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This weekend, Gold Medal Plates is happening at the Delta Grand Okanagan Resort in Kelowna. This is the grand finale of the Canadian Culinary Championships, presented by Deloitte. The goal of Gold Medal Plates is to raise substantial funds for Canada’s high performance athletes, while celebrating Canadian excellence. Since 2004, this event has received tremendous support and accolades all across Canada, and generated a combined net total of nearly $11 million for Canada’s Olympic athletes! Net proceeds from Gold Medal Plates are given to the Canadian Olympic Foundation to support athletes through high performance programs such as Own the Podium.

Throughout October and November, Canadian chefs competed in eleven major centres across the country for a chance to represent their region at the Gold Medal Plates, which is considered to be the ultimate celebration of Canadian Excellence in cuisine, wine, entertainment and athletic achievement. The competing chefs this year include:

Representing British Columbia – Alex Chen (Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar, Vancouver)

Representing Calgary – Matthew Batey (The Nash Restaurant & Off Cut Bar)

Representing Edmonton – Jan Trittenbach (Solstice Seasonal Cuisine)

Representing Regina – Jonathan Thauberger (Crave Kitchen + Wine Bar)

Representing Saskatoon – Darren Craddock (Riverside Country Club)

Representing Winnipeg – Norm Pastorin (The Cornerstone Bar & Restaurant)

Representing Toronto – Stuart Cameron (Byblos)

Representing Ottawa – Marc Lepine (Atelier)

Representing Montreal – Guillaume Cantin (Les 400 Coups)

Representing St. John’s – Roger Andrews (Relish Gourmet Burgers)

Representing Halifax – Martin Ruiz Salvador (Fleur De Sel, Lunenberg)

photo credit: Impact Events

photo credit: Impact Events

I attended a Wine & Media event yesterday as part of the Gold Medal Plates weekend, which featured the wines from the Bottleneck Drive winery association from Summerland. IMG_3372While I am quite familiar with the wineries, it was nice to be able to try some more recent vintages and some wines that were new to me, while chatting with the wineries’ representatives. Also included in the association are two new cideries. I sampled the Thornhaven 2014 Pinot Gris first. It has aromas and flavours of apple, pear and citrus and is an easy sipper.IMG_3368 Sage Hills’ 2013 Pinot Gris has a bit of toastiness on the nose, with aromas of apple, pear and citrus. It has a creamy mouthfeel and nice complexity on the palate.IMG_3364 The 2013 Ehrenfelser from Sonoran Estate has a very floral nose. It is a pleasant off-dry wine that is quite fruity and aromatic.IMG_3362 The Gala Apple wine from Sleeping Giant Fruit Winery is an off-dry easy sipper.IMG_3363 The 2014 Muscat Ottonel from Summer Gate Winery has a very aromatic nose, with notes of floral, fruit and a hint of spice. It is off-dry with fresh flavours of lychee fruit and spice.IMG_3367 The 2014 Riesling from 8th Generation has aromas of citrus, apple and a touch of honey. It is off-dry with flavours of lemon, lime, green apple, peach and honey, with a long finish.IMG_3380 Two ciders were featured – the new Dominion Cider is dry with great flavour and light effervescence.IMG_3378 The Porter’s Dry Cider from Summerland Heritage Cider Co. is another great dry cider with earthy rich flavours.IMG_3379 The 2014 Rosé from TH Wines was one of my favourite rosés of last summer, with a candied red fruit nose. It is dry, fresh, with flavours of juicy red fruit and a hint of spice.IMG_3366 The 2013 Gamay from Heaven’s Gate has a nose of plum and dark berries, with flavours of dark cherry and raisins and smooth tannins.IMG_3375 The 2013 Shiraz Viognier from Silkscarf has a ripe berry nose with a hint of spice. It is dry and elegant with ripe tannins and flavours of cherry, blueberry and spice with a long finish.IMG_3376 The 2012 Pinot Noir from 8th Generation has aromas of cherry and raspberry with a hint of earthiness. It is dry, with nice acidity and flavours of ripe cherry, spice and raspberry with a medium-plus finish.IMG_3385 The 2014 Pinot Noir from Giant Head Winery has delicate floral notes alongside aromas and flavours of cherry and raspberry, with a slightly candied nose. It is dry and fresh, with a light body and medium finish.IMG_3383 The 2013 Haywire Pinot Noir, raised in concrete, has an earthy nose with aromas of cherry and spice. It is dry with good acidity, medium tannins and flavours of sour cherry, red currant and spice.IMG_3381 The 2013 Unoaked Merlot from Saxon has aromas of ripe red cherry and plum jam. It is dry with light tannins and flavours of sour cherry and damson plum.IMG_3370 The 2014 Cabernet Merlot from Evolve Cellars is full of dark fruit and caramel on the nose. It is dry, full-bodied with medium-plus tannins and flavours of ripe cherry, cassis and spice.IMG_3384 The 2013 Merlot from Black Sage Vineyard (Sumac Ridge) has aromas of cherry, plum and spice. It is dry, full-bodied with grippy tannins and flavours of plum, dark berries, vanilla and spice.IMG_3386 The 2013 Kay-Syrah from Dirty Laundry has a smoky nose, alongside dark fruit. It is dry, with medium-plus body, ripe tannins and flavours of dark berries, chocolate, smoke and spice.IMG_3387

Following the Bottleneck Drive tasting, the Mystery Wine Pairing took place. The Mystery Wine Competition is the first of three gruelling challenges for the competing chefs, each of whom has won the Gold Medal Plates competition qualifying event in their respective cities. Less than 24 hours before the Mystery Wine Competition, they were given the Mystery Wine – Gamay Noir from the Tawse Winery in the Niagara Peninsula along with a food budget of $500 with which to feed 400 guests.  Friday morning they had to decide on the perfect dish to pair with the wine and then find all of the ingredients in Kelowna.

photo credit: Impact Events

photo credit: Impact Events

David Lawrason, national wine advisor for Gold Medal Plates was instrumental in choosing the Mystery Wine for this year’s competition.  “This Gamay Noir from Tawse Winery was a mystery indeed. When selecting the wine it’s important to ensure three things: the wine will challenge the chefs and give latitude to do their own thing; it must be a wine that our 400 guests will enjoy drinking for 90 minutes and it will create mystery, debate and discussion. I heard a lot of great guesses tonight and some people even got the varietal right.“

Alex Chen from Boulevard Kitchen and Bar in Vancouver, representing British Columbia won the People’s Choice award.  The award does not affect the official judging scores for the ultimate title – the 2016 Canadian Culinary Champion – but it is a nice feather in the cap for Chef Chen.

photo credit: Impact Events

photo credit: Impact Events

“It feels good to win the People’s Choice Award this evening,” says Chef Chen. “We worked hard and it’s a nice way to end the first day of the competition. The win gives us an extra boost of energy and confidence going into tomorrow’s competitions but we know we still have two competitions ahead of us.” Chef Chen paired the mystery wine with a menu of Slow Braised Boneless Oxtail with Smoked Mayonnaise, Parsley Garlic Purée and a Borsht Emulsion.

photo credit: Impact Events

photo credit: Impact Events

The competition continues today with The Black Box Competition at Okanagan College Culinary Arts Department and The Grand Finale at Delta Grand Okanagan tonight.

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