Wild Sage Kitchen & Bar
Pairing: Benjamin Bridge 2016 Nova 7
The Capitol Restaurant & Cocktail Bar
Pairing: Robin Ridge 2014 Pinot Noir
Skye Café & Bistro
Pairing: Cave Spring 2015 Riesling
Best of Show Results
Cave Spring 2015 Riesling
Nighthawk Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir
Tyler Harlton 2016 Viognier
A beautiful day in Regina, coming into town on that short ride from the airport – not a whisper of a breeze and the prairie sun shining in a cloudless blue sky… Okay, it was nippy – minus 10 – but our welcome at the Delta Regina Marriott was as warm as could be imagined. And the GMP gala evening in the hotel’s convention centre was a total blast! Olympic gold-medallist Erica Wiebe was our witty and delightful MC (the entire crowd hanging on her every word). Music was the gift of a super-talented quartet made up of rock icon Neil Osborne from 54/40, the inimitable Barney Bentall, the ebullient Sam Polley, and violinist extraordinaire Anne Lindsay who, as ever, raised energy levels in the great salon right through the roof.
By the time the band came on to play, the judges’ work was done, thanks to the focus and expertise of our excellent Regina panel. CJ Katz, author, photographer, broadcaster and journalist, is our Senior Judge here and she and I shared the table with Trent Brears, Executive Chef of the Regina Legislature and captain of the Saskatchewan Culinary Team at the 2000 Culinary Olympics in Germany; with chef and educator Thomas Rush; with writer, blogger, restaurant columnist and television producer Aidan Morgan; and of course with last year’s gold medallist, Chef Garrett “Rusty” Thienes of Harvest Eatery and Fresh Market in Shaunavon. This eminent crew had its work cut out. We all agreed on our gold and silver winners but bronze was another matter. I don’t usually mention who comes fourth in our competition but this time three chefs were involved in a photo finish and we had to work through each of the judging criteria (taste, technique, visual presentation, texture, wine compatibility and wow factor) repeatedly to find our bronze medallist. So, disappointment for Chef Curtis Toth of the Hotel Saskatchewan and for Chef Jssel Hysuik of Sprout Catering & Café…
But joy for Louise Lu of Skye Café & Btsro as we hung the medal around her neck. So many of the dishes last night were ravishingly beautiful to look at and Chef Lu’s was a stunner. Her main component was a stiff, very slim, rectangular slice of foie gras that she had first cured, puréed and pressed. As firm and slick as cold butter, with a dusting of crumbled pistachios to add texture, it lay across three components. The first was a bite-sized purse of ethereal phyllo pastry filled with a sweet pear chutney spiked with the merest hint of Szechuan peppercorn. Beside that was a very different treatment of pear – a brunoise, lightly pickled and flavoured with ginger. The third component was a sponge-like brioche flavoured and coloured with pistachio and sprayed with an invisible spritz of pear and Riesling. There were other garnishes – more pistachios for crunch, a modest dusting of green macha powder, one or two cranberry pearls, and, soaring skywards, a perfect, tissue-thin pear crisp. The harmonies between the pear and pistachio components were impeccable; the way they balanced the richness of the foie gras beautifully judged. And the wine match was a doozey – the amazing CSV 2015 Riesling from Cave Spring Cellars in Niagara, a wine of the most elegant minerality and delicate intensity that also worked perfectly to balance the foie.
We awarded the silver medal to Chef Joel Williams of The Capitol Restaurant & Cocktail Bar who offered duck three ways. First he decorated the plate with five lines of butternut squash purée that bent this way and that from rim to rim. Along this winding highway we found the three ducky elements, starting with a mound of moist, fatty rillettes made from the confited duck breast and further enriched with a touch of pork shoulder. Almost as smooth as a paté, it was enhanced by a trace of sherry and topped with an ingenious bubbly wafer made of tapioca pearls and arugula juice that had the crisp, aerated texture of a shrimp cracker. Passing an excavation of savoury beet soil, we came to the second component – a cube of delicious applewood-smoked duck breast cooked sous-vide and paired with a miniature turnip lightly pickled with rosemary and Merlot. At the end of the road lay a spoonful of foie gras mousse with the texture of whipped butter. Nudged by another pickled turnip it was crowned with a lacy “coral” of beet tuile. Flavours were vivid and textures very well achieved all the way along, and the judges enjoyed the wine pairing – the lightly tannic, vibrant 2014 Pinot Noir from Robin Ridge in the Similkameen valley.
David Vinoya of Wild Sage Kitchen & Bar won gold. He called his sensationally beautiful dish The Nest and it turned out to be a most imaginative play on a theme of chicken. He began by creating an abstract circular pattern of emerald green watercress fluid gel that had a fleetingly sweet, herbal flavour. Powdered black olive added interesting saltiness to a mound of beetroot soil that was edged by two tiny areas of very rich, chilled chicken liver mousse. Into each of these Chef stuck a fragile little fin of chicken tuile, made by roasting and puréeing chicken, adding flour and isomalt and then dehydrating it into a crisp. Wee leaves of red-veined sorrel and star-like edible yellow flowers prettified the creation but the main event was a pale sphere, like an egg, rising mysteriously from the soil. And egg it was… Chef had cured eggs in the manner of the Philippines by soaking them in mud and salt for 30 days; then he turned the yolks into a firm, super-smooth ice cream. You might expect a touch of umami in the flavour of eggs treated this way but the final taste was of rich, custardy yolk and an almost caramel-like sweetness. Chef finished the dish by holding a catkin over the plate and tapping it so that the pollen fell like fine dust onto the egg. “It’s quite flavourless,” he explained, “but packed with nutrients and minerals, so this dish is good for you as well as delicious.” The chosen wine worked really well with the subtle, pervasive sweetness of the dish – a bubbly for which I have a particularly soft spot, and which has taken other chefs to gold in the past – Benjamin Bridge’s exotic, Muscat-scented Nova 7 sparkling wine from Nova Scotia.
