Quail’s Gate Visa Infinite Dinner Event – It Takes Three
On July 19th I was invited by my friend and fellow blogger Laura of The Culinary Travel Guide to join her at the sold out Visa Infinite event at Quail’s Gate winery. This was the place to be that night for culinary and wine enthusiasts and the place was packed. Visa Infinite holds more than 60 events across Canada throughout the year featuring anything from dinners to wine country events to hotel collection and music series. To learn about these events you can register on their website, then buy tickets, get yourself on a PR invite list or have good friends who invite you, like I do.
Quail’s Gate was a perfect venue for tonight’s event. Situated on the slopes of Mount Boucherie in West Kelowna with stunning views of vineyards and the Okanagan lake below, the winery is a perfect setting for featuring local foods and wines. Their Old Vines Restaurant was closed to the public for the evening and was set for this exclusive culinary and wine event.
Old Vines has a fabulous chef, Roger Sleiman, who can cook up a storm all on his own but for this evening he invited two of his colleagues from other cities as special guest chefs to prepare this collaborative dinner. These three chefs, Roger Sleiman of Old Vines Restaurant, Chris Whitaker of Forage in Vancouver and Andrew Winfield of River Cafe in Calgary put their talents together to create a wine country dinner to remember.
As you can imagine, the concept was to celebrate the best the Okanagan and the west coast have to offer in food and wine. Each of the six course elegant dinner was carefully chosen from the best seasonal ingredients and perfectly matched with locally produced wines from five Okanagan Valley wineries. I told you, you should have been there.
Upon arrival we were greeted by staff and handed a tall and empty “bubbly” glass and could choose between 2012 “The Bub” or the “Pink Bub” from Haywire. Pink didn’t match my outfit so I selected The Bub, a 51% Pinot Noir and 49% Chardonnay made from grapes grown on cool slopes in Oliver. This bubbly is made in the traditional method. The grapes were cluster pressed and cool fermented and underwent a secondary fermentation (14 months) in the very bottles we were served from, like the French Champagne. The Pink Bub is made the same way only a dosage is added (made from red wine) to create the pinkish hue. The (white) Bub I picked was lovely and cool with tiny bubbles (that’s how you want them). It had mineral undertones and a little yeast in the back. This was a good start and an indication for what was to come.
With the bubbly came a few appetizers passed around by their good looking staff at the restaurant. I remember a seafood chowder from forage served in little cups, beef tartar in tiny ice cream style cones, chicken pate on crisp chicken skin and perhaps a couple of other items I didn’t try, too busy taking pictures and taking in the scene. Note to self: next time try all the food.
We were soon seated at long tables beautifully appointed with local fresh flowers, white dinnerware and long stem glasses. Name tags indicated the seating arrangement and boy were we lucky. I was sitting across from Laura facing the kitchen. To my left sat Mike Clark, winemaker and managing director of Clos du Soleil, a winery that provided one of the wine selections for the dinner. To my right sat wine book author Len Napolitano who authored the wine book “Nose, Legs, Body! Know your wine like the back of your hand”. Across from Len sat his wife Kathy Kelly who is a TV marketing/producer of food and wine programs and across from Mike sat an empty chair destined for John Skinner of Painted Rock winery who unfortunately was a no show. Seated between two wine experts, I was glad I had written a book about wine myself, a coffee table size tome (not published but should be) in which I documented my studies of wine (history of wine, what happens in the vineyard, how wine is made, 10 white grapes, 10 red grapes, old world wine growing regions, new world wine growing regions and of course food to go with wines as well as a cheese chapter). Indulge my bragging, this was a major undertaking. I had wonderful conversations with my dinner companions and was pleasantly surprised to see how much interest they showed and how much information they shared about their respective crafts.
The event was formally opened by Master of Wine Rys Pender. Pender was a perfect choice as an emcee. He received a Master of Wine designation from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2010 (the youngest Canadian to receive this designation) and to ensure a full understanding of how wine interacts with its key counterpart, food, he has also completed a professional culinary diploma. His extensive knowledge of both wine and food was evident and his easy going manner contributed to a relaxed evening presentation.
Here is the menu that was served along with the wines paired with each course.
The menu speaks for itself, a memorable succession of courses carefully prepared by highly skilled chefs working with the best fresh and local ingredients that you can only get here and now. This exact same offering cannot be duplicated elsewhere or another time. From presentation to textures to flavours the dinner was a symphony comparable to any classical music symphony, harmonious, teasing, surprising, enticing and climaxing. Oh yes.
I would like to mention some of the exceptional wines that we tasted throughout the evening.
