When I was in college, my roomate Rosey did an internship organizing the silent auction for Playhouse Wine Festival. All I knew at the time was that she brought home a LOT of half full bottles, and that at the age of 22, all I knew about wine was whether or not I liked it. Discerning palate, I think not. Fast forward to 2010, with a bit more wine knowledge under my belt, and a boyfriend who is not only hooked up in the beverage world but is keen to learn it all, we approached Wine Fest a bit differently this year.
Last week, we were invited to a very invite only winepairing dinner hosted by Cedar Creek winery, where we tasted 7 of their best vintages, paired with a halibut over white bean chowder, and followed by a Kobe-style shortrib.
Thursday brought the festival highlight – opening of the Grand Tasting Room. This is the festival experience most go for, where entrance includes a glass and free rein to swirl and taste as many of the 700+ wines on offer. Apparently Friday and Saturday turn into quite the party though, and getting to the booths themselves is a challenge. Luckily, Bernard was hooked up with tickets to the Industry tasting on Thursday, and he and I along with my sous chef from work and some of his coworkers tasted all we could handle (before we ran out of time and had deadened palates, anyways…) during a 3 hour period of no crowds, reserved for industry only.
(image of tasting room last year, when the crowds are at their peak).
Today, Saturday, brought another neat wine experience for us. Tickets to the “Wolf and Dragon” promised an opportunity to learn how to pair wines to Chinese food, hosted by Wolf Blass winery from Australia. We tasted seven wines, and then were presented a tasting plate of four Chinese dishes, which we were guided to taste each in three bites along with different wines.
It was really fascinating. One thing I learned is that “seafood with white, red meat with red” is crap. Really, you need to pair the dominant flavour to the wine, and usually, a dominant flavour isn’t the protein itself. For example, a lightly poached scallop will need a delicate white (a reisling, or a pinot gris) but prepare it in a bit heartier of a style (ie. a good pan seared crust) or use more bold ingredients like some chili sauce or garlic and it can withstand a light red. Surprisingly, the best pairing was a black bean sauce over beef tenderloin, paired with Chardonnay. And the Peking Duck went really well with a bold Shiraz. So interesting. I’m loving learning so much about the world of wines, and am blessed to live in such a wine-forward locale.
We got to explore the new convention centre too – walls made completely of reclaimed bug kill wood!