Victoria Summer 2011 Wine Food Coffee Chocolate and Life Chapter 1

Averill Creek Tasting at the EmpressAndrea and I have been doing more in our life together.

Here is the thing folks. Life is short. This is not a dress rehearsal. Get on it.
So in the last year or so we have started living like there is no tomorrow – because, hey… you never know.

Photo above right – Vintner owner Andy Johnston was brought up on a Welsh hill farm and graduated from Birmingham Medical School in 1971 as a physician, and soon made his way to Edmonton, Alberta, where he enjoyed a 30-year practice as both a family doctor and a businessman.

One of the new items on our journey are the Wine pairing events at the Fairmont Empress. It is a crazy affordable night on the town that is hard to resist.
And with your free friends of the empress membership card (15-20% off a bunch of stuff) – it is downright frugal.

For “friends”, it is around $45 dollars for 5 wines and 5 food pairs.

Tonight the featured Estate Winery was Averill Creek on Vancouver Island.
One note of housekeeping. An Estate wine is a wine that is produced with grapes grown on the farm that is making and selling the wine. It is that simple.

Averill Creek grows all the grapes for all the wine that they sell.
I am no wine expert but what I do know about Vancouver Island wines is – they have most certainly evolved in the last 17 years or so. Why is that? Climate change… in part. Additionally, the skill and abilities of the vintner and a bunch of other reasons.
I am not a wine expert. Have to be clear on that. And this blog is more about a specific wine-pairing event. So here goes…

Tonight we sampled 5 wines. 4 of them were grape wines;
The Pinot Grigio. The Gewurztraminer. The “Foch Eh”. The Pinot Noir. And a bold Blackberry wine, the “Cowichan Black.”

The P.G. (bold, bright and fruity – with lots of sharp acid and citrus) was paired with an Sea Urchin “Uni Veloute” — kind of a fritter… on top of a Salmon tartar. Brilliant.

The Gewurztraminer was mated to a nugget of natural Vancouver Island Buffalo Mozzarella, baby greens and some wild boar bacon. Again, the G. is big and bold with lots of fruit, apple, figs, spice…

Foch Eh? A humorous take on Beaujolais but made Canadian with 100% Marechal Foch. This light bodied red is delicately structured with spicy dark berry flavors, soft tannins and juicy acidity, wrapped up with a lengthy, dry finish. Paired with seared Ahi tuna, prosciutto and asparagus. Awesome balance!

The Averill Creek Pinot Noir. This is a wine in development for Averill Creek. The Pinot is my wine and I know it fairly well. This Vancouver Island example has a few years of development ahead of it. The Pinot’s I pick tend to be big, bossy and in your face. This one has subtle reflection and delicate nuance – light duty fruit and spice… but hey, it was created on Vancouver Island… so that is astounding all by itself.
The pairing of seared duck breast, morel mushroom risotto and fig jus was overpowering for this gentle Pinot — but perfectly prepared nonetheless!

Cowichan Black – a blackberry wine with a 12.8% alcohol bite – and a sweetness perfect for after dinner, on ice cream, flambe or over your breakfast dairy free waffles a la yours truly!

A bit more on the vintner, Andy Johnston: His transition to grape growing was a natural one – his passion comes naturally. At this particular night at the Empress Hotel, he was engaging and informative – encouraging the guests to discover what was in their glass.

Bottom line here folks: Get out there and explore your Island.
If you do not live on Vancouver Island, take another look at your region, neighborhood and city…

And remember: Life is for the living… and the eating and drinking.

Big hats off to Fairmont Empress food and drink manager, Theresa Dickinson, who, in part, makes these events rock. She is a gigawatt of energy and brings a lot of pizzazz to everything that happens at the Empress.


Colin Newell lives in Victoria B.C. Canada and with his loving Wife, Andrea, endeavor to enjoy life just a little.


Andrea and I have been doing more in our life together. Here is the thing folks. Life is short. This is not a dress rehearsal. Get on it. So in the last year or so we have started living like there is no tomorrow – because, hey… you never know. Photo above right – Vintner…