Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival – Return to the French Classics Dinner at The Hermitage

This dinner at The Hermitage featuring the wines of Domaine Doudet Naudin was the first of two events I received invites to as part of my Media pass for the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Classic French food paired with extremely food-friendly Burgundy wine – what’s not to like? Nothing as far as I was concerned.

I hadn’t been into The Hermitage before last night. It’s a cozy place that is what you’d expect of an old-school French restaurant with a dose of 70’s living room tossed in – decorative brick arches, flowered curtains and all… but it worked. The room was comfortable and many of the folks in attendance last night were regulars who seemed to be on a first-name basis with the Hermitage’s owner, Hervé Martin. He creates a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

I grabbed a seat at the table reserved for media types and started chatting with the folks seated there, including Julie Pegg (contributing editor for EAT Magazine), Kelly Robson (wine writer for Chatelaine Magazine & her Full Bodied wine blog) and a couple of non wine geeks, Arnaud and Bobby. Soon enough, the dinner kicked off with a chat from the event’s sponsor, Rare Finds Wine Importers LTD and we were off. Here’s a scan of what was ahead. My mouth and palate were watering.

While we waited for the first course, we sipped the 2007 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Beaune, Château d’Antigny ($27.95 – 4 stars). It was the perfect palate cleanser – all flinty lemon with a puckering acidity that just begged for some food. Up next was possibly my favourite pairing of the night – the wild mushroom feuilletté with a veal and port reduction paired with the close to magical 2006 Savigny-Les-Beaune en Redrescul, 1er Cru ($45.95 – 4.5 stars). A white with a sauced mushroom dish? Yep, this white – and it was fantastic. It reminded me a lot of the Tissot Jura Chardonnays I tried a few months ago. It had a dill-like funkiness that really added to its powerful and earthy flavours. It was complex and delicious. Try some if you can find it.

After that, it was onto a delicate salmon fillet with a creamy sorrel sauce ‘troisgros’ paired with the last Chardonnay of the evening; the 2007 Pernand-Vergelesses Sous-Fretille, 1er Cru ($49.95 – 4.5 stars). It was another great wine-food pairing. The delicate flavour of the salmon helped highlight the crisp elegance of the wine. Delicious.

Next up was a delicious house-made duck sausage with pistachio purée of Jerusalem artichokes paried with a delicious and light and 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). This is the kind of pairing that really helps explain the earthy French Pinot Noir food pairing magic. You taste each separately and they’re good, but it’s together that they really sing. The light red fruit and crisp tannins of the wine perfectly balanced the fat and earthy meat flavours of the duck sausage.

We weren’t done yet… the kitchen then served the beef tenderloin medallions and the 2003 Savigny-Les-Beaune Les Vergelesses, 1er Cru ($42.95 – 4.5 stars). The meat was fantastic and the wine really grabbed my taste buds. It had gorgeous dark cherry and plum fruit along with a floral and black pepper edge to its earthy finish. Wow. Another great pairing, by the way.

The last food/wine pairing of the evening was a selection of French cheeses with the 2000 Aloxe Corton Les Marechaudes, 1er Cru ($56.95 – 4.5 stars). I loved the earthy elegance of the wine, but this was the only pairing of the evening that didn’t click. I separated them – downing the cheeses and then savouring the wine.

A delicious vanilla syrup soaked rum baba rounded things off and left me wanting a walk to wear off the meal. All in all, Hervé Martin and his team did a heckuva’ job with the food choices and the wines really stepped up as well.

I left determined to drink more wines from Burgundy. That’s never a bad thing.

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