An Evening of Wine from Bonterra
and Culinary Pairings from The Boathouse

Hosted by General Manager, Amber Brownlee
and Executive Chef, Vincent Wong of The Boathouse.
Special Guest Dave Kobal, Vineyard Director, Bonterra Winery.

Ever since I attended the New Zealand Wine event at the The Boathouse Kitsilano Beach last year during the Vancouver International Wine Festival, I’ve been a fan of Executive Chef Vincent Wong who hit it out of the ball park or should I say out of the tennis courts at Kitsilano Beach with his Barbeque Royal Miyagi Oysters and Harissa Lamb Chops, both items which were pumped out in a frantic pace to feed the hungry mass but yet still maintained the same level of quality from the beginning of the event to the very end. So it was with much anticipation and should I add, glee, to be invited as media to the Bonterra Vineyards Wine dinner for the 2016 Vancouver International Wine Festival at the Boathouse on Kitsilano Beach.

I have never heard of Bonterra Vineyards and was excited to learn that this California winery produces wines organically, biodynamic and even has sheep grazing in the vineyards who have learnt to not touch the grapes. Their vision is to produce wines that are fruit forward with low sulphate levels – you need a little sulphates so that your wine has a better shelf life. Dave Koball, Vineyard Director at Bonterra Organic Vineyards was present to give us tasting notes of wines being served while Executive Chef Vincent Wong described how he paired the food with each wine. Vincent likes to pair wine with dishes by either 1) similarity 2) contrasting flavours or 3) contrasting textures, i.e. crisp wine with soft flavours.

Bonterra Vineyards

First course: Banana Leaf En Papillote of Petrale Sole (Tropical compote, dragon fruit, coriander seed) paired with Bonterra 2013 Viognier ($16).  This is a white wine with teeth as it has texture. With aromas of peaches and lemon and apricot and lemongrass on the palate. it’s very fruit forward and crisp with a long finish. Only 25% oak, it is then fermented in steel. The fish and dragon fruit as their basic flavour is subtle, was chosen to bring forward the brightness of the wine. The tropical compote I found not only matched the fruit flavours of the wine, but served to enhance the overall flavour of the dish.


Second course: Crispy Skin Arctic Char (Almond brown butter, basil crisp) paired with Bonterra 2013 Chardonnay. Because this wine is 60% oak, it contained more texture, less neutral and was less crisp than the Voignier as the sun never hits this fruit whereas the Viognier is all about the sun. With green apples on the nose and butterscotch notes, the Arctic Char is a “soft” favour to bring out the complexity of the Chardonnay while the butter brings out the butterscotch notes.


Third course: Oven-Roasted Duck Breast (Bacon and three bean fricassee, blackberry reduction) paired with Bonterra 2010 Merlot ($16). This is a serious wine with serious tannins and smokiness to it. As it ages, it will develop more complex notes of leather and tar. Full bodied with aromas of ripe plums and dark red cherries and black fruit on the palate. The tannins of the wine tamper down the fattiness of the duck as does the blackberry reduction which introduces a sweet component which brings out the blackberry hints in the Merlot.


Fourth course: Chipotle Molasses Braised Beef Short Rib (Pommes Anna) with deep fried rosemary paired with Bonterra 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16). This was an elegant Cab with polished tannins and balanced acidity which had aromas of bright cherry, currants, and raspberry with notes of toasted oak and vanilla. The elegant tannins of the wine doesn’t overtake the robust flavours of the dish and provides an interesting contrast.


Fifth course: Herb Crusted Lamb Chops (Kale and arugula salad, black currant demi-glace) paired with Bonterra 2006 The McNab ($55). Made from 4 varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon with Malbec and Old Vine Petite Sirah to create layers of complexity but yet is a very drinkable wine as it has aromas of blackberries and black currants with plum and dark cherry on the palate. This lamb is not as gamey and goes well with the elegant McNab which has soft tannins. The black currant demi-glace brings out the dark fruit in the wine. Although the price of this wine isn’t at a frugal price point, it’s the kind of wine you would buy for a dinner party that everyone is sure to love.


Sixth course: Trio of Berry Mousse Cake (Almond Tuile, coco dust, Italian meringue). Bonterra 2012 Zinfandel ($16). Much like Pinot Noir, this Zinfindel has polished tannins, low sulphates and a long finish. With aromas of blueberry and black fruit and berries, vanilla and spice on the palate, the raspberries, black currants and blackberries in the dessert brought out the fruit notes in the wine. As this Zinfandel had polished tannins, it didn’t overpower the sweetness of the dessert which is traditionally served with sweeter wines such as sparkling wine, port or prosecco. The berries in the dessert is the binding element that makes this combination work.

I’ve only been to a few winemaker’s dinners, but what made this one particularly more interesting is that because there was a small group of diners, it gave us ample opportunity to have in-depth discussions with both the Chef Wong and Dave Koball, making it a truly sensational evening.


About Bonterra Vineyards

Bonterra Organic Vineyards is located in Mendocino Country in California and has a climate with hot, dry summers and rich soils. Established in 1987 with 915 acres, the vineyard also contains poppies, lavender and olive trees. Their mission is to produce organic fruit forward wine which emphasis flavour. No synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are used and a variety of cover crops are planted between the vines to add nitrogen with plant waste composted and fed back into the soil. Sheep are used to “mow” weeds and chickens keep insects away from the vines. A truly ecofriendly system – all guaranteed to produce unforgettable wines.




Editor in Chief of Fabulously Frugal in Vancouver.

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