Pairing: Compass Distillery Gin
Fresh Twenty One
Pairing: Benjamin Bridge Winery
The Orient Chinese Cuisine
Pairing: GFS Atlantic Devonian Coast Wineries
Best of Show Results
L’Acadie 2015 Vintage Cuvee
L’Acadie 2015 Vintage Cuvee Rose
L’Acadie Prestige Cuvee Estate
Such a pleasure to be in Halifax again! Especially on such a warm and sun-drenched afternoon, the grey ocean looking most complacent from my hotel window. There is always so much going on here – with the burgeoning Nova Scotia wine industry, with new restaurants opening up hither and yon, with energetic local farmers and fishermen producing tip-top materiel upon which the local chefs can exercise their knife-skills and their imaginations. This year, Halifax was the first city to sell out in terms of ticket sales and among the crowd was a high-powered contingent from Moncton, New Bunswick. In 2018 we will welcome Moncton as the latest Gold Medal Plates city, drawing on all of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island to find our competing chefs. The delegation were here to see how a GMP event goes and they lucked into a particularly great evening. As our scintillating MC, Scott Russell pointed out, the energy in the Cunard Centre was intense, and it was whipped up into a heady froth of delight by our brilliant super-band of 8 (count ‘em – 8!) headline musicians, including Jim Cuddy, Ed Robertson, Barney Bentall, Danny Michel, Jeremy Fisher, Anne Lindsay, Sam Polley and Devin Cuddy.
I like to think our posse of culinary judges was equally impressive. We were led by journalist and restaurant critic, Senior Judge Bill Spurr, joined by sommelier, educator and passionate culinarian Amy Savoury, chef and educator, Ted Grant, multiple gold-medal winner and now a permanent part of the judges’ roster, Chef Martín Ruiz Salvador of Fleur de Sel in Lunenberg, and, of course, last year’s gold-medal-winning chef, Mark Gray, not yet 29 years old but alreadyExecutive Chef of The Brooklyn Warehouse, ACE Burger Co. & the Dartmouth Beer Bar & Eatery, Battery Park. The competing chefs were a strong group, too, and it was a pleasure to devour their work and then, after some rumination, to come to the following unanimous conclusions.
Our bronze medal went to Chef Ivan Chan of The Orient Chinese Cuisine. He entitled his dish (somewhat obliquely) “Just Another Chinese Combo – Combo #1019” and presented three suave and elegant interpretations of classic Chinese-Canadian treats. There was a morsel of pork belly, its layers of fat unmelted and trembling, its layers of lean tender and sapid, its skin as crisp as any crackling with a mahogany soy glaze. A soupcon of dark sauce beneath the meat turned out to be a black vinegar reduction to cut the fattiness of the belly. An egg roll the size of my index finger was perfectly fried, crisp and warm and filled with a stuffing of Nova Scotia bison meat. The third element was a dumpling that Chef Chan called “Four Seasons Wealth”, its open top divided into four compartments filled with very finely chopped vegetables and mapo tofu of different colours, each pocketful representing a season. The dumpling skin was becomingly soft and the whole mouthful had a delectable white pepper seasoning. A stripe of fermented bean curd paste added rich, salty, umami to the experience. Chef’s chosen wine proved an admirable choice – the 2015 Sauvage Sur Lie from Mercator Vineyards in Wolfville, N.S., a blend of tangy, refreshing Chardonnay and weightier Petite Milo.
Chef Jonathan Canning of Fresh Twenty One won our silver medal. His central protein thrilled the judges – the highly-prized cheeks of halibut, lightly poached in butter but only long enough to seize the juices of the fish, leaving the morsels moist and flavourful. Everything else on the plate served to flatter and enhance. We found steamed littleneck clams with just the right amount of chewiness to contrast with the cheeks. Here were pieces of fingerling potato topped with fennel weed and a brunoise of apple, surrounded by a potato and leek nage. Sea parsley (a wild local herb) was puréed as our green, and another rare coastal plant, a parasitic seaweed called oyster thief, shaped like a tiny bright green tuning fork, was scattered here and there. Crispy half-tubes of brioche toast provided delicate crunch while a final addition of rich veal jus proved once again how yummy a meaty demi-glace can be with the right white fish. Chef’s wine was another super choice – the sparkling brut rosé from Benjamin Bridge, crisp, refreshing and possessed of a hint of salinity that worked brilliantly with the halibut.
Chef Barry Mooney of gio won the gold medal. His dish looked spectacular – a slim slice of ham hock terrine, draped elegantly from the rim of the bowl down into its centre, crowned with all sorts of treasures. Chef finished the dish at the judges’ table, pouring on a warm, golden pork consommé with a marvellously meaty fragrance. It had the happy effect of loosening the texture of the terrine and releasing its flavours. Meanwhile we were busy exploring the other elements of the dish. Chef might have merely chopped up a scallop to include as a garnish; instead he puréed it with lemon zest and parsley then poached it sous vide. Then he chopped it up and included morsels of it on the terrine runway. Beside it were tiny bricks of foie gras mousse, a brunoise of lightly pickled carrot, miniature sheets of haskap jelly, dots of carrot purée and a garnish of fennel fronds. The final flourish was a crunchy lacework tuile of squid-ink batter adding crunch and salty umami to the delicious creation. Finding a wine would have been a challenge, but Chef took another route, creating a cocktail he called The Great Reward, using gin, tomato, peach and basil. The dish brought out the peach particularly well.
