B.C. wineries take the stage at Arts Club Theatre's Chef Meets B.C. Grape fundraiser

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      With one of Canada’s largest wine festivals—the Vancouver International Wine Festival—still five months away, the Arts Club Theatre’s Chef Meets B.C. Grape is a popular fall event for local oenophiles. The local theatre company hosted the California Wine Fair in April, but its fall wine-tasting fundraiser—now in its 10th year— is meant to showcase B.C. wineries.

      This year, over 350 wines from more than 90 were featured. In addition, nine Vancouver restaurants and five Okanagan-based eateries provide bites to pair with the wines. The event took place on September 17 at the Vancouver Convention Centre East. I attended the tasting as a media guest and was able to sample dozens of wines and enjoy some of the food.

      The well-organized event kicked off at 7 p.m. and Arts Club Theatre supporters had a little over two hours to sip and savour. Wineries were presented in alphabetical order rather than by region, which made sense for this event since a handful of wineries were grouped in a category called “emerging regions” that included Shuswap, the North Okanagan, Thompson-Nicola, and West Kootenays. More established B.C. wine regions that were represented at the event included the Okanagan Valley, Similkameen Valley, Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, and Gulf Islands.

      Winemaker Michael Bartier of Bartier Bros. happily answered questions about his Summerland-based winery.
      Michelle da Silva

      I started by tasting some of the white wines in the room first. After attending several tasting events in the past few years, I’ve learned that the best way to keep your glass clean (and not end up with a strange-tasting rosé) is to go through the whites before moving onto the reds. Of the white wines I tasted, I particularly enjoyed the crisp unoaked Chardonnays from Bartier Bros. and Joie Farm. Another favourite was Gray Monk Estate Winery’s Pinot Auxerrois, a fruit-forward white made from grapes that are mainly popular in Alsace.

      Some of the wines were paired with food stations. One of the highlights that I enjoyed was the Riesling from Kelowna’s Tantalus Vineyards paired with a chicken dish from Tableau Bar Bistro. The chicken drumette was braised in Riesling, making the meat particularly tender and flavourful, and was served with roasted yellow beets, pickled mustardseeds, and red cabbage.

      Another delicious pairing came from Summerland’s Haywire Winery and Vancouver’s Forage restaurant. Haywire poured their 2012 The Bub, one of the few sparkling wines of the evening, and Forage executive chef Chris Whittaker plated gravlax-style salmon with wild conifers and apples.

      When it came to taste the reds, B.C. winemakers did not disappoint. I returned to Gray Monk to sample their 2010 Odyssey Meritage, a blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc aged in French oak that yields a rich, full-bodied red with berry notes. Speaking of Cabernet Franc, one of my favourites came from Tinhorn Creek Vineyards. Their recently released 2012 vintage was also rich and fruity with hints of pepper and spice.

      The pheasant terrine, pancetta, chicken liver, and red-currant sauce from La Pentola della Quercia.
      Michelle da Silva

      One of the great food and red wine pairings came from Yaletown’s La Pentola della Quercia and Naramata’s Joie Farm. The Italian restaurant presented a rustic pheasant terrine with pancetta, chicken liver, and red-currant sauce. This paired well with Joie Farms’ Gamay Noir, since the tart cherry notes in the wine complement game meats and swipe the palate clean for the next bite.

      There is never enough time at events like this to taste everything you’d like to in the room, so you just need to pick and choose—and aim for stations without long lineups—to enjoy as much as you can. The reassuring thing is that Chef Meets B.C. Grape is an annual event, so there is always the chance to return next year to taste and learn more of B.C.’s diverse wine industry.

      Photos of the Arts Club Theatre’s Chef Meets B.C. Grape fundraiser below.

      Miku restaurant brought bites of their signature Aburi sushi to pair with wine.
      Michelle da Silva
      A representative from North America's first aboriginal-owned and operated winery, Nk'Mip Cellars, at Chef Meets B.C. Grape.
      Michelle da Silva
      The Dreamcatcher from Nk'Mip Cellars is a vibrant blend of Riesling and Chenin Blanc.
      Michelle da Silva
      Chefs from Tableau Bar Bistro serve a Riesling-braised chicken.
      Michelle da Silva
      Kelowna's Tantalus Vineyards poured four different bottles.
      Michelle da Silva
      Guests were treated to chocolates from Daniel Le Chocolat Belge.
      Michelle da Silva
      Georgia Straight wine columnist Kurtis Kolt shares his wine knowledge—and a few of his favourite B.C. bottles—with guests.
      Michelle da Silva