Friday, March 6, 2015

Swedish Mussels and Wine Picks

It's not too often that I go out for dinner and someone else takes full control of the wine list and for ordering the evening's fare. Given my wine indulgences, most dining partners don't want to have anything to do with choosing a wine. They just leave it up to me. As such, it was interesting to see Bergmann just take charge when I joined him and my old neighbour, Red, for dinner on The Drive.

Bergmann was down to his last days in Vancouver before he returned to his native Sweden for the summer. His winter on the Whistler slopes and in Red's arms was bout to end and Red hoped that we could all get together. Red called up La Gondoliera to join in and the setting was there for an engrossing dinner. It would seem that Red still misses the old hood because we could have gone anywhere for dinner - and there are some new, happening restaurants near her new digs - but she quickly opted for the moules-frites at Carthage, maybe two blocks from the old home. She says that Carthage remains a favourite of her's and Bergmann's and that they've shared many a bowl of mussels there.

I mean, who doesn't love muscles? Oops, that's "mussels," right?

1871.  2013 Humberto Canale - Diego Murillo Malbec (Rio Negro - Patagonia - Argentina)

In any event, I was happy to let Bergmann assume the role of wine director - particularly since he had a rapport and history with our waiter. They bantered back and forth for a bit and settled on a Malbec. I must say that I might not have gone that direction with mussels (and La Gondoliera opted to stick with her much beloved Prosecco) but it was an easy drinking, fruity Malbec and it paired better than I might have expected.

I've certainly seen the Diego Murillo label sitting on local shelves but I can't recall ever having tried it before. Like many wineries in Argentina, Humberto Canale has been around for many years - long before the arrival of Argentine Malbec on the global wine scene. The founder and namesake of the winery established the company in 1909 and the fourth generation of the family is currently manning the operations.

I found it interesting that this is a Malbec from Patagonia and not the more ubiquitous Mendoza region. Patagonia, in general, sees a cooler climate than Mendoza; so, that might have lent itself to a bit lighter structure in the wine. That being said, however, this is truly an entry level wine. There aren't all that many bottles in our market that come in at under $10. So, I'm not sure this is the best example to use when forming an opinion on wines from the region.

Regardless of the wine's pedigree, the bottle was empty soon enough and we needed a second.

1872.  2011 3 Mile Estate - Cabernet Merlot (Okanagan Valley VQA)

Bergmann's second choice was even more of a surprise. In part because I couldn't recall having seen it before and I figure I have a pretty good handle on BC wineries. At first, I thought it might be one of the virtual wineries producing bulk wines that may or may not be made of local fruit but I then saw that it was an Okanagan Valley VQA wine - meaning that it not only has to be made from local fruit but that the wine has to pass inspection by a tasting panel that qualifies wines as meeting minimum quality requirements.

In thinking back (after the fact), I recall that Luke Smith, of Howling Bluff, has previously referred to a 3 Mile vineyard on some of his labels. So, I don't know if the folks behind that vineyard have opted to produce some of their own wines now rather than sell all their fruit or if it's a totally different operation but I do see that there is a 3 Mile Road that runs along the Naramata Bench.  I guess that just gives me even more to look into next time I'm up visiting the Bench.

The Cab Merlot didn't blow my socks off but that might have been because, by now, we were drinking it with no further accompaniment than our conversations. Our entrées were long finished and the wine was a bit big for the desserts on offer. There was nothing left in the bottle upon our departure though; so, it was hardly a flawed wine.

And, as I often say in this blog, I always like to see what other folks pick when it comes to choosing wine. So, to have Bergmann so readily step up to the plate was intriguing. We didn't discuss what the wine culture is like in Sweden but that too will just have to be a topic for me to look into further in the days to come. I don't think Boo and I will make it to Scandinavia any time soon but Bergmann's scheduled to return to Whistler - and Red, naturally - this Fall. We'll just have to make plans for more mussels.

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