Chef Mooney will be coming to Kelowna in February, the fourth of this year’s champions. Tonight, St. John’s!
L’Acadie Vineyard Sparkles in Halifax
Never in the history of Gold Medal Plates has one winery swept the Best of Show Wine Awards, but it happened on a beautiful, sun-drenched autumn evening in Halifax when three sparkling wines from L’Acadie Vineyards finished 1 – 2 – 3. And it was against some stiff competition.
I gathered with local wine authorities before the event to taste through 10 different wines, plus beer and a cocktail to be served that evening. And to name the Best of Show Gold Medalist that goes on the Canadian Culinary Championship in Kelowna to vie for Gold Medal Plates Wine of the Year.
The Nova Scotia representative in 2017 will be L’Acadie Vineyards 2015 Vintage Cuvee, a newly released sparkling wine made primarily with the namesake L’Acadie Blanc grape variety, organically grown in the Gaspereau Valley near Wolfville. It was made in the traditional method (second fermentation in the bottle) which creates a bready/ toasty complexity, but I was most impressed by the fruit ripeness, complexity and overall balance.
The same sense of poise and fine fruit expression balance was evident in the silver medal winning L’Acadie Vineyard 2015 Vintage Cuvee Rose – a pale pink shaded sparkler again based on L’Acadie Blanc but blended with red marechal foch to achieve it’s colour. This wine also won a gold medal at the WineAlign National Wine Awards held in Wolfville in June.
The bronze medal winner was L’Acadie Vineyard 2012 Prestige Brut Estate. This older wine had developed more complex aged character and had a longer finish than its peers.
The secret to this year’s success for L’Acadie, in my view, was a combination of organic viticulture and a good vintage. “2015 was a riper year with a warm autumn so we could wait to pick” said winemaker Bruce Ewart. “We get such good acidity in Nova Scotia that we can afford to wait for the grape ripeness.”
This year Gold Medal Plates launched a new three-tiered sponsorship program to acquire premium and reserve VQA wines for all events. The wines on guest tables for Celebration portion of the event in Halifax were all from silver sponsor Devonian Coast, Nova Scotia’ largest wine company, which makes wines under the Mercator, Gaspereau Vineyard and Jost brands.
This night we tasted the Jost 2016 Tidal Bay, one of the best of this new category of light, fruity summery whites made from Nova Scotia grapes. It is really a very good Tidal Bay, reminding me stylistically of Spain’s Rueda whites if with more acidity.
We also tasted two, new premium price wines that sewed more richness and complexity than I have come to expect from Nova Scotia hybrid-based table wines. Mercator Sauvage Sur Lie is a blended white fermented with wild yeast and aged on its lees, while Mercator 2012 En Cave is blend that included a portion of pinot noir, aged one year in barrel and three in bottle before release.
In each city I assemble a panel of local wine writers, educators, sommelier and retailers to taste all the wines at the event. Five joined me in Halifax; four having previously judged with me in June in Wolfville at the National Wine Awards of Canada.
From New Brunswick we welcomed Craig Pinhey who writes, blogs, teaches and judges all over this land. He teamed up with Moira Peters to co-author a book titles the Wine Lovers Guide to the Wines of Atlantic Canada. Heather Rankin, co-owner of Obladee Wine Bar where everything cool with wine happens in Halifax, was there. As was Sean Wood, the first Haligonian to promote the wines of Nova Scotia through countless articles in the Chronicle Herald and the first book on the wines of the province. And there was Alanna MacIntyre from Bishops Cellars, a private wine store in Halifax, who had served admirably as an apprentice judge at the National Wine Awards this year.
Here are wines and spirits served in Halifax this year. Check there for other reviews as well.
L’Acadie Vineyards 2015 Vintage Cuvee Organic
L’Acadie Vineyards 2015 Vintage Cuvee Rose
L’Acadie Vineyards 2012 Prestige Brut
The Complete List of Wines (in tasting order)
L’Acadie Vineyards 2015Vintage Cuvee Organic
L’Acadie Vineyards 2012 Prestige Brut
Benjamin Bridge, Méthode Classique NV Brut
Benjamin Bridge NV Brut Rose
L’Acadie Vineyards 2015 Vintage Cuvee Rose
Jost Vineyards 2016 Tidal Bay
Gaspereau Vineyards 2016 Muscat
Mercator 2015 Sauvage Sur Lie
Quails’ Gate 2015 Chardonnay
Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
Avondale Sky 2014 Montavista
Mercator 2015 En Cave
Compass Distillery The Great Reward Compass Gin
Caldera Distillery Hurricane Five Whisky
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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