Vines and Brines

Top Table Restaurant Group, love child of Jack Evrensal, has long been known for its high-end gastronomic offerings, including Araxi in Whistler, and Blue Water Café, West and Cin Cin in Vancouver. Recently, the four restaurants’ wine directors—Araxi’s Samantha Rahn, Blue Water Cafe’s Andrea Vescovi, CinCin’s Sarah McCauley, and West’s Owen Knowlton—were inspired to create their own wine after a blending session with Cynthia and David Enns from Laughing Stock Vineyards. The result was the Director’s Blend label, consisting of one red and one white blend, made from Laughing Stock grapes grown on the Naramata Bench and East Bench Osoyoos.

The red (2009) consists of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 15% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc. There’s a lot of intense berry and stone fruit on the nose, with a big, smooth, rounded tannins in the mouth, and a finish that is bright and lingering, with hints of cocoa and spice.

The white (2010) is a blend of 50% Pinot Gris, 20% Viognier, 15% Pinot Blanc, and 15% Sauvignon Blanc. It’s an incredibly bright and fresh wine, with lovely acidity, and lots of citrus and stone fruit on the nose and palate.

They were designed to be food-friendly, and I think they succeeded. The results are two excellent bottles that should be popular sellers at the restaurants (the only place you can try them—by glass or bottle).

A Fine Brine Wins All the Time

This past week, I’ve been upping my salt intake—on purpose. I was asked to be a judge for the Dunn’s Great B.C. Pickle Contest. Along with 11 other judges, I received a large bin, filled with individually bagged and numbered pickles from 25 different contestants. I had a week to do the judging, and it almost—but not quite—pickled me out. Some were great, some were…not so great, but the results for all were submitted and compiled, and then the top eight finalists (based on the collective numbers) got to submit them for a live judging event at the Trout Lake Farmers’ Market.

Who knew there were so many talented home canners and picklers in B.C.? Some were radical departures from tradition, especially one pickle that had been brined in balsamic vinegar and lemon, in addition to the dill, etc. The balsamic unfortunately coloured the nubs of the cuke, making it look a bit rusty, which was a turn-off for some judges, but once you got past the visual, the taste was intense, unique and rather pleasant.

The grand prize winner was Karen Onraito Casper of Peachland, who won an all-expense-paid trip for two to Montreal. Chandra Moffat of Vancouver and Jennifer Zuk of Burnaby received 2nd and 3rd places, respectively, and all eight finalists won a $100 gift certificate to Dunn’s deli, as well as an all-you-can-eat pickle card. Hmm, all-you-can-eat pickles, eh? Yeah, maybe I’ll wait a while.

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Anya Levykh was born on the shores of the Black Sea, in what was formerly the USSR. The cold, Communist winters were too much for her family, and, before she was four feet tall, they had left for warmer climes in the south of ...

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