with one of 40 Knot’s award-winning wines.

As soon you step foot on the property you are greeted with open arms: one pouring 40 Knots rose into another holding the glass. Now that is the way to welcome you to a winery. The rose was crisp and fresh, without any flavours that lingered on the tongue. They paired well with the similarly clean flavours below.

As you explores the vineyards, walking betwixt the rows of blossoming grapes, the roving appetizers are brought to you. The “Dungeness crab salad gougeres” are like crab rolls stuffed into a spongy and slightly cream puff. What a fun was to present a familiar concept.

I really enjoyed the visual of the “Smoked salmon mousse, devilled quail eggs”. Not only were they adorable, but tasty too. Another one well thought out as a one bite snack.

The “Albacore tuna and compressed watermelon skewers” was a refreshing protein on stick combo. The sweetness of the juicy watermelon brought out the flavours of the slightly salted tuna and visa versa.

When it came time for our meal to begin we all took a seat around the long table, under the covered terrance. The cloth covering it flapped in the gentle breeze, allowing streaks of sun to shine in. In the distance, two bald eagles hovered in the air. These serene views, amongst nature’s greenery, to the tune of melodic music, put you at restful ease. And attentive wait staff ensured you were throughly pampered. Not to mention our glass was never empty, and we were treated to a few extra wine tastings off script. Including a mystery vintage and a $100 bottle.

We were also rest assured that if we had too much to drink, any driver could leave their car on the 40 Knots property and it would be locked in safe. And in addition, staff would help you find a safe way home. All this elevated service in their one of a kind setting, would foreshadow the fabulous, 8 course dinner to come.

Of note, if it gets too cold dining outdoors, they do have branded fleece blankets for use.

Before each course we were given a lesson on what we would be drinking with it, from Layne. He spoke with so much passion and conviction for what he does and what their wines offer. 40 Knots are better known for their clean and crisp ethical wines. This mission guides them in every step from their farming practices, to the management of their cellar, their crush pad operation, the running of their store, and the products they delivery to customers. All while promising to protect the environment in their undertaking. Like looking at alternative ways to fertilize their fields. Here, the use of kelp is both practical and economical, given that they are by the ocean. And the sprays they use to negate disease on their plants are also different. Not you run of the mill pesticides, 40 Knots uses ones made from natural ingredients like mustard seed oil and more kelp. They are developed by a local company looking to do things differently with sustainable alternatives.

The first course was my favourite dish of the night. “Natural pastures ricotta gnocchi” with Dungeness crab and side stripe shrimp, sorrel, snap peas, and confit tomato in a buerre Blanc. The flavours of the vegetables were so clean and so fresh that it felt like I was eating them right off of the vine, but fully coated in delicious butter. Crisp peas, juicy tomato, and sweet crab chunks, the side kicks to a and chewy herbaceous gnocchi.

This was paired with the 40 knots Pinot Gris, which came with the lesson that you get what you pay for when it comes to wine, and the price is reflective of its ingredients. This is a cool climate gris, a dry and zesty white that was gripping with honeysuckle.

And as we waited for the next course, we were surprised with an additional tasting. A little sip of a Champagne-style sparkling. So under ground that it didn’t even have a label. A mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that was incredibly effervescent. An extra dry brut that was prepared traditionally (Old World style), with hints of lime stone.

Next course was a “Marinated seafood salad” with Gallo mussels, Manila clams, local greens, fennel, and 40 Knots’ Chardonnay sabayon. Admittedly, I don’t like salad, but the the creamy dressing and fresh seafood of this had me eating my greens. This was real food. You know it is quality when you can taste everything and altogether they work as something new.

The salad course was paired with more 40 Knots Chardonnay. An oaky white with a deeper hue. It was buttery, soft and oily from the tannins: a milk lactic acid. It also has a hidden bright lemon flavour, allowing it to pair well with any seafood.

Our third course was a “Sablefish mi-fume”, with a mushroom fricasse, local beets, and poultry jus. Everything on this plate was from the island, harvested on Commox or caught off the straight. The white fish was lean, a gentle flavour that wasn’t masked by the equally mild sauce. The mushroom offered a hearty element, with the beets as a refresher.

It was paired with 40 Knot’s Pinot Noir 115, their new batch with labels that include a list of ingredients; something that is not commonly found on a bottle of wine. Their goal, to show the consumer, exactly what it is they are getting and that 40 Knots has nothing to hide. No added chemicals go into their wine, or sugar. This batch is not set in oak, but in Italian terra cotta instead. The resulting earthy notes went especially well with the mushrooms.

Next was our main, the “Braised local grass fed beef cheeks” prepared with garlic scrape pomme puree, and local carrots and radish; all in a lovely thyme jus. This was a beautiful and hearty plate featuring tender and juicy beef with pops of sweet radish. I found the turnip hard to eat, a half bulb you bite a chunk off of.

