I am already a fan of Acre Through The Seasons, having tried their series 2 menu, when it originally launched a couple of months ago. So when I heard they were hosting a speciality dinner on Wed August 30, 2023 I gathered a group of friends and arranged for us to get tickets.
The night was advertised as a five course dining experience with wine pairings from Iconic Wines of BC’s portfolio which includes legacy and luxury brands: Mission Hill, Checkmate Artisanal, and Martin’s Lane. Ticket holders were promised dishes “thoughtfully crafted to harmonize with the unique varietal notes of their carefully selected wine pairings. Each course promised to elevate guests’ taste buds, offering a refined tasting that perfectly complements the iconic brands on showcase.” (As per their website).
Having the dinner wrap up the night before, I can confirm that it was good, but my two person set meal at Acre, during my original visit is better. Although, mind you, that was not a fully seated, sold out event where all the food and drink were expected to come out all together.
The night began with a glass of sparkling wine at the entrance of Acre, within Versante Hotel. This was Misson Hill’s Exhilaration Brut, the only sparkling rose in their portfolio and the one they always serve to any one they greet at their property. Described as a patio sparkling, idea for summer night with watermelon and raspberry notes. It was a fresh and light start made from 100% Pinot noir grapes, that helped to open up the palate.
We were not aware that this was meant to paired with our first course so went ahead and finished it well before late comers were seated and dinner could begin. Thankfully we were able to ask for a top up to have along side the first course, as intended.
Everyone got a couple of Kusshi Oysters to start. Each topped with the hotel’s house caviar: RCC caviar, pickled watermelon, and raspberry. With this dish, and all the others to come, the goal was to showcase sustainable and local proteins and produce from BC, featuring what is in our backyard as well as what is fresh from the restaurant’s own farm on Cortez Island.
As for the way it tasted, the raspberry was the definitive stand out adding tartness and its strong berry punch into the mix. This matched the wine, but did not overpower the sweet and milky-creamy texture of the oyster. Lovely.
Next course came with a glass of 2022 Martin’s Lane Simes Vineyard Riesling. This would be a special release for the night, and only available for this evening, as wine clubs members have not been given the opportunity to try this, nor would they be able to. Simes is one of the winery’s coolest vineyards. Known for their off-dry Riesling grapes that are fresh and have more minerality to them. With this wine we got peach, apricot, lemon, and flint.
It was a fairly sweet white and not for my tastes. It ran parallel with the sweetness of our second food course, whereas I would have like something tart to contrast and counter balance it. I preferred the wine and food separately for our second course.
With it we had a chilled BC Dungeness Crab chawanmushi with honey lemon marmalade, green apple, and miso. I have had egg pudding like this before, so was thrown off by how soft and gelatinous the first scoop was. Not to mention it is normally served warm, so the cooler temperature had it reading more like dessert. The sweetness of the crab and the freshness of the green and green apple gel were a great marriage. A lovely light starter.
Next we went to the 2019 Checkmate Queen Taken Chardonnay. A unique wine with a lot of history. The grapes are from vines that are over 50 years old, smuggled in from Romania. I have yet to try any other wine like it with its musky and funky scent, that carries into the wine’s bouquet.
It was full of acidity, tart and metallic on the nose with lots more minerality when compared to the Riesling above. I found it fairly bitter, but finished light on the palette, cutting well into the fishiness of the tuna pairing.
The BC Albacore Tuna was prepared with a brown butter emulsion, radish, asparagus, peas, and hazelnuts. I found there to be too much of the brown butter sauce that overpowered, luckily it was plated as a dollop and gave you the ability to dictate how much or little of it you wanted to use. Looking around the table, I was not the only one to leave much of it behind. I found it salty on top of the naturally salted fish. Here, all the vibrant greens helped to add some crispy freshness that balanced out the emulsion. The surprise of roasted whole hazelnut when you bit down on one was a wonderful highlight.
