Thursday, December 29, 2011

Vintage J-T Merlot

With Boo's Christmas wish to drink more of the bottles we already have in our place, I think there are going to be a lot more of these "older" BC vintages making it to The List. It's probably time that we open them in any event, but if this needs to be part and parcel of the Christmas "No Buy Leash," so be it.

1030. 2002 Jackson-Triggs Proprietor's Grand Reserve Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Bruce Nicholson, Jackson-Trigg's previous winemaker (who was still in charge for the 2002 vintage), has been quoted as saying that "Merlot is where we started to make our name for red wines." It wasn't clear to me whether he was just talking about J-T in particular or about the BC wine industry in general, but with the Proprietor's Grand Reserve being J-T's premium label, this bottle should provide some indication of expectations for ageing BC wines, especially since 2002 was seen as an excellent vintage for the Okanagan.

I don't know. The bottle didn't stand out for me as a fave. Don't get me wrong. The wine still exhibited a nice nose and the wine was still solid; but for a supposedly great vintage and a premium label, I'd rather hoped for more fruit to still be evident on the palate - particularly since I find that Jackson-Triggs is big on fruit forward wines.

I won't give up on the age-ability of BC reds, but maybe there's some legitimacy for Boo's desire to get on with drinking some of the older bottles that I'd been trying to hold on. Don't tell him that I said that though. I wouldn't want it to go to his head.

Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Dinner Treat

It was a bit of wine-centric Christmas around here. Not entirely surprising, but rather unexpected. Regular readers will know that Boo regularly tries to place me on a "No Buy Leash." For some reason, he feels that if the wine cabinet and wine rack is full, it's complete overkill to start storing boxes in our second bathtub. Me, I'm thinking we don't use it anyhow - especially since a leak has rendered it useless for awhile now.

In any event, the only gift he asked for this Christmas was my promise not to buy any wine for six months so that we could drink our way through some of the bottles we've already amassed. Feeling rather Santa-esque, I paid a visit to the pet store on The Drive and picked up a dog leash and collar, attached a "No Wine" graphic to it and left it wrapped under the tree for him.

With a proviso. I couldn't give him an outright promise for six months. Bugger that, we're going to Australia in April. But, I did promise not to buy any wine until we go to Oz - UNLESS he gives me pre-approval or it's during the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival.

So what has he done in return? Went out and bought six high end bottles of red - including a 2006 Grange and a 2005 Barossa Valley Estates E&E Black Pepper Shiraz. Those two bottles alone would cover more than a couple trips to and sprees at the liquor store for me.

As tradition would have it, Boo was working Christmas Day itself and wouldn't be able to join us until later in the evening. So the balance of the family met at my sister's home. She's got the kids; so, we've all deemed it most convenient to have Christmas dinner at her place. There were some thoughtful and much appreciated gifts - but, surprisingly, no more wine.

"No more wine" under the tree that is. I don't think there is such a thing as a family dinner around our homes that doesn't involve some wine in a glass. Indeed, we may have even stumbled on the first cocktail that my oldest niece, Stargirl, actually took a second - and third and fourth - sip of. Dubonnet. Works for me.

While Stargirl discovered that our bevy of cocktails weren't all ridiculous, the rest of us got to enjoy a treat that I'd been waiting an awfully long time for.

1028. 2007 Blue Mountain Brut Rosé (Okanagan Valley)

I've enjoyed Blue Mountain wines ever since they were among the first to arrive on the BC wine scene as a premium producer back in the early 1990's. Boo and I served their other sparkler, the Gold Label Brut, at our commitment ceremony in '96 and, then again, at our 10 year anniversary party. Their total production remains rather limited though - at around 13,000 cases annually - and general consensus has always been that their wines are hard to obtain.

I think the hardest of all Blue Mountain wines to find is the Brut Rosé though. This wine has been a favourite of mine at Blue Mountain's semi-annual charity event in Vancouver but I haven't been able to snag a bottle for myself - even though I've been on the winery mailing list for years. That is, until this year! I found out about the "double-secret Brut Rosé-only" mail list and finally secured some.

After all that waiting, it seemed like a no-brainer to me that we pop the cork for Christmas dinner.

The Brut Rosé is made in the Méthode Traditionelle, meaning that the wine is made in the same manner as true Champagne is. That procedure involves an initial, and separate, fermentation of the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay components. Those wines are then blended (about 2/3's Pinot, 1/3 Chardy for the '07 vintage) and re-inoculated with yeast and bottled. The secondary fermentation in the bottle is the traditional means of giving sparkling wines their sparkle or bubbly nature. The fact that the wine is then aged for three years with that yeast - or aged sur-lie - is the reason many good sparklers are often accompanied by a biscuity or toasty flavour note.

The Brut Rosé exhibits slightly more fruit than the Gold Label Brut tends to show and I find that this undertone of red fruit and acidity makes for a thoroughly enjoyable blend of bubbly crispness with a lengthy finish. I didn't find the mousse - or sensation of bubbles in the mouth - to be as explosive as a few sparklers I've enjoyed, but I'm willing to let that slide.

At $35 a bottle, it's far more reasonably priced that a true Rosé Champagne, but for most of us, we might need a bit of a special occasion as a reason for the splurge. I think Christmas dinner qualifies handily.

1029. 2006 CedarCreek Estate Select Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

CedarCreek wines may be somewhat easier to find on BC liquor shelves but that doesn't make them any less enjoyable. If memory serves correctly, the 2006 reds were being made about the time that CedarCreek was looking at trying to re-brand themselves a bit. Part of that re-branding was to take their three ranges of wines and combine them into two. The end result was that wines that were being sold at $30 a bottle were now being blended with the $20 wine - and all being sold at the $20 price tag. The Estate Select series was the end result of that consolidation and we consumers were the winners.

When I think CedarCreek wines, Merlot isn't likely the first varietal that comes to mind. After all, they've had some pretty stellar Pinot Noir's and Syrah's in the past. Not to mention their helping put Ehrenfelser on the BC wine map. But their Merlot is a good, reliable fruit forward wine that is the type of approachable wine that even Stargirl might eventually start with when she's ready to join her Mom's, Boo's and my love of the grape on a more regular basis.

With Christmas dinner now behind us, I'm not quite sure how this physical "No Buy Leash" is going to feel. Looks like 2012 is going to hold a few challenges for me. Not the least of which will be to find a storage place for that bottle Grange. I don't think the bathtub is quite the best choice.

