Pairing: Leaning Post Wines, 2015 ‘The Fifty’
Pairing: Brickworks Ciderhouse, Batch: 1904
Maple Leaf Tavern/PORT
Pairing: Tooth & Nail Brewing Company, AGRARIA Modern Farmhouse Ale
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
Flat Rock Cellars 2016 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling
Mission Hill Reserve Merlot 2015
Henry of Pelham Family Estate, Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut
What a grand finale to the 2017 Gold Medal Plates campaign! Last night’s event in Toronto was simply stellar, with superb food and drink, a highly successful trip-auction, great conversation between our brilliant MC, Scott Russell and the athletes – Olympian bobby-dazzlers all. And of course the house band was on fire in front of the home crowd – heroic performances from the inimitable Jim Cuddy, Anne Lindsay, Danny Michel, Jeremy Fisher, Devin Cuddy and Sam Polley. Travelling with them this fall has been an absolute delight.
With such a multitude to feed (well over 750 guests) we felt it prudent to invite a couple of old friends to the show, lest anyone went hungry. Huge thanks to Afrim Pristine of Cheese Boutique who brought a splendid array of Canadian cheeses and prosciutto and to Hemant Bhagwani of Cateringwala who thrilled the guests with his suavely spiced treats. The line-up of competing chefs was particularly strong this year with two champions returning – former gold-medallist David Lee of Nota Bene and Canadian Culinary Champion emeritus Lorenzo Loseto of George – and the culinary standards on display were often breathtaking. Dish after dish excelled expectation and the judges, seated around their elevated table, quickly realized that finding only three to honour would be no picnic. We were led by Senior Judge for Toronto, writer, editor and food guru, Sasha Chapman; together with Canada’s own culinary interpretor, writer and educator, the Food Laureate at the University of Guelph, Anita Stewart; author, columnist, food editor and my longtime collaborator at Food & Drink magazine, Lucy Waverman; chef, entrepreneur and beloved broadcaster, Christine Cushing; author, food writer and proprietor of the delectable Rosen’s Cinnamon Buns, Amy Rosen; and, in my opinion, Canada’s greatest culinary educator, Chef John Higgins. Normally we would also be joined by last year’s gold-medal-winning chef – but Chef Amanda Ray is busy in Montreal with Oliver Bonacini’s sensational new venture, Bar George. We will induct her into the Gold Medal Plates hall of fame at a later date.
Meanwhile, we had our work cut out last night. The quality was so high that six dishes could easily have reached the podium and as we coordinated our individual scores it became clear that there was no immediate concensus about the winner. Three judges had Chef Lee in first place, three thought Chef Loseto’s dish deserved gold… Luckily we have seven judges.
The bronze medal went to Chef Jesse Vallins of Maple Leaf Tavern and PORT. His dish sounds deceptively simple but it was full of fascinating nuances, delightful variations in temperature and proved to be impeccably balanced. Its centrepiece was a perfect drum of Kennebec potato that had been blanched in salt water, confited in duck fat and finally fried in duck fat to give it a crisp golden crust. Hidden beneath this and providing an almost pickly acidity was a little chopped shallot, vinegared like a mignonette. Around the warm potato was a warm sauce – a truffle butter scented with shaved black truffles, its flavour simultaneously subtle and profound. On top of the potato were two slices of chilled foie gras torchon that had been briefly exposed to icewine vinegar, salt and sugar. Flavours crossed our palates in undulating waves of pleasure. Chef’s beverage was Agraria Modern Farmhouse Ale from Tooth & Nail Brewing Company, a beer created by the brewmaster and the chef to be the perfect accompaniment to this particular dish – a tad sour and funky from a hint of brett and with its creamy texture leavened by the use of Champagne yeast – a super match indeed!
