Monday, 27 August 2012

Vineyard of Dreams Dinner at Peller Estates Winery

Peller Estates Winery 
290 John Street
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario

905-468-4678

Vineyard of Dreams:

Photo Property of George Pimentel
In her opinion:
When Edgar told me about this Feast On It! and Chef Network Inc. event, I must say I was a little hesitant. After all, $150.00 per person to have dinner with a group of complete strangers dressed in white was not my idea of fun. Okay, I love Peller Estates and I definitely admire Chef Jason Parson and his excellent cuisine but again this was not necessarily my idea of a "dream".

Once he convinced me to invite our friends, Liz and Paul and they accepted, I was on board. The difficulty then became finding a white outfit for the occasion...not so much the clothing part...but rather the shoe part. I ended up wearing my wedding shoes that I had worn 14 years before this event (and I totally know why they have remained in my basement...they hurt). Edgar also had a white outfit, so were were ready to go...unfortunately, our friends didn't and they ended up spending the day before they left for their Hawaiian vacation shopping for the perfect outfits. But in the end, they succeeded and everyone looked fabulous in their whites.




The event was scheduled for 6:00pm at Peller Estates. It ended up starting a little later due to traffic.  We began this culinary event on the vineyard grounds directly in front of the main building. There, Chef Parsons handed out glasses of Peller Estate's sparkling wine, the Ice Cuvee and welcomed us to the Vineyard of Dreams dinner! After a brief explanation of the sparkling wine we were drinking by Peller Estate's sommelier Kevin Anderson. We moved on to the Sauvignon Blanc vineyard.


Photo Property of George Pimentel
At the Sauvignon Blanc vineyard we were greeted with a glass of Peller Estate's Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc and Malpeque Oysters with "Sauvignon Blanc Jelly" on top. Chef Parsons explained the oysters and how they were prepared. Kevin explained the Sauvignon Blanc. I enjoyed the wine but I loved the oysters. These little guys were outstanding. They were so fresh and the jelly added a little sweetness that complimented the wine perfectly. Our friends, Liz and Paul both experienced their first oysters and I must say, I'm quite proud of both of them!


Photo Property of George Pimentel
We moved on to the Chardonnay vineyard for our next course.  After crossing the grass, we came to a clearing with high tables set with cutlery...this excited me because this meant it was something substantial. Kevin and Chef introduced us to Peller Estate's Signature Series Chardonnay Sur Lie and the magnificent tart that awaited us. Mushrooms, apricots and Saint-Honore Brie provided the filling for these puff pastry tart shells. They were topped with a barbecued quail leg and thigh. I think this was probably my favourite part of the meal. The flavours melded together perfectly mirroring the flavours in this excellent chardonnay.


Photo Property of George Pimentel


Photo Property of Ambur Braid @MsAmburBraid

After finishing our second course we moved on to the Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard where we were again given a description of Peller Estate's award winning Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon by Kevin and Chef Parsons described our third course. An absolutely delicious "Pulled Pork Sandwich". Chef described the process of using a Hawaiian like roasting box which encases the pig and then coal is put on top of lid and the pork is cooked. He also explained how the kitchen keeps the crisp skin much to the disappointment of this foodie crowd. However, the pulled pork sandwiches were delicious regardless of the missing skin. It had been marinated in ice wine and a delicious ice wine barbecue sauce had been added to the meat. Excellent.


Photo Property of George Pimentel

We finally made our way to the large harvest table for our main course of the night. There we were serenaded by a lovely young woman named Ambur Braid before Chef and Kevin came out to describe the wine and main course. The wine for the main course was the Private Reserve Meritage which complimented the Bison Steak which had been white pepper crusted and topped with a vanilla creme fraiche. It was served on top of a cherry risotto with smoked Manitoba maple cheddar cheese chunks. This was outstanding. The flavour of the cherry risotto, vanilla and white pepper mimicked the flavours of the wine perfectly.


Photo Property of th3hungrycat

Night time slowly fell upon us and as a result the twinkle of fairy lights twinkled in the background, along with small fire pits. This reminded me of a scene straight out of Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream". Our final course was upon us...ice wine marshmallows served with Cabernet Franc Ice Wine. Chef Parsons and Kevin gave brief introductions and excused themselves for the night. Let me begin by saying that these are the best marshmallows that I have ever eaten in my life. The combination of the marshmallows and the Cab Franc Ice Wine was delectable. 


Photo Property of th3hungrycat
Overall, an excellent experience. This was magical in every sense of the word. My friends enjoyed it tremendously, my husband had a fabulous time and I too was overwhelmed by how wonderful the night had been. After all, the four of us had had an incredible experience with complete strangers...but I will note some quite well known and admired strangers at that! And, we didn't leave empty handed either. Each couple brought home a goodie bag filled with some special treats including Chef Parsons' signed book "3 Chefs".

