Pairing: Vineland Estates
Pairing: Junmai Nigori Sparkling Sake
Pairing: Bella Vineyards
Best of Show Results
Nichol 2014 Old Style Vine Syrah, Naramata, BC
Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay
Noble Ridge 2012 ‘The One’ Sparkling, Okanagan Falls, BC
Wham! And suddenly it was winter – a three-day blizzard sweeping over Calgary, temperature 12 below, traffic so thoroughly choked by the year’s first snow that I feared my team of judges wouldn’t make it to the party. What would I do without my Calgary Senior Judge, author, teacher, restaurant critic and broadcaster, John Gilchrist; without chef, culinary instructor and television star Michael Allemeier CMC; without wine educator, food judge and morning show host, Jamie Herbison, and without former Canadian Culinary Champion Chef Ryan O’Flynn? Fortunately, they all made it in time, but we missed our final judge, last year’s gold medal winner and reigning Canadian Culinary Champion, Chef Jinhee Lee of Foreign Concept. She had been called back unexpectedly to Korea by a family emergency, so her colleague and mentor Duncan Ly, himself another past Calgary champion, kindly took her place.
With that all sorted, we were able to enjoy the gala to the fullest! MC Catriona LeMay Doan did a splendid job, keeping the energy fizzing and the crowd of 600 hanging on her every word. When it was time for the music, the biggest band GMP has ever brought together took the stage. In part it was a family affair, with Jim Cuddy and his two very talented lads, Sam Polley and Devin Cuddy matching off against Barney Bentall and his son Dustin Bentall. We were blessed with two sensational fiddlers – Anne Lindsay and Kendel Carson – and Danny Michel bringing a little semi-acoustic action. Barney Bentall is on tour right now and didn’t his band member Rob Becker also show up to provide some electric bass! It was all tremendous fun and I almost felt guilty calling for quiet so I could announce the bronze, silver and gold-winning chefs.
Talking of which, the bronze medal went to past winner Dave Bohati of Teatro, who presented a very beautiful, sculptural dish based around a modern take on a terrine. At its heart was steelhead trout, some of it raw (the belly), some of it cured in yuzu juice, quickly smoked, briefly submitted to sous vide heat and then chopped. Rolled around this delicate, juicy fish was a thin layer of parsnip and then a dense farce of pork shoulder, hocks, belly and head spiked with parmesan, almonds, herbs, shallots and duck fat. Rising like fins from this rich drum of terraqueous delights were bright green shards of tissue-thin “pea glass” that tasted most fervently of peas. Posed across it was a crisp hooped beignet that looked like a fat onion ring but in fact concealed a secret sauce – a stiff hollandaise made with smoked butter that proved the ideal condiment to the pork. A smooth, sweet-and-sour purée of quince, verjus and caramel was the second sauce while dots of pea purée brought their own natural vegetable sweetness to the plate. Garnishes included fresh chervil fronds, fennel pollen and pea shoots. It was a delicious and intricate web of flavours and textures that flattered Chef Bohati’s chosen wine, a dry, pink bubbly from the Okanagan, the 2016 Bella Gamay Method Ancestrale.
Matthias Fong of River Café won the silver medal with a dish that was almost entirely vegetarian and reflected his enthusiasm for locavore dining. At its heart was a scrumptious drum of tender celery root, braised in mushroom broth, sake kasu and a unique vinegar made from IPA beer that had the rancio notes of sherry. Chef had turned this braising liquid into a thick, foamy sauce and provided two chewy rounds of rye sourdough for mopping-up operations. On top of the celery root was a crumble of scandalously yummy, fennel-pollen-scented pork salumi (the only meat on the dish) and a disc of honey crisp apple. Tiny, tartly flavoured scarlet pearls had been conjured from crabapple wine and begonias grown in the restaurant’s garden. Baby greens and minute white buckwheat blossoms were the finishing garnish. The dish was an umami bomb – so original – and the paired beverage was an inspired choice, the rich junmai nigori sparkling sake from Granville Island in Vancouver.
The gold medal – by a unanimous decision from the judges and to great popular joy if the roar that arose from the crowd when I announced his name is anything to go by – went to chef Blake Flann of Blake, in Canmore. His dish acknowledged the coming winter Olympiad in South Korea with a gojuchang-lacquered briquette of pork belly. I taste literally dozens of pork belly dishes every year while judging Gold Medal Plates; this was the best yet, the surface crisply crusted with the sweet heat of the glaze, the flesh and fat inside succulent, melting and packed with flavour. The belly sat on a sheet of “prawn paper” – firm prawn mousseline flavoured with garlic butter and thinly sliced – that also supported chunks of tart pickled raw prawn. More acid kicked in from yuzu juice pearls and there was crunch from crisp, nori-dusted ramen noodles to add to the fun. As a sauce that worked equally well with the prawn and the pork, chef gave us egg yolk, slightly cooked but still runny. Then he scattered peanut powder crumble and microgreens over all. The wine match was right out of left field, a dry, refreshing 2016 Pinot Meunier called ‘Bo-Teek’ from Vineland Estates in Niagara. Its fresh acidity and minerality stood up to the gojuchang surprisingly well.
