Sunday, May 31, 2009

A Return of the Skipper

We had a nice chance to have dinner and spend an evening catching up with our buddy Skipper and his man GQ.  Skip was one of our original Wine Boyz but he had to leave us for love and move to the Centre of the (Love) Universe, Toronto.  Seems that, as much as GQ was a man of dreams, he was a tad GU (geographically undesirable) when they first started dating.  

A bundle of airline points is a wonderful thing, but bi-coastal living and loving will eventually take its toll - and the chance to slog back a few bottles with us isn't necessarily enough to keep anyone in Vancity.

Truth be known, Skipper might be more of a gin man than a wino, but he's an equal opportunity drinker and we managed to open a couple of bottles - after we'd finished off that first classic martini.

67.  2005 Salvalai Monile Ripasso (Valpolicella DOC Superiore - Italy)

The hunt for a "go to" ripasso continued with this bottle.  It went over well with our guests and the lasagna but I'm not sure that it was such that I couldn't go on without another glass.  The packaging is smart though and I wouldn't say "no" if someone were to bring along another bottle for dinner.

68.  NV Saturna Estate Vinsera (Gulf Islands - BC)

Most of the BC wines we drink are from the Okanagan or Similkameen but we have run across a number of nice wines from Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands over the years.  We picked up some of this "port-style" fortified wine last summer when we were invited to spend a weekend on Saturna Island with friends.  I'm a total sucker for fortifieds, stickies, dessert wines, etc., and this one didn't disappoint.  It's a non-vintage wine but it's a fairly new addition to the winery's portfolio since 2007 was the first year that they started producing the wine.  

It's made with 100% Island grown pinot noir and pinot meunier and had some niceof the caramel and toffee flavours that I like.  Too bad that it was only a 375ml bottle.

It was great to catch up with Skipper and GQ and equally nice to know that we're still going to get the odd opportunity to add them as drinking buddies on The List. 

A Bit Long in the Tooth

We've been caught again with storing a bottle longer than we should have.  We bought this entry's bottle a year or so ago and, finally, thought that it'd go with tonight's dinner.  It might have - if we'd had the dinner a year or two ago.

66.  2005 Domaine Cauhape Chant des Vignes (Jurancon Sec AOC - France)

I was quite looking forward to this wine.  The Jurancon area is not one that I'm familiar with at all - being found in the French Basques area of the Pyrenees in South West France.  Boo had actually spent some time in the area in a "past life" and he thoroughly enjoyed the region.  

The area is known for a dry and a sweet wine and this was the dry.  It uses the gros manseng varietal - another grape that I couldn't tell you anything about beforehand.  I'm not sure that I could tell you much now either since there was next to nothing fruity or pleasant about the wine.  It was just old.

Too bad. 

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Camel Seconds, Anyone?

The camel kebabs the other week were a pleasant success, but the "problem" with cutting those nicely-shaped cubes of meat is that the original steak or roast doesn't always lend itself to simple butchery.  Cutting around fat or muscle - for that perfect shape - can leave you with lots of bits and pieces.  Our camel proved to be a bit ornery on this point.

We had a fair bit of smaller or thinner pieces of meat left after the kebabs.  So, it became a question of "what now."  Camel sirloin is not one of the more cost-conscious cuts of meat at the grocery after all.  The remaining meat was being used.  Somehow.

As mentioned in the earlier blog, it's not that easy coming by recipes that specifically call for camel meat - particularly in English.  And I wasn't quite adventurous enough to just throw together a bit of a kitchen surprise, a la Iron Chef.  So, the thought process led to "why not adapt a recipe that already makes use of ingredients that might be de rigeur in the Middle East and environs?"

The end result?  Camel Curry.  I took a wander through Vij's cookbook, "Elegant & Inspired Indian Cuisine" and found what I thought might be a good starting point.  We've had this book in the kitchen for a couple of years now - but, like many a cookbook in our home - it looks like it's brand new.  I can be almost as bad at buying cookbooks as I am at buying wine.  But everyone raves about this book and Vikram Vij certainly came through for us here.

