Tasting Italia in 2 hours

The beautiful view from my desk!

Last Wednesday (a beyond beautiful hot, sunny Vancouver day), our work team buzzed out of the office early for our quarterly team builder activity. This quarter? A corporate Italian food and wine tasting seminar at Giovane at the Fairmont Pacific Rim (where we had Sean’s 30th birthday). Best team building activity, ever (so far).

Terra and I were the first to get there and we walked in to a beautifully set table and handed glasses of prosecco (bubbles – yum!) – what service! Coordinated by the wonderful Katherine – who helped me with Sean’s 30th birthday – and in the capable hands of Giovane’s beyond knowledgeable sommelier and assistant manager, Jill Spoor, we were transported through Italy in four meals and four glasses of wine.

This was my second time meeting Jill. She was away when Sean’s birthday was held but Katherine and I had a drink after work a little while ago before Sean and I had a movie date, and Jill poured me a glass of the most amazing Tuscan red (that I of course forgot to write the name of down – but it was delicious!). She spent 10 years in Italy and knows pretty much everything there is to know about the wine and food.

Our team with Jill (sitting third from right). Thanks for a great evening!

We are a chatty group (understatement), which was encouraged; as were questions. We laughed a lot, had great conversation and had, I think, some of the best wine and food outside of Italy. It made me want to go back right then and there. (That and the fact that I am currently re-reading Under the Tuscan Sun.) Jill made our 2 hour gastro-journey an amazing experience. We learned a lot. In short, Italy has a copious number of varietals – pretty much every region has one, and their climates dictate everything about how the grapes are grown and how the final product will/should taste.

(I do not pretend to know a lot about wine. I know what I like (all reds, some whites) and what I don’t like (sweet or overly buttery whites), and I’m always willing to try something new. I have now learned more, and cannot wait to go back and pick Jill’s brain a bit some more.)

We were given little notepads and I was writing so quickly, I’m surprised I can read my chicken scratches. But here we go.

Our menu for the evening:

Pecorino Renero Tuscany with Grape Jelly paired with a really, really lovely and light 2011 Argiolas (label) Costamolino (varietal) white from Sardinia. You could drink it as an aperatif, it was so light.

Vine ripened tomato caprese salad with natural pastures organics buffalo mozzarella – love, love, LOVE – paired with a nice, slightly Campagnia (region) 2011 Feudi di San Gregorio (label), Greco di tufu (varietal) white. I’m not a big fan of fresh tomatoes (though I did try – it’s a texture thing), so Terra ate my tomatoes and I went to cheese heaven with the mozzarella.

Risotto with black truffles (yum!) served by the shy Gianni (who, a little while later, brought out this incredible block – no other word for it – of prosciutto and made us all salivate). The wine pairing was a 2009 Vietti Perbacco (label) Nebbiolo (varietal) red from Piemonte.

House-made italian sausage and gnocchi a la Romana with a 2008 Argiano (label) Rosso Toscano (varietal). This was a BIG red wine that went so well with what was my favourite of the four delicious tasting courses. As Terra does not eat pork, I gladly returned the food swap favour. These tomatoes were cooked, so I did not pass those on.

Giovane has become one of my favourite new places in the city. The service is fantastic , the food and wine bar none, and it’s just a good place to be. (And on top of that, there’s a real meal deal gelateria (Bella Gelateria – 1001 West Cordova Street) a couple doors down the hotel block. We went there for for dessert the next day after lunch. I had a to die for pomegranate sorbetto.)

I just downloaded CollageIt – it is awesome.

This is a great team building activity, I highly recommend it for a corporate or social event. Let me know if you want the booking info.

Thanks, Katherine and Jill for an amazing evening for our team!

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