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Wine Tasting: Oregon Wines

I will say again, I am fortunate that my in-laws belong to the Hunt Club here is Toronto, because they are generous enough to invite myself and WineGuyTO to the Hunt Wine Club events.  What is great about them is that PMA Canada is able to bring us wines not readily available in Canada to taste.

Two Thursdays ago, we joined them for a tasting of Oregon wines, specifically from the Sokol Blosser winery.  I couldn’t remember if I had drunk one from there before this, but I was told that they would be similar to New Zealand wines because of the climate.

Prior to dinner, we sampled a white, their Evolution and red, their Meditrina, while eating cedar plank scallops with a curry coconut sauce and duck ravioli in a cherry sauce.  The white I found to be crisp and refreshing.  The red was nothing spectacular.

Our meal began with roasted quail with an artisan brie atop organic greens and shaved apples in a cinnamon vinaigrette.  They paired it with Sokol Blosser Dundee Hills Pinot Gris 2009.  The Pinot was pleasant and matched well with the salad.  We then had a duet of seared Pacific salmon with a mushroom scented risotto and maple Berkshire pork belly with caramelized sweet potato and maple reduction.  We had two reds to try, the Delinea 300 Pinot Noir 2008 and the Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2008.  We were invited to try them each with the dish matched (ie the salmon with the Delinea and the pork with the Dundee Hills) and then to switch wines and note the difference.  It was very apparent which wine was best paired with each dish.  Our table all agreed that the Dundee Hills was our favourite .  It just seemed fuller, with more body than the Delinea, which was still a very nice red.  We had a second course of rack of venison (my first time!) with local root veg in a pinot noir reduction, paired with the Estate Pinot Noir 2008.  This wine was by far the best, and it showed as it was the most expensive we were drinking that night.  A splendid end to the meal was a poached pear with folded blue cheese and white chocolate ice cream with their White Riesling Dessert wine 2009.  I am NOT a fan of ice wine; I find it overly sweet and sugary.  I found this to be true with their ice wine, though the Riesling notes were very apparent and made it more palatable.  As always, I thoroughly enjoyed the food.

The one drawback to the evening was that our host, Alex Sokol Blosser, had taken ill and was unable to join us.  His replacement found disfavour with me immediately.  She happened to be walking in a head of me and told the PMA rep to introduce her to the important people worth meeting.  Wow.  Then as she toured the room to speak to each table, she spent more time with one table of younger men (the wine dinners usually have a 50+ crowd) and when she got to our table, ignored both me and WineGuyTO to speak to his parents.  Guess she thought we didn’t know anything about wine or would enjoy talking to her.  Her mistake as  WineGuyTO has a pretty good cellar going, and we inevitably buy a minimum of a case from these dinners.  This night we bought none.


Robbie Burns Night: Haggis and Scotch Whiskey

Ah Robbie Burns, I bet you never thought your birthday would be so celebrated.  Though I am a lover of Scotch, I had never attended an official Robbie Burns night.  Father-in-law to the rescue!  His club (unfortunately doesn’t allow cellphones or cameras, so no live shots) was hosting a nosing and dinner, would I and WineguyTO like to join? Only if our friend Max Power could come too (I mean the guy has 70 bottles of scotch!)

The night officially started with 4 Highland dances by 2 talented ladies.  Then the piper delivered the “Address to a Haggis” by Burns, shortly thereafter, serving us each with a (thankfully!) small sampling.  This was my first real time eating haggis and it wasn’t that bad, though dry.  We were told to drop a little of the scotch on it, which did improve the taste.

We were then given a tutored tasting and pictorial explanation of the scotch making process by Todd MacDonald who holds the eminent distinction of being a Keeper of the Quaich.  In the spirits business for the last 30 years, he has been exclusive to scotch sales for the past 20, all with PMA Canada. He brought along 6 different scotches for us to taste from the William Grant & Sons Distillers, i.e. makers of Glenfiddich.  *Trivia, he told us that 1 in 3 bottles of scotch sold daily is a Glenfiddich.

The glasses were already poured and marked on a tasting place mat.  We started with a 12 year old Balvenie Doublewood Single Malt.  I nosed and tasted both with and without a drop of water (you want 1-2 drops of water to open up the flavours, really!).  I definitely smelled the sweetness of the honey and it was nice and smooth.  Then another Balvenie, the 12 year old Signature Single Malt.  I didn’t find much difference, though the rest of the tasters did.  We then had 4 different Glenfiddichs: a 12, 15, 18 and 21 year old.  Each became progressively better than the previous.  I think my favourite was the 21 year old. It was by far the smoothest, with hints of banana.

An interesting note, the ‘age’ of the scotch is really only the age of the youngest scotch in the mix.  Each one could have a 20, 45 or 60 year old in it to achieve the right combination to be an 15 year old taste.  We were told that the Scotch master has 3-4 apprentices who work with him for 20-30 years and only 1 will get his job.  But overall, they have to produce the same tasting scotch every batch, especially since the only changes to the process have been making the smoking of the peat more green.

Then it was on to dinner.  Simple, flavourful and delicious.  We started with a Scot’s Spinach Salad, made with green apples, goat cheese and a Glenlivet dressing.  I will definitely be trying to reproduce this at home!  Then our main course, a salmon filet with braised leeks with bacon  and a champagne sauce.  Mmm, bacon.  I will admit that the dessert was too rich!  A lovely white and dark chocolate tulip mould held a whisky chocolate mousse with blueberries, beside a butterscotch cookie topped with scotch ripple ice cream.  Heavenly!

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