Our fourth course started with 2020 Martin’s Lane Simes Vineyard Pinot Noir. Martian’s Lane is known for and specializes in Pinot Noir, which they do well with at their 100% gravity propelled winery; where Mother Nature helps with their wine growing. They are acclaimed as one of the most outstanding Canadian wineries. And the significance of their wine bottle comes with quite the backstory and ties into the winery’s affinity for art.
Canada’s own Douglas Coupland was Commission to design Martin Lane’s wine bottles. He was inspired by the fact that only 2% of all grapes are Pinot noir and only 2% of people in the world are red heads. So searched for a Vincent Van Gogh look alike in order to take a mold of his ear to have on each an every one of their bottles. This would be the perfect epitome of wine and art coming together at an intersection.
The 2020 is a fully body, yet delicate and clean red with citrus, raspberry, and red current. I also got hints of dark cherry and found that it paired well with the whole cherry in the terrine below.
Seared Goose Terrine with herb mousse, gooseberry, cherry, and goose jus. Like all the dishes before, this was stunningly plated. A more playful presentation that literally matched the wine. Three ears on a plate, together a deconstructed terrine separate of the traditional slices of creamy mousse that we were all more familiar with and expecting.
The goose leg meat was cabinet dry aged for 2 weeks. Something that they do in house with their own neon lit showcases that are in full view of the dining room, flanking either ends of their open bar kitchen.
The three separated elements were best when taken in all together in one cohesive bite. Sadly, we all found the goose meat on the tougher side, thankfully a coating in the jus helped. Here the sweetened cherry added flavour, the herb mousse depth, and the gooseberry gel freshness to tie it all together. What a fun plate.
Our last savoury course was paired with the 2019 Check Mate Black Rook Merlot. The story behind Checkmate is that they emphasize on strategy and agility when it comes to making their wines, much like you do when playing chess. The strategy of the wine maker and the agility needed to adapt to Mother Nature.
This was a much heavier and acidic red. You get the scent of black current, dark cherries, and cigar box, with the flavours of fruitiness and smoke. Described as biting into a plum with violet flower and blueberry highlights. I found it acrid with a metallic tinge, but helpful in breaking the heaviness of its paired dish.
Lardo Wrapped Venison Loin with king oyster mushroom, black pepper plum jam, baby beets, and blueberries. The presentation was a shared one for the table. Once again designed to literally match the wine, so served on an actual chess board.
The flavour of the sauces and fruit compotes perfectly matched the essence of the wine. I especially appreciated the earthy and peppery spice to the plum jam. Where the sweetness of the blueberry offered a break with brightness. I just wished the venison loin was more tender. The meat was over cooked and dry, which only heightened its gaminess. The dish felt cumbersome and unevenly distributed. Overall too heavy for me.
For dessert the Iconic Wines team was excited to showcase one of their flagship and historic wines in the 2014 Mission Hill Oculus. This is a Bordeaux blend that was merlot dominant. Poured from the 1.5 litre magnum as the larger the vessel of wine the better the wine within it tastes.
With this you can taste its age in the weight of it on your lips, and the richness of the aged berries on your tongue. This ran parallel to the dessert created for it and named after it.
Once again paying homage to the winery, the kitchen team presented another playful plate. Designed to be reminiscent of Mission Hill’s iconic terrace over looking their vineyards. Those who have visited the property got the reference.
Chocolate Oculus with black currant whipped ganache, 70% arriba chocolate mousse, and cocoa nib sponge. I am more savoury than sweet, but liked and appreciated this devilishly rich chocolate mousse. I liked the crunchy cocoa nibs in the white chocolate and the crispy texture of the dyed green cocoa nib sponge. What an eye catching way to end the evening on a sweet note.
As dinner commenced diners were invited to order from the wine that we tasted tonight. With special incentives for those who purchased certain amounts.
Overall, this was a lovely showcase and a fun way to get better acquainted with some iconic wines of BC, made more accessible from the producer here. For the future, I am interested to see what other collaborative dinners Acre takes on as a fan and supporter.
Acre Through The Seasons
8400 West Rd #115, Richmond, BC V6X 0S7