In past articles, I have written about the fun of trying to match wines with food, and have also suggested that there is no one “right” answer to the question of which wine goes with which dish.
These ideas were beautifully illustrated to me at a party I held several weeks ago to celebrate my 50th birthday.
As the months rolled towards my entry into my second half century, my mind turned from wanting to let it pass unrecognized to deciding that I wanted to share it with a few close friends. And as I ran down my list, I realized that one thing they all had in common was a love of good food, wine and company.
In an ideal world I would have them over for dinner but my cabin is 12′ X 16′. I could not imagine a way to have a sit-down dinner for eight friends in such a small space.
Fortunately, my friend Nerissa was open to letting me host my dinner at her gallery, and so the location was set.
Having decided to serve Beef Wellington, I threw down the gauntlet. I asked my friends to bring wines to serve with this lovely dish of beef tenderloin, topped with pâte, slathered with a paste of dijon mustard, shallots and mushrooms, and baked in puff pastry.
And they rose to the occasion!
My friend Craig brought a bottle of 1998 vintage Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf du Pape. This wonderful wine from the south Rhone Valley of France is the ultimate blended wine, and can be composed of up to 13 different grapes.
This version uses three, two different harvestings of Syrah grapes, with Grenache and then Mourvèdre grapes added.
The wine had a lovely firm and yet rich bouquet. I swear I smelt earth and lavender, and luscious dark fruit notes, as well as a robust tannin flavour and a long finish.
What a treat, and it worked so well with the smooth mild taste of the beef, the tartness of the dijon mustard and the earthiness and muskiness of the mushroom paste and liver pate.
While that particular vintage and is not available in Whitehorse, you can choose a more recent year for $55.80, a goodly amount of money to be sure, but I don’t expect to have another significant birthday for awhile!
My own choice for the evening was an old friend that I was delighted to stumble upon the week before my birthday. I’m not sure if it is being carried going forward, but Perrin & Fils Gigondas “La Gille” is one of my favourites, and the 2007 vintage, with a blend of 80 per cent Grenache and 20 per cent Syrah was delightful.
Perrin & Fils is a very well known Chateauneuf du Pape maker, but they also focus on wines in the areas of Gigondas and Vacqueyras which, to my mind, are almost as good as Chateauneuf du Pape and, at around $37 a bottle, significantly cheaper.
You’ll note them sharing two of the grapes of the Chateauneuf du Pape, and while this wine didn’t have the depth of the C du P, being a little more towards the red currant end of the range, tarter and with not as much depth, it was also almost a decade younger, and I thought pretty great!
Others of my friends knew of my love of Italian wines, and then took our dinner in that direction, with M and J bringing an amazing 2004 Damilano Barolo “Lecinquevigne” from the Piedmont area of north western Italy.
This wine, made from 100 per cent Nebbiolo grapes, was recently reviewed by Wine Spectator magazine, which wrote “Exhibits beautiful ripe berry and hints of meat and mushroom. Full-bodied, with round, chewy tannins.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself, and their mention of the “meat and mushroom” notes indicates how perfectly it went with the Beef Wellington. TheDamilano is available at the Yukon Liquor Corp., and lists for $51.35
My friend Maxine brought a lovely bottle of 2007 Cantina Tollo Aldiano Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, which brought a slightly lusher and fruitier approach to accompany the beef, when compared to the slightly more mouth-puckering notes of the Barolo. This lovely black-purple coloured wine had a black cherry and fennel bouquet, and a full, rich, dark fruit taste of plums and black cherries, and a little spiciness. Yum! (It’s a steal at about $27.00 at the YLC.)
We finished off with the terrific, concentrated taste of a 2006 Masi Costasera Amarone, the gift of my friends Vero and Sue.
For me, Amarone is the perfect stand-alone wine on a cold Yukon winter night. With rich, slightly sunburnt flavours of the Italian summer, it’s almost a meal unto itself, and the perfect way to end a flight of very different and yet all superbly complementary wines.
While I don’t think this particular one is on the YLC list, another Masi Amaroneis, at $51.40.
All the wine choices brought different elements to a wonderful meal.
Ben Franklin said it about beer, but I believe it can be applied equally to wine: “[wine] is proof that God loves us, and wants us to be happy”!
For that night, and in that room, with those people, sharing those beautiful wines, we felt loved and happy.