Saturday, 24 May 2014

New Festival of Wines PEI: Night One

Well, there are few things in this world that a woman can resist, chocolate, good music, a perfect book, fine food and if you're me, then wine. Yes, the endless variety and the thrill of encountering new and deep flavors leaves me wanting more when it comes to well-crafted wines. That said, where better for me to land than at The New Festival of Wines being hosted May 23rd and 24th?

We're talking about 2 nights packed with over 260 wines that come from 13 different Countries! That alone has the appeal of a lifetime of amazing packed into two evenings spent floating from one station to another, partaking in some of the best limited edition and award winning wines you could ever taste on Prince Edward Island. Pair that appeal with food and cheese that could sweep me off my feet and you've got two of the best nights of the year!

Walking in I was taken with all of the glittering lights and the heady scent of wine that lingered in the Eastlink Center, beckoning me to join them in this evening of enjoyment. Entirely circling the broad Center was a perfectly organized set of Exhibitors boasting a smorgasbord of wine. Glass in hand with my guide and writing book in the other, I was a woman on a mission!

But of course, before I went out to enjoy myself, I was able to do some good too. With two Charitable initiatives at the Festival supporting Hospice, I grabbed a ticket for their draw with a Grand Prize of a Wine Fridge and 24 Bottles of Wine and the Coat Check too was also in support of this truly worthy cause with all proceeds going directly to Hospice.

Heading straight over to the Wines, my first was an Award Winner from Spain, talk about starting off with a bang! Considered one of the top ten wines in the world, according to the Exhibitor this Spanish Wine speaks the language of love. Baron de Lajoyosa Carinena Grenace is extremely full in it's body with stellar notes of spice and tantalizing earthy beauty. This 2005 vintage easily earned it's title with exceptional in mouth and lovely exterior presence this wine was the perfect starter!

Next on my list was a wine that I've been pining for since I heard it announced at the beginning of the year! Choco Rouge, Sweet Red, hailing from the US is a wine that pairs two of my great loves. Chocolate and Red Wine. Truly pleasure in it's purified form, this wine was everything I expected and more. The scent is beyond heaven, intoxicating with it's clear chocolate and high-quality red wine. A true nectar, in my opinion, I've never met such a versatile wine and I can't wait to pick up a couple of bottles to test out some amazing theories including drizzling it over chocolate and ice cream or even in hot cocoa or a milkshake! I know exactly who I'd love to share this wine with~

And next heading over to a very popular Canadian Winery's offering, Quail Gate is one of the most up and coming Wineries in the Country and has even been featured as Pit Stop on the Amazing Race Canada! So as a fan of wine and the Race this was an exciting try for me. Their Old Vine Foch was filled with warmth and gentle spices that created a powerful presence that can easily make Canada proud of this wine!

After trying out a few of the wines, I was able to say hi to a couple of friends who just happened to be enjoying the show and then made my way over to the Photo Booth sponsored by The Property Guys for a little bit of fun. With frames to create your own "Wine Inspired" photos, the booth was the picture perfect way to commemorate the evening and I got to turn the camera on my amazingly talented photographer who you can see below!

Then came the Food, the glorious food from Friday Night's feature Chef! From Red Shores Race Track and Casino came Chef Andrew Smith and brought with him a host of talented sous Chef's and a taste for the delicious!

The Shaved Crepes Topped with Diced Fruit and Finished with Mango Chantilly Cream were the epitome of fresh and fruity! Light and perfect with a Sparkling White (I tested that theory), the Chantilly Cream was so light, yet decadent and creamy with that kiss of sweet mango. All together a fusion of crisp flavors brought on by fresh fruit, rich cream with the lightly shredded crepe, we're talking yummy.

Onto the Pulled Beef on a Pomme Puree with Chive Hollandaise, I found that this luscious hollandaise sauce went perfectly with crispy and light chives! Topping the juicy pulled beef, I had never experienced beef like this before (and as we know, I've had many an affair with beef). It's clean and meaty notes were perfect for my discerning tastes in meat. On a base of velvety Pomme Puree, it took PEI Potatoes to a new level with it's silky smoothness.

After that awesome meaty rendezvous, I was met by...even more! The Warm Pork and Duck Confit Salad Blili with Sweet Pea Splash was divine! So artistic in it's presentation, this savory bliss hit a perfect warm and cool balance of awesome. With a lightness of flavor, the tender duck was perfectly satisfying with pork, the two meats together blended perfectly and so Chef Andrew has gotten into my very good books with this little gem! All on top of a blini (amazingly delicious pancake for us laymen), that was so buttery and indulgent which made me wish I could take a stack home in my purse!

The last of the night's appetizers was a creamy Mini Caesar Salad with a Crisp Phylio Cup topped with Parmigiano Reggiano. I'm a big fan of Caesar Salads but this was the ultimate! The dressing was beyond compare with it's bold flavor, true crispy bacon bits and all put into an adorable little phylio bowl made from layers upon layers of flaky goodness.

All of these apps made me want to head straight to the Top of the Park Restaurant! A huge shout out to Chef Andrew and his Team on an incredible job!

Then, of course, it was time for, what else? More wine! This next trio of American wines all come from different areas in California and are all uniquely awesome.