Merry Merry All.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Eve

Undoubtedly, one of the least enjoyable aspects of shift work is the fact that you're often found working the times you'd rather be at home with family. Boo's problem is that hospitals don't tend to close down for Christmas. At least he got home before Christmas Eve was completely done.

And what could be better than coming home on Christmas Eve, after a long day's work, than being greeted at the door with a kiss under the mistletoe and a martini? Well, I suppose following that up with a nice dinner and a special bottle of wine doesn't hurt. At my age, I tend to shy away from martinis and wine on the same evening - but Christmas Eve, like Santa, only comes once a year and I can, hopefully, sleep in and sleep off any ill effects Christmas morning.

1027. 2002 Peter Lehmann 8 Songs Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

This beauty of a bottle was a gift of Christmas past from my niece, Skeletor, (and my sis, Vixen, seeing as how Skeletor would have been ten at the time and wouldn't have had any money of her own). She was allowed to pick any bottle that she wanted and she liked this label. Little did she know that, from past experience, we knew that we were fans of the wine and that 2002 was an outstanding vintage Down Under.

Oh yeah, BTW, Skeletor is 13 now and says she's out-grown the Skeletor bit. As an early Christmas present, she will now - from here on out - be known as Melmo.

As mentioned, Boo and I knew this was a keeper of wine - we just didn't want to have to keep it forever. I was actually a tad surprised - and truly impressed - by the lovely balance of the wine. No fruit bomb, this Aussie Shiraz. Don't get me wrong, there was plenty o' fruit - deep, dark fruit at that - but it was balanced with a softness in the tannins and an overall roundness of mouthfeel. It was a perfect way to enjoy the balance of the evening in front of the fireplace.

Melmo - or anyone for that matter - is welcome to give us another bottle at any time. Santa?

Friday, December 23, 2011

A C&C Christmas

1026. 2006 Luis Segundo Correas - Las Acequias Malbec Oak (Mendoza - Argentina)

As nice as the Inniskillin Malbec might have been at Elzee's last night, it was an entirely different wine from this Argentine Malbec that Boss brought along for the gang to finish off before everyone headed their different ways for the holidays. This is the kind of Malbec that Argentina has become famous for - big body, overwhelming fruit and not overly complicated. It was an easy sipper standing around after the last file had been closed for the day - but it met with unanimous approval from the boys (none of the gals stuck around - wine or not).

This isn't a producer that I was familiar with, but it would seem that I have the Boss somewhat trained. He actually told me that he took out his iPhone and searched the blog to make sure that I haven't had this bottle before. Such dedication. If I could only train everyone that brings a bottle by our place to do the same! I might reach 2001 Bottles a fair bit faster.

The Luis Segundo Correas vineyard and winery have been around for many a year - whether I know of them or not. The Correas family arrived in Argentina at the end of the 16th Century and their viticultural history began in 1860. They currently make wines under five brands and they do so exclusively from estate grown grapes. The Las Acequias brand appears to be a mid-range label, as the $20 price tag in the province's liquor stores would seem to indicate for an Argentine wine.

Not a bad way to end the final working day before Christmas. I think we'll need to work a few more of these week-cappers into the schedule.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Have Yourself a Very Elzee Christmas

With recent and respective travels behind us, we haven't had the chance to catch up with Elzee lately. An invite to come by for some seasonal treats was a welcome surprise - particularly since her folks were visiting and she managed to find a night when a few other friends (whom we hadn't seen in years) were available as well.

She's yet to decide if it's a welcome side effect or a curse, but Elzee claims that hanging around with Boo and I as much as she does has resulted in her ever-increasing enjoyment of - and collection of - wine. We were more than willing to help her free up a bit of space in her overflowing wine rack. Through the evening, we also learned that she's even acting as a bit of an influence on her recently retired brother. Now that he's got some time on his hands, she's encouraging his attendance at some tastings and his taking of a few wine courses.

1023. 2009 Graceland Cabernet Sauvignon (W.O. Stellenbosch - South Africa)

We started the evening with the 2009 vintage of one of the very first wines that I added to The List. Back at #17, we polished off a bottle of the 2005 Graceland Cab. Hard to believe that we're now a thousand bottles on. Boo and I don't tend to drink much South African wine, but, if I had to suggest a South African wine to a friend looking for a good, consistent bottle from there, I'd immediately think of the Graceland.

A small, family-run winery - and, no, that family is the McNaughton's, not the Presley's - the farmlands, come vineyard, were purchased in 1990. The McNaughton's waited until 1998 to release their first vintage and they've concentrated on producing red wines only from that time.

At $30 a bottle, the wine has a bit of job fighting it out for attention with the mass market wines we tend to find from South Africa on Vancouver shelves. The fullness and refined integration of the wine, however, makes it a good choice for a special occasion like tonight's gathering.

With a bit of wine and endless appies quickly disappearing, some very entertaining stories started flowing from all of Elzee's family. Momma Elzee even announced that, from this point on, she would refer to me as "Roberto" since I was so thoroughly embracing the Italian "Dolce Vita." It wouldn't have hurt my case that I arrived, greeting her and Elzee, with a big "Buona Sera Bella" ("Good Evening Beautiful").

1024. 2008 Inniskillin - Discovery Series Malbec (VQA - Okanagan Valley)

The next bottle being added to The List is another label making sort of a reappearance. We haven't had an Inniskillin Malbec in recent memory but I have added two other wines from their Discovery Series - a Chenin Blanc and a Zinfandel. The Discovery Series features a handful of grape varietals that remain relatively unexplored in the Okanagan Valley. Still being produced more on an experimental basis, the winery is trying to determine how viable the production of those varietals might be.

Malbec is being sighted in the Okanagan on a far more regular basis nowadays, but it is used largely for blending in the Valley's Meritage wines. Straight Malbec varietal wines are still relatively rare - and, even when they are produced, the volume is quite low. Indeed, only 590 cases of this wine were made. Thankfully, we got to try the Inniskillin tonight. It wasn't as big as the Graceland Cab but it still matched up nicely with the various meats and cheeses.

1025. 2007 Therapy - Freud's Ego (VQA - Okanagan Valley)

I wasn't as hyped about the Freud's Ego. It's an entry level Meritage blend of Cab, Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot but I found it to be rather light, acidic and green (where the bigger Cab grapes didn't fully ripen). I enjoy the marketing genius that is Therapy but this wasn't a favourite when it comes to the wine.