I settled on a pork recipe that incorporated figs and spinach.  Seemed like a reasonable pairing for the camel - and there's was lots of opportunity to throw in spices that sounded rather camel-esque.  Love that urfa pepper and zataar.

It then became a question of what to serve with it.  Should we look more at the red meat aspect of the dish or the spiciness of the curry?  Red or white?  We compromise and opened one of each to see which might work better.

64.  2007 Orofino Riesling (Similkameen - BC)

I loved this wine!  I've posted about Orofino earlier on in the blog, but we returned to try the riesling.  The wine had a touch of residual sugar - which I don't mind in with rieslings in general - and it matched nicely with the spice of the curry and the fruitiness of the fig in the dish.

65.  2007 Concho y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Merlot (Rapel Valley - Chile)

Just a simple, every day, drinkable wine.  Concha y Toro has quite a pedigree as a Chilean winery that produces good value.

The merlot wasn't a bad match for the camel curry, but the riesling was the better of the two wines for me.  Both for the dish and for drinking in general.  Give me another bottle like that and I'll be a happy Bob.

PS.  I shouldn't be surprised about the Orofino riesling, however.  I just Googled the wine and saw that this vintage, as well as the 2006 and recent 2008, all won gold medals at that All Canadian Wine Awards.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

An Evening With La Frenz and Friends

Friday night, Boo and I went to the annual BC Wine Appreciation Society's dinner event and this year, a single winery was featured at the dinner.  We were very glad to hear that the winery chosen to participate was La Frenz.  As mentioned only a few postings ago, La Frenz is one of our favourite wineries in the province.

As we were drinking a flight of six wines with the various courses, there is no one bottle that we get to add to The List.  As pointed out in that post, a number of these wines would have been added had the Canucks made the third round of the playoffs though.  All six will make The List in due course.  We have at least one bottle of each in our "cellar."  

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Jeff Martin, the proprietor and winemaker at La Frenz walk us through the wines he was serving - particularly when he came to chat at the individual tables.  He was perhaps a tad more forthcoming on the down and dirty about such topics as why he doesn't care about VQA designation, about the creation of the Naramata Bench Association and about the state of and future of the BC wine industry.  With 38 vintages to his name, in both the northern and southern hemispheres, he's got a great base to work from should he choose to mount the soapbox.

All the wines met with great approval at our table.  Some of the dishes created by the students at the Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts were more successful than others.  Despite an intriguing presentation on a small ice block, not many went for the buttermilk and avocado sorbet as the palate cleanser - although I finished mine off just fine.  Generally, I think the most successful pairing of the night was the Reserve Chardonnay with scallops served with a miso glaze and citrus marmalade.

Now, to get those La Frenz wines on The List.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Well, It Is Latour...

As much as we enjoy our wine, neither our budget, nor our palates, allow us to thoroughly enjoy a Chateau Latour - one of the five premiers crus Bordeaux wines.

This bottle was a Maison Louis Latour and they're one of the best known houses in Burgundy. While they also boast some high end Grand Cru wines, this is not one of those either. In fact, we don't even find ourselves in Burgundy - although it is a Chardonnay.

63. 2005 Maison Louis Latour Ardeche Chardonnay (Vin de Pays des Coteaux de L'Ardeche)

You can tell that this is a newer breed of French wine (or more a wine for worldwide export) since it actually says "chardonnay" on the bottle. One of the more complicating aspects of French wine has been the fact that we, North Americans, have largely learned about our wines as varietals - where the type of grape is front and centre on the label. Not so in France where you needed to know the type of varietal grown in most areas. It could get confusing because not many Joe Average drinkers know an appellation from an apple cider.

I didn't know where Ardeche was. Seeing as how it was a Chardonnay, I though it was likely in the Burgundy area, but it turns out it's a small region separating the Northern and Southern parts of the Rhone Valley. Not falling under the dictates of the Rhone appellations, the growers were free to plant chardonnay vines.

