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Column: A biodynamic evening in France’s Loire Valley and the Southern Rhone

Part one of a two-part series about the Boulevard and Kitchen Oyster Bar's wine-pairing dinner.

The Boulevard and Kitchen Oyster Bar at Vancouver’s Sutton Place Hotel was the setting last month for an elegant five course French wine-pairing dinner. This special event was organized by the World Wine Synergy Incorporated wine agency.

Fifth generation winemaker Frédéric Sigonneau of Loire’s Domaine de l’R was present to introduce his small lot Cabernet Franc and rarely seen Chenin Blanc. Also on the menu were the wines of Domaine Duseigneur from the southern Rhone Valley, home to world-renowned Chateauneuf-du-Pape.

Co-hosting the special dinner was professor John Volpe of the University of Victoria’s school of environmental studies. Volpe is a renowned educator and enologist whose work explores the links between ecological and social sustainability, especially with terroir and sustainable wine and food production.

Guests were greeted at a reception with a delicious Domaine Longère Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc de Blancs. The Crémant de Bourgogne displayed a seductive nose of white flowers, peach and apple with fine bubbles, a rich creamy texture balanced with crisp acidity and a lengthy dry finish.

Although this sparkling is not yet listed in B.C., WWSI’s president Grace Li hopes it will be available in the near future. Crémant de Bourgogne is made by the same method as French champagnes with the same grapes but from a less expensive region. The price is often half of champagne.

The banquet was superbly prepared by executive chef Roger Ma and his team. Diners enjoyed a selection of appetizers with the Crémant de Bourgogne: poached sunseeker (oysters on the half shell with lemongrass crema and assetra caviar), beef tartare tartlette with truffle, and local uni on a nori cracker (with ikura, wasabi, and soy gel).

Next was the first main course, a silky Hamachi Crudo, with charred citrus, shaved fennel, avocado, cilantro chili crime, and citrus vinaigrette. This delicate seafood raw salad was perfectly matched with the Domaine de L’R Chenin Blanc Chinon from France’s resplendent region, the Loire, the Garden of France. Chinon is only 5 per cent of the Loire Valley’s production but it’s the premium area.

“I realized Domaine L’R was the manifestation of what I was teaching,” Volpe admitted after visiting the winery. “When you work the soil, the soil is alive. The soil has a voice. As a winemaker, the best thing you can do is pamper the soil, keep your hands away from 'the voice.' And it is 'the voice' that comes through strongly in these wines and it is a singular dedication of Frédéric.”

Sigonneau described his very rare natural Chenin Blanc as "very pure and elegant,” which matched the Hamachi Crudo’s silkiness. He founded Domaine de L’R in 2007 following years of making wine in Spain’s famous Ribera del Duero. The winemaker farms biodynamically to maintain the purity of fruit in his wines.

“The idea,” he said, “is to prevent the juice from any kind of stress and oxidation to preserve all the natural and delicate flavours of the fruit.”

Volpe added that the goal is to have a wine that is "very fresh."

"The white has a bit of frizzante. To keep a white really fresh, you need a tiny bit of carbon dioxide to keep it from oxidizing which also adds some texture to the wine," he said.

Sigonneau is celebrated for his powerful and concentrated small lot Cabernet Franc, the Domaine De L’R Le Canal Des Grand Pièces 2020 Chinon SKU 11043 ($30.99, on sale until Dec. 31 for $4 off). Available at all three Richmond BC Liquor Stores as well as 39th and Cambie.

The Wine Advocate gave it 89 points: "From sandy and gravelly soils and vinified in concrete for about half a year, the bright purple-colored 2020 Chinon Le Canal des Grands Pièces opens with a delicate and refreshing nose of raspberries and sour cherries with some flinty and floral aromas.

Silky textured, fresh and stimulating on the palate, this is a light to medium-bodied, fruity, balanced, finessed and elegant Cabernet Franc for immediate drinking pleasure until 2028.”

According to London’s two-Michelin-star Bibendum Oyster House, Domaine de L’R is “where Cabernet Franc sings in all its fruity and elegant, powerful and perfumed glory.”

Le Canal des Grands Pièces was a splendid match with the second course of Hanna Brook Farm Beets in a red wine beet purée (with smoked ham hock presse, whipped crème fraiche, and truffle.)

The third course at Boulevard and Kitchen Oyster Bar was a Five Spice Quail (with preserved Okanagan cherries, almonds, and Treviso jam) served with another quality Cab Franc, Domain de L’R Les Folies du Noyer Vert Chinon. It is not yet on the market but could be a SPEC item in the Spring.

Next week, we continue our coverage of the impressive French wine-pairing dinner at the Boulevard and Kitchen Oyster Bar at Vancouver’s Sutton Place Hotel where we explore the southern Rhone and Chateauneuf-du Pape. 

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