Friday, November 13, 2009

Bella Paella

Our last wine stop for the afternoon was at the Muse vineyards. I know more about the winery from its earlier life as Chalet Estate. Bella Jianna and Flyboy B used to live a couple of kms down the road and we inevitably made the trek to the winery whenever we managed to spend a weekend. Those treks include some mighty fine times - including a (much delayed) wedding reception (for Jianna and Flyboy), a 40th birthday party and a fine old barrel tasting in the cellar.

Chalet was sold in 2008 and the change in ownership also saw a change in name this year to Muse. We trust that we'll still be able to visit and enjoy some fine times - and fine wines. We were rather surprised to see that some of the old Chalet Estate wines were being sold and were told it was because there weren't that many bottles left in the cellar and they needed to clean house a bit. So we quickly grabbed a few that we remembered as faves so that we would be able to add another few to The List as we progress.

Then it was home to actually try one of the Muse wines.

227. 2006 Muse Pinot Noir (Vancouver Island)

The Saanich Peninsula isn't known as a hotbed for growing red grapes, but this bottle is labeled as being "Island Grown." I don't know if the grapes were all estate grown or whether the estate Pinot Noir vines were supplemented by other grapes from elsewhere on the Island. All the same, it was light and pleasant enough to start the evening off as we prepped for dinner.

A lot of people have a signature dish and Bella Jianna has always been justifiably proud of her paella - in fact her prowess was well established years ago when she was still one of the legendary (at least in my life) Kits Girls. But the story of the Girls was briefly told in an earlier posting; so, I'll keep this entry paella-centric.

When most of us still thought pizza and beer was a great dinner selection, BJ not only knew what paella was but she could already serve one up with aplomb. When she offered to prepare it, there was no question that we'd take her up with pleasure. It's been a long time since I've got to enjoy one of her standout meals, but it was great to see that it had only improved with time.

Our Bella Jianna also decided to keep with the theme of the day when it came to refilling our wine glasses. Once the Muse Pinot Noir was history, she brought out a bottle from one of our other stops during the day's tour.

228. 2007 Church & State Coyote Bowl Merlot (VQA - Okanagan)

Although we, indeed, stopped in for a tasting at Church & State at the Island location, the fruit going into their Merlot is actually grown at their vineyard on the Black Sage Road, just down the way from Burrowing Owl. I don't think I know of anyone brave enough to try Merlot on Vancouver Island - yet. Who knows what might be in store with global warming and all? But for the time being, a wine this big and juicy is going to need a tad more heat units than the Island can provide.

This bottle was gone as well by the time we were done with the paella. So, our hosts brought out the final wine to complete our day's tour. It wasn't a purchase from the day, but it did allow us to pay some respect to Marley Farms, just as we had to our other stops for the day.

229. NV Marley Farms Kiwi Solera (Vancouver Island)

This is a non-vintage wine that was "named" for a richness and depth that was reminiscent of sherry. The traditional method of making sherry in a series of barrels that are fractionally blended each year is called a solera. When we tried a tasting of the wine earlier in the afternoon, I asked the woman serving us if the winery used an actual solera system to make the wine and she replied in the affirmative.

I can't find any reference, however, to the use of the actual system on the website. This is a specific and expensive means of aging wine; so, I think the winery would want to advertise that fact as much as possible. BC author John Schreiner writes that Kiwi Solera is aged for two years in oak. So, I'm left thinking that Marley Farms is simply referring to the taste profile and not the vinification process.

Not that it mattered at the moment we opened the bottle. I supposed that's more of a blog concern. At the time, we were looking for an accompaniment to our cheese, nuts and jam. The afternoon's taste seemed more honeyed to me than the evening's bottle but, since Bella Jianna had bought this bottle a couple of years ago, this drier, more oxidative taste might just have been indicative of another couple years of storage.

But, hey, how often am I going to get a chance to add a Kiwi wine to The List - regardless of the production methods. Let's be real.

All in all, it was a good day for us - and for The List.

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