In fact, Latour was instrumental in pioneering Ardeche as a new wine-producing region when it started planting chardonnay in the 1980's. Although, the wine was quite drinkable and is readily available at a decent price, it didn't enchant me enough to make chardonnay one of the first wines I'll reach for regularly.

Say It with Me Now

62. 2004 Farnese Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (Colline Teramane DOCG - Italy)

This was one of the wines that I picked up at this year's Playhouse Wine Festival. I always wonder, when opening a Festival purchase, if it's going to live up to the pressure of being one of the wines that I highlighted during the tastings.

Luckily, this wasn't one of those "what was I thinking" moments.

Farnese has been making wines in the Abruzzo area for centuries. The area is the fifth-largest wine-producing region in Italy; however, despite the popularity of the montepulciano grape as the base for young, quaffable wines and for blending (when allowed by local restrictions) in the rest of the country, Abruzzo itself hasn't generally been seen as consistently producing quality wines.

As in almost all winemaking regions, there has been some attempt to modernize and improve standards over the last decade. One step that Abruzzi winemakers took, in 2003, was to create a sub-appellation for the Colline Teramane DOCG where cropping limits were reduced in an attempt to attain a higher flavour profiles and stature in the wine world. This wine is a result of those efforts.

A few years back, Farnese garnered itself a reputation in Vancouver as producing a popular line of well-priced (read "cheap and cheerful") wines. It has shown up on a number of "Best Of..." lists for wines costing under so many dollars.

At $25, this wine is more than twice as much as most Farnese wines cost in the city, but I think it would fare well in a direct taste with its less expensive cousins. Only "problem" is that I don't know where you can buy it in the city. It was a specialty listing only available at the Festival.

I'm going to keep my eye open for more improvement with wines from Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. If for no other reason that I love saying it. How fun is that? A wine that's good both rolling off the tongue and onto it.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What Do You Serve With Camel?!

A bit of history.

We really like Hill's Specialty Meats.  The "specialty" part of their name says it all and we love the fact that we can order right along with the big boys of the restaurant trade.  We've tried their foie gras, lamb loin, duck breasts and even ventured a go with the ground camel last summer.  Well, I'd noticed that their web site recently added camel roasts to their list.  

So, on his last trip out to Hill's, Boo asked about picking up a roast.  He was advised that they don't normally stock the roasts and that he'd have to place an order - which he did.  We got the call that the meat had arrived and Boo headed back on out.  Talk about being shocked when they politely told him that the order came to $900.  Turns out that a half-side is the smallest order they could place.  I guess they don't ship smaller orders when they have to come from the Aussie Outback.  Needless to say, Boo's jaw was nearly displaced, it dropped so far.  

After saying that $900 was somewhat more than he'd been expecting, Hill's admitted that they were taken aback as well, but told him that he'd been the first person to ever order any and that they had no idea that the meat would arrive as such a honking order.  Thankfully, they reduced the size of the order appreciably but we still ended up with a hefty supply of camel.

Oh, did I mention that the main piece of meat must have been at least three feet long and a foot or so wide?!  It took up a fair bit of freezer space, that "roast" did.  And, yes, one of the first things I asked Boo was "why the hell didn't you get them to cut it into smaller pieces?!"  We won't go into some of the other things that were asked.

In any event, we did get that side cut down eventually and were now looking for an opportunity to cook some of it up and bite on into it.  That chance came when we were finally able to organize a night to have two friends, the Tyrant and Hizzoner, over for dinner to thank them for assisting us at our wedding last summer.

Now, some might ask, "if you're wanting to thank someone, why would you serve them camel?"  What can I say?  Both Tyrant and Hizzoner have travelled extensively and thought that trying camel would both be novel and interesting.