Chef David Lee of Nota Bene won our silver medal with a dish he called simply “pork & porridge.” On top of it lay an irregularly shaped piece of what looked a bubbly crisp – a cracker made of crunchy tapioca. “Break it in pieces then muddle everything up and enjoy it together,” instructed Chef, and we did as were told. The “porridge” was a moist, creamy mass of expertly seasoned rye berries, flecked with soft red onion and finished with a sprinkling of powdered pork crackling. In its midst were small pieces of sensationally delicious pork belly, slow-cooked for 16 hours, sous vide. Chef Lee mastered sous vide cooking decades ago and is also an expert at barbecue: this tender, quite lean belly pork may be the best I have ever eaten. And the dish held a further secret surprise. Buried beneath the porridge were pieces of pork loin jerky in a rich, dark, spicy sauce that looked like hoisin but was far more interesting – more Indonesian than East Asian, we judges thought, with the sort of spicy heat associated with sambal. We discovered it was there about halfway through the dish and the entire experience was changed. Chef’s drink was a brilliant choice – a local Toronto cider called Batch: 1904 from Brickworks Ciderhouse. Made from Idared and McIntosh apples, it had a clean apple-juice-like acidity with hints of citrus and spice, reaching out to the sweetness of the pork and the flavour of the rye berries.
Chef Lorenzo Loseto won the gold medal. The principal element of his dish was a rectangular runway of toothsome, tender lentils, about a quarter of an inch high, spread with a sort of tartare made of lightly poached lobster chopped into a lemongrass mayo. The flavours of lobster and of lentil were notably vivid and bright and they went together delightfully well, enriched by a golden sprinkling of egg yolk that had been smoked, cured, dehydrated and finely grated over the dish. Lying across this soft, layered almost-terrine was an ethereally crisp anise wafer; beside it was a gathering of colourful vegetables. Heirloom carrots were presented four ways – an orange one roasted in a little parsley oil until it was soft and sweet; a yellow one treated the same way but cut into slightly firmer dice; a red one sliced into a ribbon and rolled around a bundle of juicy chives (less than an inch long it was almost too cute to eat); and fermented baby carrot cut into tiny coins as if by a hole-punch. There were crunchy rings of fennel and a scattering of fennel sprouts to echo the anise in the wafer, while a square of fresh fuji apple echoed dots of bright green, intensely flavourful apple jelly. A rich black garlic purée served as a sauce. It was the sort of composition Chef Loseto often creates at George – symphonic but never confused, with its own intricate harmonies working themselves out like a fugue of flavour on the tongue. Again, we were treated to an exceptional match with Chef’s choice of wine, the 2015 Chardonnay called ‘The Fifty’ from Leaning Post Wines in Niagara. Barrel-fermented but aged in steel, it offered rich texture but clean, unoaked aromatics, working equally well with the lobster and lemongrass and the earthy sweetness of the carrots.
Congratulations to Chef Loseto who will return to Kelowna next February, hoping to repeat his former victory at the Canadian Culinary Championships. He will have extremely stiff competition from our ten other regional champions. I can’t wait for it all to begin!
Nadja’s Tops a Bounty of Great Whites in Toronto
By David Lawrason, National Wine Advisor
The Gold Medal Plates campaign came to a booming 800-person conclusion at Toronto Convention Centre on November 16, and it included the largest selection of wines seen in any stop on the ten-city national tour. We judged 26 donated wines, beers, spirits and even a lavender mead, but it was a core of great Canadian white wines that caused the most excitement, and produced the winner of the evening.
The “Best of Show” Gold Medal went, by a very clear margin, to Flat Rock Cellars 2016 Nadja’s Riesling, from a single block of maturing vines in Niagara’s Twenty Mile Bench appellation. I was personally stunned by just how delicious, well balanced and nuanced this wine is – in my mind it is the best vintage of “Nadja’s” ever produced. Other judges agreed – we all placed it as either our first or second choice. This beauty also took a rare Platinum Medal at 2017 National Wine Awards.
It will go on to compete for Gold Medal Plates Wine of the Year at the Canadian Culinary Championships in Kelowna in February, and it appears there will be a riesling showdown, as it will be tasted against rieslings from Tantalus, Cave Spring and Norman Hardie, plus six other wines.
For second and third place the voting in Toronto was more varied, and only one point separated the second, third and fourth place wines. The Silver Medal went to Mission Hill 2015 Merlot Reserve, a swarthy, plummy and ripe red from the Okanagan Valley. And the bronze medal went to Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Brut Rose, a delicate refined pink sparkler with subtle berry aromas.
In very close 4th place came Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay from Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. I have become very familiar with this solid, complex Burgundian chardonnay as it was generously donated by Tawse to the Celebration in three cities this year. It was also a Platinum Award winner at the 2107 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada.
