In Vino Verity
To Verity—the excellent club for women at 111 Queen Street East—for a midweek rendezvous in the library hosted by Sopexa, where we tasted a good range of vins doux naturels including Muscat de Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls. Such delectable wines! After years of drought, the LCBO has now seen fit to bring a handful to Ontario, which may not change anyone’s life but is an amazing boon to those of us who like serving wine with dessert. Banyuls is one of the few vini that laughs at the menace of chocolate the way Errol Flynn used to laugh at Basil Rathbone. I fell in love with it about 14 years ago on a trip to Roussillon that then meandered up into Languedoc. Still an eager cub reporter, I managed to convince myself that I had unearthed a Cathar-revivalist conspiracy communicated through the labels of certain Blanquette de Limoux wines… but that is another story.
The tasting at Verity proved once and for all that these wines also enjoy a substantial savoury constituency. Canapés that afternoon were arranged by George (domain of chef Lorenzo Loseto) and were the best I’ve had in years. Gorgeous little foie gras burgers in brioche, salmon skewers, duck croquettes, tempura-like shrimps… a lot of them were flavoured with fresh ginger, which worked beautifully with the wines.
George has always been a star at matching wine and food, a reputation established by talented sommelier Kim Cyr before she moved to Kultura. Dear Kim, I raise a flute of Champagne Julep to you and wish you a full and speedy recovery! I thought about you on Saturday evening at Massey College where I was honoured to take part in a wine and food tasting party organized by junior fellow Myles Leslie and his friend and colleague Marie-Pierre Krück. Leslie is from B.C. and is trying to persuade the college to invest in some of Okanagan’s finest for its still nascent cellar. He paired BC wines by varietal against reasonably well-matched opponents, all complemented by meticulously devised dishes that the three of us worked out beforehand and that the college’s kitchen—led by catering manager Darlene Naranjo—executed with its customary precision and verve. An example: Quail’s Gate Limited Release Chardonnay 2005 (beautifully balanced, fresh, light, tangy with a floral nose, some vanilla oak, baked apple and a long finish that ends in a spicy little flourish of oak) versus Wolf Blass Premium Selection Chardonnay 2004 (I heard one well-known lawyer murmur “G’day Bruce, did you liquidize the barrel along with the guava and pineapple?” But that is so unfair—it’s just a bigger, riper, oakier Chardonnay than the Quail’s Gate) paired with a composition of mushroom, leek and tarragon stuffed with fresh Portuguese cheese and a corn succotash coulis. The harmonics were resonant, the flavours yummy, and opinion fairly equally divided as to which wine showed best. In the end the competitive plot of the evening slipped beneath the waves of conversation and bonhommie and a very good time was had by all.