A wine fest, recipe, and Camels

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      Despite what some of us may have thought earlier in the year, there will be a Vancouver International Wine Festival next spring, so hurray! It would have been a shame to discontinue this wonderful event. It’s set for February 25 to March 3, and once again it will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre West. California is the theme region for Year 35—fitting, since it was California (and more specifically, Robert Mondavi) that started it all those years ago. There’s a new partnering charity—Bard on the Beach Theatre Society.

      The festival’s central events will again be the International Festival Tasting Room sessions. And yes, despite the fact that I always complain about how it’s getting too crowded, I intend to be there in the thick of things, tasting some of the hundreds (thousands??) of wines from all over the world that are being poured.

      I haven’t seen the full program yet, but I expect there will be a Vintners’ Brunch on the final Sunday. I certainly hope so; while there are dozens of seminars, tutored tastings, winery dinners, and other special events on the schedule every year, that’s the one event I always try to get to, so I can report back to you on the fabulous wine-and-food pairings created by many of Vancouver’s finest chefs.

      Tickets for the International Festival Tasting Room sessions are on sale now. They make terrific stocking stuffers—I know, I know, I know, it’s early yet, but here’s a way of getting some of your shopping done easily. Right now, you can save 10 bucks off the regular price of $95, with advance tickets $85, and the all-in Gold Passes are an even better deal.

      Tickets are available at vanwinefest.ca/ or by phone at 1-877-321-3121.

      Big-ticket mac ’n’ cheese wine

      Mourvèdre is a French red-grape variety, well-known in southern France, although many think it may have originated in Spain’s Catalonia region. Australia produces some, as does California. We don’t see much of it here but a new one arrived recently, and it’s a specialty listing at the LDB: Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Mourvèdre Contra Costa County 2010 ($25.99).

      It’s a spicy little number with plenty of black-plum flavours, hints of truffles and chocolate, and a touch of sweetness at the front. Rich or what? Likes pork roast, too. The back label peels off the bottle for this fabulous truffled pasta recipe from a restaurant called the girl & the fig in Sonoma, California, which has brought me solace throughout the summer. In case you don’t get around to buying the Cline, the dish suits other hale and hearty reds too.

      This Truffled Mac & Goat Cheese makes eight ramekin-sized portions as a starter course or an accompaniment to a roast or chop or piece of fish—or use a big serving bowl and eat it all yourself; nobody’s going to tell.

      2 oz heavy cream
      9 oz goat cheese
      Salt and white pepper to taste
      Black truffle oil to taste
      3 egg yolks
      8 oz cooked ditalini pasta
      Softened unsalted butter
      8 oz brioche bread crumbs

      Preheat oven to 400 ° F. In a large saucepot, heat the cream to a simmer and add the goat cheese. Beat the mixture with a wire whisk until the cheese is incorporated. Season with salt, pepper, and truffle oil. Add the egg yolks and mix well to incorporate. Add the cooked pasta. Butter eight ramekins with the softened butter and coat with the bread crumbs.

      Fill with the pasta-and-cheese mixture and bake portions in the preheated oven until they start to bubble, about 10 minutes.

      Remove from the oven and serve with a glass of Cline Mourvèdre.

      Are there Wild Camels in Lillooet?

      Don’t know, but there are sure some fine wines coming from there, thanks to the enterprising Fort Berens Estate Winery and its proprietors. Here’s one: Fort Berens 23 Camels White ($14.99 from the winery in Lillooet and select indie stores around town). It’s a lovely blend of Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, and Riesling, light and fresh but with lots of big, full fruit. There’s a hint of apricot and lime, just the thing to accompany half an avocado sprinkled with lime juice and rock salt or citrus salt.

      Here’s the story, according to the back label: in 1862, Lillooet resident John Callbreath purchased 23 camels from San Francisco. Yes, camels. He was working the Gold Rush and hoped camels would be less stubborn than mules. Within a year, he had lost his camels and a small fortune. He was a pioneer with a vision of something better and the courage to travel unmarked paths.

      Tasty tribute, this. There’s a 23 Camels Red, too.