The first “wine and dine” event of the year was an eclectic celebration of cuisine and wine varietals. Hosts, Executive Head Chef Kirk Weiss and WSET Advance Certified Nick Attard, guided us through the menu and the wine pairings with their usual detailed descriptions. They were assisted by Shawn Greco (introductions), Chad Martin, also server of the pre-dinner “cocktail”, Christine Loberg and Jordan Tomkins. A menu laid out the six courses.
We started the evening with a cocktail – a sip of Barbera D’Asti (Italy). Asti is the region of Italy and the wine is made from a single grape variety, barbera. (The group learned that when the answers to the trivia questions were revealed.)
Steamed Edamame with a spiced chili sauce. Pairing, Martini & Rossi Asti (Piedmont, Italy)
The fresh soy bean pods were buttery with a hint of chili.
The pairing was a sweet, fruity, sparkling wine made from moscato grapes. Nick informed us that the thick skins of the grape gave the wine a fuller mouth feel and, unlike champagne or similar sparkling wines, the bubbles are injected into the wine.
Butter seared feather oyster mushrooms with crushed sea salt. Pairing, Domaine Thibert Pouilly Fuissé (France).
Chef brought a sample of the mushroom as it is not commonly known. He described the cultivation process, adding new spores to the “root” and growing mostly on shelves. The presentation was simple allowing the delicate, earthy, mushroom flavour to shine.
Nick paired this dish with a chardonnay from France. Aging in French oak gives the wine citrus overtones and other fruit flavours like peach. It is less overblown than the American chardonnays that are largely aged in American oak.
Thai Salmon finished in a peanut sauce. Pairing, Leopold Weingut, Grüner Veltliner (Austria)
The salmon was marinated in ginger, orange juice, brown sugar. The sauce consisted of pureed pine nuts, hoisin, sesame oil, soy sauce and citrus chili.
The grapes for this wine are harvested and pressed to avoid
contact with oxygen (anaerobic). Sancerre from France would have been another pairing option. Very fresh tasting wine and a lovely match to the salmon’s asian flavours.
Charbroiled spring lamb chop with a burnt orange yogurt. Pairing, Domaine de Nalys, Châteauneuf-du-Pape (France)
The lamb chops had been marinated in rosemary, red wine and honey. They were seared but were still pink in the centre. Just delicious especially with the unique sauce.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape Nick informed us was the first AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée) in France. The blending is regulated and, as of 2009, 18 grape varieties are permitted. This particular wine had used 13 varieties.
Brisket Tart topped with blue cheese. Pairing, Luigi Righetti, Amarone della Valpolicella (Italy)
The brisket for this tart had been braised for 11 hours. A demi glace and stilton cheese finished it off. The tart pastry was very light but the dish was VERY rich.
Nick introduced the appassimento process (not the name because that would have give us the answer to the trivia question). A percentage of the grapes going into the wine are picked early for higher sugar content and stored for 4-5 months to dehydrate, even more concentrated sugars.
This juice is blended with valpolicella and the blended juice goes through a second fermentation.
This wine could also be served as an aperitif and Nick suggested it is excellent wth lamb and mint jelly.
White Chocolate, local strawberry and pistachio mousse. Pairing, Brachetto d’Acqui (Italy)
The white chocolate had a bit of ginger liquer infused. There was a pistachio dust over the mousse which sat on a pool of jam.
The wine Nick paired tasted like strawberry soda. He suggested that a wine with dessert should be sweeter than the dessert. So an ice wine would be a good choice as well. This wine was from Piedmont close to Asti, made from a black skinned red Italian wine grape.
Thanks to Nick for his trivia questions – an opportunity for us all to learn a little more (or realize how little we know!)