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Brandon Sun - PRINT EDITION

Watch what you're pairing wine with -- and have a beer on the side

Hotels and casinos are lit up along the strip in Las Vegas.

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Hotels and casinos are lit up along the strip in Las Vegas.

I learned a really valuable lesson a few weeks ago.

Well, perhaps I should say relearned it, because I knew better than to do what I did. But circumstances that were initially disappointing turned out for the best and, come to think of it, I actually benefited from two lessons, not just one.

I was in Las Vegas to watch my brother Grant play in the Valley National Eight-ball Association World Pool Championship and to enjoy some me-time in a warmer climate.

I love Vegas, especially for the fab food and wine that’s always on offer. So this was a chance to do two things — be a supportive sister to my bro and indulge in the amazing gastronomical offerings in Sin City.

Which I did. I really enjoyed watching Grant and his amazing and talented friends strut their stuff against other dedicated enthusiasts from around the world. The Brandon team made out OK, placing about where they expected to in the final standings.

We enjoyed some social time, too — the evening at the C Bar in the Stratosphere (where most of the folks were staying — I was at The Flamingo) stands out since we partied as a group. So does the three-hour visit I enjoyed with my brother both on the observation deck at Strato — what a view! — and in the Level 107 Lounge, which sits one floor above the revolving restaurant.

At both those locations in the Stratosphere, I enjoyed sipping on J. Lohr Riverstone Chardonnay. This California product is rich and flavourful, boasting apple, tropical and stone fruit flavours with some citrus and toasted oak thrown in for good measure. It sells here at home for $20.80 a bottle — I paid $12 a glass for it in the Level 107 lounge.

I detailed some of my other food and wine adventures in last week’s column, but didn’t have enough space to delve as deeply as necessary into this next one. And this is where the lessons come in.

I discovered, on the very last day, a place called The Yard House, at which I ended up having both lunch and dinner. Last week, I wrote about the ahi tuna dinner, accompanied by Meiomi Pinot Noir (California), I had at The Yard House. But it really was at lunchtime that the idea for this column came about.

Crab cakes with mango salsa seemed like the perfect idea on a hot day — the whole time we were in Vegas it was between 37 and 43 degrees, and as a heat-seeker, I loved it. I ordered a glass of Kendell Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay (California) to accompany my lunch, but I asked the server to delay the order a bit so I could have what The Yard House calls a ‘shorty’ — a six-ounce glass of one of the 160 beers they have on tap (I love the idea of a small glass for $3 to $4.25 — a great way to sample from a bunch of options). I chose Longboard Island Lager from Hawaii because I’d liked it when I was in Maui four years ago and I hadn’t had it since.

The server must have misunderstood or misheard my request, because much to my dismay, I got the beer, the crab cakes and the wine all at the same time. But here’s where it really got interesting.

The crab cakes were delicious, and so was the mango sauce and salsa. But despite the fact that the Kendall Jackson Chardonnay is lovely and buttery with a bit of citrus and some oak (it sells here for $19.49), it was terrible with the crab cakes. Well, let me rephrase that. It was great with the crab cakes. Just wretched when the sweet mango accompaniment came into play. The wine tasted sour and downright nasty, and that was totally my fault. It was absolutely the wrong choice with a sweet-accented meal. Which I should have known it would be.

However, dismay quickly turned to gratitude, because the server’s faux pas rescued my lunch. The beer was terrific with the crab cakes and the mango. It was bitter enough to be a great foil for the sweet salsa. While the rules of food and wine pairing suggest the wine should either be the same (sweeter wine with sweet food) or opposite (dry wine with sweet food), I just picked the wrong wine for the latter option to work — the Jackson was too complex and too heavy and citrusy. Obviously, I wasn’t thinking.

Anyway, as I said, the Longboard Island Lager saved the day — I enjoyed it with my small meal and — here’s the other tidbit — it acted as a palate cleanser afterward, too. A few more sips of Longboard after the crab cakes were finished, and I turned back to my glass of wine, which, thanks to the revitalizing quality of the beer, tasted delicious — just like it was supposed to.

Anyway, last but not least, at the airport, my new buddy Jill and I — she’s as much of a dedicated wine drinker as I am, but red is her favourite — had to have a glass (or two) as a send-off. And we found a great wine list at one of the two little places (not the Mexican one) in the Allegiant Air departure area.

I had the Altitude Project Chardonnay, which was bright with tropical fruit flavours and a hint of citrus. I thought it was really good. Jilly had the Seaglass Pinot Noir, which she gave me a sip of, and it was lovely as well — cherry with a hint of strawberry. I’ve rarely found such palatable wine at an airport. So this was quite a way to take us home.

Many, many thanks to Grant, Ken, Jill, Del, Les, Ray, and Lisa for allowing me to tag along on the trip. I had an absolute blast.

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 28, 2014

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I learned a really valuable lesson a few weeks ago.

Well, perhaps I should say relearned it, because I knew better than to do what I did. But circumstances that were initially disappointing turned out for the best and, come to think of it, I actually benefited from two lessons, not just one.

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I learned a really valuable lesson a few weeks ago.

Well, perhaps I should say relearned it, because I knew better than to do what I did. But circumstances that were initially disappointing turned out for the best and, come to think of it, I actually benefited from two lessons, not just one.

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