The tasks at hand weren't fully dealt with by identifying some dinner guests though.  We still needed to come up with a tasty way to cook the beast.  Even in these days of laptops and Google, locating a camel recipe is a daunting task.  It hasn't exactly caught on with the Epicurious crowd.  When I first looked, I couldn't find anything other than roasting a whole camel that's to be stuffed with a lamb or goat and a bunch of turkeys or chicken.  Something suggests that it's only turkeys that would fall for that.

We decided to BBQ the meat all the same and cut up the roast into cubes for camel kebabs.

The question then became, what wine does one serve with camel?  Tyrant reminded me of the old cigarette advertising ditty about "walking a mile for a camel."  I figured that, what with the camel being from Australia, a shiraz might do the job and I happened to have a couple bottles of Langmeil (pronounced "long mile") and I knew that, even if the camel wasn't so appetizing, the wine would be delicious.

Turns out the dinner had a number of other courses and wines as well.  These dinners seem to be good for building The List.  We added the following that night:

56.  1997 Lang Vineyards Pinot Auxerrois Brut (VQA Naramata Bench - Okanagan)

57.  2006 Black Hills Estate Alibi - Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (Black Sage Road - Okanagan)

58.  2006 Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz (Barossa - Australia)

59.  2000 d'Arenberg The Laughing Magpie - Shiraz Viognier (McLaren Vale - Australia)

60.  2004 Tommasi Amarone della Valpolicella Classico (DOC - Italy)

61.  2006 Inniskillin Vidal Icewine (VQA Niagara Peninsula - Ontario)

Now this was a nice line-up - kudos to Tyrant and Hizzoner for bringing along four real gems.  Too bad I don't think there's time or space to really go into all of the wines, because they were all delicious.  I particularly liked The Laughing Magpie and the Amarone.

It's a couple of days later now and, to my knowledge, everyone lived through the camel with no side effects.  In fact, it was quite tasty.  Good thing - considering how much of it is still left in the freezer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

I'd Hoped for a Whole Series

Goodness, I seem to be on a bit of stretch of BC favourites - Burrowing Owl, Sandhill, and now La Frenz.  Had the Canucks beat Chicago and made it to Round 3 of the playoffs, I was going to feature La Frenz as the series winery.  Maybe the Canucks didn't make it, but I can still enjoy a bottle of La Frenz to help quell the pain.

55.  2006 La Frenz - Montage (Naramata - Okanagan)

A montage is defined as "any combination of disparate elements that forms or is felt to form a unified whole, single image, etc."  This Montage is a blend of syrah, merlot and cabernet - not exactly the most common blend of grapes, either for BC or elsewhere.  I'm sure there's a story behind the wine that I'd like to follow up on, particularly since I've seen it made with pinot noir in the past as well.  

I don't think this wine is generally seen as one of the stars of the La Frenz cellar (not that there's a lesser wine to be found) but I like it as a nice approachable wine.  Good for a Friday night watching a movie on the TV.

Surprisingly Gris

For the second time recently, we've been quite surprised by how much we enjoyed a local pinot gris. First, it was the Burrowing Owl, now it's Sandhill; however, when I consider the two wineries at hand, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at all. I may generally think red first with both, but both of them are standard "go to's" when I'm thinking of a nice BC wine.

My enjoyment of Burrowing Owl is already acknowledged, but let it be known that I'm pretty darned fond of Howard Soon and Sandhill as well. I remember when Sandhill first got some notice in the press and it stemmed partially from the already burgeoning star status of Burrowing Owl. It turned out that the primary Sandhill vineyard was part of the Burrowing Owl lands and Sandhill promoted that association to great advantage. Plus, the fact that you could actually find a bottle in a liquor store didn't hurt in the least.

