One of the best nights of our Canadian wine adventure a few weeks ago was a special wine dinner with our friends and The Tasting Room Radio host, Terry David Mulligan and his wife Meg, at God’s Mountain. Driving up to this venue I had an idea of what we were in store for, with a name like God’s Mountain it had to be good, but when we arrived I was overwhelmed by the beauty of this serene escape on top of a hillside overlooking a vineyard, leading down to a majestic waterway. With an eclectic mix of decorations on the inside, and an expansive garden area with our table of 40 set for the evening, ready to take in the view.
The wine for the evening was La Frenz, one of our friend’s favorites and a stop we had made earlier in our day. Owned by Jeff Martin and his wife Niva, originally from Australia but a Canadian wine maker through and through, with a clear understanding of the terrior he is working with and what it takes to make great wine in British Columbia. This year marks the 27th vintage Jeff has worked as a winemaker in both Australia and in the Naramata region of Okanagan.
The chef’s for this special wine dinner are Dana Ewart and Cameron Smith, owners of Joy Road Catering in the region. Dana was an inspiration with both her grace and talent, and their mutual dedication to creating fantastic flavors from the freshest, local-local ingredients around, is impressive.
We start the evening with the 2009 Sauvignon Blanc and stuffed squash blossoms. I love squash blossoms, this is one of my specialties, but these had an extra special touch that mine unfortunately have not…until now… These were stuffed with a blend of ricotta and goat cheese (similar to how I do them) but they were then topped with a bright, fresh salsa verde. The salsa had just the right amount of spice and acid to cut through the creamy flavors and the tempura batter to really round out the flavors in a complete, perfect bite. Add in a light and crisp Sauvignon Blanc and it is a spot on pairing. I really enjoyed several of the Sauvignon Blancs from this Naramata Bench region of the Okanagan. Not overly acidic or big citrus bombs, but more refined and elegant with good minerality complimented by hints of lemon and tropical fruits.
The guests are seated and greeted by our hosts, Dana & Cam and Jeff & Niva, and Dana starts the evening with a reading from one of Alice Water’s cookbooks where she describes the importance of eating sustainably and the impact that supporting your local farmers and producers will have not only on your personal health, but also on our overall carbon footprint. A beautiful way to start the night and a tip that I will take myself. It is not easy to embrace the slow food movement, especially in a city like Dallas, but every little bit helps both for your personal nutrition and taste, and the environment.
Our first course is a roasted pork belly with chanterelle, leek and shallot hash and maybe the best flavor we ate for the evening, a corn sabayon. It was interesting that many at the table had never had chanterelle mushrooms, though they are not uncommon for the region, which further highlighted the beauty of the evening. Here was a beautiful, local ingredient, easily sourced at one of the local farmers markets that Dana was able to introduce to her diners. The corn sabayon was the most amazing flavor of the night though. Fresh, sweet corn is juiced then folded into a traditional savory sabayon creating a creamy, buttery flavor without much of either, with a delicate, silky texture. Perfection.
This was paired with maybe our favorite white wine of the trip, at least for Canada, the 2008 La Frenz Chardonnay. Created in what they call a “peaches and cream” production style, balancing both the bright, crisp flavors of pineapple and star fruit, with creamy, elegant vanilla, peaches and apricots. We enjoyed this wine so much we tried to order it a few days later over dinner in Vancouver, but had to settle for the 2007 instead. The 2007 was equal in flavor, but contained a bit more minerality of the palate than the 2008, which was all about smooth, light and balanced flavors. A stunning wine.
As the sun started to set and lanterns are lit to cast a soft glow on the table we enjoy our second course of locally sourced venison loin with God’s Mountain coronation grapes with late summer savoury, paired with the 2008 La Frenz Reserve Pinot Noir. Aged 16 months in French and American oak, this is a lush, fruit forward wine filled with bright red cherry and berry blended with earthy, musky aromas with a hint of spice. A bold wine and a great pairing.
The main course, served family style across the communal table, was a selection of local vegetables including fantastic roasted eggplant with heirloom tomatoes; winter squash, arugula and hazelnut salad; a potato and corn gratin and a perfectly cooked leg of lamb with roasted garlic and herbs.
For this hearty dinner the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon was an ideal pairing. Prior to our trip I had heard a lot about Canadian reds, and was curious on the climate, thinking it wouldn’t be warm enough to really develop the flavors in a traditional hearty Cabernet Saucignon.
Our evening ended with a mason jar of a juicy layer of Italian plums topped with spice scented creme brulee. Stylish in presentation, decadent in flavor and a spot on match to the La Frenz Vintage Port. We had tasted this earlier in the day and had actually bought a bottle we liked it so much. Gary is a bit of a Port man, so when he finds one that he likes, especially one at the La Frenz price point I knew we would be bringing a bottle home. Lots of rich cherry, blackberry, caramel and sweet spice flavors, a great end to an evening in this Canadian paradise of God’s Mountain.