Grand Impression By Brian Walker Ask any winemaker about special dinners featuring their product at unknown venues and they will tell you that the results can be decidedly different. What restaurant owner wouldn't want the marketing prestige of hosting an evening of fine wines that are married to creations coming out of his kitchen? It becomes a big feather in the cap if it's successfully pulled off. Well, sometimes the scales can be weighted a little heavier on one end (usually the winemaker's) and the outcome can come up somewhat short of the effort and expense. Instead of proudly adding a new plume to their cap they may end up reaching for their Tilley Endurables as the rains of discontent come pouring down. Fortunately if the restaurant has established a flair for this kind of evening then the x-factor becomes less of a concern. This indeed is the case with Andre St. Jacques' Bearfoot Bistro as he and Chef Eric Vernice have hosted so many of these extraordinary events that their caps could quite rightly be described as Indian head-dresses. Fifteen at last count, with an eye-popping charity benefit Dom Perignon vertical tasting thrown in for good measure. Verticals are a marvelous opportunity to sample the same grapes over a number of vintages so that maturity and complexity can be gauged. The latest in the Bear Foot's atmospheric setting took place July 1, providing an excellent way to celebrate the country's birthday. Feature producer Silver Oak Cellars had never done a dinner outside the US before and because they exclusively bottle Cabernet Sauvignons were paired with Saddleback Cellars and Beringer Vineyards. The evening started with a mingling reception, including entertainment by jazz pianist Cameron Chu and Saddleback's barrel fermented '97 Pinot Blanc. Trays of Malpeque oysters with salmon and roasted cream toured the room, whetting our appetites for the evening to follow. Nils Venge from Saddleback then told us, over roasted Canadian lobster with a vermouth and vanilla bean sauce, that the ’97 Chardonnay paired with it is also barrel fermented in French oak for eight to nine months. Crisp on the palate, it should gain a fruity character over time. The ’96 vintage was sold out. Andre received kudos for his savvy from GM Dave Cofran of Silver Oak by presenting the older vintages first so that their complexities can be admired before the evening wears on. A mature ’85 Silver Oak Napa Valley was then poured with a delicate California striped bass filet scaled with avocado and tomato slices in a Shiraz reduction, before moving to a ’90 Silver Oak Alexander Valley served with pheasant breast stuffed with preserved shallots and baby spinach in a hazelnut jus. Tor Kenward, V.P. of Beringer, then took the stage with a ’93 Howell Mountain Merlot, Bancroft Ranch outstandingly paired along side wild caribou loin with a "griotine" jus and rosemary tuile. The evening wound down with a ’94 Silver Oak Napa Valley complementing an assortment of unpasteurized cheeses before closing with Petit fours, Silver Oak's Meyer Family port and one of Andre's trademark cigars. Silver Oak employs a five-year ageing process and bottles in limited quantities, making it one of the premier boutique winemakers in the United States. That the Bearfoot can attract producers of this calibre to Whistler and sell out the seating is a tribute to Andre's prowess. Something that winemakers all over the world are more than comfortable being associated with.