Howard Soon has been with Calona Vineyards since 1980. Calona is the oldest continually operating winery in the Okanagan, having been established in 1932 (although a good portion of those years include the production of the "infamous" Baby Duck), and Mr. Soon and is apparently the longest-tenured winemaker in the region. He produced Sandhill's first vintage in 1997 as a higher tier of wines for Calona. From day one, as a winemaker, he has stressed gentle and non-interventionist treatment of the grapes and Sandhill has only created single vineyard wines - which leads us to:

54. 2006 Sandhill King Family Vineyard Pinot Gris (VQA - Okanagan)

Ironically, after talking about the Burrowing Owl vineyard, the grapes for this wine come from the Naramata Bench where the location lends itself to a "lean, zappy, cool climate" expression of pinot gris according to Mr. Soon. "Terroir" isn't the first wine term usually associated with BC, but that may start to change as BC vines start to get a bit age behind them and more winemakers start to learn what works best in their individual vineyards. Howard Soon has to be respected for his efforts on this front.

There's no doubt that there are going to be more Sandhill wines hitting The List.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

A Toast with Our Baby

Yup, this is "our" baby. Boo and I have been the "adoptive parents" of a row of malbec vines at Red Rooster Winery on the Naramata Bench for a couple of years now. I think it's a wildly inventive marketing tool for a winery. Red Rooster hosts two events for its adoptive members - a spring pruning event and a fall harvest party - where we find out some hands-on aspects to the workings behind that bottle of wine on the table. The fact that we receive a case of wine is a pretty decent perk as well.

We haven't had much luck with the scheduling of the "Adopt-A-Row" events thus far - having made only one of the spring pruning parties - but we definitely enjoy the ties to the winery and look forward to every visit that we can make. Taking a walk in the vineyard to find the row with your name plaque in place is a real treat.

Trying some of the wine is even more of a treat.

53. 2007 Red Rooster Malbec (VQA - Naramata Bench - Okanagan)

Malbec isn't that common of a varietal in BC. There are only a couple of smaller scale programs that I'm aware of - like Inniskillin, Sandhill and Quinta Ferreira - where an actual malbec varietal is made. Most of the malbec grown in the province goes into the numerous Meritage or Bordeaux blends.

In fact, we were told that was the reason Red Rooster planted their malbec in the first place; it was to flesh out their own Meritage. However, a couple of years back, they found that the malbec was of such a high quality that they decided to make a varietal wine of their own. Seeing as how they'd really only planned on using the grapes as a small percentage of the Meritage blend, there weren't that many cases available. This was another perk of having adopted a row, we got first crack at buying some of the wine.

This is the second year that Red Rooster has made a malbec varietal and you likely wouldn't confuse it for one of the big Argentine malbecs. But, I'd hardly have expected that. It certainly doesn't matter to Boo and I either. After all, don't all parents love their children - whether they can stand up to a honking big steak with chimichurri sauce or not?!

The picture of our bottle shows it nestled in some of the prunings from our row. While at the spring party in 2007, I kept some of the cuttings and threw them into a pot on our balcony. Strangely enough, they rooted. I very much doubt that we'll ever have enough grapes to make a bottle ourselves, but the connection between those vines and the bottle we're drinking is crazy good.

Nothing to do with Lehman Brothers

Finding that I'm falling a bit behind on the postings, this is meant to be a quick, down and dirty addition to The List. Problem is that there's a lot that could be potentially written about this next wine...

52. 2002 Peter Lehmann GSM (Barossa - Australia)

The Barossa is perhaps the most influential and internationally recognized wine-growing region in Australia. It is located a bit north of Adelaide and consists of two sub-regions: Barossa Valley and Eden Valley. The former is primarily lower in altitude, more fertile and warmer. The Eden has higher altitude, cooler weather patterns and a longer growing season.

The Barossa has been at the forefront of Australian winemaking for a long time, the first grapes being planted there in the early 1840's. It is also one of the few wine-growing regions in the world that has never suffered an outbreak of phylloxera - the tiny, pale yellow sap-sucking insect (love that description) that's related to the aphid and that, over the years, has destroyed rootstock and changed the viticultural practices of growing wine. (I particularly liked one of the first attempts by the French to fight it - which was to bury a live toad under each vine.) Accordingly, the Barossa can still grow grapes on their original rootstocks (quite rare) and it boasts some of the oldest vines in the world - many up to 100 years old or older.

