Lift chef Scott Kidd's Quails Egg Benedict dazzled with Chapoutier Tavel, Tim Pawsey photo

Most people know the Wine Festival’s Vintner’s Brunch as the festival’s flagship food and wine event. It usually sells out within minutes of tix being available—even more so now that it’s held in the dazzling surrounds of the new Convention Centre West, with its sweeping ocean-mountain vista.

A new venue for Vintners Brunch, Tim Pawsey photo

Few realize that beyond being a pretty nice grazing event, with food and wine from (this year) 16 restos and wineries, it’s also a keenly fought food and wine matching contest.

This year there were four of us cloistered away (in a windowless room!) judging a plate every five minutes.

Overall, the standard continues to impress, even if, once in a while, we do wonder whether the chef did actually taste the wine before composing the dish… What’s also interesting is to note how well the caterers and cooking schools do in comparison to the restaurants.

Congrats to Lift chef Scott Kidd for his dazzling Quails Egg Benedict (above), which was a first place knockout, even more so with the beautifully balanced, cherry toned Chapoutier Tavel, whose acidity Kidd tied in with a ‘ketchup’ streak.

Savoury Chef Taryn Wa’s Ricotta Gnocchi with braised pork cheeks, with Frescobaldi IGT Maremma Toscana

It was a keen battle between Lift and second place winner Savoury Chef Taryn Wa’s Ricotta Gnocchi with braised pork cheeks, nicely paired with Marchesi de’Frescobaldi Terre More IGT Maremma Toscana 2009, for a very regional match. Ultimately, I suspect, the presentation score tipped it to Lift.

Not to be overlooked, Third place finisher Northwest Culinary Academy head pastry chef Tim Muelbauer, whose Blackberry Peach Melba Bar with basil lemon verbena foam was also a knockout, well matched with the sweet, floral and stone fruited Patagonian Familia Schroeder Deseado Sparkling Torrontés NV.

Tim Muelbauer's seductive Blackberry Peach Melba with Deseado Torrontés, Tim Pawsey photo

Kudos to all the chefs—and to fellow judges, Vancouver Sun Food editor Juanita Ng, sommelier Josh Clark, and wine-chef consultant Tony Lawrence for their harmonious and dedicated work.