With this was enjoyed the 40 Knots Stall Speed Meritage. Similar to a Bordeaux in its marriage of five grapes from Bordeaux. Layne loves Bordeaux, but sadly is unable to grow the big red grapes necessary on Vancouver island; so he works with another wine maker to engineer this vintage. They went to work blending until they got to a laboratory number closest to his goal of a Chateau Margo. The result, the cheapest red wine he has ever made.

Dessert was another hit. A classic done as comforting and as familiar as you had hoped. “Kehler Farms strawberry and rhubarb tart” with French vanilla glacé. It was a buttery tart carrying a not too sweet filling. The melted ice cream became a nice cream sauce for the tart. I tasted the decorative herb, and found that it reminded me of the skunky nature of cannabis.

Our original dessert wine listed with this is the 40 Kots Fallen Apple, but very last minute Layne decided to mix things up. He swapped it out for a sweet port-like wine that he was excited to share. This was named after “Emily”, a women he and his with wife worked with and knew. Here we got a lesson in “Noble Rot” and the necessity to choose grapes with it, to achieve what we had before us. A sweet beverage with the same amount of sugar as ice wine, but you don’t taste it. It ages well, whereas ice wine doesn’t. And unlike ice wines, this doesn’t doesn’t freeze; the acid molecules hang on to the ice molecules for a heavier, more acidic and fluid wine. This was a fun one to try, it reminded me of apple juice in its sweetness and the way it sits on your tongue.

A few of us wanted to purchase a bottle of it to take home, only to change our minds when we heard it was $100. It was delicious and I loved it, but $100 for a smaller bottle of wine is a splurge that needs consideration. Glad we were gifted a chance to taste it at least.

The meal as a whole was very cohesive, it delivered on their promise of a fantastic feast to celebrates the Seafood Festival. This was a great experience and the most satisfying dinner that I had that weekend. You definitely get your money’s worth here.

 

40 KNOTS Vineyard and Estate Winery
2400 Anderton Road, Comox BC, V9M 4E5
+1 855-941-8810
40knotswinery.com

Jasci & Marchesani wine tasting at Homer St. Cafe

Today I was at “Homer Street Cafe” for a intimate lunch, featuring Italian wine brand, “Jasci & Marchesani”. Our time would begin with a wine tasting and the meeting of our two hosts, who only just arrived a mere 2 hours prior, straight from Italy.

We were introduced to the second generation owner of “Jasci & Marchesani”, and their brand ambassador who spoke English with a thick Italian accent. The brand ambassador would do the translating as he walked us through the 5 bottles presented today. He commanded the room like a Quintin Tarantino character, with a thick collar on his neon shirt and a large belt buckle drawing your attention to the word “energie”. Together, the two men took us to trip to Italy with wine.

“Jasci & Marchesani” is produced off the East coast of Italy, on the same latitudinal line as Rome. What sets them apart is the fact that they are the first organic vineyard certified in Italy, in 1978. This and their strong focus on sustainability. This focus was first introduced when the original owner noticed a lack of birds chirping on his property, and a dip in crop production. The solution, going organic and giving back to the land in order to yield from it for years to come.

No animal products go into their wine making, where as some other wine makes filter their wines using egg whites or add a fish substance for colour. Whereas “Jasci & Marchesani” uses minerals for its colouring; a pricer solution but one that gives their wines a unique lustre and sheen.

The winery specializes in montepulciano grapes and therefore the wine. But many of their grapes originate from all over Italy, replanted in the South, with the sun’s position in mind. Their agricultural planning goes so far as to considering which direction their grapes are facing, knowing that this changes the taste and production of them. And no sugar is added to their wine for a focus on fresh and crisp vintages.

Sustainably doesn’t just stop at what’s in the bottle. Each and everyone of their glass bottles are made from recyclable bottles. And the caps, cork, and labels are made from sugarcane and corn to easily biodegrade. The bottle is also as light as they can make it, making them not only easier to carry, but when they are shipped, they produce a smaller carbon footprint. Although, their production is already very green, being powered by renewable energy for the last 2 years.

As for our tasting, each place setting had a labelled map with 5 wine glasses. They were filled as we went through each, from 2 whites, on to 1 rose, ending with 2 reds.

The “Trebbiano D’Abruzzo Doc 2017” was a sweeter white with notes of apricot, pineapple, and yellow pear. A great refreshing wine, perfect for patio sipping.

The “Pecorino 2016” was a favourite amongst our group. It had great body to it, allowing you to feel the texture and levels as you drink. It is refined, spending 6 months in steel and the following it with the bottle. This process gave the wine a lifespan of 5 years versus the typical 2 years for a white.