If the Barossa can be referred to "as the beating heart of the Australian wine industry," Peter Lehmann is one of its most notable characters. The gentleman has been a firm supporter of the Australian Wine Appreciation Society in Vancouver and has, on occasion, regaled AWAS members with stories and anecdotes that do nothing but engage and enthrall. From tales going back to how he got started with his own winery to his obvious love of the grape and the people that grow them, the man can spin a yarn.

The GSM is a very approachable introduction to the prolific Lehmann portfolio - both by taste and a price that won't empty your wallet for something that's a bit above your average Tuesday night wine (it runs about $25 nowadays). GSM refers to the blend of grenache, shiraz and mourvedre and is quite common in the Barossa. I was quite surprised when I first learned that it is also the most common blend of the vaunted chateauneuf-du-pape - one of the big guns from the Rhone Valley in France.

We've had this bottle lying around for a little while. I believe it can still be found in the government liquor stores but it's now called "Seven Surveys GSM."

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Tears are Flowing

It's called the "heartbreak grape" and I suppose I should have known better than to open this bottle for such a critical game as Game 6 with our back against the wall.  But I didn't think of this until after the game was over.

And a game it was.  Can you say "rollercoaster?"  

Slow start.  Fall behind rather early.  Tie it.  Things bleak when down 3-1.  Tie it up!  Take the lead!!  And so on and so forth.  Only to lose yet another.  Who'd've thunk we see a Canucks playoff game with a 7-5 score?!

I suppose there's some solace in the fact that the Canucks weren't even picked to make the playoffs at the start of the season. 

And, I guess, the wine wasn't all that bad.

51.  2006 Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir (VQA - Okanagan)

Pinot Noir isn't the most prolific award winner in the Burrowing Owl portfolio.  Maybe the winery doesn't enter it in as many competitions.  Maybe they don't produce as much.  Or maybe the vineyards just aren't as well suited for the grape.  For the most part, BC's most-acclaimed pinots seem to come from the wineries a little further north than Burrowing Owl's southern location.  

One of BC's most revered wine writers, John Schreiner, reported once that pinot noir was originally planted at Burrowing Owl because the new winery's first consulting winemaker, Bill Dyer, wanted to try his hand at it when he migrated up to the Okanagan from a 20-year stint at sterling Napa Valley producer Sterling Wines.

Mr. Dyer has moved on but the prominence of Burrowing Owl remains.  

And, now that the Canucks' playoff drive is done for at least this year, there likely won't be that much Burrowing Owl on The List's horizon for a bit, but its prominence has been acknowledged.

Until next season....

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

"Singing Gruner Veltliner"

Groovy.  Trendy.  Rising Cult Status.  

These were some of the descriptors I saw when looking up Gruner Veltliner as a grape varietal.  It certainly isn't one that most shoppers would specifically head to the neighbourhood liquor store to buy - although I'll admit that it was one of the first wines we counted on The List because a bottle was brought to our Wine Boyz tasting of "wines you've never had before."

Most Gruner Veltliner comes from Austria as it's almost their national grape - and this one does just that.

50.  2005 Laurenz und Sophie Singing Gruner Veltliner (Austria)

More than a third of all vineyard acreage in Austria is planted with the grape - which is almost four times as much as the next varietal planted.  We don't see a lot of Austrian wines in Vancouver, although that is starting to change a little bit.  Most commentators seem to say that Austrian wineries have raised their standards since a well-publicized anti-freeze scandal back in 1985.  Higher standards predictably lead to higher quality and that creates its own higher demand.

I understand that G.V. is popular with riesling crowd (of which I belong) and is readily approachable by the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) folk.  The grape is apparently very adaptable to stylistic manipulation by the winemaker and it can, therefore, be seen in a number of taste profiles.