Photo Property of George Pimentel

The Food and Wine:

The evening started with Peller Estate's Ice Cuvee Classic:


Photo Property of George Pimentel 
The first course consisted of "Malpeque Oysters with Sauvignon Blanc Jelly":





This was served with Peller Estate's Signature Series Sauvignon Blanc:



The second course was a "Tart of mushrooms, apricots, Saint-Honore brie topped with a barbecue Quail":



It was served with Peller Estate's Signature Series Chardonnay Sur Lie:


The third course was "Pulled Pork Sandwiches":


It was served with Peller Estate's Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon:


Before the main course was served, we were given a palate cleanser of "Apricot, Lavender and Chardonnay Ice":


Photo Property of th3hungrycat

The main course was Bison Steak crusted with white pepper and topped with vanilla creme fraiche. It was served over a bed of cherry risotto with smoked Manitoba maple cheddar cheese:


It was served with Peller Estate's Private Reserve Meritage:



Dessert consisted of Ice Wine Marshmallows:


Photo Property of George Pimentel

It was served with Peller Estate's Cabernet Franc Ice Wine:


Photo Property of th3hungrycat
In his opinion:
I first heard about "Vineyard of Dreams" when Carmen Correia posted a picture on Facebook for an upcoming event, not revealing any details and just saying that more specifics would be coming soon. I needed no introduction to that picture of the harvest table sitting under the pergola and quickly realized it was Peller Estates, a place we often frequent.

We quickly booked our tickets and convinced another couple of friends to join us on this event. I was quite looking forward to it. The one main requirement is that you must be wearing white from head to toe during the event and that was alluring to me. Having no shortage of white clothes from our many Caribbean trips, I set my goals on deciding what to wear for the day. Should I go GAP commercial style, P. Diddy yacht party, 1980's South Beach or St. Tropez chic? Difficult attire decisions that are often attributed to females are also a point of debate for men as well. Wearing white is no joke and it's so easy to look like a Peter Nygard party reject, so caution is required. I opted for the white St. Barts' chic look, my usual style when I'm vacationing on my favourite island. 

Oh yes...the event. We arrived around 5:45, fresh from a wine tasting at Colaneri Vineyards, just to get us warmed up for what was coming. We slowly started to recognize the people in white as fellow event goers and connected with a few foodie friends as we all waited for the rest of the attendees to arrive. Chef Jason Parsons walked by, stopped to chat for a bit, we reminisced about his good old Cambridge days and then made our way to the vines outside.

Once outside we were led to our first stop of the evening where Jason handed everyone a glass of Peller Estate's Ice Cuvee Classic. We then heard Jason and the sommelier Kevin give us some background of the style adopted by Peller, when making Sparkling Wine. Although I consider myself a decent Wine Geek, I was surprised to find out that instead of the usual mixture d'expedition used in traditional Champagne making, Ice Wine was added instead by Peller Estates to their Cuvee, in its final stage.



We were then lead to the 2nd station, nestled beside the Sauvignon Blanc grapes where we were presented, yes, you guessed it, with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. To compliment the Sauvignon Blanc, Malpeque Oysters awaited us, some with their original taste and form and others with Sauvignon Blanc Jelly on top. The Jelly completely transformed the wine and brought out its crisp citrus flavours. Because some of the people present didn't enjoy Oysters (not sure what medical diagnosis they received for that), I got to enjoy a couple more of those amazing sea creatures.



Our slow walk to the 3rd table led us to a table with "Tarts of mushrooms, apricots and the "oh so good" Saint-Honore brie". The wine paired was Chardonnay Sur Lie. But the best was the tender and juicy BBQ Quail awaiting to join the tart of mushrooms and it was fantastic.



By the time we arrived at the next station, well down in the back of the Vineyard, the many consecutive wine glasses made it look like it was a lot windier than it was, for some of the guests anyway. The wine of choice was then Cabernet Sauvignon and the food pairing were little tasty "Pulled Pork Sandwiches". Those seemed to be hot with everyone and hit the spot. Granted that many were just trying to find something to soak up all the alcohol, but they were very tasty.




It is important to add that through all the stations and even in between them, Chef Jason Parsons walked us through the ins and outs of the food pairings, giving us his expert opinion on food and wine, along with Kevin the Sommelier. 



We finally made our way to the harvest table as I discussed European Soccer with my new found friend, celebrity photographer, George Pimentel. George is a fantastic guy, but also a lover of food and wine. We were surprised as we arrived at our seats with a lovely serenade from the angelic voice of Ambur Braid, making this the perfect start to our sit down portion of the event.



The company was great, many interesting and lovely people gathered around the table, enjoying wine and chatting away, awaiting for the next delicacy to be served. The main course was "Bison Steak, cooked perfectly rare with a dash of vanilla creme fraiche. Underneath the steak, lay a bed of tasty cherry risotto with super creamy Manitoba smoked cheese. This cheese was the perfect pairing for the risotto.

For dessert, Cabernet France Ice Wine was served with Ice Wine Marshmallows on a stick, waiting to be roasted on an open fire pit and one of Chef Parsons favourite pastimes. This turned out to be a very fun activity, watching people attempting to eat their melting marshmallows before they hit the ground or biting the sticks instead presumably from consuming high amounts of alcohol. All in a days fun, the marshmallows were a hit and completed the night perfectly.

Everyone mingled and had fun as we finished the last of our wine and the night drew to a close. Great food and wine to match were the frame of this event, but the people really made this event a smashing hit. Thanks to Chef Jason Parsons and Peller Estates for their amazing hospitality, and to Carmen Correia and Ken Koid for organizing this event, and to the many amazing folks that I shared this wonderful evening with. It was surely a Vineyard of Dreams. Cheers!





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