Saturday, December 6, 2014

Keep Calm and Eat the Cookies

I'm not entirely sure how many years it takes for something to become a tradition but I'm darned sure that Jeaux and Matinder's annual Christmas Cookie Extravaganza has long passed into the "tradition" category. I can't remember how many years we've been kicking off the holiday season with shortbreads and gingerbread and squares and savouries but I do know that, thanks to Jeaux and Matinder, I've eaten enough calories over the years to keep an entire dieting industry in business.

The cookie fest is also a nice chance to catch up with some mutual friends that we might not bump into if not for the sweet smorgasbord - and, of course, an opportunity to add another couple bottles to The List.

1809.  2010 Daniel Lenko Chardonngay - Unoaked Chardonnay (VQA Niagra Peninsula - Ontario)

Mr. D was joining us tonight as he and Jeaux go all the way back to the 70's and high school on Vancouver Island. It was definitely a case of "small world" when we all found out that both of them had, independently, become great friends of mine. Mr. D popped by our place for a cocktail beforehand; so, I figured it only made sense to open the bottle of Chardonngay that D had given Boo back in the summer.

With the lively, rainbow label that the Daniel Lemko Chardonnay sported, we'd planned on opening it during this year's Pride weekend but the opportunity didn't arise. So, a holiday celebration is almost as good of an occasion. We don't see many Ontario wines out here in BC. Go figure. Same country but we're far more likely to run into a wine from half way around the world than we are to run into one from half way across the country.

As such, I didn't know anything about Daniel Lenko wines. Turns out that, while the winery was established in 1999, the Lenko family has been growing grapes for three generations. When Daniel Lenko's father planted some Chardonnay vines in the Niagra region, they were among the first Chardonnay vines planted in Canada. The vineyard's microclimate has allowed the vines to thrive and, according to the winery website, their vineyard is the "oldest Chardonnay planting" in the country.

I don't know what the connection between the winery and the gay community is but there's no mistaking who this wine is being marketed to. Not only does the label declare that the wine is "vinified in celebration of Canada's diverse Gay culture," but it also announces that $1 from every bottle sold will be donated to AIDS research. I may not think the wine was as fruity as the "gobs" of pineapple, lemon and peach promised on the label but i won't disagree with anything else about the wine.

1810.  2011 Lovico Suhindol Gamza (Bulgaria)

I knew even less about the second bottle that we opened. I grabbed it as it promised the addition of another grape to my Wine Century Club tally.

Once again, I had to rely on the winery website for some information on the wine and people behind it. Lovico Suhindol is apparently "the direct successor to the oldest vine-growing and winemaking cooperative on the Balkans, founded in 1909, ... and one of the leading driving forces of Bulgarian winemaking."

The winery notes that Gamza is an indigenous grape variety to the Suhindol region of Bulgaria; however, the origin of the grape isn't quite so hard and fast. Jancis Robinson's Wine Grapes bible actually lists the variety under Kadarka - the grape's name in Hungary where it has been a variety long used in the well known Bull's Blood blend - and the birth place of the grape is claimed by a number of regions in that part of the world. Hungarian plantings have declined in recent years, however, and the grape is far more commonly planted in Bulgaria now.

It's characterization as a lighter bodied red (and its name) made me think of Gamay but there's no other indication that the two grapes have any relationship whatsoever. Cookies and a plastic cup may have not been the best accompaniments for discovering a new grape variety but I figure I'd best grab the bull by the horn when the opportunity arises - particularly when I can celebrate #175 on my tally. The wine was definitely bigger than most Gamay's I've tried and there was a good bit of spice on the palate. Being from Bulgaria, you'd be right if you thought you'd be able to find this bottle in the bargain section of the wine shop. Red wine at $13 (or less when on sale) is a bit of rarity in our market.

1811.  2011 Edge Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast - California)

Although it clocks in at closer to $30 a bottle, Edge Cab Sauv is one of the more popular - and well known - Napa Cabs in Vancouver. The folks behind Edge have always made it their goal to produce a "premium Cabernet Sauvignon without the premium price." The winery press kit lauds the wine as "the most reasonable Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon that one will find on the shelf which does not compromise on quality."

Personally, I don't drink enough California Cab to take an informed stance but I know a number of people who agree with those statements. I also know that the predominant Cab Sauv is fleshed out with 12% Merlot and 11% Syrah in this 2011 vintage and that, from my tastings over the years, it's a consistent drop of bold wine.

Perhaps a bit big for Christmas cookies, but there definitely comes a time when a guy has to give up on the cookies and just settle for the wine. Edge was up to the task and we bid our adieus once the bottle was done.

All in all, a pretty successful night of wine AND start to the holiday season.

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