The “Cerasuolo D’Abruzzo Doc 2016” was a rose named after the cherries used to make it. A lot of effort was put into manipulating these grapes, which is even more so when dealing with an organic vineyard. The fruit was hand picked with the belief that, this loving step makes a difference. The result, a lovely light rose with a great balance between sweet and tart. It isn’t as bitter as some roses, and not as sweet as others, it teeters at a good place in between.

The “Montepulciano D’Abruzzo Doc 2016” is made with grapes from their Northern vineyards. Here, our host brought our attention to the ability to taste the difference between grapes, based on the techniques used to farm them. Traditional methods yield a smaller bounty, but at a better quality. Whereas new ways increase production, but less time and resources are put into their cultivation.

This particular wine has never seen wood. The grapes are crushed and bottled without any external factors flavouring it. And an interesting property of it is that the way it hits the inside of our mouth and cheek causes you to salivate. Almost like watering it down.

Our last glass was a deep red with plenty of bite, the “Nerube Montepulcino D’Abruzzo Riserva 2016.” It was on the bitter side, a more concentrated batch due to a smaller yield. Great as a sipping wine to enjoy as is.

After tasting our way through today’s offerings we were then given the ability to have a full glass of our favourites, revisiting them with a 3 course family style meal, courtesy of the “Homer St. Cafe” team. Majority of the offerings below were served in larger portions than they normally are, in order to better share between 5-6 people.

The collection of pickled vegetables served as a great way to get our appetite going. Cucumber, red peppers, leek, and carrot. I liked the olives the best, finding the green ones not overly pickled or too salty.

“Duck liver parfait” with a morello cherry preserve, served with thick slices of chewy and oiled chunks of crusty bread. This was a delicious meat product, and luscious to spread. Smoky and rich with notes of sweetness, thanks to the preserve.

A favourite amongst our table was the collection of dips eaten with crispy taro and plantain chips. Chick pea, scallions, and za’atar. Each dip had its own flavour, which easily mixed together for one homogeneous spread.

The “House salad” was a fresh serving of greens with roasted beets and radish.

They are known for heir rotisserie chicken and this serving of sweet and sticky chicken drums did not disappoint. Tender dark meat coated in a harissa honey glaze, best enjoyed with hands and fingers you lick clean after.

The platter of porchetta was an impressive serving, ordered up feasting style. Not on the menu, this was the feature roast for the day; served with asparagus, green beans, and peas in jus. One slice was plenty, full of meat and enough fat to make bites soft and chewy. But the highlight was definitely the crispy crackling. To help balance all this pork we enjoyed it with the sides below.

These pickled horseradish turnips are also not on the menu, just something creative whipped up for us. They were hard to pick up, and even harder to chew through. Jawbreaker-like bulbs that you crunch through for some freshness.

I preferred the heirloom carrot side with its cream sauce more. A more traditional accompaniment that goes well with any protein.

And the only vegetarian of the group had a specialty made pesto pasta dish with spinach and cheese made for her. It was delightful, but compared to everything else a little bland.

And for dessert we ended on a silky smooth chocolate mousse topped with fresh strawberry. The mousse was so full bodied that it reminded me of ice cream. Rich and decant, a delight for any chocolate lover.

In short, a great meal and a great way to learn more about “Jasci & Marchesani”; how their organic and sustainable wines are a great additional to any one’s wine rack. For more details visit the link below. https://www.jasciemarchesani.it/

 

HOMER ST. CAFE + BAR
898 Homer Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 2W5
604-428-4299
homerstreetcafebar.com

A Taste of Africa Dinner, hosted by Nederburg Wines

This newer Moroccan restaurant has seen much acclaim with their traditional cuisine, served in their authentically dressed setting. But today we were getting a different experience, “A taste of Africa” to pair with a series of “Nederburg Wines” from South Africa. 5 courses from cold and hot appetizers to dessert, each paired with a wine and a lesson in what we were drinking. Wine connoisseurs and wine lovers alike gathered together. I fall into the latter category, as I drink everything and don’t really discriminate or have a preference; although I am always down to learn more about what it is I am drinking, and tonight I would get just that.

“Moltaqa” is translated to mean “a place where people meet, gather and talk” which was certainly the sentiment of the evening. We were gathered around one of their long tables, a shared space where each setting included multiple glasses.

But our feasting and drinking started as soon as we entered the door, when we were given our first taste of “Nederburg”; and a choice between the “Wine Masters Sauvignon Blanc” or the “Wine Masters Cabernet Sauvignon”. I started out with the red, knowing the white would later be paired with our first course. 

This was an easy drinking wine, one that followed well with our two vegan appetizers:  endives and chickpeas and black olives. The former was a refreshing start, full of punchy flavours. And the black olives had the texture of prunes and in part their taste. Really tangy, with an all encompassing salt that hits the back of your throat. Definitely one you want to chase with red.

