Perfect Pairings – New Zealand wine tasting

Perfect Pairings at the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

The one-bite Caesar with smoky rubbed USDA prime striploin and clam vinaigrette by Chef Jay Baker.

Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011 – part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival

– by Shawn Conner/photos by Robyn Hanson

Part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, Perfect Pairings brought together eight different New Zealand wineries with a selection of whites and reds to complement small dishes prepared by several Vancouver chefs*.

Held at the Boathouse on Kits Beach on a sunny Saturday afternoon, the event featured alternating wine and food stations, and the ticket-buyers – just enough to comfortably fit into the second-floor restaurant, formerly The Watermark – were kept well supplied with both grog and grub.

View from the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

View from the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Photo by Robyn Hanson

The wines were chosen, it seems, to reflect the diversity of New Zealand wines: so while there were a couple of sauvignon blancs (for which the country is known), there were also chardonnays, rieslings, pinot noirs and the occasional malbec and red blend. Pourers and food-preparers alike encouraged us to try certain wines, and it was quite easy to grow confused with a mental list of what to try next, and where to find the proper wine.

It was a good kind of confusion.

The dishes ranged from herb-crusted chicken Kiev to smokey rubbed striploin (sounds vaguely dirty, doesn’t it) to lamb shoulder confit to pan-seared Dungeness crab cakes. Consensus among our little group favoured the wild mushroom and fiddlehead gnocchi and sesame-crusted tuna nigiri, although I don’t think any of us didn’t go back for seconds of everything (hey, they were small plates!). A centre table was kept supplied with cheese courtesy of Saputo Dairy Products. At another station, Chef Frank Macoretta shucked three kinds of oysters, Kusshi, Kumomoto and Boathouse Kiss.

Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

Chef Frank Macoretta takes a break between oysters at Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Robyn Hanson photo

Discoveries for this drinker included wineries Astrolabe, Man O’ War and Mud House. Giesen Wine Estate won us over with its Marlborough Chardonnay 2007 (special order, $25.99), delicious with the chicken Kiev; both of Sacred Hill’s offerings, the Sauvage Hawke’s Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2007 and Hawke’s Bay Merlot 2006 (both $39.99 – Spec) were similarly revelatory paired with, respectively, the crab cakes (with mango salsa and lemon aioli) and the gnocchi (with asparagus).

Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

The one-bite Caesar with smoky rubbed USDA prime striploin and clam vinaigrette by Chef Jay Baker. Photo by Robyn Hanson

Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

Pan-seared Dungeness crab cakes with mango salsa and lemon aioli, with citrus micro greens by Chef Frank Macoretta.

Familiar names  like Kim Crawford Wines and Oyster Bay were also represented, although in the former case with wines that are hard to come by (a small parcel 2006 Riesling and small parcel 2007 Pinot Noir). Oyster Bay reps poured two listed wines, the 2009 Marlborough Chardonnay and the 2009 Marlborough Pinot Noir.

Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

Wild mushroom with fiddlehead gnocchi by Chef Curtis. Robyn Hanson photo

Mention should also be made of Mud House Wines, represented by a 2010 sauvignon blanc and a 2009 pinot noir, as well as Astrolable Wines. The latter’s rep Jane Forrest-Waghorn stopped by to answer a few of our questions (mostly we wanted to hear her accent) as the event neared its end. Where in the international wine community, we wanted to know, does the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival rank?

“It’s quite huge,” she told us, “one of the biggest in terms of getting our products out there, and known.” We were pleased to hear this, naturally (it’s better than if she’d said “oh, you know, we just stop here ‘cos it’s on the way back home”). With that, she moved on to her next Vancouver sightseeing destination – the sparrow statues in the Olympic Village.

The next New Zealand wine event in Vancouver is the New Zealand Wine Fair at the Roundhouse Performance Centre, May 2. Visit www.nzwine.com/events for tickets.

*Frank Macoretta, Brent Fisher, Curtis (no first name given), Stephen Duyzer, Jay Baker and Jayson Suzuki

Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011, part of the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival.

Jane Forrest-Waghorn at Perfect Pairings at the Boathouse, April 2 2011. Robyn Hanson photo.

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