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Chillin’ and Grillin’ in the Peg

June 3, 2005

Before anyone comments that I’ve lost my wits, the above title refers to a wine tasting that I ran on Tuesday. It was actually called “Wine and BBQ”, but a friend kept calling it Chillin’ and Grillin’ and the name stuck. And “the Peg” is one of the many nicknames for Winnipeg. It sounds more appealing than “River City” or the “Murder Capital of Canada” (a name bestowed on us by the local tabloid rag several years back). So it all comes together.

To put the concept in plain English, we worked our way through the concept of pairing wines with BBQ cuisine. We served up seven wines (one white, a rose, a bubbly and four red) paired with five dishes, all grilled and all meat-based. It was hard on the sole vegetarian in the crowd, but he was a real trooper.

The food, which was amazing, was dished out by Terry and Sue Gereta, of Mise (222 Osborne). As always, I urge you to check out the restaurant if/when you’re in town. And if you’re interested (and you live in Winnipeg) all of the wines are available at the Kenaston Wine Market in Winnipeg.

Our first wine of the night was the Bleasdale Verdelho (2002), from Australia’s Langhorne Creek district. It was paired with grilled black tiger prawns served over a spicy green mango and cucumber salad.

There was some anxiety here. I don’t know where Langhorne Creek is, but nobody asked. And I’ve never had Verdelho as a single-varietal before. But Bleasedale makes some fine wines, and this was excellent. The Verdelho ($14.99) was like the child of an unholy union between a Chilean Viognier and an Australian Sauvignon Blanc. It had the richness of the Viognier with the crispness and fruit-forwardness of a fine New World Sauvignon Blanc. And it went very well with the salad – which had a real curry-fired kick to it.

The next wine was a disappointment. We served up the Chateau-St. Martin Rose Cuvee Grande Reserve (2003), from Provence. It was paired with a miniature Mediterranean pita sandwich – grilled lemon-garlic chicken with onions and tzatziki.

The wine was over the hill, which was a shame, since it runs $17.99 in the store. It was also a bit too cold, which was a shame. I’ve enjoyed Provencal roses before, but this was a bit sad. Kind of like seeing one of your childhood idols as an adult, and realizing that they are wearing a bad hairpiece. There wasn’t a lot of flavour left, beyond a hint of strawberries, and it didn’t have that delicious cool dryness that I associate with good roses. And the nose just wasn’t there. The sandwich was excellent, though the tzatziki overwhelmed the wine.

Next round brought us the Nick Faldo Sparkling Shiraz (NV). I love sparkling Shiraz, and could happily drink it all day (and night). This one had a hint of grapey sweetness, but was very tasty. We served it chilled, and it went really well with a minced lamb kebab (flavoured with dates and pine nuts) served with feta cheese and grilled cantaloupe. I was a little skeptical of the cantaloupe, but it turned out to be delicious.

In short, this was a match made in heaven. Lamb and Shiraz is always good, and the faint sweetness of the lamb kebab was a perfect match for the grapey bubbles in our glass. Very tasty, and I’d recommend this wine any day. At $22, it isn’t cheap, but it is worth it. You can also find the Deakin Estate Sparkling Shiraz at most private stores, which will set you back $16.

Not only is it tasty and full of bubbly goodness, but it’s a red you can serve cold. Considering how hot the summers up here get, that’s a good thing. Even when it hits 40 degrees with the humidex, I still like my big red wines. And this is a nice compromise between a warm red-induced headache and having to drink beer.

At this point in the evening, we took a break, so I think that’s enough for today. I’ll post the next four wines tomorrow.

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