The great things about food and wine are the conversations and people you meet. While the relative merits of Kraft Dinner may not seem to be scintillating dinner conversation, it was!
The Ottawa Women’s Credit Union serves a wide variety of women in the Ottawa area. They are particularly important to women who are not well served by the “big banks”, homeless women, poor women, women who slip through the cracks, as well as business women, career women, family women and those who are some of each…it is a small institution where you are known and no chip, or PIN or government ID is required each time you want to withdraw $20. The OWCU has been holding fund-raising events to up-grade its technology (hey, wouldn’t most banks just up the service fees? Not this one).
One of these events was a food and wine pairing of Chilean and Argentinian wines, organized last month by the OWCU’s loan and mortgage manager at the Kanata Golf and Country Club. Hosted by Elaine Fine of the OWCU, Andrew Rastapkevicius of the Lifford Wine Agency led us through the tastings.
We were served five wines over five courses and, I must say, the pairings were quite successful. I’ll skip the sparkling wine as it does not appear on Lifford’s listing and how fair is it to discuss a wine you can’t get?
Moving to the first pairing, we tried a Vina Echeverria Sauvignon Blanc ($13.99) from Chile with a tomato and buffalo mozzarella salad. This Sauvignon Blanc was a very pale lemon yellow, almost colourless. It had the classic notes on the nose: pineapple and grapefruit, with a slight hint of green veggies and minerality on the palate. It married very nicely with the lemon zest and olive oil of the salad dressing and toned down the strength of the tomatoes. I am not a big fan of white wine but I really enjoyed this wine and would happily buy it. I would serve it before dinner, well chilled, or with a lightly flavoured green salad, grilled chicken or even a cold pasta salad.
The star of the evening was the Bodega Humberto Canale Pinot Noir. At $14.99, this wine was voted the best by four of the six at the table. This Argentinian wine is from the one of the most southern wineries in the world (I had visions of little penguins waddling through the vineyard). There were two confirmed white wine-ophiles at the table and even they liked it. This wine was paired with a beef empanada (and sweet corn pie) and it was a hit. This is not a large Burgundian, although there were clear attributes of a classic pinot noir (what Andrew claimed is referred to as “pinocity” by pinophiles, much to our adolescent humour): white pepper, fruitiness and slight earthiness on the palate. It was a light, ruby red colour, almost winking in the light. Not to be served with a thick, BBQ steak, it would go well with roasted chicken with gravy or a simple red-sauced pasta or for quaffing while preparing the meal.
The main course of sliced beef, chorizo sausage and chimichurri sauce was served with a Finca Decero Malbec ($23.95). Finca Decero is an Argentinian winery owned by a Swiss Accounting firm, not the first choice for romance. The photos Andrew showed us did make me think of Switzerland, minus the chocolate: snow covered mountains, vines in neat rows, not a grape out of place…. Malbec is making a come-back at the LCBO (and never seems to have gone out of style at the SAQ) and is found in some of my favourite wines. This one, however, was not a superstar in my eyes. A deep red in the glass, almost purple (reminiscent of squid ink, actually), it announced that it would be full-bodied and flavourful in the mouth. It held up against the roasted red peppers but was lacking in spice in the mouth and did not linger on the palate. I suspect this wine could age very well.
The most surprising pairing was a red Vina Echeverria Carmenere ($13.99) with dulce de leche. I would never, ever, have thought to serve a table wine with dessert…certainly not a red. The caramel sweetness of the dulce de leche tempered the leather and plastic aromas, bringing out a perfume in the mouth (we picked Nina Ricci’s L’Air du Temps as the closest match) and high-lighting rich vanilla notes. This wine was not enjoyable on its own but the pairing changed it completely.
Again, the best part of any evening is the company and our table rocked! Best moment? One of our table companions tasted the Carmenere, made a grimace and physically moved her glass away, saying, “It tastes like sawdust”. However, when paired with the dessert, she exclaimed, “Actually, it tastes much better with dessert” and finished her glass! Isn’t great when a plan comes together? (And I came away with some inside information on the best place to search out wines in Syracuse for my next cross-border shopping trip).
All but one of these wines is available by ordering (case of 12 – hey, get to know your neighbours and share a case!) through the Lifford Agency (which can, I was happy to see, be done on-line for a little late night shopping).
Ottawa Women’s Credit Union
271 Bank Street
Lifford Wine Agency
756 Bathurst Street, Toronto