What a wild weekend! And to think I almost didn’t feel up to it. Pshaw.
We started on the road to Cornucopia in the afternoon on Friday, which meant I missed my favourite event, the Trade Tasting (always good to have that rush when the doors open and the pouring begins). Once installed at the Four Seasons there was an hour for some beta fixes to this website before it was time for the Big Guns dinner at Araxi. This year the feature winery was Penfolds, and they broke out the superlative ’98 Grange during the 4th course (dry aged Pemberton Meadows beef with veal sweetbreads). The night went late and long, and involved cigars, ports, whiskeys, and I presume a few other things before I found myself in bed, 6 hours later and dying for coffee and a brand new tongue. The next day saw guests and media piled into a chartered bus and whisked to a private home tucked away outside the village for a luncheon showcasing Prospect Winery wines and the talents of Cabana Bar & Grille chef Ned Bell. Five courses later and fully recovered now from the night before, I stole a two hour nap at the hotel, enjoyed a forty minute shower, and then dressed for dinner at Bearfoot Bistro. We began in the cellar, where owner Andre St. Jacques sabred some large format Pommery champers and the gathered guests got giddy in anticipation. I’d spent some time with chef Melissa Craig and Andre in Vancouver a few days previously at the Gold Medal Plates, and they’d mentioned that dinner, paired with dueling Chateau de Beaucastel wines, was going to be a “different” and a “surprise”. And man, was it ever. They’d dreamed up a “diner” theme, playing up comfort foods of yore with high end ingredients and exacting preps, everything from mac & cheese and grilled cheese to eggs benny and banana splits. I heard some bitching from some guests (“I wouldn’t pay $250 for dinner in a diner!”), and even some media, but overall I thought the response was very positive. I certainly loved it. It takes guts to get thematic, and not a little confidence/capability to do it right. The wine pairings were challenging, but I enjoyed how they were structured. For several courses we were poured two glasses of the same wine/vintage, only one had aged in a 750ml bottle and the other in a 3l Jeroboam. Tasting bottle variation based on size wasn’t something I’d done before, and I found it fascinating that the larger format wines, all 20 years old, could do with a lot more cellaring. Once dinner had wrapped (just after midnight), my dining companions and I braved the rain and the drunken Australian teenagers who own the village square for sparkling nightcaps at Araxi’s famous “Bubbles” shindig. One huge improvement this year over previous years: crowd control. One could move relatively easily through the rooms and it was nowhere near as stifling. Perhaps they lost several thousand dollars in ticket sales by lowering their capacity, but the decision made the party that much more enjoyable. Great crowd of usual suspects and a tremendous amount of fun. I struggled somewhat through a long and leisurely brunch over at the Fairmont the next morning (a consequence of two days and nights of going too far), and then it was off down the mountain and back to the always pleasant grind.
In addition to the little home movie above, I’ve put together a gallery of photos below. Many of the pictures in both the gallery and the film were taken by my friend Coleen, and for that I am eternally grateful.
Thanks for reading, watching, and looking. If you have any advil or pepto, I’d appreciate the hook up.