So we have our second champion! The roster for the Championships in Kelowna is starting to form. Next stop is Montreal on Tuesday, then off we go to Halifax and St. John’s.
Cave Spring’s Top Riesling Rules in Regina
The second Gold Medal Plates event of the 2017 campaign proved to be a great Saturday night on the town for residents of Regina, with the ballrooms of the Delta Regina transformed into a festival of Canadian food and wine. And on this night they sipped wine from three Canadian provinces.
I gathered with local wine authorities during the afternoon to taste through 12 different wines, plus beer and a cocktail to be served that evening, with either paired with creations of seven competing chefs or served to guests during the awards, athlete presentations and entertainment.
The voting for the gold medal winning Best of Show was almost unanimous – with Cave Spring’s 2015 CSV Riesling outpacing the nearest competitors. From vines approaching 40 years of age on the Beamsville Bench, this has the depth, layers and elegance that consistently make it one of the best rieslings in the country. (Link to full reviews on WineAlign.com below).
The winner of Gold Medal Best of Show will go on to the Canadian Culinary Championships Wine of the Year competition in Kelowna in February.
The voting for silver and bronze was closer, separated by only one point. The silver medal went to the well balanced, firm and complex Nighthawk Vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir from estate vines high in Okanagan Falls sub-region of the Okanagan Valley. And the Bronze medal went to the very refined, oure and balanced TH Wines 2016 Viognier, from a small Summerland property owned by Regina native Tyler Harlton.
All three winning wines were sourced by competing chefs to pair with their creations. The Cave Spring riesling was sourced by bronze medal chef Louise Lu, and paired with her foie gras with pistachio. The Nighthawk pinot was matched to chef Curtis Toth’s cherry and spice cured steelhead trout, while the TH Viognier was paired with Jessel Hysuik’s duck rillette.
Gold medal winning chef Davif Vinoya matched the eclectic Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 from Nova Scotia with an equally eclectic frozen dish with elements like chicken salted egg ice cream and chicken liver mousse. ‘Tis true
The wines on guest tables for Celebration portion of the event – featuring addresses by Olympic athletes, entertainment by leading Canadian musicians and announcement of Award winners – were from 2017 sponsor wineries
This year Gold Medal Plates has launched a new three-tiered sponsorship program to acquire premium and reserve VQA wines for all events. Four Canadian wineries have stepped up with a gold sponsorship, requiring donation to three cities. These include Mission Hill Family Estate which provided their 2015 Reserve Shiraz to the Regina event (receiving several votes from our judged).
Other national sponsors include Arterra Wines, as well as Tawse Winery of Niagara and Devonian Coast of Nova Scotia. Wines from Bronze level sponsors Quails’ Gate and Henry of Pelham were also presented during the Celebration.
In each city I assemble a panel of local wine writers, educators, sommelier and retailers to taste all the wines at the event. Each judge ranks their top five wines, and the number of votes are tallied – five points for a first place vote, four for second etc.
I was joined in Regina by a good friend and wine writer Rob Dobson formerly a contributor to Savour Life. Gavin Jensen is a super-enthusiast, with a winemaking project in Washington state. For the first time we were joined by Valerie Bradshaw, wine and whisky educator at the University of Regina and resident wine commentator at CTV Regina. I was also delighted to meet Leah Reid, Regina secretary for the Opimian Society.
The discussion was lively, the ambiance created by Regina event planner Lisa Peters was ideal, and we were impressed by the quality level of the wines poured to our Regina guests.
See below for the list of all wines poured. The winners are linked to current reviews on WineAlign.com. Many others are reviewed there as well.
Best of Show Wines
Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2015
Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Nighthawk Vineyards Pinot Noir 2015
Tyler Harlton Viognier 2016
All Wines Poured (in tasting order)
Cave Spring 2015 Riesling Beamsville Bench
Quails’ Gate 2016 Chenin Blanc
Quail’s Gate 2015 Chardonnay
Tyler Harlton 2016 Viognier
Benjamin Bridge Nova 7
Mission Hill 2015 Five Vineyards Pinot Noir
Nighthawk Vineyards 2015 Pinot Noir
Robin Ridge 2014 Pinot Noir
Quails’ Gate 2014 Merlot
Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Shiraz
Henry of Pelham 2016 Baco Noir
Summerhill Pyramid Winery 2015 Organic Baco Noir
Black Bridge Milk Stout
Swift Current, Saskatchewan
High River Canadian Whisky
National Wine Advisor David Lawrason is co-founder of the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada https://www.winealign.
Please contact David for Gold Medal Plates wine sponsorship opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org
2017 Photo Highlights
Thank you to the Gold Medal Plates sponsors and supporters who provide vital support to the project!
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