Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Eve

We haven't been so lucky with Boo's work schedules the last so many years when it comes to days off during the holiday season. When we knew that he wasn't going to have to work this New Year's Eve, we decided to invite some folks over for a little low-key celebration - and, naturally, more than enough wine to end 2012 and get a good start on the year to come.

With a dozen or so folks in attendance, there was a grand selection of bottles open for the tasting. Not wanting to start 2013 with a troubled head, I tried my best to behave - and limited myself to celebratory sips of wines that were particularly new and interesting.

1333.  2011 Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups - Dix Arpents (Montlouis-sur-Loire AOC - Touraine - France)

Fist up was the Dix Arpents that K-Pop and Baby Mama brought. I'd never heard of the producer and asked them what prompted them to bring it along. They hadn't ever tried it before either but they thought it looked like an interesting new find when browsing through local bottle shop shelves.  It turns out that they uncovered a producer with quite the story. Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups is a relatively young winery by French standards as it was only established in 1988; however, it is seen as helping lead the way of securing a higher profile for the Montlouis region. Indeed, the principal force behind the winery is Jacky Blot. He's been called a "Loire Superstar" and has enough of a profile that his name is featured on the bottle's front label.

The winery's properties straddle a couple of appellations in the Loire Valley - Vouvray and Montlouis.  - although the majority of the estate's vineyards are located in Montlouis. Being a newcomer to the region, those properties are scattered through the region and Dix Arpents is a blend of fruit from a full assortment of vineyards that can number over 30 different parcels. All of those vineyards are planted solely with Chenin Blanc though.

I'm not that familiar with Chenin Blanc wines.  It's not a varietal that I run across all that often or one that I tend to buy regularly. Despite being the estate's entry level wine, the wine is still considered an intense introduction to Chenin Blanc. Vineyard cultivation sees extensive picking practices. The grapes are harvested in tries (or separate passes through the vines) - where individual grapes are picked, as opposed to entire bunches, to help ensure that each grape on a bunch is fully ripe before it is harvested.

It was an interesting way to start off the evening. There was some substance and weight to the wine - possibly due to the oaking that wine sees during ageing - and it didn't have as much fruit on palate as the few Chenin's I've tried from BC or South Africa. For a more extensive discussion of the Jacky Blot and Domaine de la Taille Aux Loups, you need only visit the informative entry on the Wine Doctor. That post was like a one-stop info source during my looking around the internet to hunt down the wine.

1334.  2009 Red Rooster Golden Egg (VQA Okanagan Valley)

New Year's Eve seemed like an event that's worthy of an icon wine from one of our favourite producers.  Karen Gillis, winemaker at Red Rooster, states that she's had a long time "fascination with 'Rhône-style' reds." Syrah now has a firm footing in the Okanagan but this is the first GSM that I've seen from a BC producer.  The blend is 59% Mourvèdre, 24% Syrah and 17% Grenache and there was a very limited production of 186 cases.

The small production stems from the fact that there is very little Mourvèdre or Grenache grown in the province. Karen worked with some of their long time growers and coaxed them into planting the two new varietals.  This was the first release of the Golden Egg as a GSM. (There was a previous Golden Egg wine but that was a Bordeaux blend - Merlot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc and I believe it was last produced in 2003 under the previous ownership regime.)

The Golden Egg was medium bodied - with bigger acidity and a lighter fruit profile than most of the Rhône or Aussie GSM blends that I'm familiar with (surprise, surprise). The profile was more sour cherry or cranberry than dark fruit. The wine did win a Silver medal winner at the Wine Access 2011 Canadian Wine Awards but the $50 price tag might leave most consumers wanting a bigger profile. My guess is that the wine is better suited to the dinner table than it is for a cocktail party.

As midnight and the new year approached, I thought it'd be neat to try and sabre the bottle of bubbly that I'd picked up. After all, my earlier attempt back in the Fall with the BC Wine Appreciation Society bus tour was both successful and great fun and that experience made it seem easy-peasy. Boo pulled out a selection of sabre-esque knives to choose from and we were ready for the countdown. 5-4-3-2-1...nothing. A couple whacks and no bubbles. Ahhhh. Good thing no damage was done to the bottle and I could still pop the cork in the old fashioned way.

1335.  N.V. Chanoine Frères - Tsarine Rosé Brut (Champagne AOC - France)

I was drawn to this bottle - not so much because of the unique bottle design but - by the fact that I saw a advert stating that it was a Lanson product. Not that I get the opportunity to drink a lot of true Champagne but, when I do, Lanson is probably my favourite and as regular a "go to" Champagne as I have. I'd never seen anything that tied Tsarine to Lanson previously, but I was told at the wine shop that Lanson had recently purchased the producer, Chanoine Frères. The plan remained to produce Tsarine under the old name however.  Chanoine Frères is apparently the second oldest house in Champagne, the family having established a trading house in 1730. In the same year, they were permitted to excavate the very first champagne cellars in the town of Epernay.

The striking bottle design is meant to evoke the swirling spires of Russian architecture. In the 19th Century, Imperial Russia was the largest export market for Champagne and Chanoine Frères created the Cuvée Tsarine to honour that relationship.

The wine is equal parts Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir - all three of the classic Champagne grapes. The Chanoine Frères website states that "The Pinot Noir grape provides the back-bone of our wine, the Pinot Meunier lending softness and fruit aromas, while the Chardonnay grape imparts delicacy and elegance."

I think it's fair to say that our little gang found the Tsarine to be quite imperial. Easily my favourite tipple of the night. I'm hoping to run across more Tsarine long before another year has passed by.

1336.  N.V. Joan Raventós Rosell Cava Brut (D.O. Cava - Spain)

Continuing with our theme of bubbles, Red had brought along a bottle of Cava. This was a new Cava - or Spanish bubble - for me. Raventós Rosell is no slouch in historical pedigree either. Although the actual company only dates from 1985, the Raventós family has roots in winemaking and the Penedès region that date back to the 1870's. Penedès is the traditional region for the production of Cava - the Spanish equivalent of Champagne.

Raventós Rosell considers itself a smaller, family run producer, having approximately 250 acres of vineyards. Together with related producer, Heretat Vall-Ventós, they produce 18 different sparkling Cavas - as well as a number of still, table wines. The Cava Brut is a blend of Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-lo and Chardonnay and while it didn't offer quite the same bubbly mousse or flavour profile as the Tsarine, it was less than half the price. Accordingly, we could drink twice as much - and likely end up just as happy as a result.

Not that we did that. At least, not that we're copping to "that."

Behaving myself - and limiting my wining to these four bottles - might have meant that I didn't get to add nearly as many bottles to The List as I might have liked to but it did help my morning after and my start to 2013 and, for that, I'm celebrating my foresight.

For the moment that was though, I figure we saw 2012 out with a fitting celebration of good friends and good wines. Hopefully, the new year will see plenty of new, exciting bottles of wine to add to The List and maybe even see me stay a little more current with my posts.  One can always hope!

Happy New Year!

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