The landscape slowly awakens. The steel grey river is finally free of ice, tiny green leaves unfurl from their winter sleep, and a who's who of songbirds unabashedly sing from every vacant perch. A twisting road branches away from the Capital City's interminable traffic, snakes past the incipient shells of houses under construction, bluffs of trembling aspen, and finds its terminus at Blackhawk Golf Club.
It is May 25th. A misty, cloud-shrouded evening; a reminder that, though we have been wrested from winter's choke hold, an undercurrent of cold still rules this valley. The clubhouse, however, radiates opulent warmth. Diffuse, natural light washes the dining room in gentle grey and gold. Like the dozens of eager diners gazing at the multiple sets of cutlery, I am here for the Wente Vineyards Premium Selection dinner, created by award-winning chef Andrew Fung.
Supper commences with butter poached lobster tail - a gustatory journey to a far away ocean - nestled up against a crisp tartlet that cradles a tender yet robust roma tomato and a piquant shallot. A goblet of Riva Ranch Chardonnay chases each morsel with multidimensional notes of tropical fruit and caramel.
A tiny rectangle of cedar plank salmon follows, partnered with a spoonful of unusually creamy polenta. The polenta itself could be a stand-alone dish. Crackling bits of pancetta and a deft swirl of Pinot Noir reduction contribute hints of smoky fat and multifarious fruits, repsectively. A robust glass of Reliz Pinot Noir recapitulates these flavours in the hedonistic guise of a luscious maroon quaff.
Alberta beef short ribs appear with a tidy scoop of parsnip mash and a crisp crown of fried taro root. The meat falls apart at a fork's touch; the tender grain croons with a depth both rich and sweet, buttressed by the earthy parsnip. Take Seven, the featured wine, is a blend of seven vintages that crescendo - but do not confuse - with their complexity.
The penultimate course crusts a gently gamey (in the best possible way) loin of lamb with an array of wild mushrooms. A sunny yellow dollop of Dijon creme fraiche disguises a sinus-clearing blast of heat, offset by a mellow slice of sourdough. Strong flavours simultaneously dominate and coexist in this dish.
Dessert presents a judicious circle of molten chocolate cake with satin-smooth vanilla ice cream and a garnet-red twirl of raspberry coulis. Again, assertive flavours - chocolate and raspberries - that work together instead of madly competing for attention. A testament to Fung's command of culinaria, and to the entire kitchen at Blackhawk.