Blue Mountain and a pinch of Salt
You might suppose that the Culinary Institute of America will never advise that one should locate a restaurant in Blood Alley in Vancouver’s occasionally rough Gastown.
This is a dim alley with 10 (!) dumpsters at one end and, occasionally, individuals putting something into their arms with needles.
Yet there, at 45 Blood Alley, is Salt Tasting Room. One of Vancouver’s funkiest little restaurants, it has been there for at least two years. A number of Okanagan wineries have hosted wine dinners here this year.
The latest wine dinner, on November 30, featured Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars. A sold-out house sat on metal stools along both sides of the very long table in the Salt Cellar, sipping Blue Mountain wines paired with cheese and cold cuts. A simple, affordable and quite successful evening.
This is a far cry from the annual events Blue Mountain used to have each January or February. These were toney charitable fund raisers in the ball room of one of Vancouver’s top hotels. Between 10 and a dozen top restaurants had stations around the room, preparing signature dishes paired with one of the Blue Mountain wines.
The guests at those events, all in their finest dress, represented the Vancouver business and professional community. Most are on the winery’s coveted e-mail lists that inform clients of new wine releases. It would be hard to imagine most of them venturing past those dumpsters to Salt.
The dinner at Salt, however, let Blue Mountain tap into a different and younger demographic, most of them probably not yet signed up to a place on an e-mail list. Congratulations for the Blue Mountain agent in Vancouver, Christine Fawcett, for doing what it takes to keep the Blue Mountain client pipeline full in a wine environment far more competitive that when Blue Mountain opened in 1991.
As for the toney crowd, take heart: shortly after thus tasting, Blue Mountain announced that it is resuming its charity event with a $90 per person tasting at the Four Seasons in Vancouver at 6.30 p.m. on January 26, 2010. The format will be familiar: 10 top restaurants will offer signature dishes paired with Blue Mountain wines. Proceeds benefit the B.C. Childrens Hospital. Tickets are sold through the winery, at 250-497-8244 - and they sell out faster than Olympic tickets.
The winery soon will have additional wines to show. In 2010 the winery will release the first addition to its portfolio since it opened. This fall, Blue Mountain harvested the first crop from a young Sauvignon Blanc planting. From what I hear, the tank and barrel samples are exciting.
This is winery focussed on Burgundy and Alsace varietals. The flagship red varietal here is Pinot Noir. The only other red is Gamay. Currently, the winery produces three whites – Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris – and two excellent sparkling wines.
The dinner at Salt featured several of these wines. All but two are currently available from the winery and possibly in such private stores as Everything Wine.
Blue Mountain Brut Gold Label ($23.90). This is a crisply disciplined wine with a satisfying weight and with toasty flavours on the palate but with a wonderfully clean finish. The cuvée is Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a dash of Pinot Gris. 88-90
Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2008 ($17.90). This is a complex example of this variety. About 40% was aged on older barrels, contributing to roundness in texture. There are flavours of apple and citrus and the finish lingers. 88
Blue Mountain Pinot Gris 2008 ($20.90). About 40% of the wine in this blend was fermented in barrel, adding some weight and richness to this crisp and refreshing wine. There are flavours of citrus and pear. 88
Blue Mountain Gamay Noir 2008 ($20.90). Think of a Beaujolais Cru when you taste this wine. It is full-bodied with spicy notes of raspberry. 87
Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 2006 ($35.90). This is a lovely wine, with toasty and berry aromas and flavours of raspberry and strawberry. 88
Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 1997 (N.A.) No doubt about it – this was the star of the evening. In 12 years, this has developed into a rich, silky red with flavours of mocha and strawberry. The finish is long and satisfying.
I am often asked how long B.C. reds will age. Well, we have an answer with this Pinot Noir from Blue Mountain which is at its peak now.