Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Report from … Get Fresh in the Valley – May 7-8, 2011

Back in 2008 I did something I have never done since:  I had a guest writer write a blog entry of an event that I could not attend.  His name was Fred Couch, and although I and my readers enjoyed his frank, honest assessment of Wrapped Up in the Valley 2008, a certain winery had some choice words for Mr. Couch (I think they threatened to eat his children, good thing for Fred that he does not have any).  Anyway, it has taken me 2 years but I have coaxed Fred off the couch and on to the road again – this time for a look at the new 20 Valley event “Fresh”.  Fred has also told me that he tried to remain positive, and where negativity did seep in he did not mention any names (I guess he wanted to not only protect the guilty but himself as well) …

“Get Fresh in Twenty Valley” Passport Event 
… By F.G. Couch

This event, held the first two weekends of May, was an inaugural event for the Twenty Valley Association.  20 wineries participated and for a passport cost of $35 plus HST (of course!), holders could visit all 20 for a sample of wine with matching food.  As a bonus and to get your spring garden started, each winery also gave out a packet of seeds.  There were ten different varieties in all, each producing an edible product including arugula, sweet basil, Detroit dark red beets, Touchon carrots, Bouquet dill, red salad bowl lettuce, Tokyo long white onions, cherry belle radish, Tyee spinach and Johnny Jump-up violas.

As with most passport events, some wineries go all out and do a great job and put a lot of effort into the wine and food pairing and the presentation.  Unfortunately, others took the easy way out and offered uninspired food such as a bit of goat cheese mixed with dill on a very stale crostini.  Another winery just served a small piece of baguette with a saucer of dipping oil and a dry spice mixture. [ed. Note:  this is where Fed has performed his negative soft shoe shuffle.]

The best food presentation both visually and taste-wise has to go to Sue-Ann Staff Winery.  Sue-Ann had an unfortunate experience on the first weekend with the spring-style sushi California rolls that she wanted to serve for this event.  [She did not repeat her mistake twice] instead she created a dish modified from a magazine recipe.  For the cup she used an egg roll wrapper baked in a muffin tin.  This was then filled with a coarsely shredded papaya dressed with fresh mint, ginger, garlic and lime juice with fish sauce, sugar and salt.  Then garnished with soya poached salmon, cherry tomato, peanuts and thinly sliced dried mango on the side.  The matching wine was the 2009 Pinot Grigio.  Five out of five stars, Sue-Ann!

Runner up in the presentation category goes to The Good Earth Food and Wine Co.  They served a spring pea soup with crème fraiche garnished with an edible Johnny Jump-up viola.  The soup was paired with their 2009 Chardonnay.

Best food pairings were at: Megalomaniac (John Howard Cellars of Distinction) - the 2009 Narcissist Riesling was served with a caramelized onion tart with duck confit and goat cheese, garnished with a beet chip.  This excellent dish was prepared by About Thyme Bistro in Vineland.  13th Street Winery – the 2010 White Palette was paired with spring rolls and a spicy dipping sauce.  As an added bonus they also served a carrot soup and you could also try the Red Palette with the spring roll.  Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery – the 2010 Wismer Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc with a spring market sandwich of cream cheese, cucumber, tender greens and fresh herbs on organic whole wheat bread.  Angels Gate Winery – the 2009 Sussreserve Riesling with a South-western rice medley with shrimp.

The maverick winery award goes to Stoney Ridge Winery for serving the only full-bodied red wine of the event!  The other wineries served either a white wine or a rosé.  Stoney Ridge broke the mold by offering their 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon with roast beef slices and aged cheddar cheese including a horseradish cheese which went well with the beef – delicious!

Overall, this was a great event and well worth the price of the passport.  Some of the wineries were disappointed with the attendance while others said they had a great turnout.  I’m not sure what would be the explanation for this.  One winery representative said that the event should be held in June rather than May.  The wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake hold their Herb and Wine Festival during four weekends in May as well so this could contribute to attendance being lower than expected.  However, with a bit of tweaking and possibly more advertising this event could become the spring wine event to attend!  Event rating: 4 ½ out of 5; value for money: 5 out of 5.

[ed. note: I found the advertising to be a little lacking for this event; as a media outlet I received only one email about the event and it gave only a single day for the event, not 2 weekend in May.  Meanwhile, the folks at the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake have sent me two emails a week to remind me of there Spring event (Wine and Herb Festival)].

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