Friday, July 9, 2010

Report from ... Huff’s 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs – July 8, 2010

“We read your blog today about the 2007 event to find out what to wear,” the man in the long khaki pants told me, the woman with him, in a black knee-length dress, nodded in agreement.

“Had I known it was gonna be this hot I would have told you as little as possible,” I responded.  It was a hot evening here in the County, where Huff Estates Winery welcomed 6 chefs to pair food with 6 barrels of new unfinished wine.  For the record, I was dressed in shorts, a golf shirt and sandals.

“We’ve gone from one extreme to another,” said owner Lanny Huff, referring back to last year’s torrential downpour, “but it adds a different dynamic every year.” 

This is the fourth year that Huff has hosted this fabulous In-the-Vineyard walk around dining event for wine and food lovers.  The concept is simple:  Huff invites 6 chefs from different parts of Ontario to match a dish with 6 unfinished, still in barrel, County wines – 3 Chardonnays (Huff) and 3 Pinot Noirs (Norman Hardie).  It’s an informal walk through the vineyard dine and drink event.  Followed by dessert and coffee back on the winery patio.  This year’s dessert was supplied by The Bloomfield Carriage House Restaurant (Gooseberry Turnover with Elderflower Cream along with Fifth Town Cheese (who brought three varieties along) and all were paired with Huff’s 2007 First Frost ‘dessert’ wine.  What a decadent night, and all without having to put on a tie and dress pants.

The chefs in attendance this year were Michael Potter (Picton), Ryan Crawford (Niagara), Steve Mitton (Ottawa), Chris McDonald (Toronto), Bryan Steele (Strafford) and Hiro Yoshida (Toronto).  The wines were pulled out of different barrels with different toast levels, of different ages and from different cooperage houses – but all were French – and all were meant to show the difference a barrel makes on the same wine (all the wines were from the 2009 vintage and all were made using 100% County fruit).

The Food …

Highlights of the night included Ryan Crawfrad’s (Stone Road Grille) Pan-fried Wild BC Halibut with Ndjua sauce.

And Bryan Steele’s (The Old Prune Restaurant) Roulade of Northern Pike and Georgian Bay Lake Trout.  Both fish dishes tied for a very respectable third place for best food of the night.  All the fish course were superb and paired well with their respective Chardonnays.

Second place, food-wise, was the melt in your mouth Crepinette ham hock terrine with pork liver spaetzle and smoked trotter broth (in case you were wondering ‘trotter broth’ is made from pig’s feet).  This dish was cuttable with your fork though it began to melt before it even got to your mouth (and not because of the heat) – delicious.  Prepared by Steve Mitton (Murray Street Restaurant).

This brings me to the number one food-stuff of the event.  As I said, all the fish dishes were excellent and the best of the night was Hiro Yoshida’s (Hiro Shushi) Assortment of Sushi served rockside (Tuna, French Mackerel and Butterfish – all smoked) – absolutely worth going back for seconds, thirds and quite possibly fourths.

The Wines …

Speaking of fourths, I must have had four tastings of the 2009 South Bay Chardonnay (Dargaud, Medium Plus toast, Les Bertanges forest – France, 2006 barrel) – beautiful fruit flavours and smells with a wisp of smoke, there was vanilla, pear, melon rind and great balancing acidity – this wine was really stunning, and worth every sip.  Balanced with full-on fruit and hints of oak nuances.  Best of all it paired so well with the Hiro Yoshida sushi, or just sipped on its own.  The pairing of this Chardonnay and the Yoshida Sushi was the pairing of the night, they just melded so well together.  Frederic Picard is doing a fabulous job with County Chardonnay, and the accolades are now starting to come in, having just won two major awards for best white (Ontario Wine Awards and Artevino).

On the Pinot Noir side, Norm has done a wonderful job with his ‘09s; the one that really stood out was the 2009 Pinot Noir (Mercurey, Grand Cru toast, Mixed forest – France, 2009 barrel); this just had so much going for it with its’ violet/floral nose, sweet cherry fruit and high acidity – this was a delicate and pretty wine worth sipping on; it worked very well with the Mitton Hock.

Another exciting Barrel/Chef outing showcasing both County wines and local Ontario culinary achievements.  Bravo.

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