Category Archives: WINE

Food, wine and fun

whiningpenin

“… I like to think about the life of wine …How it’s a living thing.  I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing;  how the sun was shining; if it rained … I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes.  And if it’s an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now…” whiningsidewy

                                                                   Maya in “Sideways

 

One of my very favorite quotes from one of my very favorite films.

 

I could add, however, that one of the things I personally like to think about while sipping wine, is simply geography — where the wine comes from and its amazingly evocative flavour.  Drinking icy French chablis with oysters on the half shell, for instance, will to take me back to dark and chilly November nights in Paris;  a glass of spicy gewürtztraminer, and I’m lazing and gazing and grazing on a Rhine River cruise; and vino verde from Italy can transport me to summers in Siena where I spent my student days.

But enough nostalgia!  I’m so glad to see that we have a couple of wine-soaked evenings coming up at Go Cooking:  a tour of Spain, on January 28th; and an overview of our own Niagara wine region, slated for February 18th.  The earlier date is sold out right now, but I believe that there are still some seats available for the February evening.  Our wine tastings are called “Sips, Tips and Tidbits” and they feature Peter Kline, our funny and incredibly erudite sommelier, from Bacchus Sommelier Services.  Peter pairs up with a chef who will be creating hors d’oeuvres to accompany the various vintages.  Chef Carl Dahl, from Julia’s and Ritorno in Oakville, will be cooking for the Spanish evening; and Chef Ken LeFebour from Nellie James Gourmet Food to Go, for the evening that highlights wines from the Niagara peninsula.

I am actually old enough to remember when it was dreadfully un-chic to serve Ontario wines. (Anybody else recall Baby Duck?)  In fact, it’s almost a miracle that a cold climate country such as ours even has a wine industry, although I was surprised to discover that the Niagara peninsula actually lies on the same latitude as Bordeaux, France.  Still, the Niagara wine region came about as a sort of quirk of geography.  Apparently our Lake Ontario warms up during the summer and retains its heat.  In the winter, an offshore breeze sends the still warm air from the lake across the Niagara peninsula where it is stopped by the escarpment (Bump!), and bounces back toward the lake (Swoosh!), raising the temperature of the terrain beneath it.  This re-cycling process manages to preserve a sort of micro-climate on the Niagara peninsula that is suitable for growing wine grapes.

Grape growing, in fact, has been going on in this area for over 200 years but it began with an indigenous Lambrusca variety of grapes that made for a rather rough and rustic drink.  It is only since the 1970’s, when European vinifera grapes were imported and grown, that the modern wine industry was born. Some of the earliest wineries were Chateau des Charmes, Inniskillin, Cave Springs and Henry of Pelham and the first grape to win international renown was the riesling.  Since then, however, many varieties of grapes have been grown: chardonnays, pinot noirs, baco noirs, gamay grapes — well, you name it —  the industry has expanded swiftly and surely. In 1991 Inniskillin won a grand prize for icewine in Bordeaux, France and Canadian wines achieved international recognition.

Anyway, there are two major wine regions on the peninsula: the Niagara Escarpment and the Twenty Valley and the area around Niagara-on-the-Lake which is a few degrees warmer.  At our wine tasting we will be sampling wines from several wineries. Here are three of the most well-known:

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Angels Gate winery was opened in 2002 and sits just below the forested escarpment with a view of Lake Ontario and rolling vineyards. It has a gorgeous mission style building which was designed to commemorate the Congregation of Christian Sisters who once owned the property. The Terrace restaurant is a popular lunch destination and several of the wines have won numerous awards. Peter has chosen a sparkling wine to sample from Angels Gate.

whiningsheeptawse

Tawse Winery lies right on the Niagara Escarpment with three barrel cellars carved into the rocky wall. The winery uses organic and biodynamic farming practices and has been named Canada’s winery of the year for three years in a row.  We will be trying out a riesling — the winery makes several types at different price points.

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Henry of Pelham is a family estate, near St. Catharines, founded in 1988 by the Speck family. They create many kinds of wine. both reds and whites, as well as icewine, but are most well known for an iconic baco noir which we will be sampling.  The Spectator’s Dan Kislenko introduced me to baco noir, a hybrid French grape, many years ago and it was love at first sip. Wine writer Natalie Maclean notes, of the Pelham, 2014, baco noir, “A medium bodied red with attractive dark red berry and plum aromas.  Round and supple.  Henry of Pelham ups its game every year on baco.  This is terrific.”

The evening will be rounded off with two more surprising wine choices and, of course, each drink paired with Chef Ken LeFebour’s delightful “tidbits” which will, no doubt, be locally sourced.  I hope you can join us for this introduction to the high quality of our Niagara peninsula wines.

