Friday, April 24, 2009

All Hail the Great Wines of Ontario

For the past six years, the Ontario Wine Society has held an event that encompasses the largest number of VQA wines under one roof and they call it the Wonderful Wine Fair. As the Media Rep for the Toronto chapter of the Ontario Wine Society, I am responsible for attending the event, taking pictures and writing it up for the next newsletter. Now, as a walk around wine tasting with hundreds of possible wines in the room to try, this event is probably one of the more difficult events to write up. This year I took a slightly different approach to the article and decided to do a wine and food pairing article giving our members, plus anyone else who reads the newsletter, an opportunity to try some great dishes that pair with great Ontario wine. Unfortunately, the newsletter is rather limiting because it would have been quite easy to pair every wine I tasted with a great dish. Wanting to take it further has inspired me to create this blog entry in the hopes of bringing a wider variety of options to the table. So, take a look over them, try some of the dishes, try some different wine pairings if you like and let me know what you think.

I am sure that a lot of us tend to eat lighter during the summer months and so, with that in mind, here is a recipe designed to go with the Calamus Estate Winery 2007 Half Penny Rose:

Spicy Crab Cakes

1 lb Crabmeat
¾ cup Breadcrumbs
3 Tbsp Cream
3 Tbsp Mayonnaise
1 Egg
¼ cup Chopped Parsley
1/8 cup Chopped Red Onion
½ tsp Kosher Salt
¼ tsp White Pepper
¼ tsp Black Pepper
¼ tsp Red Pepper Flakes

Mix by hand and mold into cakes. Sauté in oil until golden and serve with garlic aioli and chopped basil.

Let’s move on to a nice, refreshing, crisp white wine – say the Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery 2007 Gewurztraminer. Amazing aromas and a very pleasant, slightly spicy palate made this a very pleasant pairing with the spicy Quesadilla’s the staff at the Faculty Club was passing around that evening but how about we try a different combination. I heard a couple of people saying that evening, and it is something I often hear on Twitter as well, that they always put Chardonnay’s with salmon dishes. How about we mix it up a little and put this delicious Honey Hoisin BBQ Salmon dish with a spicy Gewurztraminer? Here’s the recipe – let me know what you think:

Honey Hoisin BBQ Salmon

6 Salmon fillets

Marinade for Salmon:
Mix together the following:

1 tbsp. Fresh ginger, chopped
2 tbsp. Roasted garlic, pureed
1 tsp. Cracked black pepper
2 tsp. Sesame oil
2 tbsp. Rice vinegar
1 tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

Honey Hoisin BBQ Glaze:
Mix together the following:

½ cup Honey
½ cup Hoisin sauce
2 Green onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp. Rice vinegar
1 tsp. Cracked black pepper
2 tsp. Sesame oil
Salt, to taste

Rub the marinade all over salmon and marinate for 2 hours. Preheat grill to medium high. Place marinated salmon skin side down on grill and cook for 5-6 minutes until skin is crisp and easy to lift from grill. Turn fillets over and baste liberally with Honey Hoisin BBQ glaze. Continue to cook for another 4-5 minutes for medium doneness. Turn fillets over and baste meat liberally with the glaze before removing from the grill.

My favourite wine of the evening was found at the Sauvignon Blanc table – Pillitteri Estates Winery 2007 Sauvignon Blanc absolutely hit the spot…even after having drunk a couple of red wines to throw my palate off. Normally, a Sauvignon Blanc would be paired with a seafood recipe but I have one recipe that I love to pair with Sauvignon Blanc that I would love to share:

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breasts

2 lbs Fingerling potatoes or red skin baby potatoes
1 small Red bell pepper, seeded and cut into thin strips
1 Italian mild green pepper, cubanelle, seeded and thinly sliced
1 medium Yellow skinned onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves Garlic, cracked away from skin
1 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup Extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Coarse salt and pepper
2 cups Shredded Parmesan
4 6 to 8 oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 Plum Roma tomatoes or small, vine ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped
15-20 leaves Fresh basil, pile leaves, roll then thinly slice -- chiffonade

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Cut fingerling potatoes into halves or quarters, depending on thickness of fingerlings -- thin, small fingerlings may also be left hole, larger potatoes should be quartered to speed cooking process. If you are using small red potatoes, halve or quarter them in the same way.

Cover a large cookie sheet with foil. Place potatoes on cookie sheet. Combine with peppers and onions, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Coat the potatoes, peppers and onions with extra-virgin olive oil just enough to coat vegetables in a thin layer, 2 to 3 tablespoons. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Place potatoes in the oven and roast 20 to 22 minutes, until potatoes are just tender and peppers and onions are crisp at edges. Toss mixture with tongs, turning the potatoes after 15 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked, transfer them to a serving dish and peel the foil off the cookie sheet and discard for super-quick clean up!

While potatoes cook, prepare chicken. Roll out a 2-foot piece of waxed paper or foil near the stove top. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat -- your pan must be very hot when the chicken is added. Pile the shredded cheese on the work surface created with the waxed paper or foil. Season your chicken breasts with black pepper but no salt; the cheese will add enough salt to the taste of the dish. Press the breasts firmly into the cheese. Coat both sides of breasts with as much cheese as possible. Add 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil to the skillet, 1 turn of the pan. Set breasts into the skillet and cook 7 minutes on each side, until cheese forms an even, golden casing around the tender chicken breasts.

While chicken cooks, combine chopped tomatoes with basil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper, to your taste.
Drain off any excess oil from chicken as you remove it from the skillet. Top chicken with big spoonfuls of raw sauce and serve with potatoes, peppers and onions.

