Wine Fest Winemaker’s Dinners: Cioppino’s & Hawksworth

Left: Cioppino's pork loin in honey and horseradish-mustard vinagrette. Right: Hawksworth quail, foie gras lentils, red kuri squash. Photos by Anya Levykh

The 2012 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival may have focused on Chile as the theme region, but with the global focus resting on the Cabernet family, there were a lot of countries present to celebrate.


On the opening night of the festival, I attended the Antinori winery dinner at Cioppino’s Mediterranean Grill. Antinori is one of the oldest family-owned wineries in Italy, a continuity of generations making wine since the late 1300s. Their wines, like most Italian bottles, are designed to be consumed with food. “The only Italian wines that should be drunk without food are Prosecco and sparkling Asti,” says Stefano Leone, Export Director for Antinori and one of my fellow diners that evening. Our evening, in fact, started out with the 2010 Col de Salici Prosecco from the Valdobbiadene DOC region, a dry, light, biscuit-coloured quaff with notes of sour apple and citrus, and a beautiful, creamy finish. A canapé of buffalo mozzarella “soup” with a sprinkling of bottarga was a smooth, salty, creamy slurp that paired perfectly with the bubbles.


A simple cannellini bean soup with crispy bacon was transformed with rosemary oil into a warm, creamy bowl of heaven, and paired very nicely with a not-too-oaky 2010 Chardonnay (the Bramito del Cervo Castello della Sala IGT) with pleasant notes of vanilla and toast.


The standout pairing of the evening was the “salad” of spit-roasted pork loin in honey and horseradish-mustard vinaigrette, accompanied by the ’06 Pian delle Vigne Brunello di Montalcino Riserva (whew!), an amazingly complex wine with a lush, deep mouthfeel, lovely chocolate and tobacco notes.


A couple nights later, I was at Hawksworth for a Cabernet-focused dinner with Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars from Napa Valley and Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron from Bordeaux. The latter is not to be confused with Chateau Pichon-Longueville Comtesse de Lalande. Both originally started out as one winery, but a few short centuries ago, the then-head of the family decided to divide the estate in half, and thus the Baron estate went to the boys in the family, and the Comtesse to the girls. To this day, they sit across the road from each other, two lovely chateaux producing lovely wines in lovely Bordeaux…but, I digress.


Chef David Hawksworth’s cuisine was amazingly matched to the wines, thanks to the efforts of Terry Threlfall, Hawksworth’s Wine Director and recently-named Sommelier of the Year, as well as wine expert Sid Cross, who acted as emcee for the night and entertained the crowd with stories about both wineries.


If you’re not familiar with Stag’s Leap, this is the vineyard that produced the Cabernet which bested first-growth Bordeaux competitors at the (in)famous 1976 Judgement of Paris (watch the movie Bottle Shock for the whole story).


That same Cabernet, known as S.L.V. (although not the same vintage that won in ’76; we had the ’08) was nicely paired with the Fraser Valley quail, foie gras lentils, hedgehog mushrooms and red kuri squash of the second course. The other pairing for this dish, Stag Leap’s Fay, also a Cab Sauv, but from a different vineyard on the estate, offered a softer, more floral aroma than the S.L.V., with bright cherry notes and hints of earth and spice on the palate, enhancing the richness of the mushrooms and quail.


My favourite pairing was the third course: lamb loin, confit neck, chiogga beet and smoked potato espuma, paired with the 2006 Chateau Pichon-Longueville Baron Pauillac, a blend of Cab Sauv (62%), Merlot (35%) and Cab Franc (3%). The small infusion of the Cabernet Franc gave an absolutely amazing floral note to the wine, with well-rounded tones and a long, rich finish. Overall, a brilliant night of food and wine, just one of many during the week. Can’t wait for next year when the Playhouse celebrates California and Chardonnay.


Written By:

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 ...

Comments are closed.