Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Seasonal Neighbours' Dine Around

It's now been almost ten years since Boo and I moved into the neighbourhood and one of the constant joys of living where we do is the Neighbourhood Dine Around.  The back story is that six new homes were built at the same time and all six were moved into within a few months of each other.  There was obviously some common ground between all the new neighbours and we were ever so lucky that we all enjoyed each other's company.

We started up the first dine around after we'd all had a year to both settle in and to start adding those individual touches to our homes. All the homes started out pretty much as carbon copies of the same plan.  So, a 45-minute visit to each home for drinks and nibblies allowed for a bit of a snoop as well as some seasonal cheer.

Well that original six-some has seen some changes.  After last summer, we were down to two of the original six couples; however, the replacements have continued to fit right in.  Indeed, we saw two new couples move into the hood this year.  And, then, there's been a bit of an expansion to the guest list to boot.  It started with the addition of Big Red and The Marquis and their house as it shared a fence line with Rock God and Shameless Hussy.  Then Mr. Principled and Nature Boy moved in across the lane and we figured it wasn't too much of a trek to include them as well.  Finally, this is the first year that we're including Irish John - even though he's been one of the chattiest neighbours on the street for years.

Our little seasonal mingler even made it into the Globe and Mail newspaper last month as an article on neighbourhoods.

With a diverse array of foods and cocktails, we're just a little concerned that we've outgrown the coziness of the original event.  Nine homes in one night takes some concerted effort.  And some self-pacing.  That's why I don't have nine different wines to add to The List after the evening - even though there was an assortment of bottles well in excess of what I managed to sip away on.

We started with an oyster bar at one of the new couples on the block.  They went all out on the menu and "obviously" didn't check the blog first to make sure that they were serving a wine that hadn't made it to The List already.  Their Adriano Adami Dei Casel Extra Dry Prosecco (Valdobbiandene Prosecco Superiore DOCG - Veneto - Italy) was a lovely match to the oysters but it's a non-vintage and was added back at #1185 at another neighbourhood party.  I'll have to fill them in a little more before next year's event.

1300.  2010 Les Vins Bonhomme - el petit bonhomme (Jumilla D.O. - Spain)

So, the first wine of the night to be added to The List also has the distinction of hitting another landmark century mark on this Odyssey - #1300!  The wine is getting all sorts of good press locally as a marvellously valued and tasty wine. It's made by ex-Montréal native Nathalie Bonhomme in collaboration with well known, Spanish winery Bodegas Juan Gil.  It's a take on a Spanish GSM, likely explaining heavier use of the M - being Monastrell (the local name for Mourvèdre) - and lighter take on the Garnacha (Grenache) and Syrah.

I don't think that K-Pop and Baby Mama had necessarily intended on matching it with the latkes and applesauce but I could have cared less.  I was only disappointed in the fact that I had to check my sipping on the easy sipper since we still had more six stops to take in.

Those stops kept up the varied approach to the treats.  I tried a bitters and soda for the first time with Cupcake and Haggis, tried a comparison to Boo's homemade eggnog and quite enjoyed the pulled pork sandwiches and great cheese spreads that were served up at those stops.  Of course, there was the milk stout and multitude of brews being poured as we paid a first visit Irish John's place and his "man cave."  I think it was a common conclusion amongst the gang that Irish John has the best view of the city of all our places.  And we're holding him to his offer to host a man cave party in the near future.  I was quite intrigued to hear that the milk stout is made just down the road from us at 49th Parallel brewery.  The hood continues to grow more interesting.

1301.  2007 Hillside Estate Reserve Merlot (Okanagan Valley)

1302.  2008 Hillside Estate Reserve Merlot (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

I don't know how interesting most folks found the mini-library pouring of the Hillside Merlot but it seemed like a fun thing to try since we happened to have both the '07 and '08 vintages handy.  Hillside has been around for some years now but it's not a winery that we patronize all that much.  They did a tasting with the BC Wine Appreciation Society this year and we really enjoyed a couple of their small lot Merlots.

I didn't get my hands on any of the small lot wines but it was nice to serve up the two rather distinctly different takes on the "same" wine.  The 2007 was made from grapes grown in the warmer Oliver region of the Okanagan while the 2008 wine only used grapes from the Naramata Bench - where the winery is located.  I'm not sure about the 2008 wine, but only 400 cases were made of the 2007.  We don't try these comparison tastings very often but it just went to show how common vintage variations can be with smaller, non-brand producers.

It seemed that the slightly fruitier profile on the 2008 was a bit more popular though - if you're taking notes.

1303.  N.V. See Ya Later Ranch - SYL Brut (VQA Okanagan Valley)

We even had a bit of participation from one of our former neighbours.  The Marquis wasn't able to attend our gathering this year, but he sent a couple bottles of the SYL Brut all the same.  This is a BC bubbly that I'm not that familiar with.  It's a very traditional take on bubbly though with toasty brioche notes that are very reminiscent of real deal Champagne.  It was even just named as one of local writer, Anthony Gismondi's, top choices for reasonably priced sparklers for the holiday season.

Our final stop of the night was a bona fide tawny-fest.  Rock God and Shameless Hussy served up an early Christmas present with three different fortified tawny ports.  This is my kind of nightcap; however, you have to remember that, by now, we'd been at the Dine Around for five hours-plus.  Accordingly, I did a quick tasting of each of the wines but I chose to play the good boy and only fully partake in two of the bottles.

1304.  Niepoort Colheita 1995 (Douro - Portugal)

1305.  N.V. Buller Fine Old Muscat (Rutherglen - Victoria - Australia)

Again, I found it interesting to try different approaches to very similar wines.  Both wines are considered tawnies - as opposed to ruby ports.  Tawnies are standardly aged for many years (10+ years in both of these instances) in oak casks unlike the rubies that are bottled much earlier in the ageing process to preserve the deeper colouring and fruitier profile on the wine.  One of differences in the approaches in the two wines at hand is that the Colheita is a more rare-ish, vintage dated tawny port.  Most tawnies are wines that blend in new vintages to end up with a consistent non-vintage profile but the Colheita features fruit just from the 1995 vintage.  Another difference is that the Aussie wine is made from 100% Muscat but the Portugese wine, like most Ports, features a variety of grapes including Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinto Cão, Tinta Francisca, Tinta Amarela, Sousão and Tinta Roriz (and some unnamed others).

I love the fact that two of the named varietals in the Colheita have yet to be added to my tally for the Wine Century Club.  So, that early present from the Hussy was all the more special.  Tinta Francisca and Sousão become grapes #145 and 146.  Season's greetings to that!

As for the third tawny served up, I'll just have to go back to the Taylor Fladgate on another occasion.  As you might easily imagine, we had long become rather tired neighbours and our numbers were diminishing with every passing stop.  For the hardy stalwarts, every oversized couch or chair just seemed to call out as a practical - if not entirely comfy - resting spot.  And you have to know that overflowing chair capacity often leads to unexpected consequences - like spilled drinks - and those consequences are best avoided because you know we'll be doing it all over again next year.  And you don't necessarily want to be the neighbourhood story during the intervening months - especially with the looming possibility of being written up in the papers.

Good thing we have such accommodating and good-drinking neighbours.  I'm pretty much guaranteed a grand entry for the blog every holiday season.  Merry Merry!

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