Our Therapy in the glass was followed by a spirited and therapeutic conversation about the joys of Grappa and its influence in the Elzee family history - and I mean spirited in the best of senses. With Momma and Poppa's encouragement, Elzee pulled out the cherries steeped in homemade Grappa and offered up Caffè Corretto - the latter being espresso "corrected" with a shot of Grappa. Knowing that any caffeine after 4 p.m. renders me unable to fall asleep, I had to pass on the Grappa, but I'm going to look into those cherries a little more after that initial taste.

As fun as the evening was, it was a school night for me and Boo actually got called into work as well, so we had to hug up and wish everyone "Buon Natale." There were some definite "resolutions" to do a little more wine-ing in the upcoming year. Great fun!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Throughout the ages, the Winter Solstice has been a central inspiration for cultural mythologies and traditions. We may not be able to regularly jet off for Stonehenge, Machu Picchu or any one of a number of mid-winter festivals, but our December calendar is inevitably set to celebrate the lengthening days to come at Tyrant's annual Solstice bash.

The inconsistency of December 21 or 22 to regularly align itself on a weekend can prove troublesome to my mornings after. The brilliant food, wine and company always makes it difficult for me to take an early leave in an attempt to remain bright and chipper for work in the morning - but I suppose we all have our crosses to bear.

Tyrant's swank Coal Harbour digs are the normal gathering place but a water leak put the kibosh on that plan. Luckily for Tyrant - and even luckier for us - Boo2 stepped up to the plate and offered his home for the traditional celebration. (Once again, for the record, Boo2 isn't the same as my Boo who's mentioned in every other blog post. I know it's confusing but how do you give someone a different nickname when you've called them one thing for over 30 years? What's up with twins and the nickname "Boo" anyhow?)

The home was awash with friends old and new. I can't often arrive at soirées nowadays and know the better part of the guests. Tyrant makes it easy to fit in a whole batch of seasonal greetings in a fell swoop. That's another bonus of the Solstice party - not to forget the great assortment of wines that Tyrant always serves.

There seemed to be a bigger than usual selection this year, but I centred in on just two wines. Tyrant was serving some high end BC wines but I was pretty familiar with the Marichel and Howling Bluff offerings and they've been added to The List already. Sometimes it's tough to pass up on a known - and tasty - sip, but a limited number of glasses on a Wednesday night (even if that limit is self-imposed) begs me to go with the bottles that can keep me moving on this Wine Odyssey.

1021. 2008 Brancaia Tre (IGT Tuscany - Italy)

Having passed on the BC wines, it might seem a little contradictory to gravitate to the Brancaia Tre - seeing as how this the third vintage of Tre to be added to The List. Seeing as how the '06 vintage was added at #213 and the '05 is found at #884, I won't go into the wine much here. I rambled on a bit about this blend of predominantly Sangiovese (80%), Merlot and Cab Sauv on those other posts. I'll still repeat that I think it's a bright concept to call the wine Tre (Italian for "three") since it incorporates the three varietals, is sourced from the winery's three estates and was the third wine that Brancaia produced. And here we are with a third addition of Tre to The List.

I mentioned in those other posts that I prefer this blended Sangiovese to most of the Chianti's I've tried in our market. It's an easy drink at a cocktail party - especially here where it matches up nicely with the abundant nibblies. The Merlot and Cab seem to add a little something more approachable in fruit to the wine.

I'm only showing the one plate of food but I figure it'll give you an idea of the range of goodies available. Tyrant's love of fishing guarantees an equally expansive seafood platter and the steady stream of hors d'oeuvres makes it easy to keep washing the food down with more wine.

I'm not entirely sure how I managed to get through the evening without a shot of the Tyrant himself, but you'll have to be satisfied with some of the regular suspects. Gotta give it to Matinder. Where does one find a brilliant Santa Hawaiian shirt? Everyone should have one! I suppose he and Jeaux are just getting into the mood before they run off to Antigua. They're doing their best to talk us into joining up with them there for some libations on the beach - wine, rum, whatever. "There's plenty to be had" they assure us.

For the moment though, we'll have to settle for the cool climes of Vancouver - as warmed up by a touch of Spain.

1022. 2009 Bodegas La Candaleria - Cubo Tempranillo Selección (VdT Castilla la Mancha - Spain)

Tyrant was one of the first wine lovers I know that gravitated to Spain and its new and improved position on the world wine stage. I always like to see what little treasures and bargains he might have uncovered. The Cubo Tempranillo is new to me and I quite enjoyed it.

I couldn't find out much about the winery but it appears to be a collaborative effort between four former members of a regional collective.

The VdT - or Vino de la Tierra - designation indicates a level of wine that is higher than basic table wine but hasn't been recognized by the more more stringent controls of the (supposedly) more premium, regional appellations (DOC or Denominación de Origen). I didn't find any site that explained the wine's VdT designation instead of a DOC label but Castilla La Mancha is the region located in the heart of Spain, largely surrounding Madrid.

Unfortunately, the time passed far too quickly. With the days starting to get longer now, it just meant that the morning was going to approach that much faster. But it was a wonderful celebration of the season. Many thanks to Tyrant and Boo2. Here's an early RSVP to next year's bash (hopefully).

Can't Act. Slightly Bald. Also Dances.

Some might think that the owners of Foxtrot knew me. But, then again, no. I think I can act - otherwise how would I have gotten the role of Henry Higgins in My Fair Lady back in high school?!

Rather, the quote on the back label of our next bottle refers to casting notes taken for one Fred Astaire while auditioning for his first movie. But, more on that later.

This is the first Foxtrot wine to be added to The List; however, it might be the only wine that's been mentioned in this blog three or four times before I've even opened a bottle.

1020. 2007 Foxtrot Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

This isn't the first bottle of Foxtrot Pinot Noir that Boo and I have enjoyed. We had a bottle once while dining out at Whistler before I started this blog. We were rather taken by the bottle back then and would have loved to make it a regular at our dinner table. There's just that little hurdle of a $50-$60 price tag.

The Foxtrot vineyard has been a source of quality fruit on the Naramata Bench for some years, having been planted with Pinot Noir in the mid 1990's. Back then, the grapes were being sold and, indeed, we just had a bottle of Kettle Valley Foxtrot Pinot Noir a week or two ago. The vineyard was purchased by the Allender family in 2002; however, they took a couple of years to learn more about the wine industry before they produced their first vintage in 2004.

Production was extremely limited during the initial vintages - less than 400 cases in 2004. However, it took no time for the wine to be noticed and christened one of BC's premium Pinot Noirs. The limited production and near cult-like status makes it pretty hard to find - even you'd like to pay the asking price. I bought this bottle at a silent auction at the Hot Chefs Cool Jazz fundraiser in 2010.

And I've been itching to open it ever since.

