Here’s Your Chance to TASTE Victoria!

Photo credit: Maryanne Carmack

To view the EAT’s complete TASTE photo gallery, click here.

Day 1 of Taste Victoria is complete – save for the after parties and off the map Tastes that are undoubtedly happening all over town. I, however, have made it home to my couch, to unwind, reflect on Tastes I’ve had and look ahead to a weekend of Tastes to come.

I started off this morning with a Riedel Tasting at Vista 18. This industry-only fundraiser benefitted industry, with all proceeds going directly towards the BC Hospitality Foundation.  Local Riedel agent David Sanders donated his time, plus 4 Riedel glasses for each participant, and led the enthusiastic crowd through a game of musical glasses. Four BC wines were in turn tasted from 5 different glasses, with wildly differing results. Laughing Stock Vineyard’s opulent Chardonnay was big and creamy butter in the Chardonnay glass, but bitter and thin when tasted from the Riesling glass. Averill Creek’s Pinot Noir was incredibly perfumed, deep and balanced in the PN glass, but smoky and a little sour in the Chardonnay glass. David entertained throughout the 90 minute seminar, with anecdotes about the Riedel clan (now in it’s 11th generation of glass production) and glassware care (linen or cotton to polish please). The BC Hospitality Foundation provides support for people within the hospitality community who are coping with extraordinary costs arising from a serious health crisis. The Foundation also awards scholarships and bursaries to students enrolled in Hospitality programs.

From then it was down the block to Crystal Gardens and the Trade Tasting.  The event was, as always, very well organized. Spacious layout, gracious volunteers, bright and live jazz lit, it’s a delight to taste here. In add ition to the colourful EAT Magazine booth (hi crew!), more than 30 local wineries, cideries and distilleries were in attendance. And the Main Event, in the evening, added a couple dozen local restaurants and producers to the mix.

Some of my top Tastes:

Artisan SakeMakerJunmai Sparkling Sake is bright cucumber, lemon, crisp and fresh with great effervescence.

Blue Mountain VineyardBlue Mountain Brut NV is a stunner – crisp green apple, with bread notes and bright citrus. Great balance and length – no spitting!

Dunham and Froese Estate WineryAmicitia White was one of the best of the day.  A blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Viognier from this Biodynamic and Organic Oliver winery. Zippy citrus, a creamy full body and great length – lively and refreshing.

Sumac Ridge Estate WinerySparkling Gewurztraminer is hard to find but fun to drink. Perfumed lychee and spice with an off dry pink grapefruit finish.

Seven Stones WineryCabernet Franc was elegant plum, raspberry, cocoa and coffee – with a spicy finish.

Vista D’oro Farms & WineryD’oro, their flagship – Marechal Foch, Merlot and Cab Franc fortified with green walnut brandy is as delish as I remember, with a sweet and deep earthiness and a filling and rich mouthfeel. And their Pinot Noix is a new delight – Pinot Noir fortified with their walnut brandy in a Sherry style – a great woody dusty nutty oloroso style drink, finishing with a kiss of sweet.  Yum.

8th Generation VineyardRiesling is such a pleasure – vibrant citrus, apple, zesty lime and mineral.

Alderlea VineyardsBacchus is a perfumed, pure pear, citrus and balanced example of this Island classic

Painted Rock EstateSyrah is rich and peppery dark fruit with a big modern smooth style.

Averill Creek VineyardPinot Gris is lovely, as always – creamy pear and crisp lemon, with a great, rich mouthfeel.


On Day 2 of Taste

I ventured outside of my realm of alcoholic beverages and into the calm and tranquil realm of Tea Master Daniela Cubelic. Daniela is the owner of Silk Road Tea, and tasting with someone of her knowledge and practice is a rare treat.

Daniela led the sold out (and then some) crowd through the ins, outs, method, etiquette and history of tea tasting. I learned that colour can tell you as any secrets about tea as it can about wine, and that terroir – a topic so familiar to me – enters into the tea world as well. I discovered the buttery creaminess of the Purple Bamboo Green Tea from China, the floral and nutty Golden Lily of Heaven Oolong Tea from Taiwan, and the structured, yet fruity delicacy of Northern India’s Makaibari Darjeeling. Everything poured was of exceptional quality, and while these premium leaves were probably not understood to the fullest by us non ‘tea-geeks’, I very much appreciated that I most likely wouldn’t have the opportunity to taste a lineup like this again. Daniela is passionate and genuine about sharing her knowledge, and my wine-worn tastebuds are looking forward to cross training with a cuppa.

Silk Road, 1624 Government Street.


