Saturday, 18 August 2012

The Pacific Northwest Meets the Middle East

Earlier this week, I held my last in-store tasting event. For the past 2.5 years, I've held themed events at my store that combine wines from my travels to different regions paired with locally-inspired cuisine. Some of it is as authentic as I can get (eg. empanadas with Argentine Malbec, green-lipped mussels with NZ Sauvignon Blanc, tarte flambee with Alsatian Riesling), while others are sometimes a bit of a stretch (ostrich loin in a smoked blueberry reduction with Australian Shiraz). Deciding on the theme of "Road Trip Through BC," the selected wines were intended to showcase varietals that show great potential for further growth in our wine industry. Food pairing, however, I was a bit stuck; why go through the effort of creating a BC tapas extravaganza when anyone can have their choice of BC cuisine within blocks of the store?

Instead, I decided on a menu that showcased my wine "roots" here in BC as paired with the culinary delights of where I am going in a few short weeks; a sort of Pacific Northwest meets the Middle East.  Using fresh ingredients from my garden (zucchini, cabbage, parsely) is about as BC as I got, but everyone seemed to enjoy the eccelctic mix of tapas one would not normally expect to pair with wine. Which is the point of these events: to challenge yourself to try something different.

Below is a list copied from our website of the wines I poured as well as the different tapas intended to go with each wine:
Cedar Creek Ehrenfelser 2011
Originally from Germany, Ehrenfelser and other Germanic grapes such as Riesling made their way because our latitude and general temperature is similar to Germany. With some of the oldest Ehrenfelser vines, the Cedar Creek Ehrenfelser is a lovely balanced off-dry wine that is perfect for a summer patio. 
Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2011
In Europe, Pinot Blanc is generally used for bulk or sparkling wine production and is not regarded as a high-quality grape. Here in BC, wineries such as Blue Mountain treat Pinot Blanc with great care, resulting in a wine that is medium-full bodied, crisp, and with a hint of creaminess from lees aging.
Tapa Pairing: Krumb Mahshy (Egyptian Cabbage Rolls) - stuffed with rice and a herbaceous blend of parsely, cilantro, and dill, Egyptian Cabbage Rolls are simmered in a broth of lemon and olive oil. The creamy texture from the lees-aged Pinot Blanc balances the texture of the rolls.
Stag's Hollow Viognier 2010
The latitude of the Okanagan may be the same as Germany, but the extreme summer heat is more reflective of the Rhone Valley. Hence, white Rhone grapes such as Viognier do very well in our climate. The Stag's Hollow offers consistent Viogniers that have a velvety palate with notes of white peaches and avocado; a perfect representation of BC Viognier.
Tapa Pairing: Ricotta-stuffed Zucchini Rolls - BC Viognier always makes me think of an California roll, so I modified this to include garden-fresh zucchini filled with homemade ricotta cheese and pinenuts.
Averill Creek Pinot Grigio 2010
As we know, Pinot Grigio is all the rage these days, and the Averill Creek shows how a Pinot Grigio can be more than just a simple sipper. Fuller in body with a lovely notes of stone fruit, citrus, and minerality, it is also great to see a wine of such quality from the Cowichan Valley.
Tapa Pairing: Ta'amiyya (aka. Falafel) - Proper ta'amiyya should be so full of parsely, cilantro, and dill that the chickpea batter is bright green; a perfect flavour profile to match a zesty and herbaceous Pinot Grigio.
Nichol Vineyards Pinot Gris 2010
A new trend in Pinot Gris has emerged in the Naramata. If left on the vines long enough, the skin of the Pinot Gris will develop a pinkish-hue. Rarely seen anywhere else, Naramata wineries such as Nichol and Kettle Valley have excelled at creating a white wine that is salmon-pink in colour with balanced notes of pears and strawberries.
Mistaken Identity Pinot Noir Rose 2011
Salt Spring Island is part of the Gulf Islands Wine Region and has a reputation of organic, locally grown produce. In the case of Mistaken Identity, certified organic and biodynamic Pinot Noir is sourced from Island vineyards to create this lovely Rose.
Arrowleaf Pinot Noir 2010 & Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir 2008
At around 200km in length, the climate of the Okanagan is very diverse, ranging from cool in the north to a hot desert in the south. This flight of Pinot Noir exemplified how climate can impact wine. Based near Vernon, the Arrowleaf Pinot Noir is light in body and colour with notes of strawberries and sour cherries. From the south near Oliver, the Pinot Noir from Tinhorn Creek is darker in colour, fuller in body, and richer in flavours of dark cherry and smokey spice. Two different styles, two great Pinots in their own right.
Poplar Grove Cabernet Franc 2008
Always the supporting role in Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc only shows itself on its own in the Loire Valley - and increasingly so in BC. Our short growing season makes it difficult for Cabernet Sauvignon to ripen properly, but Cabernet Franc shows great potential at becoming our signature red. Poplar Grove's Cab-Franc shows how great this potential can be.
Tapa Pairing: Buffalo Kifta (Meatballs) - The same trilogy of herbs as above (parsely, cilantro, dill) are blended with the ground buffalo meat and bound together by bulgher (cracked wheat), which makes for a more delicate and moist burger patty. Cabernet Franc tends to have a herbaceous flavour to it, and was thus the right choice for this tapa.
Burrowing Owl Syrah 2009
As mentioned above with Viognier, the desert climate of the south Okanagan is great for producing wines typical of the Northern Rhone Valley. There, Syrah is the king of red wines, and shows continued growth in quality in the Okanagan. Everyone loves "The Owl," and the full-bodied, spicy, balanced Syrah is another great example of the potential of BC Syrah.

I suppose the next step is when in Doha, I will have to recreate this theme by matching BC-inspired tapas with local beverages. I'm not sure, however, how well a White Spot Pirate Pack will pair with karkade tea...

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