By Michael Lowe
For many, Cuvée is all about the wine. This year, with so many wines on show from the fabulous 2012 vintage, the chefs of Cuvée 2015 had their work cut out for them — and they delivered the goods in style.
Without question, the food at this year’s 27th annual Cuvée Grand Tasting at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls was as big a hit as the wines. Overall, there were more choices and the dishes offered dynamic flavours and well thought out textural elements. Some of Niagara’s best dining establishments were represented by highly regarded local chefs supported by a brigade of support staff.
Our first bite of the night came from Ravine Estate Winery Restaurant where Chef Ross Midgley (above photo) dished up a savoury tourtière (below photo) with sweet pepper ketchup. The meaty, savoury filling meshed nicely with the lively fruit and light pepper notes of 13th Street Winery 2012 Gamay Noir Sandstone Vineyard.
Benchmark Restaurant and the Canadian Food and Wine Institute strutted their stuff with a trio of taste sensations. Their smoked salmon on buckwheat blini with rich, buttery sauce Mousseline harmonized with a sample of Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2013 (below photos).
Other scrumptious plates from Benchmark and CFWI included root vegetable empanadas with chocolate squash mole sauce (below left) and Cotechino sausage with lentils and chicharron (below right)
Vineland Estates Restaurant chef Justin Downes and his team presented perfectly seared tuna and octopus salad (below left) and Cumbrae Farms beef tongue slider (below right). The tongue, brined for a month before cooking sous vide, was sliced almost paper-thin. Served on a pretzel bun with fried egg and bacon, this one is best described in one word — amazing.
Fallsview Casino Resort, presenting once again on home turf, served up a deliciously earthy, truffled porcini mushroom risotto (below left). One of the two other dishes was a seared sea scallop with pumpkin cream, corn with truffle and crisp orange bread tuile (below right).
The Peller Estates Winery Restaurant crew, under the watchful eye of Executive chef Jason Parsons (below photo), grilled up wild boar sausage served with braised leeks, fingerling gold potatoes and Sir Laurier cheese.
I’m always eager to see what Chef Tim Mackiddie of Le Clos Jordanne, Jackson-Triggs and Inniskillin Wines has in store for his guests. This year, he served something not often found on menus these days — escargot. Mackiddie paired the snails with a wonderful fried veal croquette. The veal had been pickled in the style of corned beef then breaded and fried — an unusual, but delicious preparation (below photo).
The Cuvée Grand Tasting is a night for the winemakers to take the spotlight and show some off their favourite wines. It also affords guests a unique opportunity to meet the talented individuals who, quite often, are working out of the view of many winery visitors. Here are just a few of my wine picks from the evening, in no particular order.
Two Sisters Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010 – Winemaker: Adam Pearce
Kacaba Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2010 – Winemaker: John Tummon
Creekside Broken Press Syrah 2011 – Winemaker: Rob Power
Colaneri Insieme 2012 – Winemaker: Andrzej Lipinski
2027 Cellars Wismer Vineyard ‘Fox Croft Block’ Chardonnay 2012 – Winemaker: Kevin Panagapka
Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV 2012 – Winemaker: Angelo Pavan
Big Head Wines Chenin Blanc 2013 – Winemaker: Andrzej Lipinski
Legends Estate Winery Semillon Terrior 2013 – Winemaker: Serge Papineau