Out of desperation, we reserved lunch for Half Off Wine Wednesday. Online research found, finally, that wines equaled BC winery prices (albeit still twice US retail). More importantly, the Pacific Culinary Institute sourced food locally. The food should meld well with wine from the same general vicinity.
Let’s try their wine first:
Cassini Cellars, Pinot noir, red Carpet, Okanagan Valley Osoyoos BC VqA 2013 14.2% 22$
Appearance: looks a clear, bright ruby that clears at the rim, leggy, but a worrying slight petilance pops about on the first pour.
Aromas: smell fairly strongly of vanilla, clove, plum, fig preserves…not like cold climate Pinot Noir. Slight ethanol and foxy musk creep in.
Palate: It feels dry with mild acidity (a slight prickly va slips in), tannins are tame if lame, alcohol shows the continental dessert hear of Okanagan at 14.2%, which makes for an oddly fullish Pinot.
Flavors: tend toward Merlot-like boldness with wild red cherry, clove, orange peel, slightly dull paper, white dry oak, and fox musk.
Cousins: Cassini’s Pinot is so surreal. It tastes neither California plump nor Burgundy lean: more like Merlot than my narrow grasp of Pinot. It is too hot, very pleasant, foxy, silky for the most part, if a bit edgy and suffering from VA. It’s good 3 of 5, and will work lunch.
Service was young, overeaching, and adorable. My wife’s crab cake created a meat mountain.
My greens and winter squash, flecked with gold raisins and chestnuts tied beautifully with a balsamic demiglaze that brought a soy-like brightness. The wine turned serious, drier, and cleansed our palates.
Entrées landed artfully presented (although forks were forthcoming). My wife’s seared venison sang well with Cassini’s Pinot: mild acid and tannin doing enough to clean it up, while fruit and the soft meat melded seamlessly, and the gaminess of both matched.
My seared, basil-lined, albacore tuna (although nearly sushi) played a salty, fleshy counterpoint to Cassini’s foxier flavors. If only a garlic red sauce didn’t overwhelm the fish.
Deserts glided in and were lovely, light, and well crafted.
All in all the Pacific Culinary Institute did a fine job. It was fantastic to meet aspiring students and try their wares. Cassini’s Pinot Noir was far from perfect. Yet it managed the meal decently, melding with various local favors with a thumping boldness. We would love to go back. Maybe Friday’s buffet has a spot.