The 2007 may only be the fourth vintage from Foxtrot but its vaunted presence on the BC wine scene was further cemented when the wine was awarded one of only eleven Lieutenant Governor's Wine Awards in 2010. Not hard to understand why once we'd opened the bottle. The rich smoothness of the wine, bright nose and focused fruit meant that our bottle disappeared far too quickly.

As for the promise to return to the label and to Fred Astaire, the story goes that the vineyard was named "Foxtrot" back in the early years because, during one the first harvests, a black bear was found eating the grapes for a number of days running. The bear had a habit of standing on its hind legs and shuffling, almost as if he was dancing. The workers took to calling the bear "Fred" - after Astaire - and, with the "original" Fred being celebrated most for his unparalleled abilities in the foxtrot - the biggest dance of its day - a name was born. A dancing Fred, the bear, now graces both the label and the name of the wine.

Finding some more for a special occasion may need to become a bit of a priority.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pie & Wine

Two neighbourhood holiday bashes in two weekends. What's with that? You might actually start thinking that we like our neighbours.

But, how can you not get excited about a "Pie & Wine Party?" OK, so I don't think I've ever been to one before, but I like pie and I love wine; so, what's not to like?

This time around, it's not a group affair but a more manageable house party being hosted by Nature Boy and Mr. Principled. There was a pie sale fundraiser at work and Mr. Principled did the right thing and bought a full selection of pies for the evening - even so far as to have a gluten-free crust and sugar-free filling available.

This was not necessarily an evening to attend if you're at all concerned about fitting that Christmas party dress or New Year's Eve tux - unless you have some serious self control. The pies were all made by a collective of grannies and stay-at-moms and you know that they had their pie crusts down and flaky. It was sort of like Lay's potato chips - you couldn't only eat just one piece.

N.V. Civ & Civ Lambrusco di Modena - Amabile (DOC Lambrusco di Modena - Italy)

There were plenty of wines to go with all the pies as well but, wouldn't you know it, I started with a non-vintage wine that I've already added to The List. They may have changed the label and the district may have received DOC appellation status since I added it as #590, but it's still the same wine and I can't (not even as a Christmas present to myself) add it to The List a second time.

I was rather rushed at the time I wrote about the earlier bottle though (note to self: when aren't you running behind with these posts?) and didn't say anything about the wine. Lambrusco is both a grape varietal and a type of wine that is made from the grape (and/or its many clones). The wine can often be found in a somewhat sweetened version, called amabile, that has some slight frizzante or sparkle to it. At one point in the 70's and 80's, Lambrusco was the biggest selling Italian import in the US. Not so much any more.

I don't recall going gaga over the bottle we'd previously tried and I can't say that this bottle did a whole lot for me either. If I'm thinking about a fizzy red, I'd definitely lean more to a Brachetto d'Acqui or a Sparkling Shiraz. The sparkle for the evening, therefore, needed to come from the conversation and with neighbours such as Nature Boy, Rock God and Shameless Hussy in attendance, you know there's going to be no shortage of things to talk about.

1019. The Fort Wine Company - Ghost of the Bogs White Cranberry 180 (Fraser Valley - BC)

Unfortunately, the second wine that I tried tonight didn't do anything more for me than the Lambrusco did. Mr. Principled said that this bottle was sold to him as a dessert wine. I don't know what kind of desserts the clerk likes to eat - but they sure can't involve sugar at all. At least the winery website refers to this as a "table wine" and not a "dessert wine." Although some might take it as a good thing that the wine truly reflected the base flavours of the fruit it was made from, if you want to imagine this wine, just imagine biting into a raw cranberry. Not my favourite flavour profile for a beverage (although I do like cranberries floating in my Metropolitan martinis).

The winery was started back in 2001 when tugboat captain and cranberry farmer, Wade Bauck, had an abundance of cranberries. He has since expanded into producing six table wines - from cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, pears and apples - and five dessert wines - again from cranberries, blueberries and apples and raspberries and blackberries as well. I didn't see a vintage on the wine label but I did not the number "180." I'm not sure if this is maybe the 180th bottling of the wine or something like that but I can't say as I'll be worried about rushing out for another vintage so that I can add that bottle to The List. Not so likely.

Al lin all, not the best night for new wine sensations. Good thing I like the neighbours.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Kiwi Sauv Blanc? Really?

I can't say as I know anything about Villa Maria, perhaps a little surprising in that the little medallion label says that it was "Wine Enthusiast" magazine's 2007 New World Winery of the Year. Guess I'll learn a little given this bottle's addition to The List.

1018. 2007 Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc (Marlborough - New Zealand)

When you take a look at the glass in the picture, you'd think the deep colour belies the wine's Kiwi heritage. I saw that carmelized colour and immediately thought that the wine might have been oxidized - particularly since it was a 2007 vintage. But neither Boo nor I thought it was oxidized; the acidity was still up front and central and there was still fruit to be found. I doubt the wine was as fresh as it was likely meant to be. But, all the same, I'd be surprised if the wine started out nearly that deep in colour. What makes it even a little more mystifying though is that the bottle was under screwcap. If anything, that should have extended the life and freshness of the wine.

The wine didn't really have any of those trademark characteristics for Kiwi Sauv Blanc. I can tell you that there definitely wasn't any "cat pee" or passionfruit in this glass.

It was all rather surprising given that Villa Maria is apparently one of the leading producers in New Zealand and they, alone, make seven different Sauvignon Blancs. I could see some non-characteristic traits being present in the wine if it saw a non-traditional approach or was sourced from a very specific vineyard, but the Private Bin is pretty much an entry level wine and, as such, would normally be as true to the varietal as you'd expect.

I'd be interested in trying another bottle to see if we just had an uncharacteristic bottle or if this is really what the winery was aiming for. I suppose it should likely be opened a whole lot closer to the release date though.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A Playhouse Festival Favourite

The brochures for the 2012 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival are available now and they're always good for some reading - not that I can take in nearly as many events as I'd like to. I figured I'd use the brochure's appearance as an excuse to pull out one of the wines that I picked up at a previous festival. I don't always remember the wines I grab at the Festival on-site store but there wasn't much question about this one. I don't know that I would have picked it up otherwise as the $30 price tag is a bit much for a Portugese white that otherwise would have been of unknown quality.

1017. 2008 Touquinheiras Alvarinho (DOC Vinho Verde - Portugal)

When I see a bottle of Vinho Verde, I generally think of the young, light, fresh wines that add a little summer pétillance to your glass. Although this wine is still from the Vinho Verde appellation in Portugal, it is from the sub-region of Monção in the very top of the north-west corner of the country near the border with Spain. In this region, a Vinho Verde known as Vinho Alvarinho is made as well. This wine is made from strictly Alvarinho grapes and is higher in alcohol and has none of the fizz.

