University of Saskatchewan
Pairing: Osoyoos LaRose, 2013 Grand Vin, Charton-Hobbs Inc.
Chef Jenni Cuisine
Pairing: Black Fox Spirits, 2017 Honey Ginger Liqueur & Black Forest Gin
Delta Bessborough by Marriott
Pairing: K.J. Watson, 2015 Clossen Chase Pinot Noir
Best of Show Results
Osoyoos LaRose, 2014 Grand Vin, Charton-Hobbs Inc.
Marionette, 2014 Pulcinella
Quails’ Gate 2016 Chenin Blanc
Yet more sunshine on our extended road trip, glinting off the broad South Saskatchewan river in the early afternoon as I summoned my appetite with a good long walk. This part of the city – all parkland and elegant bridges of honey-coloured stone – is as lovely as any urban scene in the entire prairies. Especially when one has a party to go to later. The Gold Medal Plates gala that evening was a doozey, the best yet, put through its paces most energetically by our dazzling MC, Olympic soccer star Melissa Tancredi. Bidding on the GMP trips went through the roof and the music was excellent – the great Jim Cuddy and his sons Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley, accompanied by the luminously brilliant Anne Lindsay, bringing the crowd to its feet time and again. Even some chefs were said to have been rocking away, though they had had a busy evening. And a most successful one, according to the culinary judges on my panel, led by our Senior Judge for Saskatoon, writer, caterer and dining columnist for Planet S magazine, leader of Slow Food Saskatoon, Noelle Chorney; together with poet, author, restaurateur and co-founder of Slow Food Saskatoon, dee Hobsbawn-Smith; chef and culinary instructor Michael Beaulé; chef and past competitor with Gold Medal Plates, Dan Walker; author, blogger, journalist and pastry chef, Renee Kohlman; and last year’s gold-medal-winning chef, Scott Torgerson of the Radisson Hotel Saskatoon and Aroma Resto Bar.
Frequent Saskatoon champion Darren Craddock of the Delta Bessborough hotel won the bronze medal. He chose to work with gorgeous prairie lamb, marinating the firm, flavourful belly with mint, garlic and parsley, slow-cooking it sous-vide for 12 hours then searing it off; a dusting of fennel pollen brought out its savoury flavour perfectly. He also offered lamb sweetbreads, impeccably prepped and crisply fried at his station with a crust of dried, powdered corn. Two purées painted the plate – one of tangy, emerald-coloured sorrel, the other a parsley root soubise – both delicious. Puffed sorghum gave crispness to the creation; so did a scattering of crushed hazelnuts and cocoa nibs. Dots of a very intense sour cherry and anise gel woke up the judges’ palates and found an open road into the heart of the wine – as did the cocoa and anise. The wine in question? Closson Chase’s K. J. Watson vineyard 2015 Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County.
Chef Jenni Schrenk of Chef Jenni Cuisine won the silver medal. Her dish was a memento of her wedding day in June 2016, held in Germany’s Black Forest at St. Johann’s church, which stands beside a wishing well said to be the source of the Danube. It was a fascinating and courageous vegetarian plate, with most elements curling elegantly around the rim of the bowl, skirting three colourful dots – one of turquoise coloured blue-green algae and wild mushroom foam, representing that wishing well, another of julienned squash with a lightly curried dressing, the third a pear “penny candy” stamped with a birch leaf. The dish had two principal components – a drift of superlatively tender little spätzle, dusted with cattail pollen, and a mound of firm Swabian-style green lentils subtly seasoned to match Chef’s beverage with juniper, thyme, ginger and clove. Crunchy little white garnishes turned out to be cattail hearts pickled in the honey ginger liqueur that was another part of Chef’s cocktail. A micro-salad of mostly mustard and radish sprouts lead to the final flourish, a tissue-thin Emmental crisp decorated with chokecherry vinaigrette pearls. All Chef Jenni’s ingredients were locally harvested over the last week and her drink was a beauty – a fresh, foamy cocktail made with Local Black Fox #3 gin and the same company’s honey and ginger liqueur.
We awarded the gold medal to Chef James McFarland of the University of Saskatchewan. His delectable protein was a tenderloin of bison, cured in espresso coffee and cooked sous vide for just the right amount of time. The meat was marvellously tender and flavourful and its texture had more integrity than most meats prepared in a bag. On top of the slices of meat was more bison – the flank, shredded, crisped and infused with birch. It had a powerful woodsy, ashy flavour that contrasted beautifully with the moist tenderloin. The accompaniments were more like condiments than sides – dots of french onion essence enriched with comté cheese; tangy petals of pickled pearl onion; a smoked corn pyrée and a dusting of smoked corn powder. Black currant appeared as a tart gastrique and an ethereal coral tuile. It all looked splendid and tasted delicious, especially when one piled several elements onto the fork. The wine Chef chose was superb and so was its relationship to the dish, bringing coffee and black currant notes into play – the 2013 Grand Vin from Osoyoos LaRose in the Okanagan.
