I recently attended a wine dinner at Actinolite in Toronto where chef Justin Cournoyer's brand of local, Ontario cuisine was paired up with wines from the great naturalist Trentino producer Elisabetta Foradori. The wines were stunning and the food was creative and delicious (see: candied reindeer lichen with juniper cream), but it was the first time in a while that I was truly wowed by the wine pairings. One dish was a bright and zingy mound of shredded carrots with plums and verbena that was served on kefir, and it was accompanied by a glass of Manzoni Bianco—an obscure, rich grape with tons of bruised apple, lemon and mineral notes. As if symbiotically, the wine and the dish propped one another up to a new level. The best analogy I can think of is when two singers hit the same note—a great wine pairing is harmonic.
I thought of other distinctly Canadiana fare and the idea of pairing it up with great Canadian wines. In the past few months, Montreal chef Derek Dammann and Chris Johns' cookbook of modern Canadian cuisine True North has made a splash with the critics. The recipes are organized by geography and include dishes like Bagna Cauda with Winter Vegetables, Whelks in Escabeche, Smoked Caribou Carpaccio, Salt Cod Gratin, Fried Smoked Rabbit, Wild Boar and Rosemary Ragù.
Taken from True North, Chatelaine recently posted the recipe for Cod à la Nage—a cut of fresh cod cooked delicately in chicken stock and served with a sauce that takes its flavour from herbs, citrus, and a fumet made from halibut bones. It's a dish that looks stunning in its simplicity and, because of its focus of flavours, would be a dream to pair with.
Ideally, I like this dish with a richer white, something with minerality and citrus to pair with the cod as well as something with a touch of creaminess and spice to compliment the sauce. My favourite Ontario Chardonnays like Rosehall Run 2012 JCR or Pearl Morissette 2012 Cuvée Dix Neuvième should work perfectly. For something a little different, I like the Terravista 2014 Fandango, a blend of Albariño and Verdejo grown in the Okanagan's Naramata Bench.
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.