Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wine Blogging Wednesday 73 - Spark

I was a late arrival to Wine Blogging Wednesday. Indeed, my first post wasn't until WBW65 and the whole collective effort seemed to lose steam shortly thereafter. (I hope it wasn't something I said!) For those of you who aren't in the know, Wine Blogging Wednesday is an online wine gathering conceived over six years ago by a New York blogger, Lenn Thompson, as a monthly, virtual conclave. The concept is simple enough. It's been previously recapped as, "people interested in wine, the world over, would coalesce each month around a single theme." Each month, a different host blogger determines a topic for that month. Anyone interested submits their postings or e-mail comments to the coordinator. Those musings are then consolidated and shared.

After a hiatus of almost a year, The Corkdork has proposed a revival to get those juices flowing again. WBW73 was announced as "Spark" and The Corkdork urges us all to "revisit the wine that turned you on to the infinite wonder of the world of wine." One joy of Wine Blogging Wednesday is the variety of approaches that all the bloggers take. There may be one common topic, but the array of responses can astound. This time around, I'm breaking the mold myself.

I don't think I can "revisit the wine." I can, however, definitely connect with "Spark" as a theme.

Once people discover I'm a real wine fiend, I'm often asked, "What's you're favourite wine?" It can take some effort to convince them that I'm not avoiding the question when I reply that I don't really have a favourite wine. For me, the enjoyment found in a wine is more that just what's in the bottle. Rather, it's a mix of the story and romance behind the wine, the surroundings you find yourself in, the people you're sharing the wine and moment with and, of course, the liquid that's in the glass. That combination of factors is pretty much the raison d'être of my blog, but it's also the reason why I can't really pinpoint a specific wine.

As a means of answering that "What's your favourite wine" question, I'd been planning on posting a look back on five of my favourite memories where wine played a critical role in capturing the moment. My hope was that the post could show what a "favourite" wine might be for me. Today's WBW topic is a perfect opportunity. All five occasions happened before the start of this blog and, except for one exceedingly special wine, I can't even say what the specific wines were. They all show how wine plays an integral part in adding some "spark" to my life though.

Not surprisingly, one of our favourite drinking buddies, Miss Jaq, features prominently in this first reflection. Long before gay marriage was a reality in Canada, Boo and I had a commitment ceremony for friends and family. Miss Jaq was in Europe at the time and couldn't attend. She promised to make up for it with a special gift when we were scheduled to catch up with her in Amsterdam later that summer. Boy, did she deliver.

Miss Jaq treated us to an evening cruise of the Amsterdam canals. She was told that there was food and wine on the boat; so, we didn't have dinner beforehand. Little did we know that the food was a bit of processed cheese and crackers and that the wine was nothing to write home about. There was a red and a white on each table and that was all that was memorable about the wine. However, most of the tables weren't occupied and that made for a whole lot of opened wine that seemed to migrate from table to table.

We quickly got into the habit of kissing every time we passed under a bridge. If you've seen the Amsterdam canals, you know there's a bridge at the end of every block. That made for a lot of kissing - and all of those kisses were inevitably followed by a sip of wine. All the other tables quickly joined in on our bridge tradition and by the end of the cruise, we'd been drinking wine out of Miss Jaq's new designer shoes and there wasn't much wine left on any of the tables.

I guess it goes to show that you don't need a $50 bottle of wine to build a memory around.

On the other end to the scale though, there are some wines that can never be forgotten. I'd decided that my 50th birthday was going to be a low key affair - a few friends over to our place for cocktails in the garden and dinner at Pear Tree, our favourite restaurant in Vancouver. Another of our drinking buddies who's found throughout this blog, Tyrant, raided his substantial cellar to bring along his last bottle of 1982 Penfolds Grange, one of the icons of Australian wines. This wine I remember - not only because we don't often get the opportunity to drink a wine of this pedigree but because I still have the label as well. We tried a number of lovely wines that evening but the Grange stood out - even after close to 30 years in the bottle. It was as flavourful and sound as any wine you'd like to try and it still had a depth to it that very few wines can match. It's one wine that everyone at my birthday still reminisces about.

Australian Shiraz's have definitely played a big role in sparking my interest in wine, but while the next wine was enjoyed in Australia, if memory serves, it was a Tasmanian Pinot Noir. Back in 2002, Boo and I were lucky enough to fit in a short visit to Tasmania and perhaps our most memorable activity there was a day trip to Wineglass Bay. It was mid-week during the Australian spring and the Tassie tourist highlight wasn't all that busy - particularly once you got past the initial viewpoint. We only ran across one other pair of hikers that were willing to make the hour long trek from the viewpoint to the actual beach - and that was on our way back from the beach.

We took along a picnic lunch and had virtually the entire beach to ourselves. There was a small group of folks at the other end of the beach but they were still maybe a kilometre away from us. What more could you ask for? Your own private beach, a picnic and the aptly named Wineglass Bay. Any number of wines would have fit the occasion and provided a "spark."

Next up is another once in a lifetime sip with Miss Jaq. Boo and I visited her when she was working in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates and we took a bit of weekend excursion with her to Liwa, an oasis town on the edge of the Saudi Arabian border, the Empty Quarter and the Arabian Desert. A little sparkling French Champagne (does it really matter which one?), endless dunes that hit heights of over 300 metres, a desert sunset and one of your best friends. That's what memories are made of.

My final "spark" involves twinkling lights as opposed to sparkling wine. Rome is the scene for this memory and, again, I couldn't hazard a guess as to the wine we enjoyed. I know it would have been Italian - after all, "When in Rome..." - but it could have been any red from anywhere in the country. Our hotel was located on the Aventine - one of the Seven Hills of Rome - and there was a deliciously named park, the Giardino deli Aranci (the Orange Garden) only a block or two away. The park offered a glorious panoramic view of the city centre and the Vatican, but it was decidedly quiet for Rome and we sat on the cliffside wall and toasted La Dolce Vita as the sun set and the city lights appeared.

And there you have it. No single "spark." I apologize for that, but life is, hopefully, full of memorable sparks - and, for me, there's often a glass of wine involved. I rather think it would be a little sad to only have "a favourite wine." After all, this blog is all about discovering the endless appeal of and approaches to wine. I might not have tried an actual bottle of wine to add to The List, but here's to having all sorts of favourite wines.

Hearty thanks to The Corkdork for coordinating another gathering of Wine Blogging Wednesday. I'm rather hyped about this potential start of a new run. To all the other bloggers and blog visitors out there, "May the spark be with you!" I hope to see you at WBW74.

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