(A special guest post by TGCWC co-conspirator, Calvin Hanselmann!)
When the Minister of Cool invites you to an Ottawa wine event, the only answer is, “Yes!!”
So it was that the #TGCWC co-conspirators, Shawn and Calvin, found ourselves in the Shaw/Global TV Ottawa studios overlooking Parliament Hill for the first-ever
IRON SOMMELIER TASTE-OFF
TOP CHEF CANADA WINNER
Minister of Western Diversification, Hon. Michelle Rempel, had organized an #IronSomm challenge. Newly-crowned Top Chef Canada winner Rene Rodriguez of Ottawa’s Navarra had prepared a five-course menu. Each course would be served with three wines, each chosen by one of the competing sommeliers. The three sommeliers were all from Ottawa:
• Steve Robinson (@THEEcorkdork), Sommelier at Atelier Restaurant
• Andrew Rastapkevicius (@AndrewRasta), Agent with Lifford Wine & Spirits
• Hon. Michelle Rempel (@MichelleRempel), MP for Calgary Centre North and Minister of Cool [Minister of State (Western Economic Diversification)]
By show of hands, diners would choose the best pairing for each course. The best part: all wines would be Canadian (and all graciously provided courtesy of Lifford Wine Agency). The Great Canadian Wine Challenge meets Iron Chef meets a menu by Canada’s Top Chef!
On arrival, guests were greeted with glasses of Hinterland Wine Co’s Whitecap, a delicious Charmat method sparkling wine from Ontario’s Prince Edward County.
The Chef for the evening, Rene Rodriguez
Once we were seated, Michelle explained the plans for the Taste-off. Chef Rodriguez would present each course, followed by the three competing sommeliers presenting their wine pairing. Guests were to taste the wines with the food and vote on the best pairing. Michelle stressed that the question was, “Which wine works best with the dish?” not necessarily which wine you liked best.
Chef Rodriguez explains each course
With that, three wines were poured and Chef Rodriguez brought out the first course: tuna tartare with cerignola olives and piquillo pepper.
Michelle led off by explaining her pairing of Benjamin Bridge ‘Nova 7’ 2012 from Nova Scotia’s Gaspereau Valley. Andrew followed with his reasons for choosing Norman Hardie ‘Calcaire’ 2013 from Prince Edward County, Ontario. Steve showed “he got game” by trash talking both of his opponents’ pairings before making a pitch for his pairing of Tawse Winery ‘Carley’s Block’ Riesling out of Ontario’s Niagara region.
The crowd chose Steve’s Tawse Riesling as the best pairing; however, the three somms all thought Michelle’s Nova 7 was best. For what it’s worth, so did both Shawn and I.
The second course was BC crab cake with kumato ketchup, spring onions and old bay aioli. Michelle paired it with Tawse Winery ‘Frost Vineyard’ Gewürztraminer, Andrew went back to Prince Edward County for Hinterland Wine Co’s ‘Lacus’, while Steve chose Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2007, which both Shawn and I thought paired best even though the room went with the sweeter Gewürztraminer from Tawse.
For the third course, Chef Rodriguez prepared crispy pig cheek with oaxacan burnt onion relish, achiote reduction and avocado. Michelle paired it with the Redstone Winery Syrah 2010 from Niagara, Andrew also chose from Niagara but the 2011 ‘Tradition’ Pinot Noir from Domaine Queylus, while Steve chose Painted Rock Syrah 2008 from BC’s Okanagan Valley.
Michelle’s Syrah from Redstone was chosen the winner while Shawn and I both thought the Painted Rock Syrah was the best pairing.
The fourth course was Spanish manchego with quince, serrano ham, smoked almond granola and pickled pineapple. Michelle brought out the Tawse Winery Rosé 2012, Andrew again drew from Prince Edward County with the Norman Hardie ‘County’ Unfiltered Chardonnay, and Steve went with another Tawse wine, the ‘Robyn’s Block’ Chardonnay.
I’m not sure who won this course. Writing this post a few weeks after the event, I came to the conclusion that it was Steve’s Tawse Chardonnay. If anyone knows differently, please let me know!
The fifth and final course was dessert: dark chocolate fondant with vanilla anglaise and nitro coconut ice cream (so good I forgot to take a photo! Thankfully Shawn found one.). Michelle paired the Redstone Winery Cabernet Franc Ice Wine from Niagara. Andrew returned to Hinterland’s portfolio, choosing Ancestral sparkling. Steve went with Neige Recolte d’Hiver 2009 Ice Cider from Quebec.
By show of hands, Michelle’s Ice Wine was chosen as the best pairing, while both Shawn and I preferred the Ice Cider selected by Steve.
After dinner, guests mingled and chatted while emptying opened bottles. Andrew sabred some sparkling wine and a winner of IRON SOMMELIER TASTE-OFF was announced: Michelle Rempel.
A terrific evening and something that should be done often.
Many thanks to:
- Hon. Michelle Rempel, PC, MP
- Shaw/Global TV
- Lifford Wines
- Andrew Rastapkevicius
- Navarra & Chef Rene Rodriguez
- Steve Robinson
- The fabulous organizers
Wines poured over the course of the evening:
hinterland wine co, ‘whitecap’ | prince edward county, on
Round 1 Wines
benjamin bridge ‘nova 7’ 2012 | gaspereau valley, ns (m)
norman hardie ‘calcaire’ 2013 | prince edward county, on (a)
tawse winery ‘carley’s block’ riesling | niagara, on (s)
Round 2 Wines
tawse winery ‘frost vineyard’ gewürztraminer | niagara, on (m)
hinterland wine co ‘lacus’ | prince edward county, on (a)
benjamin bridge, brut reserve 2007 | gaspereau valley, ns (s)
Round 3 Wines
redstone winery, syrah 2010 | niagara, on (m)
domaine queylus, ‘tradition’ pinot noir 2011 | niagara, on (a)
painted rock, syrah 2008 | okanagan valley, bc (s)
Round 4 Wines
tawse winery, rose 2012 | niagara, on (m)
norman hardie, unfiltered ‘county’ chardonnay | prince edward county, on (a)
tawse winery, ‘robyn’s block’ chardonnay | niagara, on (s)
Round 5 Wines
redstone winery, cabernet franc ‘ice wine’ | niagara, on (m)
hinterland wine co, ‘ancestral’ | prince edward county, on (a)
neige, ‘recolte d’hiver’ ice cider 2009 | quebec (s)
Note: All bottle shots above are © the respective winery websites, save for Hinterland Ancestral and Tawse Rosé (both © WineAlign.com). If anyone has an issue with us using these we would be happy to remove them.