And here’s a recipe from Angels Gate that sounds divine.

Smoked Salmon Penne

from Angels Gate Winery, best served with Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay 

Ingredients:

penne, or your favourite shaped pastawhiningsmokedsalmon

1 cup room temperature cream cheese

1 bunch of fresh dill, chopped

4 green onions, sliced

1 lemon juiced and zested

1 heaping spoonful of Dijon mustard

1/4 cup capers

8 oz smoked salmon, or more

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Method

1)  Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.  Add pasta and cook al dente, until pasta is cooked through but pleasantly chewy.  Scoop out 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.  Drain the pasta, but leave it a bit wet.

2)  Put the pasta back in the pot with 1/2 cup of reserved water and the rest of the ingredients.

3)  While still steaming hot, toss well to melt the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper, and serve immediately.

 

 

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Chilean Chillin’

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The vines of Chile

There’s something relaxing and low-key about the wines of Chile and I have been buying them for about fifteen years now. I started trying them out because they were “good value” — but now drink them because I really like them, and besides, I am finding an intriguingly wide variety in the LCBO nowadays. I’m so happy to find out that my guests can no longer silently sneer at my “down-market” taste just because I’m serving Chilean wine. Apparently, according to Beppe Crosariol, the Globe and Mail’s wine writer,

“Chile is moving up in the world. Once synonymous with inexpensive, cheerful wines that paired well with jeans and T-shirts, the South American country is in the midst of a jacket-and-tie makeover.”

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Peter Kline, Bacchus Sommelier Services

Anyway, I’m sure that some of you are looking forward to our up-coming “Sips, Tips and Tidbits” wine tasting evening on April 30th, when Peter Kline our sommelier will be pairing wines from Chile with toothsome “tidbits” contrived by Carl Dahl from Oakville’s Julia’s and Ritorno restaurants. Peter, as most of you know, is the sommelier at the wonderful Quatrefoil restaurant in Dundas, but also has his own company Bacchus Sommelier Services. I, alas, will be on vacation during that period and not able to attend the evening. So I had Peter give me a primer on wines from Chile, just to whet your appetites.

Chile has long been known for its red wines, especially cabernet sauvignon, its flagship variety, but it has also been producing excellent cool-climate white wines such as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay for decades. But Chile also offers its own particular signature grape called carmenère. Carmenère grapes generally produce a deep, dark, fruity-spicy wine which is great with red meats and well-seasoned international favorites such as Indian curries, meaty lasagnes and other spicy pasta dishes and even with Mexican cuisine.

Peter notes, however, that the terrain in Chile is extremely diverse in climate, altitude and soil types, so that the extensive varietals, married with the diverse geography offer a multitude of styles. It is hard not to think of Chile as a long, narrow vertical country, but curiously, it’s not the distance from the equator that plays the dominant role in wine making; rather it’s the proximity to the Pacific Ocean or the Andes Mountains that makes the difference. Essentially, Chile has much greater diversity in soils and climates from east to west than from north to south.

Wine making has a long and distinguished history in Chile. Wine grapes first came to the Americas in the 16th century with the early Spanish missionaries and colonists. By the time Chile achieved its independence from Spain in the early 19th century, trans-Atlantic travel was more accessible and France was the destination of choice. Travelers returned with the latest trends and scientists with the latest technology and vines. Large European style mansions appeared on the outskirts of Santiago, surrounded by vineyards boasting noble French grape varieties. By mid-century Chile’s wine was already attracting attention around the world. And while Chilean wine was enjoying this burst of energy and quality, the European vineyards were being devastated by phylloxera, a root-eating louse native to North America, that had entered Europe with plants brought by collectors. For some as yet unknown reasons, Chile, unlike the rest of the world, has never been affected by the pest and varieties that disappeared in Europe have always remained alive and well in Chilean vineyards. As Peter says:

“Chile is a naturally occurring “organic island” that offers the opportunity for Old World wine makers to employ New World techniques, using the fruit of vines descended from the Old World. The new and old combine to create superb quality wines that offer some of the best value available globally.”

Most recently, the technologically advanced wineries are employing sustainable and eco-friendly sustainabletechniques to devise world class wines which are still available at wonderfully affordable prices. The big, well-known companies such as Concha y Toro, Santa Rita and Cono Sur, all advertise sustainable and eco-friendly production methods. The industries seem to have a real commitment to ecologically sound practices and have even sponsored the development of a National Sustainability Code that establishes definitions and guidelines for environmental and social responsibility.

