Thu. Jun 2, 2016

Let me introduce myself.  I’m Samantha, your friendly neighborhood Whistler Wine Girl.  I’m Wine Director for Araxi Restaurant, Bar Oso and The Cellar by Araxi, reserve wine list curator for Steeps and Christine’s, 2013 BC Sommelier of the Year, have my own namesake ‘Samantha’ wines (currently offering an un-oaked Chardonnay and killer Gamay) made at Okanagan Crush Pad, Pemberton back yard veggie farmer, downhill mountain biker, and one of your 2016 Cornucopia Ambassadors.
This year marks the 20th Cornucopia, a celebration of Whistler’s vibrant food and wine scene.  The lifts have barely stopped spinning for what was an awesome snow season, so let’s plan for what fun we can have when the snow flies again in November! Cornucopia is going to be running a little later this year, from November 10th – 20th, and the schedule will be packed with amazing dinners, lunches, seminars, tastings, parties and more.  Tickets are now on sale, with more to be added as we continue to firm up details. Check back often, but don’t delay in making plans to be in Whistler this November!
My job(s) pretty much come down to bringing pleasure to the people through food and wine.  I’m big advocate for getting you to try new things, but also making sure that you get something you’re actually going to like.  That’s always been my success and my failure as a Sommelier – I listen and try my best to give you what you want.  I can recommend a different Cabernet for you, but still can’t convince you to drink more Syrah.  I can pour an obscure white that is fabulous but can’t convince most that it’s better than that certain grape from that certain small country that smells like tinned jalapenos and my cats’ litter box.  After 15+ years writing wine lists and guiding guests, most of you still won’t believe me that Riesling is the greatest grape on the earth, that it’s not all sweet, and that the sort of sweet, and really sweet ones too, are DELICIOUS.  But I refuse to give up! 
I’m turning 40 this June, and excited for it and the great food and beverages that are going to come with the celebrations. So, on that theme, and some likely menu items (hot dogs) for Gemini birthday season, here are my late spring wine and food recommendations to get you thinking about the summer and start to get pumped for all the fun and learning of Cornucopia 2016 this November.
Pairs with sunny lunch on the patio (and hot dogs): dry Rose
Vintage after vintage, Le Vieux Pin in the Okanagan has hit it out of the park with their delightful rose, Vaila.  It is made from Pinot Noir grapes grown purposely for making rose.  It is bone dry and zippy, a great match for summer salads, seafood and poolside sipping.  It also pairs well with hot dogs topped with Dijon mustard and cheese.  You can pick up a bottle at Nester’s Liquor Store, and manager Dave can show you many of their other fantastic wines as well.
Pairs with the impossible, and in season, asparagus (and hot dogs): Gruner Veltliner
A great white wine grape of Austria, Gruner Veltliner is beloved by sommeliers around the world for its ability to pair with difficult ingredients like asparagus, which when tasting with most other types of wine, can give the impression of chewing tin foil.  It is also great with other tricky items like artichokes and pickles, and wonderful with poultry and pork, especially schnitzel, and hot dogs topped with spicy mustard and sauerkraut.  Laurenz V ‘Singing’ Gruner is available at the Marketplace BC liquor store, and a fine example from a family that is now in it’s 6th generation producing it in this historic area north west of Vienna.
Pairs with BBQ, summer pasta dishes (and hot dogs): Barbera
When grilling season starts kicking into high gear, I start craving Barbera from Piemonte, south of Torino and the Alps in northwest Italy.  It has super high natural acidity that makes it a match for all kinds of food, from tomato pasta, meats and cheese, to BBQ too, as most have light to moderate tannin that doesn’t compete with the sweet and spicy flavours.  My recommendation is Maccario ‘Lavignone’ Barbera d’Asti, and this year we are pairing it with BBQ pork ribs, pasta with Pemberton morels, cream, and rapini from my garden, and hot dogs on cheese buns, with ketchup.  It’s often available at Nester’s, or if you’re down in Vancouver, at Kitsilano Wine Cellar on West 4th.
Pairs with Asian foods and sunny afternoons (and hot dogs): Riesling
I am a well-known Riesling advocate and must recommend a  Riesling as we head into summer.  Washington’s Chateau Ste Michelle is the world’s largest producer of Riesling, and they really know what they’re doing.  You can pick up a tasty bottle of their regular, off-dry (that means just a touch of sweetness) version at the Marketplace BC liquor store for just $15.49 plus taxes.  It’s the perfect pair for sushi take away from one of Whistler’s great Japanese restaurants, or spicy curry or stir-fry.  It’s also great for simply sipping with friends and is lower in alcohol than most other wines.  And, it’s an excellent match for a hot dog on a nice soft white bun with any toppings you like, because Riesling is a miracle, and goes with everything.  Just try it! You might even like it.
Until next time, your friend in wine, Samantha.