Fishing For Wine
The gods of fishing are fickle. One day you can catch a dozen, including a 22-pound lake trout, and the next you’re skunked. The only constant on our annual fishing trip is the wine.
For 13 years now I have been fishing somewhere in northern Canada (barbless hooks, catch and release) with five guys — Steve, Sam, Art, Harold and Larry, who stood in for the late, lamented Leo. Every year it was Leo who showed me the Palomar knot to attach a swivel to the line; and every year in the interim I would forget how to tie it. Leo died in February and without his tutelage I tied it. He must have been guiding my fingers — wherever he is.
This year our trip took us to Peterson’s Point Lake Lodge, a 90-minute floatplane ride due north of Yellowknife and 50 miles below the Arctic Circle. They say about the North West Territories that if you put all the mosquitoes on one end of a balance and all the caribou on the other, the mosquitoes will outweigh the caribou. Battalions of them, along with black flies and horse flies lie in ambush for you if you don’t spray yourself and wear a bug jacket.
The slogan of Air Tindi, the local airline, is, ‘Fly the Burgundy Tail,’ which augured well because the thing about our fishing trips is the wine. From Sam’s Aladdin’s cave of a cellar we bring up enough to supply three-bottle (sometimes four-bottle) shore lunches and wine for dinners back at the camp. These bottles are chosen to match Steve’s elaborate lunches prepared over a wood fire on sandy island beaches. I don’t want to make you jealous, but here is a little of what we had.
On the first day, a Friday — before we flew into the camp — we fished for pike on Great Slave Lake, 20 miles out of Yellowknife. The guides, Greg and Mike, cooked cornmeal-crusted pike with beans and fried potatoes, accompanied by Tawse Pinot Noir 2006 in magnum, and Jaboulet Crozes-Hermitages Vieilles Vignes 1996, also in magnum.
Saturday: On arrival at Peterson’s we had a late lunch rustled up by Betty, the camp cook, of fish soup and biscuits washed down with a magnum of Torres Grans Muralles 1996.
Sunday: Shore lunch — Steve made beer-battered trout, fried potatoes and beans served with Trimbach Tokay d’Alsace Reserve Personelle 2003 and 1985, and Hugel Gewürztraminer Vendanges Tardive 1983.
Monday: Cajun blackened trout with fried potatoes and corn, with Dauvissat Chablis ‘La Forest’ 2002, Egon Müller Schartzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2004, Hugel Gewurztraminer Cuvée Tradition 1995 and Trimbach Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 1983.
Monday: Miso-marinated trout with vegetable fried rice, with Albert Mann Tokay-Pinot Gris Furstentum, Hugel Pinot Gris Vendange Tardive 1982 and Williams Selyem Pinot Noir Sonoma County 2004. (After this Sam remarked, “You can go to a three-star restaurant in Paris but there’s nothing like shore lunch.”)
Tuesday: Fish pasta with Dauvissat Chablis ‘La Forest’ 2001, Domaine Schlumberger Riesling Kitterlé 1983 and Vineland Estates Meritage 1998 in magnum.
Wednesday: Wasabi-crusted trout with sesame mayonnaise, tomatillo salsa, fried potatoes with garlic and green peppers, with Egon Müller Schartzhofberger Riesling Kabinett 2004, Domaine Schlumberger Riesling Kitterlé 1983 and two bottles of Hugel Gewürztraminer Homage à Jean Hugel 1997.
Thursday: The grand finale is Steve’s traditional bouillabaisse, for which he brings up mussels, scallops, lobster and shrimp to augment the trout. He serves it with rouille and toasted bread. The accompanying wines: Dauvissat Chablis ‘Vaillons’ 2002, two bottles of Dauvissat Chablis ‘La Forest’ 2001 and Le Clos Jordanne Pinot Noir Le Grand Clos 2006.
In the camp dining room there hangs a sign that reads, “God in his goodness sent the grapes to cheer both great and small. Little fools will drink too much and great fools not at all.” Amen to that.