Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ontario Wine Week

On Tuesday I was in Toronto at the Wine Council of Ontario’s trade luncheon where they announced the 2008 VQA Restaurant Award of Excellence winners. In addition to releasing the names of the award winning restaurants, the event featured a tapas style luncheon put on by four Chefs pairing Ontario wines with local foods. Mike Robbins from the Kettle Creek Inn paired a 2006 Fume Blanc from Peninsula Ridge and a 2006 Riesling from Chateau de Charmes with Smoked Manatoulin Island trout cakes presented on organic greens with a tarragon cream. The smokiness of the fume blanc paired well with the trout cakes while the Riesling featured refreshing lime and limestone notes and went miraculously well with the organic greens and the tarragon cream.

The second course was created by Roberto Fracchioni from the Milcroft Inn. Roberto produced a lemon thyme crusted Creemore Springs Organic Artic Char with fresh asparagus. The two wines that complimented this dish were he 2006 Dean’s List Chardonnay from Niagara College Teaching Winery and 2006 Signature Series Sur Lie Chardonnay from Peller Estates. The NCTW Chardonnay had a beautiful aroma of popcorn seedlings but it was out of balance and featured too much oak for my liking. On the other hand, the Peller Chardonnay was beautifully balanced with lychee and pear flavors.

Chef Mike Matthews and Brad Long from Veritas restaurant in Toronto prepared braised Kerr Farms short ribs. You may know Brad Long from his work on Food TV’s Restaurant Makeover. I was pleased to see that Chatham Kent’s own Bob Kerr is really making a name for his meats and vegetables in Toronto. Now keeping with the local ingredient theme I would have chose Smith & Wilson’s Watercress Creek Cabernet Franc to go with this dish, but instead they chose two brilliant reds from Niagara. The 2005 Fielding Meritage and the 2006 Red by Thirty Bench winery are both stunning wines and paired well with the braised ribs.

For dessert Chef Nathan Isberg from Czehoski restaurant in Toronto created a strawberry Napoleon with honey pasty cream that was delicious. They sourced their strawberries from Fosterholm farms around the GTA. With the weather this year the strawberries weren’t quite ripe, but Nathan marinated them in maple syrup to bring out the flavor. The dish was paired with 2005 Dan Aykroyd Winery Signature reserve Vidal Icewine and the Peller Estates Signature series Ice Cuvee sparkling wine. The Peller cuvee was brilliant with tight bubbles and just the right hint of sweetness to pair with the Napoleon.

I must comment on how lucky we are in Southwestern Ontario with our extended growing season. Asparagus is just now in full swing in the GTA while we have been enjoying it for over a month now and the season is almost over. According to my local grower, our strawberry crop is in full swing and we are having a bumper crop while in the GTA they aren’t ready yet.

The event ended with a tasting with about 30 Niagara wineries and Pelee Island Winery participating. There were some stunning Rieslings and beautiful Gamay from 13th Street winery. Pelee Island held its own showcasing their Select Chardonnay, Reserve Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you haven’t tried the Pelee Cabernet Sauvignon, make a point of it because it is really good.

Oh, by the way the reason I was at this luncheon was because Stargazers was awarded a Gold award of Excellence for our wine list.

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