Day 3 – The Swine and The Vine

My walk along the causeway this afternoon was pretty typical for a summer Saturday. Sidewalks overflowing with camera wielding tourists, lemonade peddlers, horse drawn princess carriages, jockeying pedicabs and tooting packs of scooter geeks. But then, I smelled it. Bacon? Close. BBQ? Closer. Wafting down the driveway of The Hotel Grand Pacific was the unmistakable scent of PORK in the best possible way. A welcome tradition now, The Swine and the Vine turn HGP Executive Chef Rick Choy, Banquet Chef Ian Goard and Restaurant Chef Michael Minshull into pit and pig masters for a day. A whole Sloping Hills pig was roasted on the patio, and the scrum of the fork wielding, sold out crowd waiting for cracklins was intense! At the first shatter of the skin, plates were at the ready – for good reason. Qualicum Beach’s Sloping Hills Pork
 is well known for its exceptional quality, and lusted after by chefs and foodies. Their animals are treated with the utmost care, have open access to the outdoors at any time and fed better than most North Americans.  Basically these pigs are loved from birth through to BBQ.

Numerous other dishes accompanied the porcine feast – there were house made terrines, pates, sausages, mustards, slaws and more. And to wash it all down? Select local wines, ciders, mead and spirits. Tugwell Creek’s crisp and honey kissed Harvest Melomel was a hit with the Smoked Pulled Pork Sliders, and Averill Creek’s bright and fresh Gewurztraminer made a match with Braised Spiced Pork in Pastry.  I would like to pack their Housemade Pancetta Club, with arugula and Fairburn Farm bocconcini in my lunch box every day, and wash it down with Sea Cider’s deeply satisfying Rumrunner. I was starting to feel like I pigged out (ha!), but Victoria Spirits impressive new Left Coast Hemp Vodka helped clear the passageway for dessert. Freshly made strawberry shortcakes with a glass of Venturi Schulze Brut Naturel was the perfect ending for my summer aft with patio and pig.

Day 4 – Pranzo at La Piola

by Alyssa Belter

The doors were flung wide open at La Piola on Saturday afternoon, letting a trickle of sunlight and the faint murmur of traffic from Quadra Street through. As part of the recent TASTE festivities, chef Cory Pelan served a laid-back, long Italian lunch known as “Pranzo”.

While some “Pranzos” pummel the stomach with as many as fifty dishes, Cory went with a pared down, three course approach. Guests settled in next to friends and strangers, and introductions were soon underway. A quick camaraderie developed among the diners at my table, and, in no time at all, we were abuzz with talk of truffles, wood-burning ovens, and local food haunts.

Corks were popped and flutes of fruity but dry Vigneti Zanatta Brut Tradizionale were passed around. Platters of antipasto and plates of Caprese salad circulated and diners unabashedly dug in to serve themselves. There were slivers of Italian salami; rough-hewn, house made Finocchio sausage; cured olives and slices of Pecorino Toscano. The pickled vegetables from Madrona Farm, which included rose-stained radishes, slightly picante carrots and startlingly scrumptious patty pan squash, were a hit at my table (once the lunch was over, we pressed Cory for details). The beautiful, classic Caprese salad with gleaming Sun Wing tomatoes, Fairburn mozzarella, and fresh basil was slicked with Italian olive oil and Venturi Schulze balsamic vinegar. The soft, milky tufts of mozzarella and juicy tomatoes combined perfectly with crisp, salt-and-peppered crostini.

As we relaxed in the glow of good food, the main pasta course was served forth. Fettuccine with peas and prosciutto was lightly coated in a white cream sauce with a hint of nutmeg and garlic. It was paired with a refreshing Ortega from Vigneti Zanatta. The pop of fresh peas, the soothe of sweet cream and the smack of salty prosciutto sent the table murmuring. Meanwhile, a classic puttanesca was briny with olives, anchovies and capers, and topped with a shower of cheese. Its robust tomato sauce was expertly matched with Salt Spring Vineyard’s Millotage, an interesting mix of Marechal Foch and Leon Millot grapes. All the pasta, made in house, had a pleasantly toothsome quality.

As we prepared ourselves for dessert, Alison Spriggs from The Land Conservancy and Nathalie Chambers of Madrona Farm spoke about, and offered heartfelt thanks for, the recent efforts which have protected the farm for perpetuity. Nathalie enthusiastically shared how the idea for preserving the farm came into existence, her passion for biological diversity, and the importance of farmland as a resource for food sustainability in Victoria. She also praised the field-to-table philosophy embodied by chefs, like Cory, who use produce picked minutes away at Madrona. In her words they “do things to our vegetables we can’t figure out!”

Thankfully, dessert was not a family-style affair or blood may have been shed at my table. As it were, I had to keep a close eye on my decadent and delicious flourless chocolate cake (made only with eggs, butter and chocolate!) topped with a smattering of raspberries and a drizzle of caramel sauce. It was savoured bite by bite with sips of Salt Spring Vineyard’s Blackberry Port.

It was a wonderful meal, even more so because of the fine company, and although it was nearly time for dinner as we exited, it was over all too soon.

Written By:

Treve Ring is a wine writer, editor, judge, consultant and certified sommelier, and has been with EAT Magazine for over a decade.\r\n\r\nIn addition to her work with EAT, she is a Wine Critic and National Judge for ...

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