Originally posted at http://ontariowinediva.blogspot.com
Have you ever walked up to the Royal Ontario Museum and wondered what was with that thing “growing” off the side of the building? That giant Crystal like formation that gives the ROM it’s uniquely modern feel now? Have you ever wondered what’s inside that Crystal? Well, on the fifth floor – the top floor – of the Michael Lee Chin Crystal you find C5 Restaurant. So, why was I there one sunny afternoon in early June? Well, I was attending a wine pairing lunch with the Wines of Portugal, specifically those of the A9 Fenadegas, which is a Portuguese cooperative of wineries. The A9 Fenadegas has 27 associate wineries spread across Portugal and, on this particular day, we were pairing seven of their best with the food prepared by the talented culinary team of C5 Restaurant.
As I arrived at the tasting, and saw many of my colleagues already gathered, I was handed a glass of Favaios Favaito Moscatel (Douro) to enjoy with the passed hors d’ouevres in the room. While I did not have any of the appetizers, I did sample the Moscatel and found it to be quite enjoyable. Normally I would not start a tasting with a sweet wine like a Moscatel but this was refreshing and light. I found it similar in “weight” to a Canadian Late Harvest wine with flavours of stewed fruit and a hint of tropical fruit to balance it out.
Moving into the actual luncheon, we had five glasses sitting in front of us. Looking at the menu, we saw that with the first course – BC Wild Halibut Cheek & Scallion Pancake - we were going to be pairing it with two white wines – Veercoope Via Latina Alvarinho 2009 (Vinho Verde) and Adega Pegoes Selected Harvest 2009 (Peninsula de Setubal). Okay, before I go any further, let me explain how these names work since they can be a tad confusing. The first word (or in the case of the second wine, the first two words) are the winery name. The second set of words, prior to the vintage, is the wines name. Thirdly you see the vintage the grapes were picked in and then the word or words in brackets are the wine region within Portugal. In some cases, the wine name will contain the grape name but not always. In the case of the first wine, Alvarinho is the grape name but in the second wine there is no grape name provided. It was explained within a few minutes that the second wine was a Chardonnay based blend which, when you take that first sip, you immediately know it is. The first wine had aromas of cut grass and slight citrus. It had a full mouthfeel with a good string of acidity winding through it. It was mostly citrus flavours on the palate but there is a hint of cut grass and a lingering finish that makes this wine thoroughly enjoyable. The second wine had aromas of apples, pears and a touch of melon and tropical fruit. Those aromas continue on to the palate where there is a slight oilyness to the mouthfeel which is slightly mellower than the mouthfeel in the first wine. Now, out of these two wines, the Selected Harvest 2009 from Adega Pegoes was the better of the two, particularly because of the light batter coating the fish (almost like a tempura batter) making it a perfect pairing with any Chardonnay based wine. However, if you tasted the wine specifically with the Scallion Pancake, the Alvarinho from Vinho Verde was the perfect accompaniment.
The main course – a Cumbrae Farms 60 day aged Ribeye with Potasto Hash, Green beans and Piri – was paired with three red wines – Extra Madura Colheita Selectionnada Tinto 2008 (Madura), Vale do Rodo Cabeca de Burro Reserva 2007 (Douro) and Udaca Adro da Se Reserva 2008 (Dao). The first wine had aromas of berry fruit, cedar, a hint of mint and cherries. There is a good string of acidity the whole way through this wine and it has firm tannins throughout. Herbal and berry flavours are trying to peak through but this wine needs food and probably a little bit of time would do it some good as well. The aromas on the second wine are slightly pungent with a distinctive earthiness and mushroom being the predominant scents. The palate still has a lot of tannins, a string of cedar and a slight bitterness on the finish. It is hard to tell if this will develop more with time although, in theory, it will so this wine will improve. In the meantime, this is definitely a wine that needs food so it is good that we are going to be pairing this with steak. The final red wine of the lunch was a real medley of aromas – mint, black fruit, slight cigar – but the palate says this wine still needs A LOT of time. The fruit flavours are trying to peak through so it will develop into something nice but, for the moment, this needs a good steak to make the wine better in its present form. Although all of these wines, on their own, need time to develop, the general consensus at our table of wine writers was that the second wine – Vale do Rodo Cabeca de Burro Reserva 2007 (Douro) – was the most complimentary to the steak we were enjoying. The food did an excellent job at softening the tannins of each of the wines and they were all great pairings but the extra development in the palate of the second wine is what helped it make the pairing the best it could be.
Finally, we moved on to dessert which was a Chocolate and Rhubarb Cheesecake which was paired with a Santa Marta Porto Vintage 2004 (Douro). There were great aromatics on this Port – slight chocolate and dark fruit mostly – and a great string of acidity with the chocolate and fruit gave it good balance. I decided to get a bit creative with this final pairing because the kitchen had sort of deconstructed the cheesecake. Pairing the Port with the Chocolate or with the Chocolate and Grapefruit was a great combination but I found that if you tried just the small grapefruit segment with the Port that the combination was completely off. Luckily I tried that in the beginning so I finished the meal with a decadent mouthful of chocolate, grapefruit and my last little bit of Port – what else can I say but YUM!