In celebration of the 38th Vancouver International Wine Festival, the week long festivities started off with a lovely dinner at Le Crocodile on Monday night. Having shied away from alcohol for the past year or so because of pregnancy and breastfeeding, I was ecstatic about enjoying a night out and learning more about Culmina Family Estate Winery. Every year during the festival, there are dozens of events that take place, mostly all focused around wine and food.
Just as the name states, Culmina is a family winery, owned by Don, Elaine and Sara Triggs. And if you haven’t heard of them before, it’s because this is a relatively new project after spending years building up their previous winery, Jackson-Triggs. They started in 2007, and by following the principles of artistry, science, and excellence, they were able to produce high quality wines which they proudly introduced to us that night. The winery is located in the Okanagan Valley along the Golden Mile, located in Oliver, BC. They have over 100 acres of estate that are divided between 3 benches, each of them at different elevations with pockets of warmer and cooler temperatures that are conducive to making good wine. In one of the benches named Margaret’s Bench, is where the first Austrian white wine grape Grüner Veltliner is planted in North America.
The first wine that I was introduced to that night was the Unicus 2014, a vintage that was made from 100% Grüner Veltliner. It had generous notes of citrus and mineral, and was paired with a delicate asparagus, chanterelle and tomato tartlette. The Unicus is quite unique, as it is expressive yet subtle at the same time.
For our first course, we were served a foie gras brûlée (yeah, I had to read that again too) with toasted baguette. This was a first for me, as I never fathomed that foie gras and brûlée could ever go together, but the culinary team at Le Crocodile helped make this a very memorable dish for me. It was paired with a lovely 2015 Haut-Plateau Riesling. The grapes of this late harvest riesling are grown in Margaret’s Bench, a cooler vineyard, and the wine is available in very limited quantities. I really enjoyed this wine, as did a lot of others dining with me.
Moving on to the next course was the grilled sablefish with saffron veloute on a bed of linguine, paired with their 2012 & 2013 Dilemma. The story behind these vintage Chardonnays is that the grapes from the 2012 harvest were taken from 20-year old vines in the Arise Bench, while the 2013 had grapes grown on new vines at Margaret’s Bench, with a colder degree and higher density. Both chardonnays were quite elegant, which is a nice change from a lot of the heavier chardonnays I am used to.
The third course was duck confit served with a merlot jus, and appropriately paired with the 2013 Merlot. I love duck and I love my merlots, so this was a great dish. This merlot is a bit on the elegant side, but well-structured with notes of plum and blackberry.
Next, we enjoyed roasted veal loin served with black winter truffle cream sauce. The veal was cooked perfectly and the truffle cream sauce was rich, so naturally I wiped the plate clean. This dish was accompanied by a duo of vintage blends, the 2012 & 2013 Hypothesis. The 2012 is bold and heavy with over half the blend being merlot. Using less merlot and more cabernet franc in the 2013 blend, this one is more elegant and refined. It was difficult to say which blend was better, as I found myself going back and forth as I tasted bites of the veal. They both work well with the dish, and the blends are very dynamic in taste.
The last wine pairing of the night was a vintage 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, served with a selection of French cheeses. I was a bit surprised to see a cab served at the very end of dinner after all the meats, but it actually complemented the rich cheeses. This was a nice classic cab sauv, and a good way to end the meal.
The Triggs family did an incredible job with their wines, and this was a very nice introduction to the Culmina brand. If you make a trip to the Okanagan, make sure to stop at the family estate winery to say hello and try the fruits of their labour.