The Dreaming Tree Crush Red is a Cabernet Sauvignion that's super easy-drinking and perfect for those wanting to start out with a wine that's perfect for any occasion and that's also got a very cool duo of creators behind it. One of the best Wine crafters in California collaborated with Dave Matthews of the infamous Dave Matthews Band to create this series of wines. Don't forget to save your corks from these bottles since each one is decorated with unique Dave Matthews Band lyrics for a personal touch.

And of course, since I have such a great relationship with cake, I just couldn't miss Cupcake Red Velvet, this Zinfandel captured my attention immediately with it's commanding spice, vanilla and cocoa notes that are fragrant and warm that's deep in deliciousness and flavor just like it's namesake. I wouldn't be surprised to find myself with a good book and a glass of this in the future.

Next in these California wines is a Pinot Noir that came to PEI from the Sonoma Coast! La Crema is a dark and intense wine that's ripe with black fruits that give it a bold presence which lingers on the tongue pleasantly.

After those wines, I was tempted by the siren song of PEI Blossoms! The fruit bouquets that Blossoms creates are always beautiful and they brought an assortment of chocolate covered apples and strawberries which were perfect for the occasion. Crisp and sweet, these were almost too pretty to eat. Almost. In the end, the yumminess took over! The apples had a perfect crunch, as if they'd just been picked and those strawberries were beyond juicy! Just like the wine that was surrounding me!

Now let's face it, it's no secret that I love Jeff McCourt's Cheese. Seriously. He's come up in many of my reviews and each time I fall deeper in love with his Glasgow Glen Farm's Cheese Lady Gouda. Of course brought along an assortment of my favorite cheeses which drew me in with magnetic force! The variety was fantastic and even boasted a cheese I had yet to try! A Gouda after my own heart, the Sydney Street Gouda is made using the Gahan House's hand crafted Sydney Street Ale and lingers with hints of the beer's head notes mingling with the rich Gouda. A match made in heaven? You bet! Along with the cheeses, Jeff brought along his amazing date preserves which are soaked in brandy and then brought to you in all of their perfected glory. Paired with the wine, both of these indulgences are what makes a perfect pair!

Right near the suburb Gouda was Liquid Gold! That awesome Olive Oil store that's a must visit in Downtown Charlottetown. They brought an amazing offering of pure and versatile olive oils and balsamic vinegar. Along with Chef Pendergast's Bread from Young Folk and the Kettle Black, it was topped with some of Liquid Gold's Tomato Pesto and made my taste buds sing! A huge shout out to the super friendly girls at their booth! They've got so much passion and energy for food that it's definitely inspiring to someone like me.

I obviously wasn't done with wines yet and so after getting eating my fill of more Island inspired morsels, headed off for some more sampling.

Next was a wine from France that I was very excited to try. I had already heard great things about it, but Bouchard Pere Fils & Gevrey Chambarlin's Pinot Noir completely went beyond my expectations! Complex and earthy, it picked up on some of my own personal favorite tasting notes. This wine filled all of my senses and enveloped me immediately in it's richness so that no matter what was going on around me it was just the Pinot Noir and I. Talk about a captivating glass.

Heading over to one of France's neighbors, I partook in a couple of Italian wines! First, Ruffino Reserva Ducale is a Chiati from Tuscany with beautiful body that lends itself to all of the hype Italian wine inspires! Beautifully crafted with a notably full mouth-feel that comes along with a complex host of flavors, it pays tribute to the grapes that are a huge part of this carefully crafted bottle of wine.

After that came a real mouth full to taste and to say! Il Vino del Poeti Brunello Di Montaldno Bottega is just as special as it sounds and I've got to give mad props to the Exhibitor at this table because he spoke the name of this wine with flair and romance. Which is exactly what it's made up of! This Sanvogese transports me to Italy, it's flavor mimicking the lush landscapes of the Country and it's passionate in the mouth as a testament to the heart that goes behind wine making.

After that I wanted to try a wild card, a wine I had never even heard of! The Grape Grinder Pintoage from South Africa is fun, flirty and thoroughly modern! From the first sip I was completely entertained by it's hip fusion of flavors and feel that it would be perfect for a Summer Picnic date!

Last, but certainly not least for the night was an Australian Wine! The spotlight country at this year's Wine Show, this award winning wine is truly and experience. Deakin Estate brings forth a Pinot Noir that's a white wine all dressed up as a red, giving you the very best of both worlds! With fragrant strawberry on the nose and a savory, silky and fruity finish in the mouth it's easy to taste why this award winner earned it's accolades!

After all of that wine enjoyment, I made my way over to the Hot 105.5 Lounge to relax and take in all of the enjoyment around me. Big shout out to Hot 105.5 for hosting this Lounge in the center of the action and to Leon's Charlottetown for all that comfy furniture. I really didn't want to leave in all that comfort.

Amazing wine, incredible food, comfortable atmosphere and tons of happy people...can I move in? Pretty please?

While I might not be able to move in, I can certainly return today for another night of fun! This even is ideal for anyone who's passionate about the finer things in life! With night one of bliss completed, The New Festival of Wines has been one of my favorite parts of May and I can't wait to share tonight's discoveries with you soon.

Keep Pouring!

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