This was one of my favourite white wines from the 2010 Playhouse Fesitval. I quite enjoy looking for the new dry wines coming out of Portugal as many producers are following in the footsteps of some of the New World wine regions and introducing some serious modernization into their winemaking. Quinta do Touquinheiras is part of the Wines and Winemakers by Saven group. Saven's concept is to identify "innovative craftspeople who are at the forefront of modern technology, while staying true to the unique flavours, characteristics and personalities of each region" and then working together to market and get the wines out into the world.

Touquinheiras only produces three wines, the Alvarinho, a Vinho Verde closer to the lighter wine I've come to know and a brandy. I haven't seen or tried the other two wines but the Alvarinho was big with fruit and citrus. I saw one writer proffer a tasting note of "lemon butter." I kinda like that.

And I definitely still liked the wine - even if it took almost two years for me to finally open it. So, here's to the finds that are still to be discovered at this year's upcoming Playhouse Festival. I can't wait.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Margaret River, Please

It might be a tad early to start thinking 2012 - after all we've still got the better part of December 2011 to get through. I'm kind of okay, though, if you just want to whisk me through the next couple months and drop me off in April. That's when Boo and I are heading Down Under to tip back a few glasses with the likes of Merlot Boy, Sheila, Margarita and their assorted countrymen.

I'm hoping that one of the highlights of that upcoming trip is going to be our stint out to Perth and Western Australia. The plan is to make the time to head out into Margaret River wine country. I think I've mentioned more than a couple of times in the blog that I definitely have a "wine-on" for all things Margaret River. It started with a bottle back in '96 when I first visited Oz. Problem was that, when I got back home, there were no more than one or two wines to be found from that region in our stores. The availability of Margaret River wines in the Vancouver market has become a little easier with the passing years but I still wouldn't say that we have an overwhelming selection.

Maybe that's why the region still has such a cachet for me. That being said, I was quite looking forward to tonight's bottle.

1016. 2001 Sandalford Cabernet Sauvignon (Margaret River - Australia)

I don't rightly recall how we came about having this bottle in our wine racks. Sandalford isn't a winery that I'm familiar with at all. However, knowing my predilection for the region, I may have just seen Margaret River on the label and grabbed the bottle from the shelf. It turns out that Sandalford has quite the history in Western Australia. The winery was actually established back in 1840 when the original Sandalford lands were granted to the retiring Surveyor General who oversaw the establishment of the European colonization of Perth and Freemantle. The lands were quickly planted with vines and the birth of Western Australia's wine industry was under way.

That original vineyard is found on the Swan River which is just outside of Perth. It wasn't until 1970 that the owners of the day expanded into the Margaret River district, a couple hundred kilometres south of the city. Margaret River was clearly establishing itself as a region for growing premium grapes though and Sandalford felt that they needed a presence there.

The most recent change in ownership at Sandalford occurred in 1991 when the Prendiville family purchased the company and, since then, they have invested many bucks and hours to take the winery to a new level. The Prendiville's have extensive experience in the hotel and hospitality business and they've looked to capitalize on the wine tourism aspect of the industry. Indeed, they've won a number of tourism awards in Western Australia over the last decade.

As for the wine, for a 2001, we found it incredibly well-lived. Everything was still there - fruit, body, structure - we quite enjoyed it. It was definitely a cooler climate approach when it comes to an Aussie Cab's and it was much lighter in body than Cab's we're used to from Oz but, as mentioned, it did exactly what I hope for from my Margaret River wines - and that's to leave me wanting more when the bottle is done.

Looks like Boo and I might have identified a potential stop on our Margaret River sojourn.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Neighbourhood Dine Around Comes Around

Despite the fact that I was out last night for what was likely my first "last call" in I don't know how many years, the old "no rest for the wicked" proved itself true because I had to get right back on the social horse and wagon and get ready for our annual Neighbours' Dine Around. The players may have changed somewhat and those involved have expanded a bit over the years, but the basic premise of spending a short time eating and visiting with our neighbourhood gang during the holiday season remains the same.

The array of food and drink never ceases to amaze me and tonight was no exception - even if I wasn't fully participating in all the wines and cocktails that were available.

1013. 2008 Mon Ami Rascal GSM (VdP Meditterannée - France)

After a bit of jockeying for positions, this year's extravaganza started off with Cupcake and Haggis and, being the rascal she is with all things witty, Cupcake served up the cutest little olive, carrot and cream cheese penguins. The kids loved them and you can count me in as one big kid. Whether they went along with the GSM is irrelevant - they were too cute to care.

Mon Ami Rascal is the house blend made for the earls restaurant chain by the Perrin family in the south of France. GSM (or Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) is a traditional Rhone blend and, as you'd likely expect with a house red, it's an easy drinker with plenty of fruit and easy tannins. It's an easy way to start the evening avec nos amis rascals.

1014. 2010 Thornhaven Estates Gewürztraminer (VQA Okanagan Valley)

BabyMama and Arty400 offered a butter chicken as well as a vindaloo curry. I could have easily just chowed down on a couple heaping bowls of this and called it a night - but I had to show some restraint and limit myself to just a sample since there were another four homes to visit - and stop #2 is still considered appies in the greater scheme of things.

I always look forward to seeing what wines Arty400 serves up since he's a bit of wine fiend and he's always on top of the latest suggestions that Barb Philip, one of Vancouver's resident Wine Masters, is touting. I totally get serving the Gewurtz with the curries and the Thornhaven exhibited all the classic characteristics of a Gewurtz, but it wasn't my favourite wine of the night.

I didn't get to spend too much time with Nature Boy and Mr. Principled at their stop because I had to make a quick exit to get our place all set up, but I was able to hang around long enough to try their most delicious lamb stew. They matched it up with a very tasty red wine but I only had time for a quick sip and didn't even catch the name of the wine. I may have to try and follow up on that with them.

1015. 2009 Stoneboat Chorus (VQA Okanagan)

Boo and I teamed up to make a tourtiére seeing how it's a classic Québécois dish to serve up at Christmas. I'd never tried making it before but, if I do say so myself, it was pretty darned good. Boo made one of his best crusts ever and the filling was bang on tasty. When our tourtiére got the seal of approval from Marquis and Red, our resident Montréalers, I knew we'd pulled it off.

