Paring: Tantalus Vineyards
Rob Thomas Catering
Assiniboine Park Conservancy
Pairing: Mission Hill Estate Winery
We would like to thank all of the competing chefs this year and we encourage Gold Medal Plates supporters to visit their restaurants. A full list here.
Best of Show Results
Tantalus 2015 Riesling
Grandpa’s Sweater Oatmeal Stout by Barn Hammer Beer
Tawse 2015 Riesling
To Winnipeg, where our improbably sun-drenched tour of Canada finally encountered the first real intimations of winter – a dusting of snow on the ground – bare trees under a chilly white sky. The Gold Medal Plates party was the ideal antidote, one of the best of the campaign, irresistibly emceed by the inimitable Marnie McBean with music provided by a constellation of stars – Jim Cuddy, Danny Michel, Jeremy Fisher, Anne Lindsay, Matthew Harder, Rebecca Harder, Sam Polley and Devin Cuddy. And for each musician, we of the gastronomical persuasion fielded a matching judge, led by chef, educator and nationally recognised baker and culinarian, our Senior Judge for Winnipeg, Barbara O’Hara. With us was Chef and educator, senior judge emeritus, Jeff Gill; award-winning writer and broadcaster, Arvel Gray; writer, critic and author of the brand new and brilliant book Out of Old Manitoba Kitchens, Christine Hanlon; food writer, broadcaster and main man at Peg City Grub, Mike Green; culinary guru and purveyor of spectacular food and wine, George Andrews; and last year’s gold medallist, chef Jesse Friesen of the Gusto group of restaurants. We all agreed that our chefs performed exceptionally well and it was exciting to end the evening with three people on the podium who had never been there before.
Heiko Duehrsen of Assiniboine Park Conservancy won the bronze. He presented big, juicy chunks of gorgeous steelhead trout from Stonewall, about 30 minutes outside Winnipeg. Cooking fish sous vide is tricky – the flesh can get so mushy – but chef has the lightest touch, first brining the plump fillets with salt, sugar and pink peppercorns, bagging them with duck fat for such a brief time that the flesh still shone, then flash-chilling them. Sharing the plate were two slices of shiitake mushroom, subtly pickled and scented with pink peppercorns, cucumber ribbons rolled up like tiny green manuscripts and some finely sliced radish. A flavourful purée of smoked green peas and a scattering of baby daikon shoots boosted the vegetable presence on the plate; trout roe, like coral-coloured jewels, supported the fish. Dots of horseradish crème fraîche and of pink peppercorn vinaigrette played the role of condiments and the final, delectably decadent touch was a scattering of Maldon salt flakes mixed with crumbled roasted duck skin. Chef’s chosen wine was unexpected – Mission Hill’s robust Family Estate Reserve Pinot Noir from 2015.
Rob Thomas of Rob Thomas Catering won the silver medal with a dish full of the subtle spices of the Caribbean. His centrepiece was a beef short rib braised very very slowly over an entire weekend in beef stock seasoned with cinnamon and three peppers – pasilla, ancho and guajillo. Chef totally nailed it, for the meat was moist, superbly tender and packed with flavour. Those three chilies also lay at the heart of a dark, cocoa-spiked mole sauce that lay alongside the meat (the judges longed for jars of it to take home). Adding gorgeous dark orange colour and plenty of chili heat, a big stripe of carrot and chipotle purée, scented with lime and honey, decorated the plate, contrasted with dots of emerald green cilantro mojo. Charred corn kernels provided an intriguing sweetness to the dish and slices of okra pickled in cider vinegar with plenty of ginger added extra tang and crunch. As a final garnish, Chef fried plantains and crumbled them over the beef. All these lively flavours needed a wine of considerable substance and Chef Thomas found one – the 2014 Diabolica Red from the Okanagan, a dark, rich blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Syrah.
Throughout this GMP campaign, I’ve been struck by how often judges come up with a unanimous (or near-unanimous) winner. Each of us sets down his or her scores independently before they are tabulated so there can be no collusion, but quality is obvious to all. Chef Mike Robins of Sous Sol won the gold medal last night with a perfectly seared scallop – so simple, so delicious, so hard to time for 600 people. The rest of the elements on his plate were anything but simple. Headlining in terms of umami-saturated flavour was a superb sauce – a beurre blanc made from a dashi broth and enriched with miso, Chef’s homemade Dijon-style mustard, lemon, wine and the liquor from the raw scallops. Button-sized slices of zucchini, pickled in apple cider and cider vinegar flavoured with turmeric and mustard, stood upon dots of puréed carrot. A half teaspoonful of pickled mustard seed was carefully judged – not too tangy – while fresh diull fronds and a cool herb oil made with sorrel, dill and chives brought a little chlorophyl to the party. Potato also featured, but in a most unexpected way. They had been put through a Chinese turning slicer, emerging like string, which Chef dyed black with cuttlefish ink, wrapped around a canoli tube and then deep fried into crispy spirals. The wine match was inspired – the bright, complex 2015 Tantalus Riesling from the hilltop that overlooks Kelowna in the Okanagan.