I’m so sorry that I’m going to miss this evening, although there still are a few seats available for latecomers. Last weekend I tried a Chilean wine with carmenère
grapes for the first time and teamed it with a delicious pasta dish called Spaghetti alla Carbonara, since I really don’t know anything about Chilean food (Reminder to self: add “wine and food tour” of Chile to already endless bucket list!). The wine is called Casillero del Diablo RSV (LCBO 620666). It’s a beautiful, rich colour and paired very nicely with the Carbonara.

E. Hujer

carbonaracasillero2

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

adapted from Giuliano Hazan’s The Classic Pasta Cookbook

Ingredients:

500 g (1 lb) dried spaghetti

30 g. (1 oz) butter

30 ml (1 tbsps.) extra-virgin olive oil

125 g(4 oz.) pancetta, cut into thin strips

90 ml (6 tbsps.) dry white wine

4 egg yolks

3 tbsps. freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese

1tbsp. freshly grated pecorino romano cheese

1 tbsp. finely chopped flat leaf parsley

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

1.  Pour 4 litres (7 pints) of water into a large saucepan or pot and place over high heat.

2.  Put the butter and olive oil in a small sauté pan over a medium-high heat.  When the butter has melted, add the pancetta and cook until it is well browned but not crisp.  Pour in the white wine and continue cooking until it has reduced by about half.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.  When the water for the pasta is boiling, and the sauce is off the heat, add 1 tablespoon of salt to the boiling water and drop in the pasta all at once, stirring until the strands are submerged.

4.  In a mixing bowl large enough to accommodate the pasta, lightly beat the egg yolks with the two grated cheeses, the parsley, a pinch of salt and several grindings of the pepper mill.

5.  When the pasta is cooked al dente, return the pan with the pancetta to a high heat, then drain the pasta and add it to the mixing bowl containing the egg yolks and cheese.  Toss until the pasta is well coated with the egg and cheese mixture and add the hot pancetta.  Serve at once.

My Notes: 

A lot of recipes for this dish call for cream, but I find the combination of egg yolks and cheeses is rich enough.  Be careful not to overcook the pasta because, actually, this tastes a bit like bacon and eggs with spaghetti and you don’t want it to have a mushy consistency.

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Wine Pairings from Celli’s Osteria Go Cooking event:

Go Cooking is the reason we have five senses!

Our sessions offer an opportunity to enjoy your dining experience at a whole new level.  Area chefs offer a menu that is designed to intrigue and inspire you to taste different flavour combinations and textures and our added component of wine pairings ramp up that taste experience by accenting those flavours that stimulates your palette to react to the dish as a whole much like a work of art is painted separately but is enjoyed by one look.

Monday, January 8, 2013 we welcomed Chef Michael Stauffer from Celli’s Osteria, Burlington to kick off our Taste of Burlington/Go Cooking series presentation. Dawn Nickerson Ramsey, represented Bacchus Sommelier Services and offered the following pairing below…

Appetizer Pairing:  Ricotta Gnocchi With Roast Fennel, Radicchio & Piave CheeseFOLONARI SOAVE DOC Product # 176461

Product: Folonari Soave LCBO #: 176461 Price $:10.45
Region: Veneto, Italy Alcohol %:11 Vol(ml): 750
Grape(s): Garganega Vintage: 2010
Sweet Level: XD
Serving Temp: 8° C Cellaring: Drink now-2 years

The Encounter:

On the Eyes: Pale Straw with Green Hue
On the Nose: Light Citrus Aromas
On the Palate: Crisp with Flavours of Plums and Citrus with Hints of Almond

Entree Pairing:      Chianti Braised Beef Short Ribs

Product: Crognolo Toscana
LCBO #: 727636 LCBO $: 32.95 Region: Tuscany, Italy
Alcohol %: 14 Vol(ml): 750
Grape(s): Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon Vintage: 2007
Sweet Level: XD Serving Temp: 14° C Cellaring: now-10 years
The Encounter:
On the Eyes: deep rich inky red
On the Nose: dark berries, soft leather, spices & earth
On the Palate: dried cherries, soft leather, well balanced with velvety tannins

Dessert Pairing: Caramelized Apple Strata with Hazelnut Zabaglione

Product: Frangelico    Product #: 169441    Price $: 169441
Region: Italy              Alcohol %: 20          Vol(ml): 750
Grape(s): N/A            Vintage: N/V            Sweet Level: SW
Serving Temp:16° C   Cellaring: N/A

The Encounter:

On the Eyes: Light amber
On the Nose: Hazelnut
On the Palate: Toasty hazelnut, hint of vanilla & white chocolate

The group as a whole gave these three pairings thumbs up.  If you have any questions regarding the above selections or combinations, you may contact Bacchus Sommelier Services at 905/635-4531 or visit www.bachussommelierservices.com .

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