I offered up both a white and a red as the joy of tourtiére is that it'll match up with almost anything. An earlier vintage of the Chorus was added to The List a couple of years back, at #336, when the wine was still called "Nebbia." A blend of six white varietals, it's a summer sipper kind of wine that captures all the fruit of the Okanagan. I figured it would match nicely with the pork and crust.

Plus, the wine's a bit of Christmas present to myself because I'm going to add the Schönburger varietal to my Wine Century Club list this time around. I didn't add the grape last time because it's only provides a small percentage of the blend, but I'm adding all the varietals I find in blends nowadays since I've finished off the initial century. Besides, I rather doubt that I'll run across many wines that feature Schönburger in anything more than a supporting role.

2006 LaFrenz Shiraz (Okanagan Valley)

I brought the LaFrenz out simply because it's a beautiful wine and it made sense to share LaFrenz with our friends. Actually, I didn't exactly have to foresight to think of that little witticism before I opened the bottle but I'll use it since somebody pointed out what a nice idea it was. Credit where no credit's due. Gotta like that. I found the wine to be a little more acidic that I recalled in the past, but that was likely a good thing with the flavours of the tourtiére.

I do know that everyone was asking about the LaFrenz. So, I guess I'll let that make me feel a bit better about the fact that I served a wine that's already on The List. I'm not supposed to do such a silly thing.

By now, I was starting to fade a bit, but there were still two homes to visit. I kind of made an executive decision to back off on the wine though when I started nodding off - martini in hand - in a cozy old couch at Shameless Hussy and Rock God's place. At least I didn't spill the martini at all or start to snore. I don't know that I'd be able to show my face in the neighbourhood after such a faux pas.

As if they haven't seen way worse.

A double dessert and quick massage in Widya's "alien attack" chair basically spelled the end of evening for me. No cigars or Port this time around but it was yet another great little affair for the crowd. Now it's time to diet before the rest of the Christmas dinners to come.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Deke Xmas Dinner

A regular stop on the holiday party circuit is the Deke Alumni Christmas Dinner. It may have been over a couple decades ago that I was partying away all those university nights at the fraternity house, but it doesn't take much of an effort for some pretty crazy memories to surface and leave us laughing in stitches. And, there's always the bonus of having ready made nicknames for many of these guys. I don't have to come up with a "nom-de-ma-blog" when the boys have been known as Flounder, Bear, Army and Archie as long as any of can remember.

The organizers of this year's event changed up the standard old sit-down dinner buffet by booking Salt Cellar and creating a bit of mash up of a dinner and a beer/wine garden. I quite like the venue but the only events I've previously attended at Salt Cellar have been wine tastings since the restaurant only serves cold plates. That was hardly a damper on the evening - although I think more than a handful of the boys finished of the meat and cheese plates and wondered when dinner was coming. There was more than one suggestion that we see if it was possible to order in some pizza - just like old days at the Deke House.

It was a BYOB event - as in "buy your own booze" - so Beamer and I split a couple bottles of wine and caught up with some of the regulars and a few others that we haven't seen in what could be decades.

1011. 2008 Camelback Sangiovese Shiraz (Heathcote - Australia)

Salt is known as restaurant with a very well thought out wine list - many of the wines I knew but there were more than a couple of surprises. This Camelback was one of them. Not only was it from a producer I hadn't run across before but a blend of Sangiovese and Shiraz is hardly a classic - even for the Aussies. Seemed like as good
a place to start as any.

Camelback is a second label produced by the Galli family - along with Galli Estate. The operation is fairly new as it started up in 1997 and the family has vineyards in two regions of Victoria state in Australia, the Heathcote area being about 100 kilometres north of Melbourne. The innovative blend of 79% Sangiovese and 21% Shiraz stems from the family's transplanted Tuscan roots setting up shop Down Under. I quite liked it. I often find Sangiovese and Chianti wines to be a bit acidic and light bodied, but the Shiraz added some nice fullness and deeper fruit to the wine. I'll watch for more of their wines.

1012. 2008 Elderton Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa Valley - Australia)

I never did get a shot of Beamer's bottle but he continued with the Aussie theme on the wine. When Beamer checked in to see if I was copacetic with the choice, I told him that I invariably find Elderton wines to be well put together and good value. The Barossa Estate Range of wines is a mid-range label and is a nice example of Aussie, New World Cab - plenty of fruit but still showing enough restraint that you can appreciate the nuance of wine's levels.

Not that those nuances really mattered at all with this gang. The wine wasn't so much an accompaniment to fine dining as it was a lubricant to drag out some of those old stories of mud- and jello wrestling, of regrets from having passed out in common areas (luckily those weren't my stories) and party themes that we likely could never pull off nowadays. The slide show of times passed elicited some major "Did we really do that?" and "Whatever happened to him?" moments. Weren't times ever so much simpler back in the 80's?

As much as we'd barely tapped all the tales that were still there in the memory banks, folks started drifting off once the food had been finished off. There were groups headed for the aforementioned pizza, others to watch the girls at No. 5 Orange and still others headed off for a beer at one of the local gin joints in Gastown.

Beamer, Tyrant, Boo2 (he's "2" because he's not my Boo but he was "Boo" to us long before my Boo was even on the scene), Jake and I were counted among the latter group. We never did find the other gangs but I did finally get to Chill Winston, a Gastown pub that's looked interesting for years. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but time sure flew. I had to ask our waitress if I could give her a hug when she announced "last call." I told her that I can't remember the last time I heard those words while out at a bar and that it's like she was the fountain of youth.

The problem, however, with encountering "last call" on a Friday night during the holiday season is that getting home is hardly going to be a piece of cake - even though I only live three or four miles away. We ended up hiking the whole length of Gastown in search of a cab. We didn't find any cabs but we did find late night hot dog vendors on almost every other corner. I'm not sure what it says about your evening when you grab a dog at the first wiener wagon and then stop again two blocks later for another. I do know that I'll likely always have a fondness for a spicy Polish dog from now on. "Bring on the spicy Poles," I say. (Inside joke folks.)

As for the late night photo, you can tell I didn't have a tripod and there were no flat surfaces that could be used to stabilize the camera. Despite the fun of the evening, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Spanish for Gumbo

The leftover turkey leg confit didn't last too long (lordy, I don't think I'll ever cook turkey by a different method ever again) but, luckily, we didn't finish off the gumbo at the Dinner Club either. Having accompanied the gumbo with a Pinot Noir the other night, I figured we could try it with a white. To our good fortune, there was another bottle still hanging around after the Dinner Club - not because we never got around to serving it, but rather because I'd used a cup of it in the gumbo and the rest of the bottle was simply a bystander until now.

