Table wine has never struck me as the fanciest descriptor of this libation I so love. However, our Okanagan wines were indeed crafted to be served at the table — and paired with food.

Now, we’re getting into the nuances that make this culinary alchemy so much fun. Exploring the symphony of flavours in gourmet cuisine and its harmonious pairing with elegant wines is a true indulgence.

I had the privilege of joining the members of one of the largest and oldest wine clubs in the Valley at the Fall Dare to Pair pick-up event at Quails’ Gate Winery in West Kelowna. I also had the honour of witnessing not one but three chefs’ culinary genius firsthand. Understanding the subtle nuances of flavour profiles in both food and wine elevates any tasting experience, turning a simple plate and sip of wine into a sensory journey.  

My first wine and food pairing was at Chef Jeremy Luypen’s station. I was presented with a 2011 Dry Riesling paired perfectly alongside rolled pork belly with pistachio mousse, persevered lemon and celery root purée, crab apple reduction and crispy curry chicharron. 

When it comes to wine made for food pairing, Riesling is the star of the show. Quails’ Gate Riesling vines are now over 30 years old, and each vintage has been meticulously crafted to express the bright citrus note and balanced acidity this wine is known for. This pairing got my vote. 

Luypen recently joined Kelowna Gospel Mission as food services manager.

I was awestruck at the next pairing and how Chef Rod Butters of Raudz Restaurant echoed every earthy-mushroomy-cherry note from the Pinot Noir in his fowl soup in a pine mushroom broth. The serving was presented with a smoky mushroom, turkey and cherry dumpling. 

Pinot Noir is a signature wine from Quails’ Gate. The winery pulled an older vintage from the library to serve, a 2014 Pinot Noir. Ah, the benefits of membership!

Butters’ commitment to establish regional B.C. cuisine has earned him international respect, and in 2007, his peers inducted him into the BC Restaurant Hall of Fame.

Our third exquisite food and wine pairing featured the 2021 Plume Cabernet Sauvignon, a special release from the Similkameen Valley that explores the unique terroir of this region. It has a refined character and soft tannins, with notes of black pepper, red berries and a hint of sagebrush. 

Chef Bernard Casavant of Lakehouse Kitchens Cooking School presented a Fraser Valley duck leg confit terrine, a dish that exuded both rustic charm and refined elegance. It was accompanied by a novel polenta made with the mild blue Brie from Salt Spring Island, Juliette Blue, offering a subtle contrast in textures and flavours. The blackberry gel and beetroot powder added vibrant colours and enhanced the dish with their rich, earthy tones.

Casavant’s commitment to local produce and the devotion of the Stewart Family of Quails’ Gate to crafting exceptional wines came together in a symphony of flavours, making this third pairing an unforgettable ending to the event.

So, readers, have I convinced you to join an Okanagan wine club?

Top photos by Dan Lionello; food and wine photos by Yvonne Turgeon.

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