I adore wine. So much so that polishing off a bottle of an oaky chardonnay is as second nature to me as, well, polishing off a six-pack of Guinness tall cans. (Yeah, I adore beer, too.) As much as I like to think my palate is somewhat advanced, I’m no connoisseur – I’m also lacking any patience necessary to attempt to become one – and there are experts around who are able to taste a wine’s extremities (the terroir that bore the grapes; the time of year the wine was yielded; etc.) far more enhanced than I ever could or would. And none moreso than Canada’s three Master Sommeliers…
John Szabo, Bruce Wallner, and Jennifer Huether have dedicated their lives to wine. While I’m more than a little envious at the day-to-day tastings one would assume is part and parcel of being a Master Sommelier, I’m moreso inclined to simply revere these masters of mouthfeel, these grapplers of the grape, these know-it-alls of the nose. Their dedication and passion for wine far exceeds the level of normalcy, and these talents were put to the test during the Master Sommelier Challenge Visa Infinite Dinner presented by Lifford Wine Agency at George Restaurant. (Say that three times fast.)
A six-course meal awaited the cardholders who jumped at the chance to critique the critiquers. After all, what better could a wine dinner be than one where each course would be paired with not just three wines from Lifford’s premium portfolio, but three wines from Lifford’s premium portfolio as selected by the most exquisite palates in Canada?
When we got down to the tasting dinner, I had to devise a strategy. Four courses were dedicated to the competition, where we sampled three wines – one selected by each Master Sommelier – alongside haute cuisine from George’s kitchen. For those not mathematically-inclined, that’s a 12-wine lineup. How was I, a mere heavy imbiber, to choose which checkboxes warranted the strike of a pencil’s lead? The answer: just freakin’ eat and drink.
The pairings were so perfect that no course had a stand-out winner. It really came down to whatever glass I kept reaching for as, presumably, whichever wine I finished first must be best, right? A rudimentary solution, but one that had my selections on point with the winning Master Sommelier in each course. Take that altruistic analyses!
Between courses, the Master Sommeliers – along with the charismatic emcee Anton Potvin – sparred with forked tongues; apparently wit and wine go hand-in-hand. Helping to guide us through each pairing, John, Jennifer, and Bruce provided a platform for perfunctory palate polishing. It was like casual dinner and a show, with each Master Sommelier convivially cutting down the competition.
But the wine outweighed the words, as it ought to, and Bruce Wallner – whose stunning selections were far superior to his ability to match wit with his counterparts – took home the title of victor. (I feel I should insert some sort of after-school-special sign-off about them all being winners… but at the end of the day they totes weren’t.)
This was the second Visa Infinite Dinner I’ve attended, and my word I hope it’s not the last. Any night dedicated to great food, exceptional wine, and sarcastic remarks will bear my seal of approval… whether it’s asked for or not!