1010. 2009 Castillo de Monséran - Viura (D.O. Cariñena - Spain)

The Viura comes in at under $10 and that's likely why it was never served at the Dinner Club - those wines tend to be a bit tonier and there might have been a few raised eyebrows. Don't be fooled though. This isn't your standard $10 wine. In the Vancouver market, Castillo de Monséran is best known for its Garnacha (or Grenache) wines. It's been a "go-to" bargain for years. Indeed, its premium wine only goes for $14 or $15 and both the premium and the entry level wines always seem to impress when folks find out how much they cost.

I'd grabbed the Viura because I knew the Monséran name and I thought I might gain another new varietal for the Wine Century Club. That new varietal part didn't pan out. Viura is another name for Macabeo and it's one of the primary grapes used in making Cava. Already on my list. But the Monséran label lived up to its reputation. The wine is obviously being made as an entry level wine; however, it had a freshness and pleasant acidity that belied its price point.

I couldn't find any references to the winery - other than sites shilling the wine - but my guess is that it might be a mass market brand, maybe produced by a cooperative of Spanish growers.

I should also admit that I made up the bit in the post title. Viura isn't Spanish for "gumbo," but it went fine as the wine in the gumbo and it went just as well while accompanying the soup. I've often heard that you shouldn't cook with a wine that you're not willing to drink on its own. I think we can work on both fronts here. Too bad that we're starting to run out of Dinner Club leftovers.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Leftovers Anyone?

A side benefit from hosting the Dinner Club last night is the leftovers. We may not have finished cleaning and putting away all the dishes, glasses and pots yet, but we do get leftover turkey confit in a stir-fry and, to top it off, we get the bottle of Tinhorn Creek that barely got tried last night.

1009. 2008 Tinhorn Creek Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Surprisingly, we didn't really need the extra bottle last night but we opened it because Jeaux wanted to give it whirl since she and Matinder brought it along and she'd never tried a Tinhorn Pinot before. That meant it was already opened, it only made sense, therefore, that Boo and I work on the bottle a little further tonight.

With Tinhorn Creek being located in the Southern Okanagan and having vineyards on the Golden Mile and Black Sage Road (home turf for many of BC's big reds), I don't generally think of Tinhorn immediately for their Pinot Noir. Sandra Oldfield and company do produce two Pinot Noirs though - a more general release under the Varietal Series (like this wine) and a reserve under the Oldfield Series label.

The release of this 2008 vintage was delayed when the Tinhorn folks discovered, during library tastings, that their Pinots "showed a much greater character after an additional year of aging." Rather than release the wine on a regular schedule, the winery actually went a year without having Pinot Noir available for sale because they wanted to age the Varietal Series wine for two years in the bottle before making it available to the masses (the Oldfield Series get three years in the bottle prior to release).

Personally, I think I like the bigger fruit of Tinhorn's other reds. But, if you consider the fact that this bottle sells for $20 - when some of the top BC Pinot Noir's are now hitting $50 and $60 and many others are north of $30 - it's not a poorly priced wine. It definitely showed some Pinot-esque earthiness to it but it also featured a high acidity that definitely rendered it more enjoyable while we were putting away the turkey than while it was being sipped on its own.

It might have seemed similar to the Californian Pinot we tried last night, but I don't know if it would have held up as much with the two Kettle Valley wines.

I'll still love Sandra and Tinhorn though. This bottle may not be my favourite but I'd still give the Oldfield Series bottle a try when it's released.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cajun or Creole Christmas - Take Your Pick

Months ago, when the gang kibitzed on setting up a date for our Dinner Club, everyone just happened to be available tonight - despite the December date. The concensus was, "wouldn't a Christmas Dinner be a nice thought" - even Boo and I felt all warm and fuzzy, despite the fact that we were going to be the ones hosting it.

Having just returned from our little Louisiana adventure, we figured it'd be neat to capture a little of the ample flavours that surround you in New Orleans and environs. During our visit, we asked around for tips on an authentic Louisiana Christmas dinner and all the answers were that "anything goes." If you like it - and so long as there's lots of it - it's authentic. But, if throwing a couple baby alligator heads in amongst the table decorations doesn't add a little Cajun authenticity, I don't know what possibly could.

If you've taken a look at some of the other posts that tell of our Dinner Club escapades, you'll know that I score all sorts of wines on The List after each of the dinners. Not so much this time - but it wasn't for a want of libations. Indeed, there was even wine left over at the end of the night and that's not a common occurrence.

It's possible, but I wonder if Boo's old family recipe for scratch eggnog had anything to do with it? That baby is pure rum, bourbon, cream, sugar and eggs and you know darned well that it packs a wallop. It's just so hard to stop sipping away! We started with the eggnog and that easily replaced our normal two or three bottles that accompany the hors d'oeuvres. Speaking of, I scoured some New Orleans catering sites and we decided on serving mini muffalettas, spiced pecans and crab-stuffed mushroom caps.

And then, it was on to dinner and a little wine.

N.V. Sumac Ridge Tribute Gold Brut (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Our first wine of the night isn't going to be a new addition to The List because it was already added back at #774. We wanted a little bubbly to start off the evening - not only because it suits the holidays season, but because there aren't many combinations that say extravagance more than bubbly and caviar.

A little caviar may not be the most common of Southern dishes but no one can tell me that this little delicacy hasn't graced more than a few plantation dining rooms on special occasions. Besides, I wanted to use the little ice bowl molds that we picked up. Dinner Club and shooters aren't probably the best of combinations; so, using them as serving dishes seemed like a grand use to me.

I'd put out some feelers for a bit of white wine as well, but none arrived. It was amusing that every single person brought along a Pinot Noir when lighter reds or bigger whites were requested.

1005. 2003 Hallcrest - Veranda Vineyard Pinot Noir (Santa Cruz Mountains - California)

I'd rather envisioned serving a white with the gumbo but red Pinot works fine as well. I find that I generally don't get much of an opportunity to write about the wines during Dinner Club postings but there are a couple of interesting points I'd like to mention - at least for this wine. I'm not aware of Hallcrest (that old, whole "don't drink a lot of California thing" again) but the fact that this bottle was individually numbered prompted me to look a little further. After all, it's not too often that we open Bottle #1443 out of a total of 2340.

