Sunday, July 7, 2013

Dinner at God's Mountain Estate #JoyRoadCatering

Once upon a time, I had romantic dreams of what my life would be like.  Dreams of amazing evenings with friends and strangers whose stories, by morning would add to the tapestry of my life.

Dreams came true at the God's Mountain Estate Sunday Vineyard Dinner, overlooking the mountains and Skaha Lake at sunset, drinking amazing wine, eating delicious, inventive food, and listening to stories filled with intrigue (someone meeting their secret sister for the first time), and laughter (You're from New York?  We're from New York - what train?  - and the conversation went on...) Now, a month later, I pinch myself.  "Did this really happen?" Well, according to the photographs, yes it did.  I am a very lucky woman.
We were in Penticton, British Columbia for our Annual Wine Bloggers Conference, and my friend Valerie (check out her Wine Dog Review) had found this Vineyard Dinner as part of her post conference trip.  I quickly invited myself along to Joy Road Cuisine du Terrior's Alfresco Vineyard Dinner.

When the taxi picked us up at our hotel, we were in pioneering cowboy country, and when it dropped us off a few miles down the road, we stood looking at a huge, Mediterranean manse with an outdoor kitchen and blue striped chaise lounges by the swimming pool.

We had been magically transported to a British Ex-pat's Costa del Sol villa for Sunday Supper, catered by Joy Road, disciples of the venerable Alice Waters, overlooking the vines that grew the grapes for the Riesling that we would be drinking, under the shade of the lucky trees that get to witness this magical convergence weekly during the summer. All this just a few hours east of Vancouver on Canada's west coast.

I should preface what I write about this, knowing that you can't buy any of this Canadian wine in the United States.  There are strict import/export laws, this makes the Oliver/Okanagan region of Canada a hotspot for wine tourism.

It started with bubbly - Blue Mountain Brut.  A crisp, traditional bubbly with strong lemon overtones - I popped a field strawberry in my glass and enjoyed the view as we chatted about Sarah, our elegant proprietress with dancing eyes, and a passion for dogs, and other beautiful eclectic things.  It is no secret that I want to be Sarah when I grow up.

Dana Ewert from Joy Road led us through the evening, and started with a sublime passage from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters, beginning with “Let things taste of what they are....” and then the meal started.

Roasted Spanish style olives, home made bread and a long boards of Cameron Smith's charcuterie, quince paste and mousse de foie. The wine and the conversation flowed in between oohs and ahhs of "taste this" and passing bread, pouring olive oil and and maybe just a little hoarding of the mousse de foie.

(I'm not necessarily blaming the wonderful man from Scotland, but he certainly was an enthusiast!) There was plenty of food to go around, it was just so delicious, we became proprietary!
Then came the home grown Wild Goose Gods' Mountain Riesling, paired with asparagus, and olive oil confit steelhead. As each course was set I was reminded that this moment was very special.  A dream fulfillment really.  These moments are rare in life, but need to be celebrated.  Just writing abut that evening allows me to relive it - did I mention how lucky I am?

I was surprised,because I had already had the chance to have some amazing wine,  the next wine poured was the most amazing wine that I had during my Canada trip. Pentage Hiatus, a Bordeaux blend of 36% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot and 29% Cabernet Franc.  WOW. I'll admit it.  My glass was perpetually full, and  I was depressed that I was leaving the next morning at 3am, so I could not swing by their tasting room to buy some contraband bottles to pack in my checked luggage.

Pentage is the vineyard next door, and their wine is estate bottled. When I asked one of the women who works for Joy Road about the Pentage, she smiled... they are friends.  The Okanagan is a small world, and Pentage is owned and run by Paul Gardner & Julie Rennie.  Visiting them is the strongest pull for my return visit.

Our vegetables were radishes, kohlrabi and baby turnips with rhubarb butter and baby chives, and there was a side of Swiss chard with pickled currents.

Our salad was a delicious blend of local greens, and there was a spring pea risotto that elevated the meal, and then, Joy Road cooks  brought out plates of braised green garlic shots with olive oil bread crumbs, lemon and anchovies.  My question to Valerie was "could this get any better?"

The main protein was a ham roasted in organic hay.  This was my first exposure to hay roasting - I grew up in the country, and the smell of newly cut hay is still a trigger memory for me.  Having that happy childhood scent memory entwined with this delicious meal was a part of the alchemy that made this a magical evening.   You really could taste the subtle flavor, it was sublime, and paired perfectly with the chocolatey undertones of the Pentage Hiatus.

Dessert was fresh picked strawberries with wild rose vanilla bean & honey cream meringues with a special hint of ginger added for Sarah (I am now a convert to ginger meringues, and I will be trying to recreate these at home)

There was a tisane of fresh chocolate mint, literally just picked from the garden, washed and put in a tea pot, with boiling water poured over it.  As I sipped, I wanted to have a mint garden to make this tea whenever I wanted it. Then it came to an end; as the sun set on our beautiful evening, our taxi arrived.

Throughout the night, I envied Sarah's dogs.  The were loved by all, and their lives consist of being companions and frolicking in the vineyard, above all, they lived at God's Mountain. No taxi would be bringing them back to the hotel - I guess that is the ultimate sign of a perfect evening...  I didn't want to leave.

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