Monday, July 4, 2011

Saltspring Cocktails & Dinner

Upon arriving on Salt Spring, we'd meandered our way along the island roads for a bit and located Tyrant's new digs. The consummate host that he is, Tyrant poured a glass of Island wine so that we wouldn't have to take our tour of the property empty handed. I doubt there are many wines that could live up to a first impression of the Tyrant's den, but this was a lovely start.

844. 2010 Garry Oaks Pinot Gris (VQA Gulf Islands)

There are three wineries situated on Salt Spring and Tyrant said that he'd been trying to get a bit of a grasp of what the island had to offer. He'd quickly discovered this Pinot Gris and was giving it a bit of a go as a "local" house wine. Add a little sunshine, the magical location and some lively conversation and it's easy to declare this crisp white a great start to the weekend.

I won't go into any real detail about Garry Oaks winery at this time - other than to say that it has a limited production of less than two thousand cases. The better part of that production is from grapes that are grown on the ten acre estate. They have found that, with the Island's climate and a cool but long growing season, they can grow a combination of whites like Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay and a few reds like Pinot Noir, Zweigelt and Leon Millot. They have a bigger red, Fetish, that they make with Okanagan grapes but that is apparently being phased out as they prefer to stick with the locally grown grapes.

Unlike most BC wines using the varietal, this Pinot Gris is actually fermented in barrels and sees some aging on its lees (the yeast remains) which adds a rounder richness to the wine while maintaining a bright acidity. We quite enjoyed our welcoming glass and needed a refill before we'd even finished viewing the property.

It's easy to see why Tyrant has taken to the new property so completely. Located on one of the "larger" lakes on the island, I'm going to hope for plenty additional opportunities to knock back a whole lot more wine that we can add to The List down the road. The fact that the new home doesn't have any sort of wine cellar - yet - is no deterrent at all. I'll be happy to BYO.

Since we knew Tyrant was going to have a hectic day in the kitchen tomorrow prepping for the Dinner Club, we suggested that we go out on the "town" and eat at one of the local restaurants. Tyrant still hadn't been to House Piccolo in Ganges yet. Boo and I had dined there years ago and remember it as a memorable meal; so, we had our plan. As a bit of a novelty, Boo had picked an appetizer of herring two ways and our hostess suggested that he try it with a traditional Scandinavian accompaniment - ice cold Aquavit.

The Aquavit was one single shot though and since our dinners were all over the map - from herring to goat cheese and lobster risotto to lamb - we needed a wine that was going to be compatible with a wide assortment of flavours. I think we ended up with a nice choice.

845. 2008 Alderlea Pinot Noir (Vancouver Island)

I'd remembered trying Alderlea for the first time when Boo and I had crossed the Strait and gone to Vancouver Island a couple of years back. As much as Alderlea is acknowledged as a leader in Island wine production, we just never seem to see their wines over on the Mainland and in Vancouver. That's no doubt related to the fact that they, like Garry Oaks, produce fewer than two thousand cases.

Pinot Noir is one of the "most desired" red varietals that has been identified as a good fit for both Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands; however, Alderlea's owner and winemaker, Roger Dosman, has stated that Pinot is still a marginal grape for the region. In order to help ensure that his fruit fully ripens, he tents his Pinot Noir vines with plastic for a couple of weeks in the Spring. He finds that it creates a bit of a greenhouse effect and can help ripen the fruit a couple of weeks earlier than the vines would ripen otherwise.

This was the first Alderlea Pinot that I'd had and it was as nice as the other Alderlea wines that we'd sampled on that last trip to the island. With any luck, I might find a couple bottles in the local wine shops that I can take home with us.

Having done a good job on the Pinots - both Gris and Noir - we were in a fine mood to mosey over to the waterfront and take in the Canada Day fireworks. We hadn't even known that they were going to occur. The thought of jostling with all the fireworks folk didn't ring quite as appealing as the idea of heading back to Tyrant's for a bit of a nightcap though. So, we just jumped in the car and made our way back to the lake.

846. 2007 Orofino Red Bridge Red (BC)

It had been a long day and we didn't quite polish off the whole bottle, but that's no indication of the quality of the wine. This is the third vintage of Red Bridge Red that I'm adding to The List - the 2006 can already be found at #448 and the 2003 was one of the first wines to make it to The List, being #12. This was the first occasion, however, that Tyrant could remember having been introduced to Orofino's wines. Like us, he'll be returning.

Red Bridge Red is an eminently reliable wine and it's a great example of what BC Merlot - the province's most widely planted red varietal - can be. Being such a nice wine, it's a little surprising that the wine is only shown as a "Product of British Columbia" on the label and doesn't show any higher designation. Owner and winemaker, John Weber, hasn't found that he needs to participate in the VQA program though and, while Orofino is located in the Similkameen Valley, the fruit used for Red Bridge Red is actually purchased from grower Chris Scott and his Oak Knoll Vineyard located over the near-by hills in Kaleden. As such, the vineyard is neither Similkameen, nor Okanagan designated.

Big and full, a relaxing glass a the perfect way to end the evening. And the fact that there was a bit left just mean that the potential for breakfast just got better. it was was going to be a big day tomorrow, so a restful island slumber beckoned.

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