The 2011 California Wine Fair: A Sampling

I know you’ve seen it, just as I have – the bold, back-page ad in The Tomato advertising the California Wine Fair, now in its thirteenth year. One of the Citadel Theatre’s premiere fundraising events, the California Wine Fair boasts over 300 wines and food catered by the Shaw Conference Centre, all for the price of $65 a ticket. This year’s event will be held on March 8, 2011 at 7pm in Hall D.

Part of the preparations for the Citadel staff include selecting the food which would complement the wines. Along with Mel, it was a privilege to be asked to join several staff for a tasting of hors d’oeuvres at the Shaw Conference Centre on Thursday.


The tasting table

Natasha Susylinski, of Treasury Wine Estates, had chosen four wines for this tasting. A range of representative California wines, they included a Stag’s Leap Chardonnay, Santa Barbara Pinot Noir, Beringer Cabernet Sauvignon, and a St. Clement Oroppas Cabernet Sauvignon (a list of the wineries that will be present can be found here).

Wine selection

The wine spread

As one who prefers white wine, and sweeter whites at that (most Chardonnays are too dry for my taste), my palate probably wasn’t the best one for the wines. That said, like most wine reps, Natasha had a fun anecdote about each of the wines, which always helps with making that particular label memorable. For example, Sapporo (the Japanese beer company) once owned St. Clement, and named one of the wines after themselves: Oroppas (or “Sapporo” spelled backwards).

After we had familiarized ourselves with the wines, we were introduced to the food options. The idea was to choose three appetizers from the fourteen options presented.

SEared scallop fork with vanilla apple chutney

Cold platters, featuring seared scallop form with vanilla apple chutney

All of the hors d’oeuvres were so visually appealing – daintily prepared, garnished with bursts of colour, they were almost too beautiful to eat.

Jerk chicken and mango chutney in a tortilla cup

Jerk chicken and mango chutney in a tortilla cup

Though most of us were hard pressed to pick our preferences, a few emerged as favourites around the table, including the goat cheese sphere with caramelized onion marmalade (creamy texture with just the right amount of sweetness), the barbequed duck with hoisin mayonnaise and wonton chip (a perfectly rounded bite with a satisfying crunch), and the roasted shallot, spinach and feta cheese tartlet (buttery and a good alternative to the more pedestrian spanakopita). These three will likely end up on the final menu.

oat cheese sphere with caramalized onion marmalade

Goat cheese sphere with caramelized onion marmalade

Barbequed duck with hoisin mayonnaise and wonton cup

Barbequed duck with hoisin mayonnaise

In addition to the plated hors d’oeuvres, three varieties of cheese will also be served (oka, brie and old white cheddar). As well, expect to see another classic wine supplement at the event – chocolate truffles.


Dark chocolate espresso with biscotti crumbs, ginger milk chocolate, banana with toasted coconut, and salted caramel truffles

These weren’t the heavy, unyielding mounds I am used to – instead, each bite revealed a thin chocolate shell that encompassed a velvety filling. The standout flavour for me was definitely the salted caramel – there is no doubt I’d be eating my weight in these truffles at the Fair.

Thanks to Pam and Sydney for inviting me to be a part of a fun afternoon!

Tickets for the March 8, 2011 California Wine Fair can be purchased online.

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