Huge congratulations to all the chefs who comepeted in Saskatoon and especially to Chef McFarland. We will see him in Kelowna, and I can’t wait to taste his food again.
Big Reds on the Prairie
By David Lawrason
National Wine Advisor
Perhaps it was winter in the air, or the hearty fare from various prairie beasts on the hoof (bison, beef and lamb). Or both. But on this night in Saskatoon big red wines ruled the day, with none of the seven competing chefs pouring a white wine. One chef did however serve an excellent Saskatchewan sour beer, another sourced local blueberry mead and another pour a delightful homegrown cocktail, making it very difficult to pick a winner.
In the end, Osoyoos-Larose 2014 Le Grand Vin – one of Canada’s iconic reds – walked off with Best of Show honors. It also took gold as accompaniment to the winning bison dish from University of Saskatchewan Chef James McFarland.
It was my first look at the 2014 vintage, and seemed to be just a bit richer, more supple and streamlined than previous editions. Owned by Bordeaux-based Le Groupe Taillan, and based on merlot, cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux varieties, Osoyoos-Larose from B.C.’s Okanagan Valley was designed from the start to be a sturdy, cellaring red.
It may now be Canada’s best known “big red”, but our runner up couldn’t have been more obscure. When I saw Marionnette 2015 Pulcinella on the roster, I had no idea what to expect. When I Googled the winery and discovered it is located in Salmon Arm in central B.C. well north of the Okanagan I was even more intrigued. When I further discovered it was made from an Austrian grape called Zweigelt that tends to grow well in cooler latitudes I couldn’t wait to try it. It was firm, fairly tannic yet otherwise balanced with the grape’s wild berry and slightly earthy flavours in full display. It scored not far behind Osoyoos-Larose, with all four judges naming it in their top five.
The third-place vote went to Quail’s Gate 2016 Chenin Blanc, a very popular unoaked white that nicely captures the melon/pear fruitiness and subtle florals of this Loire variety. This wine was not poured by chefs, but like several others was donated by sponsors for the VIP Reception and Celebration portions of the evening.
This year Gold Medal Plates has launched a new three-tiered sponsorship program to acquire premium and reserve VQA wines for all events. Three 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 Saskatoon event, plus include Arterra Wines, as well as Tawse Winery of Niagara. Wines from Bronze level sponsors Quails’ Gate were also poured this night.
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 Saskatoon again this year by Dawn Wreford, manager of the Co-Op Wine Store in Saskatoon – one of the best private stores in western Canada. Gavin Jensen, a super-enthusiast with a winemaking project in Washington state, made the drive from Regina to Saskatoon to join us again. And for at the fourth year in a row we welcomed wine fan Robert Wakeman-Peterson, who claims he was entrapped into driving a friend’s wine across provincial borders, and has never looked back.
The judging proved quite difficult with the inclusion of the very fine gose (sour beer) from the 9 Mile Legacy Brewery of Saskatoon, a lovely blueberry mead from Prairie Bee, as well as a very fine cocktail combining two spirits from Black Fox Spirits – their Honey Ginger Liqueur and Black Fox Gin. I ranked the 9 Mile Legacy Gose in my top five.
See below for the list of all wines poured. Two of the winners are linked to current reviews on WineAlign.com.
Best of Show Wines
Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2014
Marionette 2015 Pulcinella
Salmon Arm, B.C.
Quails; Gate Chenin Blanc 2016
All Wines Poured (in tasting order)
Le Vieux Pin 2012 Petite Blanc
Quails’ Gate 2016 Chenin Blanc
Quail’s Gate 2015 Chardonnay
Jackson-Triggs 2016 White Meritage
Closson Chase 2015 KJ Watson Vineyard Pinot Noir
Niagara River. ON
Mission Hill 2015 Five Vineyards Pinot Noir
Marionette Winery 2014 Pulcinella (Zweigelt)
Salmon Arm, BC
Osoyoos Larose 2014 Le Grand Vin
Quails’ Gate 2014 Merlot
Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Shiraz
Sage Hills 2015 Syrah
Prairie Bee Meadery 2017 Blueberry Bliss Mead
Black Fox Spirits 2017 Honey Ginger Liqueur & Black Fox Gin
9 Mile Brewery Legacy Gose
National Wine Advisor David Lawrason is co-founder of the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada https://www.winealign.com/awards, instructor for Fine Vintage Ltd Canadian Wine Scholar course https://www.finevintageltd.com/wine-courses/canadian-wine-scholar/, and author of the Canadian Wine Report at WineAlign.com.
Please contact David for Gold Medal Plates wine sponsorship opportunities at email@example.com
2017 Photo Highlights
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