Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mayan Apocalypse or Night On The Town?

Wasn't sure whether I'd still be around to write this post or not.  What with the Mayan Apocalypse being predicted and all.  But here I am - and happy to be so, I might add.

Never one to let an end of the world threat get in the way of a good party, Tyrant continued to schedule his annual Winter Solstice party for December 21.  As his invite astutely stated, "End of the World you say? Well then I'd better have another glass of wine."  The thought was that if we were all going to go up in a big poof, we might as well be having fun with friends, drinking fine wines and nibbling on an endless supply of tasty treats.  Heaven may have its allure for many, but I'd say this party was a pretty good stab at "heaven on earth."

And for once, the soirée fell on a weekend night!  The good news was that I wasn't going to be obligated to play nice, limit myself to a couple of drinks and head home to be ready for work in the morning.  The bad news was that, if the world didn't really come to an end, I still had a lot of Christmas to plan for.

Thinking that we likely would all still be around come Saturday morning, I played it safe - even if I was one of the last to leave.  As always, Tyrant served up a full array of wines at the Solstice party but I only worked my way through a trio of the wines being poured.

1321.  2010 Marichel - Estate Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The fact that Tyrant opened a case of Marichel wines was a good indicator of his largesse - or his fear that the end of the world really might be nigh.  Marichel is the Naramata Bench winery that only produces wines made from two Rhône varietals - Syrah and Viognier - and they've never made more than a thousand cases in total.  I rather like their website blurb regarding their philosophy on winemaking. They don't try to mimic Rhône producers (or any others for that matter) and state that, "Much as we love them all, we don't make a Côte-Rôtie Syrah, a Barossa Shiraz, or a Viognier from Condrieu.  And while we adore Cold Heaven Viognier from California, Tarawara Shiraz from Yarra Valley, and Hermitage Syrah from the Rhône... they've all been done.  Instead we make wine that is singularly, identifiably from the Okanagan Valley.  Not only do we make no apologies for that, we exult in it."

There were only 90 cases of the 2010 Estate Viognier made and I was heartily recommending it to anyone making their way for a white wine - particularly when Tyrant, an avid fisherman, always has a superb spread of salmon and other treats from the sea.

The Solstice party has been a regular addition to my December calendar for years now and it's often the only chance I have to meet up with a lot of these folks during the holiday season. With some guests travelling hefty distances and making overnight visits into town, it can sometimes even be the only time I'll see certain acquaintances all year.  To emphasize the party's allure, this year, Jeaux and Matinder delayed a flight to the Caribbean long enough so that they wouldn't miss out on the evening's pleasures.  Attending the party trumped an extra day on Antiguan beaches.

Boo, on the other hand, had to work a night shift and miss the party this year.  Seems the hospital didn't give much credence to the end of the world and made Boo work his shift anyhow.  After being asked where he was for the umpteenth time, I finally texted him to say that I was getting tired of people asking about him and suggested that he just tell the administration that he'd contracted a Mayan flu and needed to leave.  He didn't think much of the idea, but he did text back a photo that I could show to anyone that asked after him.

Meanwhile, back at Tyrant's, those in attendance were all smiles - especially Desmond and the Divine Miss M as they modelled one of the evening's wines.

1322.  2010 Tribunal Red (Sonoma - California)

I hadn't run across this wine previously and I had to look it up afterwards.  Turns out it's a California blend and was picked as one of Vancouver Magazine's Best Red Wines of 2012 and was also named No. 5 on Wine Access magazine's Top 20 Bargain Wines.

It was hard finding out much more information about the wine with a simple Google search however.  There's plenty of hits that pop up but no real info on an actual winery or the wine itself.  I think it's pretty safe to say that most fingers point to this being a "vanity" label for Trader Joe's in the States.  It's proved to be so successful that they must have deemed it worthwhile to cross the border into Canada as well.  There's a rumour that the wine was styled after a well known California wine called The Prisoner and even that The Prisoner's winemaker, David Phinney, has been involved in the making of Tribunal but I didn't see anything formal backing that up that concept.  Indeed, if anything, any one connected to The Prisoner or to David Phinney denied his involvement.

It appears that the wine contains a little bit of everything and that the blend has changed a bit from year to year.  One site states that the current vintage contains Petit Sirah, Merlot, Syrah, Dolcetto, Sangiovese and a "secret" grape. Other sites have mentioned Cab Franc, Grenache, Barbera and Primitivo (or Zinfandel).  In any event, it was a big, bold wine and was a very popular choice among Tyrant's guests.

1323.  2007 Monmousseau Cuvée J.M. Brut (Touraine AOC - Loire - France)

The final wine that I concentrated on was the bubbly - another label that I wasn't familiar with.  Monmousseau has a history in the wine business of over 125 years and they produce primarily sparkling wines (80% of their total production has bubbles).  Back at the start of the 20th Century, a member of the Monmousseau family identified the fact that their region of Touraine, in the Loire Valley, had great similarities to the terroir of the Champagne region.  Accordingly they began to make sparkling wines using the Méthode Traditionelle and quickly garnered a name for themselves.  They remain one of the principal producers in Touraine.

The Cuvée J.M. Brut is made with the Chenin Blanc grape - different from real Champagne - but it sees second fermentation in the bottle which is in line with the traditional method for making Champagne. I liked the fact that the wine allows the fruit to show through and, while I wouldn't call the wine off-dry in any sense, there was a definite ease to the palate.  I could have started with this wine a whole lot earlier in the evening and carried on with it for some time.  It doesn't hurt that it costs about a third of real Champagne either ($19 in Vancouver).

As mentioned, the world didn't meet its demise, Mayan prophesies or not, but the best news about that is that we get to do this all over again next year when Tyrant will be back to a plain, old Winter Solstice party.  I can't wait.

Some Christmas Lights from Tyrant's Balcony

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