Clos du Soleil 2012 Capella (Sauvignon Blanc). Wine maker and managing director Michael Clark introduced his wine. “We focus almost exclusively on Bordeaux style wines and our goal is to create wines that taste and smell of terroir as well as reflect French sensibilities about wine making and what makes wine great” says Clark. “Every wine starts in the vineyard and we are proud that our vineyard is 100% organic certified as well as managed in accordance with biodynamics principles: better fruit, better wine. This wine is our flagship white Bordeaux blend made with 92% Sauvignon Blanc and 8% Semillon. It is fermented in small lots and lots of lees contact give it rich mouthfeel and firm structure making it a great food wine”. “This wine has an amazing ability to age” says Clark. “we have been making it since 2006 and in a recent vertical tasting it shows amazing ability to evolve. The older 2006 had a honey richness. This 2012 is tasting very nice tonight, it is wine in its infancy”. I have to say I loved this wine and it was the only glass I finished at dinner. Young or not, it had a beautiful sophisticated nose of melon, pineapple and lime held up with a structure of crisp acidity and mineral tones. It paired perfectly with the first course of Salmon in its various preparations.
The second wine offered with the first course was Quail’s Gate 2009 Dry Riesling. Tony Stewart, Chief Executive Officer and Proprietor at Quail’s gate introduced the wine: “The style we are going for is dry Alsatian style. 2009 was a warm year and we had lots of acid when we first bottled it but it softens as it ages. A little oiliness, nice palate and some kerosine coming through on the nose”. I only took a few sips (we had 7 glasses, I can only drink so much wine) but I can attest that the wine has a nice balance on the palate and goes well with food, showing nicely with the first course.
The second course of Yarrow Meadows Farm duck prepared by by Old Vines’s Roger Sleiman was served with one of their own wines, a beautiful 2009 Quail’s Gate Library Release Pinot Noir. Tony Stewart introduced the wine: “They have reached into the library and grabbed these great wines so hopefully they left some for me” he joked. “The Pinot Noir program at Quail’s Gate started in 1975. We did a research project back then with a winery called Jordan Saint Michel. My father was planting the first clones of Pinot Noir from UC Davies. Since then we have 7 different clones that are planted here, with planting dating back to early 80’s so these are some of the oldest and most mature blocks of PN in Canada. 2009 was a warm year, harvest was very dry, it aged beautifully and was made from a selection of different sites and different clones all from the Boucherie slopes. The Boucherie is an extinct volcano that created a lot of the soil around here, rough rugged soil with exceptional drainage allowing the roots not to get too much moisture. Pinot Noir loves this soil”. I would add that the Pinot was exceptional, elegant, austere yet approachable and produced a fantastic classic paring with duck course.
The grass fed bison course prepared by Calgary’s River Cafe chef Andrew Whittaker (must go to restaurant in beautiful Prince’s Island Park in downtown Calgary) was offered with two wines: 2011 Quail’s Gate Merlot and 2011 Painted Rock Estate winery Red Icon. The merlot, being the #1 red wine produced in the valley was very approachable. Tony Stewart mentioned that California award winning wine maker Scott MacLeod who was named wine maker of the year in 2009 by Decanter magazine helped in the blending of this vintage (2011 being a challenging year). A lovely, easy to drink wine that would be adaptable to many foods. Next was going to be John skinner who as I mentioned was not there to introduce his Painted Rock Red Icon wine but Rys Pender filled in for him. The wine is a blend of 30% Malbec, with the balance being Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot and a 3% addition of cabernet Sauvignon. It has a heady aroma of red stone fruits matched on the palate by a velvety feel and beautifully balanced with structured tannins. An exquisite wine. I can’t wait to attend the dinner at Painted Rock on the 31st of this month. Will keep you posted.
The fabulous cheese course featured local cheeses from Poplar Grove Cheese, upper bench Creamery and The Farmers House Natural Cheeses. It was paired with a 2012 Quail’s gate Winery Fortified Vintage Foch. Foch is one of Quail’s Gate specialties and the 2012 vintage was made from 100% BC product because they were able to use BC spirits from Okanagan Spirits. Pretty unique wine. The Foch was a beautiful pairing with the cheeses. Rich and sweet but not cloying with some savoury undertones it balanced beautifully especially with the Blue Tiger from Poplar Grove and the aged cheddar from Upper Bench Creamery. All these cheeses were made within one hour drive from Kelowna except the Farm House Natural Cheeses which is located in the Fraser Valley.
Dessert course (Okanagan Cherry Opera) prepared by Old Vine pastry chef Nikki was offered with 2011 Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards Riesling Icewine. Inniskillin has one of the best known icewine production both in Ontario and here in the Okanagan and the Riesling was rich and concentrated. What can I say? A grand finale to a memorable dinner event.
The evening ended as the sun set over the mountains across the lake and the pink and purple colours were magnificent. We have to remember to appreciate that we live in this beautiful part of the country where the weather is mild, agriculture thriving and food and wine production has integrity and flare. It doesn’t get much better than this no matter where in the world you may find yourself. Just saying:).