Walking down the hallway, of The Shore Club in Toronto, with plush carpeting underfoot, past the wall of wines behind glass case I knew this was going to be an exceptional experience. The interior of the restaurant in dark colours, with solid wood tables and subdued lighting tells everyone to relax and enjoy a quality time at the restaurant.
My server this evening was Allison Vidug, Sommelier, at The Shore Club. For those BC readers of this article, you may remember Allison as she worked at Rollingdale Winery in West Kelowna. So it was quite a shock for me to be sitting at The Shore Club in Toronto with her to serve me some wonderful Ontario wines, and food.
Appetizers and Wine
To start the evening Allison brought me a flight of Ontario VQA wines to sample with my appetizers, a scallop and prawn ceviche, and a prawn cocktail:
- Cave Spring Chenin Blanc 2011
- Tawse Growers Blend Rose 2012
- Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2010
The Cave Spring Chenin Blanc 2011, I am told is the last vintage to be produced as Chenin is not too popular, and maybe not as suitable for growing in southern Ontario. That is too bad as Chenin Blanc is a very good food wine, and can be produced in a range of styles from sparkling, dry – off-dry – sweet table, and even ice wine. This wine had nice ripe stone fruit aromas. Off-dry, light body with medium acidity that nicely balances with stone fruit and citrus flavours on the palate. Light mouth feel with a bit of waxiness. Nice and refreshing for the heat that we were having in Toronto the week I visited.
The Tawse Growers Blend Rose 2012 is the first vintage of this wine. It is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and a few other grape varieties. Light red fruit aromas in the glass. Medium body, dry with strawberries and red fruit flavour. It has a good level of acidity that increases in your mouth to the finish. There is also a nice mineral streak upfront. A bit of blackberry leaf on the finish.
The Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2010 is medium translucent garnet in colour. A very nice nose with aromas of vanilla, red cherries, and a hint of roses. Higher acidity with bright red cherry fruit, and vanilla showing up mid-palate. Dry, light body, with a bit of spiciness on the finish. My favourite of these 3 wines.
I first tried these wines with the Scallop and Prawn Ceviche. The scallops and prawns were soft and absorbed the sourness from the citrus marinade. In particular I noticed an orange flavour to the prawns. I liked this dish most with the Chenin Blanc. It made the ceviche feel more full bodied in my mouth, and the sweetness in the Chenin Blanc was subdued. The Rose toned down the citrus flavour of the marinade allowing you to enjoy more the texture of the scallops and prawns, while the Pinot Noir brought out a lime peel flavour from the ceviche.
The Prawn Cocktail was served very elegantly, with two huge prawn over an elaborate stainless steel bowl containing ice, and on top a smaller glass bowl with home made cocktail sauce. I liked the cocktail sauce; not too sweet or too peppery from the horseradish, so that you could enjoy the prawns with it. The Chenin Blanc made a complementary pairing with the prawn cocktail. The Rose though was a better pairing for me, as the wine did not overpower the flavour of the prawn or the cocktail sauce. So you could enjoy the flavours of all three components in balance. The Pinot Noir pairing was almost as good as the rose, but the horseradish was a bit more evident in the pairing.
The Main Course
For my Main Course, I went with the Chef’s Daily Creation. This day it was Grilled Halibut and Squid on top of wilted summer greens, hot chorizo and barley risotto, and Thai Chilies with coconut cream. It was quite a combination of flavours and textures and was an amazing dish! The halibut was tender, falling apart in flakes, and had a nice smoky, buttery flavour. You were left with light spice/pepper at the back of your tongue. It was cooked perfectly, with some spots still slightly translucent. The squid was soft and not too chewy. It had a (peanut) buttery taste to it which was very enjoyable. The wilted greens looked to be primarily kale, which imparted a spinach flavour and added texture to the dish. I could also taste the coconut milk with the greens. Finally the barley risotto added a chewy texture to the dish. I also really liked the pieces of spicy, smoky chorizo in the risotto which plays off well with the grilled halibut.
My wine pairing for this dish was the Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2010. This is a single vineyard Chardonnay. Light pear colour in the glass. Light toast, vanilla and tropical fruit aromas. Full body, quite round, with almost a syrupy feel, but is dry. Pears and honey flavours with a light oak treatment. After a bit of air a mineral component was also evident. Medium plus acidity and pepperiness on the very finish. Long length. Excellent quality.
With the Grilled Halibut and Squid dish being very full bodied with flavours and textures, the full body of the Chardonnay was a very good match. The Chardonnay also really brought out the flavour of the chorizo, which I liked a lot. A recommended pairing.
The last course, dessert, was not to be overlooked. While there were sorbets, pies and crumbles, I chose the cheese plate, that consisted of three very aromatic cheeses:
- Ermite Bleu from Quebec
- Reblochon from France
- Thunder Oak Gouda from Ontario
To these cheeses, I tasted two ice wines.
The Ermite Bleu is a semi-soft blue cheese made from cow’s milk. The cheese has a good bite to it and some grittiness.
The Reblochon is an unpasturized semi-soft raw cow’s milk cheese that has a washed rind. It was very creamy with a nutty flavour along with some earthiness and mushroom flavour.
The Thunder Oak Gouda is a hard cow’s milk cheese, aged 3 years, with calcium salt deposits in the cheese. It tasted to me very similar to Parmesan cheese. Very flavourful, but very drying in your mouth. I was worried this cheese would be the hardest to pair with the ice wines, but I was wrong.
I tried two ice wines with the cheese:
- Tawse Riesling Icewine 2009
- Stratus Icewine 2008
The Tawse Riesling Icewine 2009 had a honeyed and apricot nose. Full body, very sweet, but the acidity lightens it up very quickly. Dried stone fruit flavours, in particular apricot. Long length. Delicious.
The Stratus Icewine 2008 is a blend of Riesling and Semillon. Lighter amber colour. Honey and stone fruit aromas with a citrus edge. Full body, unctuous, sweet, with lots of apricot and honey , followed by orange marmalade and some toasty notes. Medium acidity keeps it from being too cloying. Long length. A quality wine.
For the Ermite Bleu cheese, the Tawse was overpowered while the Stratus held it’s ground and complemented the cheese. The Reblochon also paired better with the Stratus‘ orange marmalade flavour component to me. Finally the Thunder Oak Gouda, which I was really worried about made a fantastic pairing with the Tawse. The dryness of the cheese disappeared, making the cheese softer but still having the Parmesan character.
Overall this was an excellent meal. Each course was served nicely plated, and tasted great. The chefs really know what they are doing. The halibut for example was cooked to perfection. Along with the food, The Shore Club, has some nice Ontario wines for you to try. I do like that they serve 5 whites, 8 reds, 2 sparkling and 2 rose wines by the glass. This gives you a chance to try different wines with different courses. The wines come from all over the world; New World and Old World wines. Based on the wines that I sampled this evening I kept to seafood, but there are steaks to satisfy you too, with bigger red wines. I highly recommend this restaurant for a nice meal with friends, significant other or spouse.
THE SHORE CLUB | SEAFOOD STEAK COCKTAILS
155 Wellington Street West, Toronto, ON M5V 3H1
TEL (416) 351-3311
About Tawse Winery
You may have noticed that several of the wines that I tasted were from Tawse Winery. I did a quick check into the winery and am pleased to read that they are an organic and a biodynamic winery. Tawse was named ‘Canadian Winery of the Year’ by Canadian Wine Access Magazine in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Hopefully on my next trip to Ontario, I will have time to visit them in the Niagara Peninsula.