By Aaron Winsor
Hello Prince Albert! The Rotary Club Wine Premier was back in person last Saturday (November 6th) at the Plaza 88 event center! Due to restrictions last year, the event was held online with attendees picking up their own wines (specially selected to compliment the food) and heating up meals which were delivered to them. The Rotary Club and everyone involved should be commended for their hard work in making the event work during such a difficult time.
The tune is different this year however as live attendance was back! Approximately 183 guests arrived at Plaza 88 on Saturday to join together for fundraising, chatting and of course, plenty of delicious wines and food to pair. Here is my breakdown of the evening.
The VIP section always gets the night going with a couple of exclusive wines on offer for sampling. This particular evening, the Sandhill Rose ($22) and the Black Hills Addendum ($70) red wine were sipped on as VIP guests chatted behind the stage curtains. The Sandhill rose from the Okanagan is a crisp, light rose made from Gamay noir and merlot grapes with flavors of grapefruit and citrus and hints of mineral. The Addendum is dominated by Merlot in the blend and features savory herb and earthy fruit notes.
The main event begins with some brief introductions and a clever projected video of the winemakers discussing their wines. First up is the Wayne Gretzky Estate Pinot Grigio ($18) paired with lobster thermidor. Creamy, rich seafood sits atop a bed of asparagus risotto. These flavors are contrasted wonderfully by sharp, crisp citrus notes of the Pinot Grigio and a pop of acidity. The acidity cleans the palate and citrus compliments the buttery lobster and green veggie component. Great pairing!
Second course begins with another speaker and projected video for the Tinhorn Creek Gewurztraminer ($22) (you can call it Traminer) paired up with the wildly creative deconstructed Caesar salad. The highlights of the salad were the bacon and parmesan crisp served inside a carved-out baguette round with lettuce. The creamy roasted garlic sauce underneath was sprinkled with capers and lemon zest bits. Savory, earthy, citrusy, all of these flavors played perfectly off of the Gewurztraminer which interjected with sweet tropical fruit, citrus notes and floral accents. Harmonious pairing!
The third course opens with another briefing and video followed by a serving of creamy polenta, topped with roasted green/red pepper, mushrooms and onions. Ratatouille style! Fresh pomodoro sauce covers the polenta and a liberally salted pesto garnish rings the plate. This creation is paired with the Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc ($52). This earthy wine is magnificent on its own, as is the polenta; but together, the pairing was slightly off. The brightness of fresh veggies and tomato sauce creates an intensity that the wine cannot match. To pair perfectly, the wine needed a touch more acidity and more fruit concentration. Beautiful separately but a disharmonious note arises from this (still delicious) pairing.
The main entrée is the second-last course and features a beef tenderloin, served with a rich gravy and baby potatoes along with yellow squash medallions. Simple, yet delicious and satisfying, the main meat course is always heavily anticipated and so is the wine. The wine served with this course was the Sandhill Cabernet Merlot blend ($24). This red features some classic Canadian-red flavors of cherry, plum, vanilla and leather which will compliment almost any meat dish. The pairing worked quite well but after a higher-quality red like the Cab Franc it almost seemed like a slight step down. Satisfying but the wine was outshined.
Last is the dessert course which I sadly could not partake in (pecans!). This course looked like a caramel-apple brulee type dessert topped with whipped cream and toffee-pecans. Taking a different approach to the dessert course, the pairing wine was not a wine at all but was in fact the Wayne Gretzky Salted Caramel liqueur ($32). This was a genius choice to pair with the dessert as all the flavors line up. Salt, caramel, toffee, vanilla and a rich creamy texture.
This event was much needed. Not only will the funding be used for many community projects (like the Alfred Jenkins play park to be built in Little Red next year), the chance to sit together and laugh, talk and eat was necessary to feel like ourselves again. It brought some color to our cheeks and allowed us to soak up some culture. Check out the Wine Premier next year, it is packed full of incredible people, wine and food! Here are my wine picks of the week!
Grey Monk Gewurztraminer 2020: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Medium-sweet white, medium golden color. The nose is zesty and bright with lemon/lime citrus, tropical fruit, honey and jasmine flower. The palate opens with a zip of intense tropical fruit (pineapple, lychee)and honeycomb sweetness quickly followed by floral tones of ginger, citrus peel, jasmine and honeysuckle flower. Medium acidity and medium body. This wine is meant to be drank young and fresh while the zesty flavors are still active. Pair with Asian foods or spicy curries. Simple and deliciously fruity! Good! $22, 12.9% ABV
Tinhorn Creek Cabernet Franc 2018: (VQA Okanagan Valley, Canada). Dry red, medium ruby color. This red varietal from the Okanagan opens with a bouquet of earthy tones like cedar, tobacco, earthy cherry, white/black pepper and hints of green pepper. Medium body with medium-plus tannins on the palate. The tobacco, earth and cherry notes are apparent to the taste followed by a long finish of cigar box and spice, dusty cocoa and lingering oak. Vanilla and hints of chocolate linger in the background. Medium acidity keeps the wine smooth and not too zippy. A dry, earthy wine like this works best with savory meats flavored with earthy spices such as a roast meat served with root vegetables. Very good! $52, 14.5% ABVCheers and thanks for reading!