Learnings from a Wine Tasting

In my last article, I told you about the wine tasting I was planning at Bombay Peggy’s in Dawson City over the May long weekend.

We had about 20 people attend, a few less than I would have hoped for, but a good first effort.

Three of the bar staff participated and helped do the tastings, and owner Wendy Cairns saw it as a good training and team-building opportunity for her staff. Certainly, it was lots of fun.

Wendy had leftover wine from the tasting, so if you are up in Dawson City, stop in at Peggy’s and try a few of the wines we tasted. I hope you’ll enjoy them.

So, what did we learn?

First, there is an enthusiastic group of wine drinkers in Dawson who are up for tasting new things and excited to learn, discuss and compare wines, and to pair them with foods.

Thank you to any readers who attended, and spread the word. We had a little discussion about possibly doing a follow-up tasting, perhaps in conjunction with Klondike Institute of Art and Culture (KIAC), in the fall.

I’ve never been to Dawson off-season, so it would be a fun adventure for me as well, to spend time in that terrific place as winter sets in.

Food pairings: they all worked, and were outstanding.

Kudos to chef Erik Vadboncoeur-Enderslev, who spent hours searching for local cranberries from friends’ freezers, new-grown fireweed and other local treats to flavour and garnish his food treats.

His salmon cakes, along with the brie cheese, were ideal accompaniments for the white wines we tasted, and the stuffed mushrooms and moose were ideal with the malbec and shiraz offerings.

I went back and forth, trying to decide whether the malbec went better with the mushrooms or the moose, and the same with the shiraz.

Some attendees preferred one, some the other, so it served to illustrate the discussions and differences in taste that are revealed when friends taste wines together and try them with different foods.

The chianti with the aged Grana Padano and Parmesan cheeses worked as well as always, with the salty/nutty flavour of the cheese being the perfect foil for the tart and complex taste of the sangiovese grape juice that makes up the majority of the chianti mix of grapes.

I use Parmesan and Grana Padano cheese interchangeably, but it was interesting to compare the two. Several people commented on how much nuttier-tasting the aged Parmesan was, and how much they liked it. I agree.

The dark Lindt chocolate and home-made Kahlua brownies served with the Moinetto Il Prosecco, a dry, Italian sparkling wine, and the California Ménage aux Trois red blend of cabernet, merlot and zinfandel grapes, played nicely.

I actually preferred the Ménage aux Trois, which brought out an almost port-like quality when paired with the chocolate.

I was happy with all the wines we tried, which progressed from a simple but good Austrian Gruner Veltlinerwhite, which some liked, and some felt was a bit uninteresting, compared to all the rest.

The Ganton & Larson’s Ogopogo’s Lair VQA Pinot Grigio (white) from B.C. was a hit with people who professed to generally favour red wine generally.

As mentioned above, the Santa Cristina Chianti from Tuscany, with a nibble of Parmesan cheese, was a surprise and hit for number of people.

With the exception of just one person I encountered, the Australian Lucky Country Shiraz got rave reviews. And the $14.25 Graffigna Centenario Reserve Malbec will be on my “go to” list in the future.

And as mentioned above, the wines with chocolate were both success, with the red ménage (or blend) being preferred.

Oh, and mentioning good malbec, a friend brought a lovely bottle of Argentine Pascual Toso Malbec ($16.45) that we had with barbecued chicken. The combination really worked well.

Traditionally, white is served with poultry, but I find that barbecued or roast chicken also seems to pair well with mid-strength reds.

I wouldn’t pair it with a carbernet sauvignon, but the malbec worked well with the spiciness of the BBQ sauce.

Thank you to Wendy for planning and hosting the tasting, to Erik for the wonderful food, to the wine lovers of Dawson City who made the event, and to my friend Margot for her enthusiasm, help and company.


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