Sunday, June 28, 2015

Dinner Club - Vancouver Meets Bretagne

Due to member travels, our Dinner Club takes an annual winter break until our snow birds have returned to roost - except, of course, unless the gang all heads off together like we did last year to Antigua when Jeaux and Matinder hosting a once-in-a-lifetime St. Patrick's Day dinner.

J&M were hosting this time as well and, once again, they took us "on the road." However, their theme for this round wasn't Caribbean based. Rather they focused on all things Bretagne since they had just returned from a sailing regatta in that northern province of France. Luckily, it was a gorgeous day and we were able to start dinner up on Jeaux and Mutineer's rooftop deck. It was if we'd been transported off to a sunny après-midi en France.

1942.  N.V. Henriot Rosé (Reims - Champagne - France)

As is only befitting a culinary trip to France, we started off with a little bubbly. Although Bretagne isn't exactly next door to the Champagne region of France, it's certainly a lot closer than Vancouver is.

Henriot refers to themselves as one of the last independent and family owned houses in Champagne and they've been making Champagne for over two centuries, having been established in 1808. Their Brut is made with all three classic Champagne grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier and their hint of rosé colour is achieved by adding a bit of the Pinot Noir wine prior to the final bottling.

Along with our bubble, Matinder and Jeaux served up a cider spritzer along with a bevy of hors d'oeuvres as we lounged on the roof. The spritzer is common to the apple growing region and we also had a quartet of mousse/pâtés that Jeaux proclaimed were omnipresent throughout the region. She'd also made some savoury pâte à choux, blood sausage tarts and filled crisps. We probably could have filled up on just the nibblies but, bien sûr, there was plenty more to come.

Our first step to happiness, once we'd arrive at the dinner table was an assortment of salads - particularly featuring beets and noodles. The course was accompanied by a duo of boutique wines with a similar heritage.

1943.  2014 Mike B. Riesling Cabinett (Okanagan Valley)

2011 Kurtis Wild Ferment Semillon (Okanagan Valley)

Both of the wines were made at Okanagan Crush Pad under the mentorship program that was introduced as part of the Vancouver International Wine Festival's Sommelier of the Year award. The winner of the annual prize is provided the opportunity to make a small batch wine of their choice. The sommelier, cum winemaker, gets to choose the grape and the style of wine they'd like to tackle - and the limited production can sometimes be found on the local shelves.

Kurtis Kolt was the first sommelier to make a wine as part of the Wine Campus series and I'd hunted down a bottle some years back when it was originally released. Accordingly, it has already been added to The List as #1248 and, therefore, doesn't get another number this time around.

The second bottle was made by Mike Bernardo, of Vij's restaurant, as he was named Sommelier of the Year in 2014. He opted to make a wine along the lines of wines that he'd regularly pair with menu items served at Vij's. I hadn't seen this wine yet. So, I was particularly pleased to give it a whirl - both because of its provenance and because he'd chosen Riesling. Bright with acidity, I can see its versatility with a number of dishes.

1944.  2012 Barton & Guestier - Lobster & Shrimp Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine (Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine AOC - Loire - France)

I remember B&G as one of the few French labels that I'd recognize many years ago when I first started to grab the odd bottle of wine now and then. They certainly didn't go in for this mass market kind of label back in the day but, then again, there were no critter wines back in the 70's and 80's - unless you counted Baby Duck and its ilk as critter wines. This bottling is part of collection of wines that are meant to give the consumer a (none-too-subtle) hint about what meal might pair nicely with the wine. A definite bonus - I should think - considering that I very much doubt that there are many folks in our Vancouver market who would have the slightest idea what to expect from a bottle of wine made from the Melon de Bourgogne grape.

The label certainly came in handy when it came to our trying to pair the wines, brought by all of the dinner guests, with an appropriate dinner course. We might not have been dining on lobster but I think mussels weren't too far off.

1945.  2006 Domaine la Barroche Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Châteauneuf-du-Pape AOC - Rhône - France)

We normally would have served up a C-du-P with a heartier course but we seemed to have hit the dessert course before we had need to pull the cork. Unfortunately, I can't claim to have had the pleasure of knocking back many bottles of Domaine la Barroche but I can certainly say that I haven't met a bottle of their's that I haven't enjoyed. The small estate's production is difficult to find and one of their flagship wines, Pure, is generally found only on an allocation basis.

Their signature Châteauneuf-du-Pape is standardly a Grenache-driven wine and the winery, 2003 having been their first vintage, definitely steers to a more modern, fruit-laden product. I figured it could pair up to Jeaux' trio of typical Bretagne desserts. Besides, if no one else wanted to go the route of a red with dessert, that would just mean more for me.

Thinking a bit of a stretch and a flight of stairs might do us all some good, we once again retired to the roof deck to chat away the balance of the evening. Funnily enough, there were still some wines that had yet to be touched. Tyrant pointed out that we truly must be getting long in the tooth because he couldn't recall a previous dinner club where there was still this much wine left by the end of dinner. He followed that statement up with his offer to give it the old college try and drink some of the remaining juice - particularly since he'd spirited a couple of Burgundy's out of the cellar in honour of the fact that I was in my final 100 wines for the blog.

1946.  2012 Joseph Drouhin Saint-Véran (Saint-Véran AOC - Burgundy - France)

1947.  2003 Moillard Mercurey (Mercurey AOC - Burgundy - France)

Going to Burgundy and pulling out a Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir certainly added to the Gallic fare of the evening. I think Tyrant might have been right when he thought we should have been better pikers during dinner so that we'd have opened these with the benefit of food but the wines seemed to go down well enough on their own.

Then again, it was late, and the time for constructive tasting had long passed. These were simply good for propelling the conversation forward on one of the first long nights of summer.

Kremmig Crème du Plessis (À L'Eau de Vie de Cidre de Bretagne)

Our hosts trotted out one final treat as well. They'd brought back a bottle of Kremmig from their adventures in Bretagne. Kremmig is a specialty of the du Plessis distillery - a cream based, eau de vie made with Lambig. Lambig, itself, is a Bretagne specialty liquor made by distilling hard cider.

There was no going back to wine after the Kremmig. All that creaminess just coated the mouth and said "you're stuck with me now kid." Not that we needed more wine.

Jeaux and Matinder may have transported us to a corner of France for the evening but reality of needing to return to our Vancouver beds had us all bidding "au revoir" and "à bientôt" and heading off into the night. The Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed are next up on the hosting schedule. Just a little something to look forward to.

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