A highlight of the Festival, the Vintners’ Brunch is held on the closing Sunday of the Festival, in the tasting hall that has been transformed, overnight, by the hundreds of volunteers who support Harry and his team. Last year, the hall had 52 tables accommodating 10 persons each. Tickets sold out in two weeks . . . yes, that’s 2. If you would like to attend this year, let us know and we will find out if there are any tickets available.
Upon entry, each guest was served a glass of Segura Viudas Cava Vintage Brut 2004. On the perimeter of the hall were 18 stations manned by a range of chefs and their teams, preparing such enticing dishes as Oysters Rockefeller (Monk McQueen’s Fresh Seafood & Oyster Bar), Dungeness Crab with Anjou Pear, Hazelnuts and a Parmesan Prosciutto Crisp (Culinary Capers Catering), Sour Cherry Glazed Lamb Ribs with Quince Jam and Shaved Fennel Salad (Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House). Each sampling of food was paired with a wine, in the three cases above, Summerhill Cipes Brut NV, Tamas Estates Pinot Grigio 2006, and Peter Lehmann Futures Shiraz 2004, respectively. The chefs certainly felt the pressure. Not only were they subject to public scrutiny of their preparations and pairing, four judges put their analysis to the test, assessing how well they had paired their dish with the featured wine.
Let me admit that I have a sweet tooth. In fact, while visiting Granville Island, I came across the Terra Breads Bakery and Café. I was delighted to see that they were also represented at the Festival Trade tastings, and were serving samples of their very tasty Pecan Fruit Crisps, as well as some tangy green olive bread. So, it didn’t take me long to discover that Terra Breads was also participating in the Vintners’ Brunch, and was serving a fabulous Rustic Pear, Cranberry and Hazelnut Tart, paired with Warre’s Otima 10-year-old Tawny Port. In addition, each table at the brunch had a tastefully presented basket of miniature Terra Breads, including a blueberry and white chocolate bread, an apple cardamom coffee cake, mini brioches (a French visitor said they were the best he had every tasted), and mini baguettes. So, while tasting the other delightful food and wine matches, I kept my eye on the prize!
Terra Breads is a values-based private enterprise, with three bakery/café locations in the Vancouver area. Their artisan breads and pastries are baked in stone hearth ovens, and use only the purest and finest ingredients. I spoke with Michael Lansky, one of the owners of Terra Breads, as he took a short break from setting up his station at the Vintners’ Brunch. After working with a major property developer in the earlier part of his career, in the late 1980s, Michael decided to start Terra Breads. He hired Mary MacKay, his Head Baker and co-owner as they were renovating their first location in Vancouver. He says, “Since then, it’s been great”. . . It fits with our values, so we really enjoy it. We’re really reinforced by making a good product, and having people say great things about our product.” Michael and Mary are converts to the “slow food” philosophy. All their breads and pastries are made from scratch in their bakery, and their bread is produced with a sourdough starter, which creates an easily digestible product with a moist flavorful interior and a beautiful crust. Terra Breads uses organic ingredients where they can source a reliable producer; their goal is to eventually convert to all organic. And, for the benefit of the producer, the consumer and the environment, they try to purchase from fair trade sources, as in their organic coffee.
While Michael and Mary want to continue to grow the business, their fundamental commitment is to the quality of the product. “We don’t want to grow too large, so that we can’t keep up our quality. Quality is is a way of life and a value for us.” Their products are distributed outside Vancouver, in the Okanagan, on Vancouver Island, and in Whistler. My favorites, their Pecan Fruit Crisps also come in a nifty little package that can be hung around the neck of a wine bottle. The regular size and the wine-bottle size are available to be shipped. Michael indicated that events such as the Festival are a great way to introduce people to his products, because, “you have to taste it”.
And so, I did, along with a glass of Warre’s Ottima port. The richness of the pastry, combined with the hint of dried fruit, the nuttiness and delicate sweetness of the fruit tart were a wonderful complement to the 10 year old Tawny. I had the opportunity to speak with Pierre Dumas, Marketing Director for Canada for Symington Family Brands. Warre’s is a member of the Symington family enterprise, which was founded in the 1800s. Over time, the Symington family has become one of the largest Port producers in the world. They produce about 25% of the Port wine produced in the Douro and own 8 brands, including Warre’s. Warre’s is the oldest British Port producer, established in the 1600s. Ottima port (meaning outstanding) is a 10-year-old Tawny. This product is created by blending wines which, on average, have been aged for 10 years. The characteristics of this port are golden color with ruby reflections, with luscious flavors of slightly dried fruits and caramel.
With all these mouthwatering opportunities, you’ll want to reserve your flight to Vancouver now! Stay tuned for an upcoming blog that includes Tasting Trails to guide you through the Festival tasting hall.