VanWineFest: Italy and California go out for dinner

The Vancouver International Wine Festival was full of fantastic wine pairing dinners, one of which included CinCin and the Wagner Family of Wines.

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This sold out event, boasted wines from all five of their wineries: Conundrum, Mer Soleil, Belle Glos and Caymus, highlighting their Pinot Noirs as well as their Chardonnays.

While tables were being set up, and to give guests a chance to mingle, appetizers flew by and wine was flowing.

One of the wines we tasted was the Mer Soleil Silver. This wine was aged in vats of limestone and concrete imported from Burgundy, rather than the usual stainless steel tanks. Cement’s natural insulation keeps the wine temperature steady during fermentation, yet allows aging wine to breathe the way it does in a barrel. While these vats are used primarily for red, the Wagner family uses them for this un-oaked Chardonnay.

“What I love most about this wine is that it has a true sense of place, by fermenting and aging without oak, you allow the flavor influences from the vineyard to really shine through.” – Charlie Wagner II

Host Peter Lindenlaub, Division Manager in Canada for the Wagner Family of Wine, briefed us on the family owned-and-operated business that has farming and winemaking roots in the Napa Valley since the 1880’s. He also showed us a video of the team explaining their story that included fellow diner Charlie Wagner, a fifth-generation winemaker.

The Wagner wines were paired with the signature dishes of CinCin’s Executive Chef Andrew Richardson, renowned for his culinary skills in Vancouver and abroad.

“I believe in simplicity, and the interaction of absolutely prime ingredients on the plate—the passionata, as the Italians say. Less is often more, especially in Italian cookery.”


Lobster Risotto

Risotto Di Aragosta – 1 year aged organic carnaroli (medium grained Northern Italian rice) risotto with meyer lemon and Nova Scotia lobster

This was the best risotto that I’ve had in a long time. It was creamy but not overwhelmingly so and although looking a tad soupy I felt it had the perfect amount of sauce versus rice. The lobster was cooked to perfection with a good ratio of rice to lobster and just a touch of citrus. This dish was fit for a king, and as I sat next to the lovely Jim Martin, Senior Wine Consultant at Metro Liquor, I imagined him as one as he swirled his wine and chowed down on the risotto.

The delectable dish was paired with the 2003 Mer Soleil Chardonnay and the 2010 Mer Soleil Chardonnay. They were poured together to show the aging nuances of the wine.

Mer Soleil is made form the French words for sea (mer) and sun (soleil). This represents the terrain along Monterey County’s cool coastline in the Santa Lucia Highlands, where they planted their grapes in 1988. The natural conditions of morning and evening fog off the Pacific Ocean, balanced by the region’s bright sunny afternoons, seemed ideal for Chardonnay, and also for the name.


Duck Breast

Anatra Arrosto Con Cavolo E Polenta – wood roasted Fraser Valley duck breast with “sweet & sour” red cabbage, crispy polenta, and duck succo

The duck was cooked rare, which meant that each bite was juicy and delicious with the duck’s natural flavours prevalent and further emphasized by the duck succo. The crispy polenta made a nice pedestal for the duck but it wasn’t very crispy and although absorbing some of the duck succo it was a little bland. The sweet and sour red cabbage compensated for that by adding a load of flavor. All in all, it was a balanced, simple dish that let the flavours of the ingredients shine through.

This dish was paired with the 2011 Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir and the 2011 Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Pinot Noir.

While the Chardonnays were served together to show the different vintages, these were served together to show how two vineyards with the same vintage and varietal can produce a dramatically different wine.

The Meiomi Pinot Noir is ruby colored, with a light body and a balanced flavour. It is an approachable and tasty wine, but many at the table agreed that it could use some more time on the shelf.

The name Meiomi means “coast” in the native language of the  Wappo and Yuki coastal tribes, and best pays tribute to, and symbolizes, the origin of this Pinot Noir.

The 2011 Pinot Noir
Clark & Telephone is dark and opaque, making the Meiomi look meek in comparison. It had amazing fruit without being huge or cloying and had a sweet and lingering aftertaste.

The Belle Glos Pinot Noirs were named after Grandma Wagner, using her maiden name.


Peposo - Tuscan-style braised boneless short rib of beef with black pepper, red wine and tomato, rapini, roasted potatoes with sea salt, olive oil, garlic and rosemary

Peposo – Tuscan-style braised boneless short rib of beef with black pepper, red wine and tomato, rapini, roasted potatoes with sea salt, olive oil, garlic and rosemary

The potatoes were perfect, buttery and firm with a slightly crisp exterior. The rapini lay soaked in olive oil and sprinkled with salt like a bikini-clad woman lying in the sun.

The beef cut easily with the fork, and wasn’t masked by sauce, but rather tasted like the beef itself – another example of Chef Andrew’s desire for simplicity. I enjoyed the touch of rosemary but it was slightly overpowered by the flavor of pepper, so much so that it came up in conversation at my section of the table. While it bothered many, I love pepper so I welcomed it.

This hearty dish was paired with the 2010 Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon. 

The Caymus Cabernet is produced from approximately 25% hillside fruit and 75% valley fruit. It continues to “bridge the gap between very ripe, concentrated Napa wines and more traditional styled California wines.”

This was my favorite wine and of course the one with the highest price point. It was velvety and refined with soft tannins and a medium body. Flavors of ripe blackberry, vanilla, and plums were combined with earthy notes.


Orange Curd with a Light Hazelnut Mousse, Roasted Hazelnuts and Orange Marmalade

Orange Curd with a Light Hazelnut Mousse, Roasted Hazelnuts and Orange Marmalade


I loved the textural contrast in this dish with the smooth orange curd and the roasted nuts. While typically hazelnuts and chocolate go together I found the citrus pairing to be refreshing, and a lighter way to satisfy a sweet tooth.

This sweet treat was paired with the 2011 Conundrum White.

While the exact blend remains a secret, the 2011 Conundrum consists of both popular and esoteric white grapes, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier, and Muscat Canelli. It delivers its promise of being a food-friendly white wine with an exotic taste that you can’t quite categorize, however I don’t think that it complimented the dish as well as an ice wine may have.

Some lots are aged in stainless steel while others are aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels.

Vancouver International Wine Festival

Featured Wines:

Conundrum 2011

Mer Soleil Silver Unoaked Chardonnay 2011

Mer Soleil Chardonnay 2010

Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir 2011

Belle Glos Clark & Telephone Pinot Noir 2011

Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Would I go to this event again? Definitely. CinCin, not only has a fantastic sultry vibe that exudes elegance, but the staff is efficient and the food tastes delicious, especially when paired with wine of such high quality. Getting to know the Winemaker while you drink their wine is a special treat, opening up the door for many questions to be answered that can’t be found online. It was intimate, educational and although everyone was dressed to the nines, it remained informal and relaxed. My one complaint was that with  the open concept seating and the large number of people in the room the volume was high, making it hard to chat with anyone further than the seat beside you.

For more high resolution photos check out my CinCin Wagner Family of Wine set on Flickr. 


2 thoughts on “VanWineFest: Italy and California go out for dinner

  1. Pingback: France + Bubbly = Vancouver International Wine Festival 2014 | Marionate Overnight

  2. Pingback: Vancouver International Wine Festival officially commences today! | Marionate Overnight

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