Sunday, May 2, 2010

Report from ... Bb33 Dinner with Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery – April 27, 2010

Tonight it’s another dinner at Bb33 at the Delta Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto.  In attendance is the International Wine and Food Society, who are holding their monthly dinner here; tonight, the wines are from Wayne Gretzky Estate Winery and they are being represented by their Australian-born winemaker Craig McDonald, who had quite a few bon mots this evening:

The Quotes …
On the difference between making wine in Australia and Canada:  “In Australia there’s a kind of sameness to the vintages so things can get mechanical, then I came to Canada and I had to throw everything I knew out the window.”

On the Aussie wine experience: “In Australia we wanted to take the fluff out of wine and make it a lifestyle beverage.”  It was a 20-year plan that they accomplished in 7.

While talking about his days at Penfolds Craig revealed the secret to making good wine:  “It takes a lot of beer to make wine.”  He said referring to coopers in Australia.

Insights into the various kinds of American oak: “Northern American oak [ie: Pennsylvania] is a better oak for wine then Southern American oak [ie: Kentucky] – think Bourbon in the south, wine in the North.”

On the planting of Shiraz in Ontario: “Many are pulling out Shiraz, I’m planting it; it’s all about where you plant it in Ontario” … he then revealed that the Shiraz for his wines is grown on the St. David’s Bench sub-appellation, near Niagara-on-the-Lake.  It’s 8 kilometers from the lake and therefore a warmer spot.

On the early days of the current Ontario growing season: “We are 18 days ahead according to the Vineland research station.”  Putting this into a perspective most people can relate to: “the cherry blossoms are 3 weeks ahead.”

Final comments to the assembled crowd about the Ontario wine industry:  “We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go.”

The Wines and the Food …
Four course, five wines – the food was expertly made by head chef Gino Guercio and his staff.

Reception wine was an Estate Series 2007 Sauvignon Blanc, in fact all the wines planned for this evening were from the 10,000 case Estate Series of wines – the second tier in the Gretzky line up (the winery currently produces 35,000 cases – a majority of which is their entry level wines).  The Sauvignon Blanc was crisp and fruit driven with lime and pineapple on the palate (***½)

First Course: (best stand alone food of the evening)
Pan Seared Dill and Sancho Pepper Dusted Yellow Fin Tuna with Petit Baby Green  & Seedling Bundle / Québec Maple Syrup and Soya Glaze … paired with the Estate Series 2007 Chardonnay which was 40% barrel fermented.  Buttery, vanilla with a decent amount of acidity, good finish or pineapple core and peach pit. (***½)

Second Course: (best pairing of food and wine – best stand alone wine)
Porcini & Herb Crusted Ontario Farm Raised Bison Tenderloin Portobello Mushroom, Truffle & Yukon Gold Potato Galette Apple Wood Smoked Bacon and Organic Baby Fennel Fricassee Toasted Coriander Seed Reduction paired with the Aussie inspired Estate Series 2007 Shiraz (66%) Cabernet (34%) - $23.95 … this is quite the mouth full, a beauty of a Shiraz blend.  22 months worth of oak treatment shows on the nose but the palate shows a restrain use of oak that the 22-month regimen would not suggest – nice fruit and even better spice.  (for a full review click the wine name above).

Third Course: (cheese lovers delight)
Québec Artisan Cheese Board with Crisp Flat Breads / Fruit and Honey Compotes paired with the Estate Series 2007 Cabernet Merlot – what a beautiful spread, and what wine doesn’t go with cheese.

Fourth Course: (“Canadian wine with an Aussie twist”)
Caramelized Mission Fig & Lemon Scented Ricotta Cheese Tart Lemon & French Vanilla Bean Scented Ricotta Cheese Filling House Made Maple and Cinnamon Ice Cream / Warm Port Wine Gastric – this delicious dessert was paired with Ontario’s first commercial Shiraz icewine; while Shiraz ice has been made before, Craig explained that he’s the first to make it in commercial quantity – I’m talking about the Estate 2006 Shiraz Icewine with its honeyed cherry and apricot nose and a touch of spice on the mid-palate along with honeyed strawberries and a medium-length finish; surprisingly this wine is not too sweet and cloying and has a nice balance.  It was something unique and not to everyone’s taste, as I found out by talking around the table and around the room – definitely not your typical Shiraz in any sense of the word. (***½)

Another fantastic dinner here at Bb33, I’m gonna miss the next one being held on May 17 because I will be in Windsor judging at the All Canadian Wine Championships – it’ll be tough to miss dinner but duty calls – hopefully I’ll catch up with chef Gino and the Bb33 staff next time.

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