Once the stage has been set and after all of the key players have arrived, you can finally stop holding your breath and begin to smile. Once the first glass of wine is in your hand and you look around to see the eager happy faces of your friends and the assembled guests, the evening begins to shimmer with magic.
This never gets old.
Jay Drysdale came to spend an evening with us, prepared to share about seven spectacular wines from Le Vieux Pin and La Stella. Chef Jonathan Stewart and his team had been working for days already preparing specific parts of the six course dinner menu in advance. Our guests arrived and were greeted in the foyer with a glass of La Stella Vivace Pinot Grigio, while bite sized portions of Qualicum Bay scallops and roasted beet salad with apples were passed around by the Ramada Plaza banquet staff. We all mingled and chatted for a while before I introduced everyone to Jay and he took the floor to tell us about himself, the Enotecca Winery Group, and La Stella’s Pinot Grigio. From there we went into the Mount Baker Room to settle in for the feast.
The first course was a deconstruction of seafood chowder, where all of the solid elements were plated and set before us along with a snifter of rich, creamy broth. Guests got to make the two parts meet in the bowls, which was a fun hands-on experience. Le Vieux Pin’s Sauvignon Blanc was served with it and paired perfectly as it enhanced both the chowder and was itself complemented by the dish. Next we had braised pork cheeks (yes, it really was meat from a pig’s face) with pear and cinnamon, served with Le Vieux Pin’s Pinot Noir. Jay treated us to a special surprise; he had brought with him six bottles of the 2006 Le Vieux Pin Belle which is one of three Pinot Noirs made that year so that we could compare it to the 2007 vintage, created as a blend of the three. I found the Belle to be leaner, earthier, and more tannic than the 2007 which expressed a fair bit more fruit than its predecessor. Either way, they both tasted delicious beside the pork cheeks and helped to negate the considerable fattiness of the dish.
Side note: Jay pointed out that fat in food attaches itself to the tannin in wine and in so doing, manages to somehow miraculously bypass the digestion process to be dealt with in the liver. I like this fact. I think I foresee some chips and bacon dip with a glass of Cabernet Franc in my near future.
Next we had roasted duck leg and grilled polenta paired with La Stella’s Fortissimo Super Tuscan blend of Cabernet, Merlot, and Sangiovese. The food was so incredibly flavourful, yet the wine stood right up to it and did not disappoint us with its rich dark fruit and almost chocolaty complexity. The main course was rack of caribou accompanied by all sorts of deliciously prepared vegetables, and this had Le Vieux Pin’s powerhouse Merlot put alongside it. By this time I had fully shed my shyness and was in übersocial mode, chair hopping from table to table and chatting up our guests, then dashing back to my seat to devour the latest treasure presented… clearly I should not be held accountable for forgetting to photograph some of the courses. Thankfully I have friends who noted my lapse and managed to snap a photo of my dessert for me before I got back to the table to make it disappear; it was plum pudding with nectarine and fresh goat cheese gelato and a honey comb cookie, served with La Stella’s LaStellina Rosato Merlot Rosé. Sigh… it was heavenly… amen.
Chef Jonathan brought his team out so that we could thank and applaud the people behind the scenes who had created culinary magic in the kitchen. I then had to gather my wits to publicly thank Jay for his supporting role in the success of the evening’s events before lauding the dearly assembled for their presence. We had fun oh yes we did… and I’m not sure exactly when, but I know that before too terribly long we will do this again.
I intend to keep smiling for a while yet.