Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dinner at Elzee's

The Labour Day long weekend is upon us and I decided that it was just going to be a bit too much work to pull off a repeat of last year's Tea Dance - and too many of the gang had decided to vacate the city this year. Luckily, Elzee decided to work away in the kitchen and have us over for dinner.

Dancing would be optional.

2008 JoieFarm Riesling (Okanagan Valley)

Elzee had just returned from a bit of trip to the Okanagan and she'd come back with a bit of collection of new bottles. Accordingly, she needed to make a bit of room for the incoming bottles and brought out an oldie but goodie. Problem - if you want to call it a problem - is that I've already added this vintage of JoieFarm's Riesling to The List at #211.

No complaints from this boy though. I liked it then and still like it now.

We never need to worry about going home hungry or not enjoying the dinner when an opportunity to dine at Elzee's is presented. I don't know if it's the Italian heritage or not, but the food is never ending and it's always tasty. She's often stated how she likes to use Boo and I as "guinea pigs" for a new recipe she's run across - and we generally leave asking for a copy of it.

In addition to the Okanagan trip, she'd also recently been to Vancouver Island and she, magically, managed to come home with a salmon fresh from this year's fishery. We'd had a bit of tip off on the main course; so, we opted to bring along a Pinot Noir to match up. Having just enjoyed the rather stellar Elephant Hill Viognier, I opted to grab another Kiwi wine that I'd been holding on to for awhile. If Elephant Hill became a new addition to a New Zealand "wish list," a visit to Central Otago is right at the top of that list.

908. 2004 Carrick Pinot Noir (Central Otago - New Zealand)

The Central Otago region claims to be the Southernmost wine producing region in the world but it's pretty new as far as winemaking goes. The first commercial release from the district was only in 1987. It is already, however, gaining a reputation as one of the very best regions for producing Pinot Noir. Even eminent British wine writer, Jancis Robinson, has been quoted as saying that, "Many believe this is where the Pinot grail is to be found."

Three-quarters of the grapes grown in Central Otago are Pinot Noir and the region is best known for intense and vibrant wines. Like most Kiwi wines, however, Central Otago wines are almost invariably found in the premium sections - at premium prices. The region's wines can be hard to find in the first place, but, when you do find them, you have to be ready to bite the bullet. This bottle clocked in at $45 - which, believe it or not, is rather reasonable for a Central Otago Pinot in our market; maybe even on the low side of the spectrum.

Carrick recently announced that, following the minimum three years of organic farming, the winery's vineyards and winemaking practices have been certified as fully organic. They are even taking some aspects of their processes to full bio-dynamic levels. I don't really have the opportunity to discuss the concept further at this time (the blog does feature some discussion in other posts) but a quick mention might be to say that the winery follows the earth's natural rhythms and uses only natural composts and yeasts.

I particularly liked one quote on Carrick's website where they stated that they'd "noticed that the wines sometimes stand out when we are tasting them and often it is a 'flower or fruit' day on the biodynamic calendar. We are aware that one large UK supermarket chain doesn't taste wines on a root day!" If you're like me, you may not have even known that there are such things are "flower or fruit" days. My calendar must be full of "fruit days," I think. I also have to wonder if the word "root" has the same slang meaning in New Zealand as it does in "Oz." That might make wine tasting a bit tougher.

My questionable wit aside, I'm not sure the degree of organic practices were being followed back in the days of the 2004 vintage; however, I often find that wines purporting to have been made pursuant to biodynamic practices are often bigger than their counterparts - and this wine was certainly big for a Pinot, even by Otago standards. Perhaps even a bit much for our salmon. We had no trouble finishing off the bottle however.

909. 2007 Naked Grape Ice - Unoaked Vidal Icewine (VQA Niagra Peninsula - Ontario)

Elzee had a final treat for us as well. First, it was a new frozen lemon dessert (her trademark lemon tart being an all-time favourite of mine). And that was topped off with an icewine from the Niagra Peninsula.

I'm a bit surprised that Naked Grape even produces an icewine. The label is one of the mass market wines that forms part of the Canadian wine juggernaut that is Vincor (itself part of the worldwide Constellation brand). Icewine isn't a wine that I'd commonly associate with a mass market. It is a VQA product; however, so the winemakers must have followed the prescribed requirements in making it. I might have suspected that the grapes were simply frozen and pressed but that wouldn't be allowed under VQA guidelines.

Mass market or not, it was a lovely way to finish a delicious evening.

I'll also just put out the note that Boo and I are certainly open to offering our services to others needing guinea pigs as well.

Will bring wine.

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