A dozen of us gathered on January 5 in Sanlitun Sequoia Cafe to try four wines and cheeses from Canada. As I had just returned from two weeks in The Great White North, it was a nice way to ease back into Beijing life.
All four wines came from the West Coast and first up was Blasted Church Chardonnay, which had some citrus and sour apple on the nose, though it was a bit acidic for my liking. (How did the winery get its name? Sequoia owner Frank Siegel says that workers dynamited the church in the 1920s to loosen its nails and more easily dismantle and move it.) Sticking with the religious theme, we had a Church & State Merlot that featured raspberry, blackberry and other dark fruit aromas, followed by an Inniskillin Merlot, with a stronger bouquet, very fruity flavors and a hint of candy apple. Last up was the Sumac Ridge Cabernet, which seemed a bit bland to me, though to be fair I think the cheeses were overwhelming the wine by this point. Frank said it would go with wild game, such as moose or lamb, and conceded that street kebabs count as the latter. (By the way, attendee S. Heath said the best way to cook moose, in case you were wondering, is to get a no-bone cut, pierce it with a knife, stuff the hole with garlic, sear the meat shut, and layer it with bacon before cooking. This is the “The Jack Buck Way,” apparently after a big game hunter in Canada.) While all the wines received praise, the Chardonnay seemed to be the overall favorite, while I gave top marks to the Inniskillin.
As for the cheeses, the Moonstruck Beddis Blue was the best I’ve tasted since a Shropshire Blue at a Beijing Cheese Society event way back in November 2005. It was creamy, not too pungent, slightly nutty, and melted in the mouth. Jenn Hinkle, who is writing about wine in Beijing (more on this next issue) put it this way: “It tastes like a barn of cows smells.” (She meant that in a good way.) The other cheeses included a Comox Triple Cream Camembert (a mild, naturally pasteurized cheese with near-cheesecake texture), a Quebec five-year-old cheddar (good mouth-drying stuff and not too crumbly) and the rosemary-topped Salt Spring Island Chevre (a stinky, gooey goat cheese with a texture approaching yoghurt). Interestingly, attendee D. Heath said Salt Spring Island, off the coast of British Columbia, has been home to hippies and thus into organic food for 30 or 40 years, but is now becoming popular with the moneyed class and this is causing conflicts.
This tasting cost 160 kuai per person and was one of the regular Friday wine events organized in the Sanlitun branch of Sequoia Café (email email@example.com to get on the mailing list). Kudos to Holden Jang, who not only designed Sequoia Cafe and Tim’s Texas BBQ, but also brought the wine and cheese from Canada.