Lynn Crawford and Norm Hardie at Ruby Watchco

Chef Lynn Crawford hosts Norm Hardie at Ruby Watchco.

My friend Norm Hardie sold out the room at Ruby Watchco recently, and I was lucky enough to attend as his guest and taste through six of his Norman Hardie Winery selections, paired to chef Lora Kirk’s tasting menu, which I’ve reproduced below. Here’s some of what happened.

Wine dinners of any kind can be a dubious enterprise, since they upset the natural order of fine dining whereby the wine is chosen to match the food. On any given plate, there may be any number of flavours that could upset the balance of a wine. (One the most common pratfalls are dishes that are, or include elements that are, sweet, which can “kill the fruit” as they say and make the wine seem sour.) Kirk’s dishes were rich in umami, well seasoned and balanced just so that, although they would have been absolutely lovely with only water to drink, they let Norm’s wines sing from the (off the menu surprise) 2011 Melon de Bourgogne to the spicy Cabernet Franc.

While Kirk cooked and inspected our food at the pass, Ruby Watchco’s maître chef Lynn Crawford played host and called Norm up from his seat to introduce each wine. Norm confessed that his relationship with Crawford had improved greatly since the two of them worked at the Four Seasons in the 1990’s: he as GM in the front of the house, while she was chef. On how things were in those, Norm joked with the guests that, “We like each other a lot more now than we used to”.

Lora Kirk and Norm Hardie at Ruby Watchco

Chef Lora Kirk and Norm Hardie looked pleased by their collaboration.

Norm was in great form, introducing each wine like a proud father. He told the room, “We make Chardonnay for people who don’t like Chardonnay.” I’ll confess I’ve heard that line of his before, but it always gets a few laughs from his audience because it’s true. So is his follow-up line: “We make wine of the place, not of the grape.”

On the subject of his place, the winery on Greer Road, back at the table Norm was excited about the prospect of spring and getting back into his vineyard. He was also particularly excited by the prospect of his increasing immersion into tomato farming, which fuels the sauce for his patio pizza operation. Ah… to dream of summer sunshine a hot pizza and a cold glass of wine.

Hillside Gardens Parsnips, Charred Almonds & Dill Cream Cheese
Riesling, 2012

Chicken Wing Vinaigrette & Carron Farm’s Red Beets
County Chardonnay 2012

White Navy Beans, Duck Leg, Prosciutto Dust, Confit Butternut Squash
County Pinot Noir 2012

18Hr Braised Beef Cheek, Beef Tongue & Yukon Gold Potato Hash
Niagara Pinot 2010

Green & Black’s Organic Sea Salt Chocolate, Beech Mushrooms, Garlic Chips, Espelette Oil
Cabernet Franc, 2012

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Malcolm Jolley is a founding editor of Good Food Revolution and Executive Director of Good Food Media, the company that publishes it. Follow him at @malcolmjolley