So the roster of champions progresses… We will welcokme Chef Flann to Kelowna next February! And now only two great parties remain – in Ottawa and then in Toronto. I can hardly wait.
Original B.C. Syrah Tops an Eclectic Wine List
The beverage roster at Gold Medal Plates Calgary on November 2 was one of the most eclectic so far in our ten-city tour, a tribute to the wild west spirit in a city full of vinous opportunity thanks to a mature private wine retail system, and chefs willing to exploit all the possibilities. But it was a solid, almost iconic syrah – Nichol Vineyard 2014 Old Vine – from the Okanagan’s Naramata Bench that won gold in the Best of Show competition.
To many the idea of great Canadian syrah may be new and eclectic as well, but Nichol Vineyard has been perfecting this variety since its first vintage in 1995. It was actually the first syrah in B.C. I tried it in a Vancouver restaurant called Diva at the Met back in the day, served blind by the sommelier. I ventured that it was a good Crozes-Hermitage from France’s northern Rhone Valley thanks to the complex peppery, smoked meat and licorice aromas. And I was delighted to find the same profile in a vintage 19 years later.
But it was not the only wine to impress our panel of six wine judges. Tawse Chardonnay 2013 Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay from the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation of Niagara finished a very close second. This Platinum Award winner from 2017 National Wine Awards is so complex, solid and balanced with excellent length – evoking fine white Burgundy to more than one judge.
And the bronze medal went back out west to Noble Ridge 2012 “The One” a traditional method sparkler with oodles of mature honey nougat character and fine balance and depth.
The Best of Show competition is held to raise awareness of our wine sponsors, both in terms of generating publicity for the winners, and bringing their wines to the attention of key wine media, sommeliers, buyers and retailers in each city.
We offered Gold level sponsorship – with donation to three or more cities, silver sponsorship in two cities, and bronze in one city.
Three Gold sponsors poured at the VIP Reception and Celebration. Mission Hill Family Estate – in my mind one of the most progressive and confident in the country – poured very fine 2016 Reserve Sauvignon, Viognier and 2015 Reserve Merlot.
Arterra Wines became a Canadian company once again earlier this year when sold by U.S based Constellation Brands to interests in Ontario. In Calgary Arterra poured their more familiar B.C.-based brands: Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve White Meritage, Inniskillin Okanagan Dark Horse Meritage, Sunrock Vineyard Shiraz and See Ya Later Ranch Chardonnay.
From Niagara Tawse Winery – three-time Winery of the Year winner at the WineAlign National Wine Awards – poured their above-mentioned Quarry Road Chardonnay, and Fielding Estate, a bronze sponsor, poured a riveting riesling.
Among other more eclectic wines there was the racy Bella Ancestral Method Gamay, a racy pink sparkler from B.C. made simply by bottling newly fermented gamay with CO2 trapped. There was an exotic, unfiltered Junmai Nigori Sparkling Sake from Vancouver’s Granville Island Sake. There was an oaked Vineland Estates 2016 Pinot Meunier from Niagara, a red grape used in Champagne, but rarely bottled as a red table wine. We enjoyed Terra Vista 2015 Figaro, a Rhone-inspired viognier-roussanne blend, and a new Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blend from Black Market, a new winery in Okanagan Falls. And Eau Claire Spirits of Calgary, created a classic gin and tonic celebrating Canada 150.
On a snowy, blustery minus-ten afternoon five Calgary wine authorities slip-slided their way to assist in the judging at the Telus Convention Centre.
Brad Royale is the wine director for the Rocky Mountain Resorts group of properties and a judge of the National Wine Awards of Canada. Shelley Boettcher is accomplished freelance food and wine writer whose work frequently appears in the Calgary Herald. Jackie Cooke is a sommelier, wine educator and manager of Avec Bistro. Tom Firth is a veteran wine and beer writer and consultant. And joining us for the first time Jenny Book of Bin 905 Wines and a WSET Diploma grad who teaches with Fine Vintage Limited.
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
Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2014
Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013
Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula
Noble Ridge The One Brut 2012
Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley
All Wines Poured (listed in tasting order). Many thanks to each of our sponsors.
Noble Ridge 2012 ‘The One’ Sparkling
Junmai Nigori Sparkling Sake
Granville Island, Vancouver
Syncromesh 2015 Riesling Four Shadows Vineyard
Naramata Bench, Okanagan
See Ya Later Ranch 2016 Riesling
Fielding 2016 Riesling
Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Jackson-Triggs 2016 Grand Reserve White Meritage
Black Market 2015 ?????
Terravista 2015 Figaro (Viognier Roussanne)
Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Viognier
See Ya Later Ranch 2016 Chardonnay
Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay
Vinemount Ridge, Niagara
The Pinks and Reds
Bella 2016 Gamay Method Ancestrale
Westbank, Okanagan Valley
Vineland Estates 2016 Pinot Meunier ‘Bo-Teek’ Vineyard
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
Red Rooster 2014 Pinot Noir
Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Nichol Vineyard 2014 Old Vine Syrah
Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Sunrock Vineyard 2015 Shiraz
Black Sage 2015 Merlot
Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Merlot
Inniskillin Okanagan 2015 Dark Horse Meritage
Eau Claire Distillery Canada150 G&T
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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