Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar
Pairing: Sea Star 2016 Ortega, Pender Island, BC
Pairing: Haywire, 2016 Gamay Noir Rose, Oliver, BC
Pairing: Beaufort Vineyard & Estate Winery, 2015 Foch Cab, BC
Best of Show Results
Sea Star 2016 Ortega, Pender Island, BC
Lock & Worth Winery, 2016 Cabernet Franc Rose, Naramata, BC
Lunessence Winery & Vineyard, 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Okanagan Valley, BC
Gold Medal Plates Victoria is really a gathering for the entire province of British Columbia, with chefs flying in from Kelowna, Vancouver, the islands and from as far north as Haïda Gwai to compete, last night delighting a sold-out crowd with their creations. Like moons in intersecting orbits, Scott Russell’s personal peregrinations frequently coincide with GMP’s and he was with us again to MC the gala with his customary wit and wisdom. We had a super-group on the stage, entertaining us with music and song – virtually an orchestra, comprised of Neil Osborne of 54/40, Matthew Harder of Spirit of the West, Rebecca Harder, Tobin Frank, Dustin Bentall, Devin Cuddy, Sam Polley and Daniel Lapp!
The food was sensational, marked by a particular sensitivity to the notion of terroir, with every chef eager to seek out and showcase uniquely local ingredients. This is true in the rest of the country these days, thank goodness, but especially so in B.C. Sharing the journey of culinary discovery with me was our brilliant team of local judges led by our Joint Chiefs of Staff for British Columbia, Senior Judge Sid Cross – one of Canada’s great authorities on food and wine –
and Senior Judge Andrew Morrison, author, critic and editor-in-chief of Scout Magazine. With us was sommelier, chef, writer and founder of EAT magazine, Gary Hynes; food and wine writer and food editor of Western Living and Vancouver magazines, Neal McLennan; and last year’s gold-medal-winning chef, Jesse McCleery of Pilgrimme, on Galliano Island.
We awarded the bronze medal to Chef Ryan Zuvich of Hilltop Bistro in Nanaimo. The ingredients for his dish were all harvested from farms close to his restaurant within the last week – except for his garnish of nasturtium leaves which were snipped from live flats at his station last night. His central protein was a delicious chicken balotine (“old school” was how he described it) of exceptionally tasty chicken filets marinated in red wine, rolled in peppery leek ash and mushroom powder and then wrapped tightly in chicken skin. The thick slice each judge received looked like a pretty mosaic, perched on top of a medley of vegetables – purple carrot, tropea onion and Peruvian potatoes – each of which had been separately roasted with chicken fat, thyme and garlic and (by some miracle) reached us piping hot. A fluid gel of marionberry and currant added tang to the dish while crushed hazelnuts provided crunch. Chef’s sauce was a sort of Bordelaise, fortified by some of his chosen wine, a robust, rather rugged 2015 blend of Foch and Cabernet from Beaufort Vineyard & Estate in Vancouver Island’s Comox Valley. I thought it was one of the best matches of the night.
Chef Rob Cassels of Saveur in Victoria won the silver medal. His dish was dramatically colourful, centred around a small slab of layered beets, some of the shirts firm, others softer. Circling this well-seasoned, deeply purple moment was a tart ceviche of chopped scallop with lime juice and basil, the acidic contrast with the earthy, sweetly savoury beets very nicely achieved. Apple gelee and popcorn sauce echoed the juxtaposition while dabs of pickled mustard seed sent reinforcements to the sharp side. Scattered on top of the ceviche was a third surprise – crunchy goat cheese puffs dusted with powdered goat cheese (the judges agreed we all wanted to take home a bag of the little beauties). As the outer ring of the presentation, Chef drizzled another sauce made from the scallop scraps and a little cold-smoked goat butter. It was an imaginative, bold, unconventional dish and the wine match was a triumph, neatly bridging the ceviche and the beet – the beautifully balanced 2016 Gamay Noir Rosé from Haywire in Oliver, B.C.
Our gold medallist was the unanimous choice of the judges and he won by a very considerable margin, just as he did in 2015: Alex Chen of Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar in Vancouver. He chose to create his dish inside an empty tin of Northern Divine caviar which he set on a bed of seaweed at the centre of the competition plate. Inside the tin was a treasure trove of wild B.C. shellfish meticulously set in a rich custardy chowder which was then topped with a translucent layer of golden gelee. “It’s all about umami and fun,” explained Chef Chen. That gelee was made from a stock of geoduck and sturgeon bones, the natural colagen causing it to set. Chef chose five kinds of shellfish – Dungeness crab, horse clam, side stripe shrimp, geoduck clam and sea urchin – and topped three of them with a little Northern Divine sturgeon caviar. He finished the dish with an ethereal coral cracker dyed black and flavoured with squid ink and a small green sponge of brioche that used clam juice and bull kelp. So labour intensive! But so delicious! Chef’s wine choice was excellent and provided a cleansing acidity to all the rich, umami pleasures of the food – the light, tangy, suavely aromatic 2016 Ortega from Sea Star on Pender Island.
