Monday, April 1, 2013

An Easter Bonnet Failure

Time to get some catch up blogging done. The whole 2013 Wine Bloggers' Conference and Boo's and my California Road Trip threw for me a bit of a loop. I wish this were an April Fool's heading and post but it's true. Even though this has an April 1 publishing date, it is actually being posted in July. Unfortunately, I'm still writing about adding bottles to The List back in March. My sister, Vixen, is convinced that my schedule isn't preventing me from publishing this post. Rather, she's announcing to all that I'm simply afraid to announce that her Easter Bonnet was a runaway "best" at this year's annual paper plate Easter Bonnet extravaganza and family dinner. On the other hand, it's true.  My stab at creating a winning bonnet this year was a bust. After last year's birthday cake-inspired winner and the year before's playoff hockey inspired piece, the juices just weren't flowing this Easter.

Good thing there was still plenty of wine to soothe my battered ego.

1276. N.V. Stoneboat Piano Brut (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I was introduced to this bubbly at the recent Vancouver International Wine Festival. It was nice to taste the wine shortly after I'd heard about Stoneboat receiving a loan from the Federal Government to assist in the purchase and installation of equipment that has resulted in the re-introduction of Charmat method production in Canada. Sparkling wines produced in Charmat style undergo secondary fermentation and carbonation in stainless steel tanks. It is the same production method used to make Prosecco in Italy. Member of Parliament Dan Albas announced the federal involvement as a mean of promoting innovation and new Canadian products into the market. There are plenty of bubbly Canadian wines made but they largely use the traditional méthode champenoise where the second fermentation takes place in the bottle that the consumer ultimately buys. Piano is the first modern Canadian wine made in the Charmat manner and the hope is that it will be well received in the local market as an alternative to imported Prosecco, as well as result in an entry point to international markets - particularly China.

John Schreiner has written a nice post - and a thorough one to boot - on Stoneboat and the story behind the production method's history in Canada. So, I'll just refer you there rather than go into everything all over again.

Piano is blend that pairs mostly Pinot Blanc with a bit of Müller-Thurgau. It was a pleasant sip with a slightly off-dry taste that showcases Okanagan fruit and is definitely a contrast to the more "serious" bubbles that we generally see from the Okanagan. Too bad it's currently a non-vintage wine. As such, I'm only able to add the one bottle to The List. That likely won't stop us from buying another bottle though.

1277. 2010 Meyer Family Vineyards - Tribute Series - Sonia Gaudet Chardonnay (Okanagan Valley)

Each vintage, the Meyer family releases a Chardonnay as part of its "Tribute Series" whereby the wine is a "dedication to a Canadian for an outstanding achievement in their field." The 2010 wine is dedicated to Sonja Gaudet, a Canadian, world and two-time Paralympic champion in wheelchair curling (it looks like the spelling of "Sonja" on the label was a typo). Reading up a bit about Ms. Gaudet, I was intrigued even more by the wine when I realized that I was actually in the crowd cheering her on in the Gold Medal game at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics.

As part of the Tribute Series, the Meyer family also donates $5,000 to a non-profit foundation, endowment or scholarship to "encourage" and "honour" the legacies of the outstanding Canadians chosen for the label. Ms. Gaudet requested that this vintage's donation be awarded to a student graduating from her hometown, Vernon's, high schools "who, regardless of the challenges in their own life, continues to strive for excellence and role models that giving up is not an option."

Thankfully, the wine not only has a great background story but it also tastes mighty fine. It stood out for Boo and I while we were on the 2012 BC Wine Appreciation Society Bus Tour. During our group's tasting at Meyer, we were advised that the winery strives for a Burgundian style that is crisp with flavour. The grapes are sourced from their Old Main Road Vineyard on the Naramata Bench - a vineyard that is unique for the Naramata in that it slopes up the hill and then dips back to the north-east, providing more shelter than many of the Bench's vineyards. Little did we know when we picked up this bottle that it would later be chosen as the Number One BC Wine in the 2012 Wine Access Magazine Canadian Wine Awards.

Note to self. If I'd read up more on this wine before I started designing my bonnet, Maybe I'd have found a little more inspiration for this year's design.

1278. 2006 Alderlea - Fusion (Vancouver Island)

Our final wine of the dinner held some surprises of its own. Alderlea is perhaps our favourite Vancouver Island winery. I have to say "perhaps" because we don't get a lot of opportunity to try their wines over on the Mainland. Alderlea doesn't send any wine over to the Vancouver market and we have to be content to bump into it on the rare occasions that we make it to the Island or, if by chance, we run across it in one of the wine shops on Salt Spring Island if we're visiting Tyrant.

This is the only bottle of Fusion that I've run across. I don't know how much of it is produced but it is rather unique in that it is varietal wine made from Cabernet Foch - one of the Valentin Blattner grapes that were developed in Switzerland as heartier alternative varieties for colder climate vineyards. I've written about Blattner varieties somewhat in other posts; so, I won't go on here, but I have to note that this is the first time that I've tried the Cabernet Foch and, as such, that means I get to add another grape to my Wine Century Club tally. This is a bit of benchmark grape as well since I'm hitting the 150 mark with this grape - and that has to make up a bit for a lacklustre bonnet this year.

As you might guess, Cabernet Foch is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Maréchal Foch. No sane winemaker would try to grow Cab Sauv on Vancouver Island and expect it to fully ripen. That's enough of a challenge for the Okanagan. On the other hand, no one is going to make a name for themselves in today's market basing much of their marketing on Maréchal Foch. Granted, there are some cult classics out there for Foch lovers but, realistically, being able to incorporate "Cabernet" into your wine is going to be a much savvier route to go.

Alderlea's 2005 vintage of Fusion was the first commercial release in BC of a Blattner wine. This 2006 bottle, however, was the last year that the wine was labeled as Fusion. The Argentine producers of mass market FuZion purchased Alderlea's trademark for the name in Canada and, from 2007 on, Alderlea's Cabernet Foch varietal wine has been released as Matrix.

After this initial tasting, I'm not convinced that Cab Foch is going to gain a foothold in the Canadian (or world) market but it will be interesting to see how the vines are producing with a bit of age on them. I'll also look forward to an opportunity to maybe try a tasting that compares Cab Sauv, Cab Foch and Maréchal Foch. Indeed, it sounds like a good idea for a future blog post.

So, you see, my creative juices haven't completely abandoned me. I might not have had the best of bonnets this year but there's still the odd idea left to be processed by this old mind of mine. Alternatively, next year, I could just drink a little more wine prior to starting my bonnet to get those idea flowing. Just hope I never become quite as creative as Boo's new Papal Celebration Bonnet or Big Trucker's Easter Fountain. Some things - as creative as they might be - should just never see the light of day.

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