Tawse was one of three Gold Level sponsors. Mission Hill was a national sponsor as well, donating a variety Reserve wines to seven city events across the country, and stepping even higher in Toronto with smaller donations of their more expensive “Legacy tier” red Compendium 2013 and Perpetua 2015 Chardonnay.
Arterra Wines, the recently re-named company with several wineries in Canada, was a gold sponsor donating to six cities. In Toronto there was a selection of reserve whites and reds from Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin, as well as a rare public showing of the new Arterra 2016 Chardonnay and Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir.
Toronto’s Silver Sponsor also donated to Ottawa. Cave Spring of Niagara donated their 2015 Cabernet Franc. Although better known as a riesling producer, Cave Spring is doubling down on its efforts to produce fine reds from Ontario’s most widely grown grape.
Flat Rock Cellars was one two Bronze level sponsors for the Toronto event, providing Nadja’s riesling for the VIP Reception and Celebration tables. The other was Henry of Pelham, which split their donation between the 2016 Old Vines Baco Noir and yet another strong 2016 Estate Riesling.
Among other notable and high calibre wines donated to the chefs, I gave my first-place vote to Stratus 2013 White, a very complex, now maturing, barrel aged blend of several white varieties. Ravine 2014 Chardonnay Reserve, another power white, also earned top-five votes. Leaning Post 2015 Mile 50 Chardonnay was a leaner style that paired well with Gold Medal Plates Chef Lorenzo Loseto’s winning dish. And riesling specialist Charles Baker chose the occasion to show his new, bracing B-Side Riesling.
Interestingly, no red wines were paired with chef’s creations this year, but there were two ciders, including the fine, crisp Brickworks CiderHouse Batch 1904 and a lighter cider called Pick Up 66 from Hoity Toity Cellars. Rosewood Cellars donated their exotic, fragrant Lavellener Lavender Mead, and Zirkova Vodka set up shop during the VIP Reception to sample Zirkova One, a vodka designed to be drunk “neat” and Together a version designed for cocktails.
The Best of Show judging is held prior to each event, as way to highlight the generous donation of beverage by Canada’s wineries, brewers and distillers. In Toronto I assembled four wine pros/sommeliers. Three are amigos at WineAlign.com and two are judges at the National Wine Awards of Canada; including Master Sommelier John Szabo, and wordsmith extraordinaire and former chef Michael Godel. Margaret Swaine is a veteran wine and travel writer, and the spirits columnist at WineAlign. Michael Vaughan publishes Vintages Assessments, a detailed critique of every wine released by the LCBOs Vintages stores.
Here are the Best of Show Winners (linked to full reviews on WineAlign), and a list of all the wines, beers, ciders and spirits poured in tasting order.
The Best of Show Winners
The Whites & Sparklers
Henry of Pelham Family Estate Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut
Henry of Pelham 2016 Riesling Estate
Short Hills Bench
Charles Baker 2016 B-Side Riesling
Flat Rock Cellars 2016 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling
Twenty Mile Bench
Jackson Triggs 2015 Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc
Inniskillin 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris
Mission Hill 2016 Reserve Pinot Gris
Arterra 2016 Chardonnay
Leaning Post Wines 2015 ‘The Fifty’ Chardonnay
Ravine Vineyard 2014 Reserve Chardonnay
St Davids Bench
Tawse 2013 Quarry Road Chardonnay
Mission Hill Family Estate 2015 Perpetua (Chardonnay)
Stratus Vineyards 2013 White
Arterra 2016 Pinot Noir
Cave Spring 2015 Cabernet Franc
Inniskillin 2014 Reserve Merlot
Mission Hill 2015 Reserve Merlot
Henry of Pelham 2016 Old Vines Baco Noir
Jackson Triggs 2015 Grand Reserve Red Meritage
Mission Hill 2012 Compendium
The Cider, Beer and Spirits
Brickworks Ciderhouse Batch: 1904
Hoity Toity Cellars Pick Up 66 Cider
Rosewood Estates Winery Lavellender (Lavender Mead)
Tooth & Nail Brewing AGRARIA – Modern Farmhouse Ale
Zirkova Vodka One
Zirkova Vodka Together
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!
Robin Turnbull Event Management
35 Maher Ave
Toronto, ON M6P 1S7