Put a bottle of wine in front of Andrew Gajary and you’ve started a conversation. The general manager of the InterContinental Yorkville is the kind of connoisseur who doesn’t just drink wine, he discusses it with scholarly passion. Gajary can go into detail about varieties and regions and textures and pairings. All while admiring a label. He’ll also tell you he’s not alone in his obsession in this city.
A Washingtonian who has resided in Toronto for two years, Gajary is eager to celebrate his oenophilia with others, which is why he has started a “Bring Your Own Wine” promotion to the InterContinental Yorkville’s fine-dining restaurant, Signatures.
On Thursday night, he invited about 15 journalists and Toronto food and wine experts to test out the process with a 10-course feast that included pairings for each course. Those of us who attended were encouraged to bring a bottle of our own and the Signatures’ staff then matched each of our choices with the dish for which they felt it was best suited. They also served a glass of the restaurant’s recommended pairing selection.
That was a lot of red and white to drink, even for a room full of wine nuts. A few bottles were spared the carnage and of those that we did enjoy the one that stood out for me was the 2007 Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir, a Signatures’ choice that bursts with flavour and maintains enough dryness to keep it from tasting like a light burgundy. It’s deep, smooth and complex; and none of that’s surprising given the greatness of California’s Pinot Noir crop from four years ago.
A winner among the guest choices was the Cave Spring Riesling, which was paired with a serving of Sea Bass in Thai Yellow Curry. The white from the Jordan Station winery topped the house’s Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc in a show-of-hands vote.
“So many people have a great bottle of wine sitting at home and what we’re saying is, why not bring that bottle in here and we’ll make you a terrific meal to go with it? That way you don’t have to cook and you can enjoy that stellar bottle of wine with a meal worthy of it,” Gajary (left) told me.
From Monday to Thursday, Signatures won’t charge a corkage fee. On weekend nights, guests who bring in their own bottle will be charged $15. Although Gajary is hoping diners will come in with some bottles that wow him, the restaurant isn’t going to turn someone away for bringing in Yellow Tail.
Of the food on Thursday night, the best dish was the Sea Bass, which was sublimely flavoured and served with a tangy green mango salad and jasmine rice that had been dehydrated, making the grains puff. A touch of coconut foam bubbled on top of the fish, adding a creative twist. Chef Joseph Rabba’s team recently visited the kitchen at Colborne Lane and may have picked up some microgastronomy tips from Claudio Aprile’s squad. After the Sea Bass, though, things were less consistent. Some of the dishes (Grilled Lamb Chops, Grilled Salmon Filet) seemed more like banquet food than inventive creations and the kitchen appeared to be going a little overboard in trying to make plates look artsy.
Kudos to the hotel for offering rooms for the night to those who attended. The suites are large, warmly decorated with exquisite bathrooms and comfortable beds. Just what you’d expect from a luxury brand. And prices are reasonable, with a room with a king bed going for $189 for a Friday in April, according to the hotel’s website.
Coming up: Some words on Origin.