Connie Earl is a floor manager at both Avenue Bistro in Comox, and sister restaurant Atlas Cafe in Courtenay. In her 20+ years in the restaurant industry she’s been server, cook, and manager. Along the way she’s done some sommelier training, but most importantly, she’s developed a love for and deep appreciation of wine, particularly BC wine.
We sat down recently to taste three white wines from the Avenue list: Comox Valley Beaufort G’Wurz (2011), Kettle Valley Pinot Gris (2011) from the Naramata Bench, and Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc (2010) from the east side of Okanagan Lake. I asked Connie to tell me about the wines and what they would pair with on the Avenue menu.
Our first sample was the Beaufort G’Wurz, produced here in the Comox Valley. “This is a dry-style Gewürztraminer with the classic lychee and tropical fruit notes.” She took a sip. “This one has some pink grapefruit too, and it has a nice clean, fresh, dry finish. Wines like this Gewürztraminer, with the lush, tropical notes, pair well with spicy dishes. It’s is a great match with our Curry Bowl.”
Kettle Valley Pinot Gris
Our next wine was a white wine with a bit of a blush on it. “They’ve imparted a beautiful salmon hue in this Pinot Gris by allowing the juice to sit on the skins for a short while after pressing. Like the G’Wurz, it also has a rich fruit profile with a crisp, dry finish. The bright peach, apricot, and honeydew flavours are balanced by a refreshing acidity. The subtle red bell pepper flavour you notice is more common in reds, and shows itself more on the nose than the palate. The Rockfish Bouillabaisse with its tomato, orange, and fennel broth has a similar brightness and would pair well with this Pinot Gris.”
Quails’ Gate Chenin Blanc
Our last wine was the Chenin Blanc, a white varietal that is part of the classic Loire Valley blends [thanks to Geo. Baugh for correcting my "Bordeaux" gaffe]. “This Chenin Blanc has more body than our previous wines,” Connie explained. “It’s got bright, lemony notes in the opening, a round body, intriguing vegetal notes, and a refined mineral finish. For all of these reasons it is a great food wine, and one of my favourites at Avenue. It’s lovely with the Forager Pizza: it has enough body to match the richness of the roasted wild mushrooms, truffle oil, and goat cheese. It’s also a great choice with the Cowichan Farmhouse Chicken Breast with lemon thyme pan sauce. Another place it really shines is with our local oysters on the half-shell: the elegant mineral finish and the citrus notes are great with oysters.”
While she was pouring our three samples Connie told me that, not only is it nice to have three similar wines to taste side by side, but it’s instructive – and pleasurable – to note the changes. “Start with the aromas. Compare all three before tasting. Then go back and smell them and taste them all again. Their flavours and profiles – and our palates – will change as we go through the tasting, helping us better perceive the differences and similarities.” Certainly by the time we’d had several sniffs and sips of the trio, and as they’d had time to warm up and open a little, many different things were happening in my mouth.
I have a lot to learn about whites, and about BC whites in particular. I’m tempted to try the Forager Pizza and Chenin Blanc combination next time I’m dining out.
Our next column
Our next wine column will feature a tasting with Gregor Mowatt, Director of Operations at Crown Isle Resort. Gregor has a rich background in the wine business. He’s also a fan of Old World wines. He hasn’t hinted where we’ll be taking our palates, but I’m hoping it’ll be Rioja (Spain), Languedoc (France), or the Italian Piedmont
- Wine Column March 2013: Connie Earl talks about 3 BC wines at Avenue Bistro(bonvivantvancouverisland.com)
- The Top 10 Chenin Blanc go to bottlings according to me(rockssandfruit.blogspot.com)