For this #WineWednesday we are celebrating Hester Creek, named BC’s winery of year, 2023.
I was lucky enough to be invited to their Wine Marker’s Dinner, hosted at Burnaby’s Hart House. In attendance were both principal wine makers: Mark and Brooke, visiting from South Okanagan to mark the occasion.
Seated at the head table, right beside the two, I was able to chat with them and get to know the minds and the people behind the bottles that would be poured into our glasses, round after round for 5 courses. A wine for each course and the backstory on each as we sip and discussed.
Hester Creek is 115 acres on the Golden Mile Bench, located between Oliver and Osoyoos. This area is declared a great place to make wine, as the unique micro climate can ripen anything on property, and with a good variety of grape as well.
When time, all guests were invited to their assigned seats, within the heritage building’s main parlour.
Dinner began with an Amuse Bouche of Sablefish Gravlax and Smoked Sablefish Brandade over a Seaweed Tart to whet the appetite. The kitchen staff were proud to broadcast that this and all other proteins tonight are sourced locally from BC, and if barring that, Canada. This one bite morsel was so delicate that it felt like eating crunchy air paired with the one of a kind fishiness of smoked salmon.
This bite was accompanied by our first wine pairing of the evening: the 2022 Old Vine Pinot Blanc. This is a staple on the Hester Creek property, and the one that Mark likes the best. He explained that the wine comes with bones, a depth of flavour that was more then just sweet or fruity, despite it having plenty of fruits on the nose like melon, apple, stone fruits and honeysuckle.
Our second course started with the 2021 Chardonnay. Brooke would address the room, and speak to the conditions that went into making this solely from estate, fruit wine. This included the 2021 heat dome that helped to foster a smaller berry yield, yet an increased intensity and concentration of juices from those grapes. The white is aged in French oak barrels for 60% of the time, with the rest in stainless. The result is a white wine that is more creamy on the palate with more minerality. Alongside citrus, juicy peach and honeycomb, I got a bit of sharp cheddar from the bouquet.
This, we enjoyed with the first course of Cured Scallops & Fermented Turnips with Rapini, and a Brown Butter Garlic Sauce. The brininess from the fermentation, was balanced out by the buttery gravy. A sauce that was rich and sumptuous, and more like soup. Given the punchier flavours this was a tricky pairing, as you didn’t want to overpower the wine, although this ended up being the best pairing of the night.
The second course had us switching to red with the 2020 Syrah paired with Hart House’s Duck Agnolotti, Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Black Olives, and Ricotta; in a Green Peppercorn Sauce. The pasta took 5 hours to prepare by hand. Three squares that were stuffed heavily and soaked in a jus so potent that it left me wanting bread as a buffer. The big bold Hester Creek red helped here.
I liked the even pasta pocket to mushroom ratio for the perfect curated bites. The filling was so creamy that if I didn’t know any better, I would not think it was fibrous duck. Tangy olives, the pop of the fresh roe, umami mushroom, and the zip of lemon zest. What reads like a mod-podge mix actually worked harmoniously for a truly unique pasta course.
The 2020 Hester Creek Syrah was more elegant and less peppery with velvety tannis. It is a co-fermentation of Syrah with a small amount of Viognier. Its toasty notes of cherry, fennel, and ripe currants went well with the roasted duck and mushrooms, adding a little sweet berry to the plate.
Our Main Course featured 2020’s “The Judge” paired with Sous Vide Lamb Saddle, Eggplant Puree, Cauliflower, Caponata, and Pomegranate Jus. I enjoyed the dual textures of the crumbly meat loaf wrapping the more chewy lamb, and delighted in how the tangy olive added a twist.
The spicer chocolatey “Judge” helped to mellow things out with its oaky-ness. Fruity nuances with oak integration and not domination. The history behind the name is that they want “you be the judge” approaching the “golden mile bench”. This was another Bordeaux style blend featuring the 5 traditional noble varieties of grape, but merlot driven. Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Moving towards the end of our meal we would conclude with some sparking, an unexpected pairing for dessert. This was the 2020 Old Vine Brut, clean and vibrant bubbles with dry apple and citrus zest, leading way to toasted biscuit notes. The sparkling goes through two fermentation processes, the second is with yeast, which gives it the aforementioned bread-y quality. This golden bake played off the cakey texture of the dessert below.
The “Old Vine” name acknowledges that the brut is made from grapes harvested from one of their oldest blocks of Pinot Blanc (at over 55 years old). A smaller crop with a deep concentration of fruit. This was Brooke’s favourite wine.
We had our glass alongside a Hester Creek Brut Poached Pear with Dark Chocolate Sabayon and Toasted Pistachios. A tricky pairing done right with more light and neutral flavours to end on. Tart and tangy to help cleanse the palate.
In conclusion, this was a wonderful dinner and an amazing way to have those with a passion for the food and fine wine, celebrating BC’s winery of the year. We would end our night with the ability to purchase any of the bottles we tried and enjoyed, all of which were not available at the local BCL.
I cannot wait to visit the actual winery in person the next time I am in the Okanagan. Alongside winery tours and tasting, they also have accommodations and a restaurant to entice your travel to them.
Hart House Restaurant
6664 Deer Lake Ave, Burnaby, BC V5E 4H3