I was honoured to attend Tantalus Vineyards’ private welcome dinner for the competing Gold Medal Plates chefs last week. What a thrill to sit amongst these talented gents, observe the quiet window of camaraderie before the weekend competitions began and, of course, get spoiled with world-class food and wine.

Tantalus could not offer a more spectacular setting to dine. Two long, elegant tables were set in the tasting room. With soaring ceilings and one wall of windows looking on over the vineyards to the lake and one looking down into the wine cellar – it is as though you are floating on air. The staff at Tantalus are a gracious and passionate team and three of their main players were there: General Manager, Jane Hatch, Winemaker David Paterson and his wife Stephanie Mosley, Social Media and Events Coordinator as well as owner, Eric Savics visiting from his Vancouver base.

Tantalus has actively participated in the Gold Medal Plates/Canadian Culinary Championships since 2006. The 2007 Canadian Culinary Championships were won by Melissa Craig from Whistler’s Barefoot Bistro, paired with Tantalus 2005 Riesling. Jane Hatch says, “Since then we’ve participated each year. 2010 saw us win Gold Medal Plates in Calgary with Chef Duncan Ly and together we competed in the CCC held for the first time in Kelowna in 2011. Last November we competed with Chef Mark Filatow who prepared an absolutely gorgeous course, in Vancouver. Our soon to be released 2009 Old Vines Riesling was voted by the judges best wine of the competition by unanimous decision. This is the first time they have included a best wine category.”

The evening began with a private tank tasting in the cellar with Winemaker David, Jane and Eric. The powerful, concentrated flavour of these grapes is unbelievable. On winemaking, David explained his philosophy of focusing on the purity of the grapes. To achieve this, one has to be “brave enough to leave the grapes alone” to do their thing. I sampled the new Chardonnay that will be released this spring as well as the beautiful Rosé and was smitten. David will be also be making an old vines Riesling bubbly that will be available spring 2014 – I suggest getting on the list for the bubbles now as well as signing up for news on spring releases. www.tantalus.ca

Dinner was prepared by our local Celebrity Chef Bernard Casavant and team from the Wild Apple Restaurant and what a dinner it was. As beautiful as it was delicious, Chef Bernard is known for his attention to detail for the eye as well as the palate.

Guests were greeted with a glass of stunning Tantalus Rosé and a beautifully arranged plate complete with a cornet of Chef’s famous Duck Fat, Rosemary Popcorn. The rest of the artfully designed plate featured Sloping Hills Heritage Pork Cheek Terrine with Harker's Organic Plum Gastrique, Citrus- Infused Alaskan Halibut “Sous Vide” with Lemon Thyme Aioli and Foraged Mushroom Cappuccino Demitasse. The tables were set with Antipasto Boards presenting a mouthwatering line up of delights like Chef Bernard’s Wild Boar Apricot Pate with Stone Fruit Chutney, Poplar Grove Tiger Blue Cheese, Arlo’s Honey “Clouds” with Roasted Pears and fresh baked breads paired with the famous Tantalus Riesling (2010). The main course of Duck Confit was beautifully served in Copper Pots that were passed around the table and platters featuring three salads perfectly paired with Tantalus Pinot Noir (2010). Dessert of house preserved organic plum Clafoutis was paired with first time creation at Tantalus: Syrah Icewine, which was spectacular. The take away gift boxes housed a Mountain Berry macaroon and a Syrah Icewine Valrhona Majari Chocolate Truffle with Blackberry Basil Essence

Chatting with the wide array of Chefs from across our country, one word was consistently mentioned when describing their craft: Passion. The same word that ignites our winemakers, it is no wonder that the pairing of these two worlds in our valley has caused the culinary world to take notice.

PS Marc Lepine of Atelier Restaurant in Ottawa has won the prestigious title of Canadian Culinary Champion for 2012. Coming in silver was Rob Feenie, representing the Cactus Club in Vancouver and bronze was awarded to JP St-Denis from Kitchen Gallerie Poisson in Montreal.

~ Jennifer Schell

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