Before every course and before each sip of wine, we were given a prelude: what it is we were having and what it offers. First, was “Nederburg Wine Masters Sauvignon Blanc”, one of South Africa’s most awarded wines. Produced from their Wine Master’s ranch, where they own 40% of their own grapes, and have contracts with other vineyards to procure the other 60% of specific grapes that they need. Each bottle of “Nederburg” is crafted knowing exactly what grapes are required. For example, grapes grown in cooler climates tend to have more of a peppery note. And wines with grapes grown in a warmer climate tend to have more tropical ones, like that of melons and goose berry. As for how it tasted, the Sauvignon Blanc had a lovely fullness, followed by a lingering after taste. This was described to us as a “True South African Sauvignon Blanc”.

The crisp tartness of the wine went well with the crisp apple and the tart dressing that our salad start had. “Apple Arugula Salad” with Granny Smith apples and a pomegranate dressing.

Our second course proceeded with the “Heritage Heroes “Motorcycle Marvel” Rhone-Style Blend”. This bottle was named after the gentleman who looked after the vineyards, riding around on a motorcycle, keeping order. This is considered one of “Nederburg’s” super premium tier wines, it has layers of bite and a lot more spice than my first easy drinking red at the door. It is sweetened with red berry fruit, which balances out its oaky finish. This was done intentionally to ensure the woody-ness doesn’t dominate and the flavour of the grapes are able to shine.

Here, this deeper red paralleled the zestiness of our second course, the “Chicken Merguez Shakshouka”. A hand-made, hormone-free chicken sausages, cooked in a casserole without the use of oil or butter. Delicious by itself, but would be better as the feature in a rice or grain based dish.

Our third course began with the “Heritage Heroes “The Anchorman” Chenin Blanc”. An intentionally crisp and clean white, with grapes taken from different areas, made using 4 different fermentation techniques. It is named after the man who established “Nederburg” wines in 1979. This was a fuller white with some creaminess to it. Notes of apricot, peach, and white pear; a great palette refresher in between the bites of sweet meets savoury of our third course.

“Traditional Moroccan Vegetable Pastilla”, an in house made, hand rolled, flaky pastry, filled with shredded and julienne roasted vegetables.  What was most memorable was that it was served, topped in a generous dusting of cinnamon and icing sugar, which had my mind and mouth at odds. The eyes expected one sensation and the tongue got another. And then it happened again when I bit into some sliced green olives, hidden within the filling. The olive’s pronounced flavour added another element into this confusing mix. In the end I found myself forgoing the filling altogether and being satisfied with the buttery, flaky sheets as is. I would have also loved them wrapped around figs, dates and/or nuts for more of a dessert feel.

The fourth course was everyone’s favourite. It came with a fire show and a giant pot for sharing. “Mechoui Lamb Flambé”, a whole leg of lamb braised for five hours, seasoned and flambe’d table side with cognac and grand marnier. It  was accompanied by figs and sesame seeds on a bed of couscous, confit yams and roasted vegetables. It tasted as good as it looked. Tender lamb, tasty veg, and grains to leave you feeling full.

With it we enjoyed the “Heritage Heroes “The Brew Master” Bordeaux Blend”. A dark, juicy fruit wine made to age for 10-15 years. This was a done as a tribute to the one who has pave the way for “Nederburg”.

Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the fifth course, a dessert of “Chocolate Ganache Cake with Preserved Figs”; paired with an “Amarula Pick Me Up Cocktail, High Moroccan Mint Tea, and Turkish Coffee. Shame, as figs were what I was craving above, and I am a fan of their mint tea.

In between courses, we were also treated to a show of belly dancing. A common occurrence at “Moltaqa”, a performance of beauty and grace that brings their guests deeper into the cuisine and setting. Our entertainer dawned on butterfly wings, balanced a scimitar on her head and abdomen, and invited her audience to dance with her.

In summary, this was a lovely evening, surrounding a decadent fest; offering us a unique way to discover exotic wines, that we can get, close to home. The first two wines: the Nederburg Winemasters Cabernet Sauvignon and the Nederburg Winemasters Sauvignon Blanc are both are available at any BC Liquor Stores for $13.29 a bottle! And if you purchase the red within this month of June, it on sale for $2 off at $11.29. And in August the white (Sauvignon Blanc) will then be $2 off.

As for the other wines that we got to try throughout the evening, they will be harder to find. They are “SPEC” products, which means they aren’t available in BC Liquor Stores and have to be ordered by the case. So if you are lucky, your local privately own liquor store or restaurant may have it available. For more on Nederburg wines visit the link below. https://nederburg.com/

 

MOLTAQA
51 West Hastings Street, Vancouver BC, V6B 1G4
604-696-4055
moltaqarestaurant.com

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