So Chef Chen will return to Kelowna next February. He finished third in the Canadian Culinary Championships in 2016. From the look in his eye, I’d say he feels he has unfinished business. Tomorrow, Saskatoon.
Sea Star, Lock & Worth and Lunessence Launch a Charm Offensive
I always look forward to the far left stop on the Gold Medal Plates tour. Victoria is one of the best wine cities in the country, blessed with many fine private wine shops, wine savvy restaurants and a small army of younger (than me) men and women who are educating themselves like mad on international and Canadian wine. They are open-minded and adventurous, resulting in small but mighty selections in shops like Vessel and The Strath. And when it comes to B.C. wine you will find an extra special selection of Vancouver Island wines that are generally unavailable elsewhere in the country (even in Vancouver). And I am really keen on the light, bright Island wines.
It was a demure, pristine 2016 Ortega from tiny Pender Island that waltzed off with Best of Show gold at Gold Medal Plates on October 25. Ortega is one of several lesser known Germanic white varieties that were trialled on Vancouver Island in the late ‘80s and 90s. The winery is Sea Star, and if that rings a bell, Sea Star also won last year, with a pinot based Blanc de Noir Rose. I couldn’t believe the purity, polish and integrity of the Ortega. And it even had notable length. Others were charmed as well, in fact it was paired with a beautiful shellfish creation by Alex Cheng of the Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar in Vancouver, who took gold in the Culinary competition.
The runner-up – by a narrow margin – was the lovely, dry, savoury and equally precise Lock and Worth 2016 Cabernet Franc from a one-acre parcel on the Okanagan’s Naramata Bench. This new property was founded on Poplar Grove Road to create straightforward, high quality but well priced wines, and this perfectly pitched rose shows they are right on track.
The bronze in Best of Show went to another relatively obscure and eclectic wine – Lunessence 2016 Sauvignon Blanc from a new winery based in Okanagan Falls. Like the others it carried a fine sense of purity, nuance and finesse, with nicely ripened sauvignon fruit.
The Best of Show wine, beer and spirits competition is held in each city to highlight the generous donations from Canada’s beverage alcohol producers. I invite wine writers, sommeliers and retailers in each community to gather as a judging panel, exposing them to new products. And the Best of Show provides publicity for the donor wineries.
This year Gold Medal Plates launched a new three-tiered sponsorship program to acquire premium and reserve Canadian wines for the Celebration portion of all events. Three Canadian wineries have stepped up with a gold sponsorship, requiring donation to three cities. These include Arterra Wines and Mission Hill Family Estate, which have both donated to multiple cities, as well as Tawse Winery of Niagara.
This night in Victoria Arterra Wines donated premium wines from their B.C. properties including the new Sunrock 2015 Shiraz that earned several votes in the judging. See Ya Later Ranch, Jackson-Triggs Estate and Inniskillin Okanagan were also presented to Celebration guests.
Mission Hill is pouring their Reserve and Terroir series reds at several GMP events, and this night the 2014 Terroir Sauvignon proved most intriguing, a complex, sturdy maturing white with all kinds of character. Their new 2016 Viognier Reserve also finished in my top five, and I was also impressed by the depth of 2013 Terroir Merlot
In Victoria there were two Bronze sponsors as well. Quails’ Gate poured their benchmark 2014 Merlot and 2015 Pinot Noir; while La Stella poured their elegant, quite juicy 2016 Pinot Grigio called Vivace, a tender, fresh Italian-styled example.
The Victoria wine judges this year included Sharon McLean, who is leading educator and judge at the National Wine Awards of Canada. Likewise Brent Muller who holds his WSET Diploma and manages Vessel Wines and Sprits. This year we were introduced to two Megan Carson of the Strath Wines, Ales and Spirits, and sommelier Ayja Alverez .
Here are the Best of Show Winners (linked to full reviews on WineAlign), and a list of all the wines poured in tasting order.
The Best of Show Winners
Sea Star 2016 Ortega
LaStella 2016 “Vivace” Pinot Grigio
Culmina Family Estate 2016 R&D White Blend
Lunessence Winery 2016 Sauvignon Blanc
Jackson-Triggs 2016 Grand Reserve White Meritage
Mission Hill 2014 Terroir Sauvignon Blanc
Inniskillin 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris
See Ya Later Ranch 2016 Chardonnay
Little Farm 2016 Pied du Cuve Chardonnay
Lake Breeze 2016 Roussanne
Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Viognier
Lock & Worth Winery 2016 Cabernet Franc Rose
Haywire, 2016 Gamay Noir Rose
Foxtrot Vineyard 2014 Pinot Noir
Quails’ Gate 2015 Pinot Noir
Bartier Bros, 2013 Merlot
Black Sage 2015 Merlot
Mission Hill 2013 Terroir Collection Merlot
Quails’ Gate 2014 Merlot
Inniskillin 2015 Dark Horse Meritage
Sunrock Vineyard 2015 Shiraz
Beaufort Vineyard 2015 Foch Cabernet
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
Thank you to the Gold Medal Plates sponsors and supporters who provide vital support to the project!
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