Toasting to a Class with a Glass… of WINE! (the French way)

​​Can anyone think of a better way to celebrate other than with wine and food? The French couldn’t either.

As in most countries, cuisine is an essential part of French culture and celebrations typically revolve around food. Over 2,600 years ago, the art of drinking wine was adopted into French tradition as a means of socializing.

It is no surprise then, that the duo of food and wine is not viewed as just an act, but instead as a “joie de vivre”, if you will…

We followed this tradition of French culture to create a unique “wining & dining” experience for the recent graduates of the Kellogg-Schulich Executive MBA Program celebrating their commencement.

Vine & Vintage teamed up with Coq of the Walk, an authentic, modern and locally-sourced French styled restaurant, located on College St, downtown Toronto. Owner and Head Chef, Sebastien Daouze, was a creative genius as he beautifully crafted a delicious 5-course menu to compliment 5 wine pairings from different renown wine regions throughout France. Sebastien and his team were a delight to work alongside. It was refreshing to partner with industry professionals who were passionate, hardworking, respectful and who helped create a one-of-a-kind experience.

During the second course, we ventured to the northeastern regions of Alsace. With its unique and sunny climate, Alsatian wines are full-bodied, super concentrated and often display a dramatic splash of acidity. Tasting a new grape varietal the group wasn’t familiar with, was thrilling!

​The 2015 Dopff & Irion Crustacés is 80% Slyvaner and 20% Pinot Blanc. White fleshed fruit, followed by aromas of mineral, green apple and white elderberry flowers, it was lively and refreshing. This brilliant pick turned out to be the favourite white wine of the night!

Tuna tartare and oyster topped with citrus brine and tomato tartare, goat cheese and eggplant marinated in olive oil and balsamic were devoured within minutes! The acidity and fruit in the Alsatian wine cut the richness of the goat cheese and the minerality from the region’s soil wonderfully complemented the flavours of the oyster.​[x_clear]As the night unfolded, guests sniffed, swirled and smiled their way through each wine while experimenting how each course impacted its taste. Our fun fact and trivia cards helped everyone get to know each other better and the dinner was accompanied with lots of questions and good humour!

​By the third course, our group couldn’t wait to see what we had next in store! The main course needed to be escorted by a superb wine. The 2016 Michel Chapoutier Marius is a powerful Syrah Grenache blend that offers a dark and spicy, but delicate floral touch. The Chapoutier family nurture’s their vineyards with the greatest respect and when drinking their wines, you experience an impression of generosity, complexity and elegance. “Fac et Spera” – do and hope- “are two words that sum up all the patience and daring this art demands.” Their wine exhibits their great talents and faithful expression to their products.

The main course, Bouchées à la reine (I had to look it up too), is a puff pastry filled with duck and mushroom in a cream sauce. The heaviness of this dish held up to the thrilling body of the wine blend. Grenache brings a natural sweetness, so the wine’s fruity sweetness enhanced the rich and creamy flavours of the dish.

Up next, the 2015 Les Jamelles Merlot! Who would have thought that a Merlot from Southern France priced under $15 would be the favourite wine of the evening…? I did! That is why this wine was in our tasting lineup. I felt like one of the Price Is Right women, as guests ooh’d and aah’d while taking pictures of each bottle to remember them for their next LCBO run!

This Merlot is rich long and fatty, displaying aromas of dark fruit (blackberries, blackcurrants, cherries), smoky scents and spicy perfumes (cinnamon, thyme). Not only is this wine long-lasting in your mouth, but it is well-balanced and easy-drinking.

If you need an amazing find for a cheese pairing, this bottle should be your new go-to! From blue cheese to brie to Etorki, this wine paired effectively with the different characteristics of each cheese!

We ended the wine tasting and dinner, with a bubbly toast and some sweet congratulations to the graduates. The Grand Cuvée Cremant Blanc, from Languedoc-Roussillon ended the night with a bang -or pop rather- pairing with a trio of mini desserts. This sparkling wine was the perfect finish!

“Drinking good wine with good food in good company is one of life’s most civilized pleasures.” -Michael Broadbent

Our wine tasting and dinner pairing at Coq of the Walk was definitely a pleasure. The experience of dabbling in traditional French culture, cuisine and wine was an extraordinary way for this group to celebrate and one to be remembered.

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All Image by @sarahmay_