Renowned for reds, but whites too, Tim Pawsey photo

It’s entirely possible that the impressive Sidecut / Painted Rock 4 x 5 course winemaker dinner (that’ll be four courses each of five plates or accompaniments) that we enjoyed at just concluded Cornucopia entailed the most food we’ve seen at one sitting!

Sidecut Salmon Pastrami, Tim Pawsey photo

Much like the winery with whom they partnered, it’s apparent that Sidecut, the Four Seasons Whistler edgy but laid back, very modern steakhouse, doesn’t do anything by half measure. We won’t torment you with the quite remarkable lineup of appetizers that arrived over the course of a couple of hours before we got to the main event. However, there were more than a few good pairings that showed off the prowess of both winery and kitchen.

After a string of so many successes and awards in its still young existence, most people tend to associate Painted Rock with red wines. However, one of the stars of this evening was the superbly balanced Painted Rock Chardonnay 2010, ($30), which has just the right amount of well integrated oak to carry—not mask—the generous stone fruit and tropical notes, which sport a definite mineral hint, wrapped in a perfect weight. As there were no less than five dishes that arrived with this wine it was tough to pick a favourite although it did pair well with octopus, prawns and grilled smoked tomato.

 Syrah is fast becoming the red varietal to watch in the Okanagan Valley. That’s not surprising, especially when you consider wines like the Painted Rock Syrah 2008 (appealing bacon and gamy notes on top, before a mouth-filling pallet of black fruit and pepper spice, wrapped in firm tannins, $40) that cries out for tastes like Sidecut’s mushroom agnalotti carbonara with Parmesan and pork belly.

Painted Rock Winery enjoys a dramatic site overlooking Okanagan valley's Skaha Lake, Tim Pawsey photo

Painted Rock proprietor John Skinner credits BC wine guru John Schreiner with suggesting he plant Syrah on the warm Skaha Bluffs site, which could well become one of the first, if not the first, Okanagan Valley Sub-Appellation. Ask Skinner about the timing and he’ll tell you ‘soon.’ It’s not a straightforward process, although Skaha Bluffs has some of the most well-defined boundaries and the fewest number of wineries, that should make it relatively uncomplicated. We’ll see …

Sidecut’s hallmark is steak (‘with an edge’): that’ll be Steak with a capital ‘S’, serious cuts of prime Alberta 40-day aged Canadian beef, carved table-side, in this case the 52 oz ‘Cowboy’ cut Porterhouse, and the 36 oz. bone in ‘Longbone’ Rib Eye, also served family style.

Painted Rock Cabernet with Sidecut 52 oz. Porterhouse. You might want to share, Tim Pawsey photo

It was only fitting that the (well monikered) Painted Rock Icon 2009 ($55) and similarly worthy Painted Rock Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 ($40) were reserved for the evening’s ‘main event’. Adding to the tasting fun was a lineup of Sidecut’s house-made sauces, ranging from ‘Yuzu Wisely’ yuzu to the less exotic but still nicely crafted ‘E Steak Sauce.’

Best wine match? Take your pick. Neither one of these power-house drops would have been capable of disappointing. Plus, it also depended on which sauce you put with the meat. We decided it wouldn’t be productive to blast our Icon with a shot of Chili fired Red Herron (although had we kept some Syrah, we might have tried that).

Sidecut housemade sauces, tailored to every palate, Tim Pawsey photo

The more complex, black fruited Icon blend, which is layered, silky smooth and superbly rounded, went well with the leaner Rib Eye, while the more assertive but still elegant tannins of the Cab Sauv. played nicely against the fattier personality of the porterhouse.

Here’s what we said (North Shore News) following the 2010 Lieutenant Governor’s Awards, when Painted Rock first burst on the scene:

When the wraps come off, of interest in particular are the newcomers who show up. Given the tough field, it’s a sure sign that the neophyte will surely be a winery to watch. This year in particular, it was Painted Rock Vineyards, who scooped awards for their Red Icon 2007 blend and, interestingly enough, their ’07 Cabernet Sauvignon. If you’re Okanagan bound this summer, aside from tasting through their impressive range, a visit to their lilliputian tasting room poised spectacularly over Skaha Lake is worth it for the view alone….”

There’s no question that Painted Rock’s unique terroir and site plays a dominant role in the quality that shows up in the bottle. However, there’s also a serious lesson here: if only more new wineries would understand the true return, from the beginning, on engaging an outside consultant—in this case it’s Bordeaux-based Alain Sutre, who now or previously has consulted to Osoyoos Larose, Le Vieux Pin, Poplar Grove and Burrowing Owl, among others.

If you’re in Whistler in the next few weeks you’ll find a ton of great dining deals, including Sidecut’s wicked $34 per person three-courses (Wed-Sun through Dec 11, tax and tip extra) that includes appetiser and dessert, plus a chance to enjoy the Cowboy (4 people), Long Bone (2 people) or 12 oz. Rib Eye or 10 oz. New York (one person).

The kicker? A condensed list of wines (including Painted Rock Chardonnay and Syrah) offered at half off the regular price.

l-r Four Seasons Whistler Resort sous-chef Edison Mays jr., Resort wine director David Foran, Painted Rock owner John Skinner, Tim Pawsey photo