Which is where we will be in February, of course, for the Canadian Culinary Championship, together with Chef Robins and the champions from the other cities we’ve visited on this thoroughly successful campaign. Just three events to go – tonight in Calgary, then Ottawa and Toronto. The fun goes on.
Riesling Tops Again in Winnipeg
The first snow I have seen this season awaited us in Winnipeg as we touched down November 1, but by mid-afternoon it hardly mattered as the best of Winnipeg’s tasters – eight strong – assembled at the RBC Convention Centre to judge the wines selected by the competing chefs. And I must say that I found several of their matches to be quite good.
Riesling, once again, carried the day in the Winnipeg Best of Show competition, with the gold medal going to Tantalus 2015 Riesling from Kelowna. It was also the wine served with a very fine scallop dish by Gold Medal Chef Mike Robins of Sous Sol.
Yet another riesling took third place in Winnipeg – the Tawse 2015 Riesling VQA Niagara Peninsula. Both were excellent, with the great acid nerve that I have come to expect from Canada’s best. The Tawse had some offsetting sweetness, as well as quite ripe almost peachy fruit from the warm 2015 vintage. The Tantalus was drier and leaner with mouth-watering zest and minerality.
With seven competitions under our belts, rieslings have come out on top three times. It will be a riesling showdown in Kelowna.
But there was almost an upset, with a terrific local beer, finishing just three points behind Tantalus Riesling to take the Silver medal. Barn Hammer Brewing ‘s Oatmeal Stout, inventively and accurately called Grandpa’s Sweater, is a deeply coloured, chocolaty, prune and tobacco flavoured stout of very fine balance and length.
The Best of Show competition is held to raise awareness of our sponsor wines, both in terms of publicity for the winners, and bringing wines to the attention of key wine media, sommeliers, buyers and retailers in each city. In Winnipeg the situation differs somewhat in that Manitoba Liquor Mart sponsors all the chef’s wines, but nonetheless our key sponsors this year were represented among the chefs’ selections. Mission Hill Family Estate 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir was poured as was, Jackson-Triggs Entourage Brut Non-Vintage Grand Reserve, Tawse Winery with the above-mentioned riesling, and Henry of Pelham with 2016 Old Vine Baco Noir.
The Winnipeg judging team is one of the most loyal in the country, and largest. It is led by good friend and judge at National Wine Awards of Canada; Ben McPhee Sigurdson, wine columnist for the Winnipeg Free Press.
From the retail sector, each year a Manitoba Liquor Mart representative joins the team, this year it was Gary Dawyduk, a senior product ambassador and educator. A privately owned wine shop called Banville and Jones plays a key role as well, this year sending three of their best tasters and educators – Andrea Eby, Sylvia Jansen and Gary Hewitt. And another shop called Boutique del Vino was represented by Sean Dolenuk.
The restaurant community was represented by Christopher Sprague, the man behind the great wine list at 529 Wellington, and a huge help to Gold Medal Plates in the sourcing collector’s wines for the silent auction. And we also welcomed back Domer Rafael, sommelier at the Rossmere Golf and Country Club
See below for the list of all wines poured. The winners are linked to current reviews on WineAlign.com, if applicable. Many others are reviewed there as well.
Best of Show Winners
Tantalus Riesling 2015
Barn Hammer Brewing Company Grandpa’s Sweater
All Wines Poured (listed in tasting order)
Jackson Triggs Cuve Close 2015 Sparkling Wine
Jackson Triggs NV Grand Reserve Entourage Sterling Brut
Tawse 2015 Riesling
Tantalus 2015 Riesling
Vintage Ink 2014 Wildride
Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Pinot Noir
Henry of Pelham 2015 Cabernet Merlot
Diabolica 2014 Red
Nk’Mip Cellars 2014 Merlot
Henry of Pelham 2016 Old Vines Baco Noir
Barn Hammer Brewing Company Grandpa’s Sweater
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 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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