Wednesday, June 10, 2015

A Celebratory Tantalus Dinner

Being members of both the British Columbia and the Australian Wine Appreciation Societies, Boo and I get the opportunity to attend at least a couple winemaker dinners a year. There are very few dinners that have succeeded in getting my juices flowing as much as the promise of combining Tantalus wines with Hawksworth cuisine. Not only is Tantalus one of my favourite BC wineries but I can definitely say that I'm not a regular at Hawksworth, one of Vancouver's most celebrated restaurants. In fact, I've only ever been there once before and, if memory serves, it was for an AWAS dinner.

The dinner was being held in celebration of Tantalus' 10th Anniversary and it certainly lived up to expectations. Boo and I were particularly fortuitous in that we were seated in direct proximity to winery principals David Paterson (winemaker), Jane Hatch (general manager) and Warwick Shaw (vineyard manager). Opportunities to discuss the nitty-gritty of wine and winemaking with such seasoned hands are rare occasions for a piker like me.

I found the conversation riveting but the food and wine wasn't too shabby either.

The courses revolved around dungeness crab, sablefish, risotto and duck breast - any one of which could be a pick of mine off of any menu. Add a bit of wine to these tasty morsels and the evening was set.

The Tantalus gang poured a mix of new and old that was worthy of the anniversary celebration. Starting with a 2010 Old Vines Riesling Natural Brut during the reception gathering, we settled into dinner with two mini-flights of Riesling. The dungeness crab, avocado and grapefruit salad was accompanied by a 2005 and 2014 Riesling. I can't recall having tried such an aged Okanagan Riesling before. Indeed, I doubt many local wineries would want to try ageing their Rieslings to such an extent. Although many see this label as Tantalus' more approachable - or heaven forbid the term - entry level Riesling, it held its own against the fresher, current vintage.

The sablefish saw '08 and '12 pouring of the Old Vines Riesling - a BC Riesling that likes food if ever there was one - and the richness of the fish just killed it with the acidity of these babies. My glasses seemed to be empty far too soon. I'm sure I must have been short-poured.

A roasted cauliflower risotto was paired with the 2010 and 2012 Chardonnays and the duck breast - surprise, surprise - saw two Pinots (again 2010 and 2012) alongside. I've generally been drawn to Tantalus for their Riesling but the Chard and Pinot Noir are definitely showing signs that they are developing into contenders as well as the more recently planted vines start to see more age on them.

1933.  2014 Tantalus Syrah Icewine (Okanagan Valley VQA)

As has been my habit with the blog, I only add one wine to The List at these dinners since our table or small gang never polishes off an entire bottle of any one wine - as much as we might like to. So, tonight's wine for The List is one that I'm not sure I've even tried before - let alone have in our cellar.

I may be adding the Syrah Icewine to The List but we were actually tempted by a pouring of an aged 2005 Riesling Icewine as well. Thankfully, there was no call for a straw poll to see who favoured which over the other. I'd have been hard-pressed to pick. One thing was clearly evident though and that's that Icewines can still pack plenty of punch after a decade's ageing. A hallmark of fine icewine is that there still be plenty of acidity in the wine so that it doesn't become cloyingly sweet. The '05 was certainly an unctuous sip, yet it still didn't veer into pure sweet as its acidity must have waned over the last decade.

All told, this was a winemaker's dinner for the ages. I'll have to mark the 20th Anniversary dinner in my calendar as soon as they announce one.

As we would have liked the whole experience to continue, the next night, Boo and I opened a bottle of the 2012 Tantalus Rosé. I'm not adding that bottle to The List though as we'd already polished off a bottle and it sits on The List at #1659.

Thankfully, whether there's a List or not, I know there'll be plenty more Tantalus wines filling my glass down the road.

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