So, now onto the red wines – there are three that deserve highlighting…a Pinot Noir, a very interesting Nebbiolo and a hearty Cabernet Merlot blend. The Pinot Noir came from Lake Erie North Shore – from Colio Estate Wines – and is a part of the renowned 2007 vintage. One sip of this wine and you know that the 2007 vintage in Ontario is all that it is cracked up to be. Normally, and it is the safe way of doing it, red wine gets paired with red meat – but I have never been one for playing it safe and when it comes to pairing red wine, I will always break down the barriers and try some white meat dishes. For the Colio Estate CEV 2007 Pinot Noir, I am taking cue from the fact that it asks for a quarter cup of red wine in the sauce and suggesting my Chicken in Cherry Sauce instead of a red meat dish.

Chicken in Cherry Sauce

3 tbsp. Margarine
4 Large chicken breasts, halved

Cherry sauce:

3 tbsp. Butter
1 cup Chopped onion
1 Garlic clove, minced
½ cup Chopped celery
1 cup Grated carrot
¼ cup All purpose flour
1 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp. Pepper
2 tsp. Beef bouillon powder
1 cup Water
¼ cup Red wine
14 oz. Canned cherries with juice, halve & discard pits
2-4 tbsp. Chopped walnuts

Melt margarine in frying pan. Add chicken breasts. Brown well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook until tender. Remove to another container to keep hot.
Cherry sauce: Melt butter in frying pan. Add onion, garlic, celery and carrot. Sauté until soft.
Mix in flour, salt, pepper, cloves and bouillon powder. Add water and wine. Stir until it boils and thickens. Add pitted cherries and juice. Return to a boil.
Remove skin from chicken breast. Pull meat from bone keeping in one piece. To serve, chicken breasts may be left in 1 piece or cut into slices. Lay slices, overlapping, on 1 side of plate. Spoon sauce over top.
Sprinkle with walnuts. Serve remainder of sauce in separate bowl. Makes 8 servings.

Now on to the Nebbiolo – a grape varietal that is not commonly planted in Ontario but that is producing interesting results. For a wine like this you want something hearty because the wine has a wide variety of flavours and aromas and a medium big mouthfeel. You could put this wine with a rather fancy steak or roast dinner but I thought we would keep it simpler today and try it with a burger.

The Ultimate Burger

Yields 4

Balsamic Glazed Onions

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
2 Large red onions, peeled, halved & cut into ½ inch slices
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Portobello Mushrooms

1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Unsalted Butter
6 oz Portobello Mushrooms, sliced ½ inch thick
Salt & Pepper, to taste
2 Cloves Garlic, peeled & finely chopped


2 tbsp Vegetable Oil
3 lb Ground beef, formed into 8 oz patties
Salt & Pepper, to taste
6 1 ½ oz slices Brie Cheese
6 Poppy seed Egg buns, split & toasted
2 Ripe tomatoes, sliced
6 Small handfuls fresh Arugula
Garlic mayonnaise


Balsamic Glazed Onions

In a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat melt olive oil and butter. When hot add the onions, season and toss to coat the onions with the oil. Cooks the onions until they begin to soften. Raise the heat to high and add the balsamic vinegar. Stir until the balsamic has reduced and coated the onions. Pour the onions into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to macerate. The onions can be refrigerated up to a week and are a delicious condiment in sandwiches or pasta dishes.

Portobello Mushrooms

In a heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat melt olive oil and butter. When hot add the portobello mushrooms and season. Brown the mushrooms on one side and then on the other side. Just before removing from the pan add the garlic to the mushrooms and sauté for several minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the pan and set aside. The mushrooms can be done several days in advance and refrigerated until needed.


Add 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil to two heavy bottomed sauté pans. Heat the oil over medium high heat and when hot add the beef patties, three per pan. Season the burgers and cook until well browned on one side. Flip the burger over and continue to cook on the other side until the desired doneness is reached – eight to twelve minutes total.

Just before serving lay some of the mushroom slices on each of the burgers and top with the brie cheese. Turn the heat on underneath the pan and cover with a lid for several minutes to melt the Brie. Lay some of the balsamic onions on the bottom of the bun and top with the tomato slices. Garnish the top of the bun with some garlic mayonnaise. Add the burger to the bun, top with arugula and serve.

Now, our final wine of the evening is the Vineland Estate Winery’s 2005 Cabernet Merlot Reserve. Now, this wine is a powerhouse – fruit, jam, a little bit of vegetal in the aromas and flavours. It is meant for big meat and it fits perfectly with the Cocoa-Crusted Tenderloin with Stilton Crumble recipe I have.

Cocoa-Crusted Tenderloin with Stilton Crumble

2 ½ lbs Beef Tenderloin roast
2 tbsp Olive Oil
2 tbsp Brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp Coarsely ground pepper
2 tbsp Cocoa, sifted if lumpy
2 tbsp Smoked sweet Paprika
1 ¼ tsp Salt
2 oz Stilton cheese, crumbled

Rub entire surface of roast with olive oil. Combine next five ingredients and rub over roast. Prepare grill for indirect medium-high heat with a drip pan. Cook for 30 minutes, then rotate roast 180 degrees. Cook for about 30 minutes until internal temperature reaches 145°F (63°C) for medium-rare or until roast reaches desired doneness. Cover with foil and let stand for 15 minutes. Cut roast into ½ inch thick slices and then sprinkle with Stilton cheese. Serves 8.

So, after all of this, I hope you have some great ideas for summer cooking and grilling as well as some great wines to pair it with. If you try any of these recipes with different wines and like the combination, feel free to post back here what wine it was and what you thought. I’m sure we would all love to try a different combination given the
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