Hallcrest was established as a working vineyard and winery back in the 1940's; however, it's undergone a couple of changes in ownership since the Hall family got the ball rolling. As you might guess from the bottle numbering, the winery is noted for its small lot production. The Santa Cruz Mountains AVA (or American style appellation region) is one of the largest; however, it also offers a multitude of microclimates. Hallcrest takes advantage of that diversity - are Americans quick to use "terroir?" - as it works with seven different vineyards and produces single vineyard wines.

Seeing as how the winery only produces about 5000 cases a year, I'm not entirely sure how this bottle made its way up to Vancouver. It certainly didn't come across as a big Californian red - as some Cali Pinots still manage to do; so, it was a refreshing start to dinner, but I don't think it lived up to some of the others we opened tonight.

1006. 2009 Joseph Chromy Pinot Noir (Tasmania - Australia)

Having the Joseph Chromy to serve up was a surprise as well. Boo and I discovered the winery during last year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. I actually picked up a couple of different bottles at that time but they're still sitting in our wine racks. Guess we got a bit of preview tonight.

We opened the Tassie wine and quickly found that we needed to open the next bottles as well. It is now decided that Pinot Noir matches up nicely with turkey leg confit. I knew that I wanted to try the confit - whether it was true to N'Awlins or not - and duck fat is certainly tasty in any language or cuisine style. The gang were completely in agreement with me on that point. The cornbread stuffing, yams and brussel sprouts were as southr'nly authentic as it gets though.

1007. 2001 Kettle Valley - Hayman Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

2001 Kettle Valley - Foxtrot Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

Tyrant brought along a matched pair of Kettle Valley Pinots for us to try as a parallel tasting, but I guess you can tell he's a regular drinking bud of Boo's and mine because the 2001 Foxtrot has made two appearances in this blog already - and it was supplied by Tyrant on each occasion. It was added to The List at #310 and it would have been added again at #488 if a bottle hadn't already graced our table.

We had a number of takers when it came to trying the two wines side-by-side. Problem was - if you can even call it a "problem" - was that no one could pick an immediate favourite. We were all going back and forth in naming a "winner." There were distinct differences between the two wines and one sip would have you picking the Foxtrot, the next sip made you think twice about the Hayman's. Kettle Valley is known for producing a large number of small batch wines; so, it says a bit when co-owner and co-winemaker, Bob Ferguson, is quoted as saying that the Hayman Pinot Noir is one of the three wines that he's most proud of. I don't think there was anyone at the table that would have turned down any of the Foxtrot either though.

As if there hadn't been enough food to force us all into pre-Christmas diets, Boo and I each served up a dessert since both of our signature dessert specialties are Southern - Boo impressed with one of his best pecan pies ever and I went for a pumpkin bread pudding. Indeed, if Cajun/Creole is what you're looking for, mine's been adapted from a recipe I picked up with Jeaux at the New Orleans School of Cooking almost 20 years ago - and I'm still cooking it as a Christmas tradition all these years later.

1008. 1999 Graham's - Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage Port (Portugal)

Special desserts call for a special treat - and I think it's fair to say that Vintage Port fits the bill nicely. The Quinta dos Malvedos vineyard is acknowledged as one of the finest properties in the Upper Douro region and its fruit forms the backbone of Graham's declared vintages. The 1999 wasn't an overall "declared" vintage by Graham's though; that designation is reserved for exceptional years and those wines see fruit blended from five different Graham's quintas. In the years that aren't declared a general vintage; however, the winery will take the best fruit from the Malvedos vineyard and release a single vineyard Malvedos vintage port. This is one of those bottles. it might not have been as structured and layered as one of Graham's bigger Ports but few, if any of us, would have known and this bottle was more than worthy of our dinner table.

So, only adding four bottles to The List after a Dinner Club extravaganza is a far cry from the ten that I added after Tyrant's dinner back in the summer, but I think we still did okay.

On the other hand, I don't know if we truly captured either a Cajun or a Creole sensibility with the food and menu but, really, who cares? It was darned tasty.

A Christmas Work Out

After a brief stint of vacation de-tox, we're now settling in for the holiday season and we're off to quite a first weekend in December. First up is my office party and that's going to be followed immediately by Boo's and my hosting of the Dinner Club. We won't even make it to Jeaux and Matinder's annual Christmas Bash this year since it's the same night as my office party.

It's become a bit of tradition for the C&C gang to head to one of two sister restaurants downtown. We're going French this year and, surprise, both of the wines that were being served were French. Go figure.

1003. 2009 Loron & Fils - Montvallon Chardonnay (AOC Bourgogne Blanc - France)

For a company that's been around for almost 200 years, there wasn't much to be found out about this Loron & Fils wine. They have a number of wines featured on their website, but this isn't one of them. I did see that Loron & Fils is now into its sixth generation of fils (or sons) though. Being wine merchants that specialize in Beaujolais and Mâconnais wines and the fact that this wine is produced under the general White Burgundy appellation, my guess is that this is an entry level wine for mass market export and that it is made from Chardonnay grapes that have been sourced from throughout the region.

It's pleasant enough as an easy drinker and it matched up nicely with the hors d'oeuvres that were offered - particularly the shrimp - but I don't know if it's a wine that I'd order off the menu for myself. It seems to get its fair share of glowing reviews in Canadian wine press though and a price tag of under $20 at the liquor store is pretty good for a white Burgundy.

1004. 2010 Domaine Gayda Three Winds Syrah (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France)

The evening's red was a Syrah from the south of France. In fact, it's the newer vintage of the same wine that we had last year at the holiday dinner. That vintage was blogged at #664; so it looks like we managed to get through 340 wines over the course of the year. Not exactly a bottle a day but pretty darn close (especially since we haven't had a bottle in a week or so).

With that post at #664, I discussed what constitutes a Vin de Pays wine and the overall French wine appellation system in a fair bit of detail; so, I won't repeat myself here but that post is still there for anyone wanting to read a little more.

I wasn't blown away by the Three Winds last year and I'm afraid it still didn't really do anything for me this time around either. I kept some on hand to accompany my steak au poivre, but I moved back to the Chardy for a last glass once the steak was done.

The return to white seemed to make a little more sense than moving on to the hard liquor or fortified sips. Boo and I had a busy day ahead of us and I didn't really need to end up kissing or punching any of my colleagues. The stuff staff party stories are made of tends to scare me nowadays - particularly when some of our crew are known to love tripping the light fantastic. The layout of the restaurant didn't allow us to create our own dance floor, but that didn't stop Betsy from doing her best to get a bit of a dance under way. Unfortunately, a number of folks had already made their way home before we managed to take command of the volume control and music choice. A full scale dance party never did break out this year.

That might have been a good thing for my morning after though. And, now the holiday season is officially under way.