In fact, this winery offers up this "singing" version, in addition to its "friendly" and "charming" bottles.  The back label says that you just have to try it to find out why it's called "Singing."  While we had no problem quaffing down the bottle, it didn't exactly leave us warbling or dancing around the garden or living room - although maybe after another couple bottles of it, we might have.  The acidity did lend itself well to a splash of cassis for the first kir I've enjoyed in a long time.

The Rest of the World seems to only plant it if an ex-pat Austrian has a sentimental hankering for the taste of home.  I didn't find a single winery in Canada that produces a straight G.V. although there was a brief mention of a couple German-sounding names growing a bit for blending purposes.  I wonder if part of that reason is that the grape is a late-ripener and our limited growing season in the Great White North may not lend itself easily to economic production.  Maybe it's just that no one knows what it is.

Guess we'll see if GV is destined to follow in the steps of viognier and become a bit of a grape du jour.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Game 5 - Time for One of the Big Guns

49.  2002 Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon (VQA - Okanagan)

So, big game, I figure why not bring out the 2006 All Canadian Wine Awards Gold medal winner for cab's.  For us, this is one those wines that we were holding onto for a "big" occasion.  Hockey playoffs.  Round 2.  Pivotal game.  If that doesn't qualify as a special occasion, what will?

I get a tad apprehensive when opening a BC wine when the vintages start getting a bit longer in the tooth.  It's hardly a 40-year premiere cru Bordeaux, but there was still plenty left to enjoy.  I think the fruit would have been livelier a bit earlier on but there was still a nice balance and enough tannin remaining to match up to a game-day steak.

In the last Canucks' posting, I recounted that cabernet franc has a potential future in the province as a varietal and that Burrowing Owl has one of the best.  I have to admit that I enjoyed tonight's cab sauv a bit more though.  It would be interesting to taste side-by-side like last week's meritage vintages.  

Oh, for an never-ending supply of Burrowing Owl, eh. 

OK, big gun in BC or not, it didn't work as a good luck wine - at least as far as the Canucks go.  It was a doozy of a game, and our boys were in it until the last bit of the third period when a couple of penalties did us in.  So, it's back against the wall, down 3 games to 2 and we're playing the next game in Chicago.  Keep the hopes high and the fingers crossed.

Luckily, there's still some more Burrowing Owl for Game 6.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

I Believe... I'll Have Another Glass

I might need another glass, in fact it might have to be another bottle.  Can you believe that we were only 3 minutes - that's THREE minutes - away from taking a 3-1 lead in the series over the Blackhawks.  Now granted, it wasn't the prettiest of offensive games from a Canucks' viewpoint, but it was a road game and it's the playoffs.  I'm sure the bandwagon would have forgiven the team - defensive game or not - if they'd held on for those final three minutes and taken the 1-0 win.

Aaaaarrrghhh!  Losing in overtime just plain sucks!!

48.  2004 Burrowing Owl Cabernet Franc (VQA Okanagan)

If last game's Pinot Gris was possibly Burrowing Owl's flagship white, many would argue that the not-so-well-known cab franc is the winery's best red.  In BC, this varietal is more commonly used in Meritage blends (Bordeaux style wines), but it's coming along as a very nice varietal on its own and the Burrowing Owl version has been around almost since the winery's Day 1.  What's more, it's been consistently winning accolades for the winery.  

This particular vintage was chosen the best cab franc in Canada at the 2006 Canadian Wine Awards.  It was only awarded a silver medal but it was still picked the top wine for this varietal.  A number of wine writers actually see cab franc as a possible signature red for BC in that its slightly shorter ripening period helps in BC's cooler climate.  It's not as understood or recognized as cabernet sauvignon, but that might actually be a selling point for BC since not as many global areas produce a straight cab franc varietal.  Any area that can ripen cab sauv produces it, but not as many go for the lesser known cab.

I'm going to have to put some thought into the wine for the next game.  The fifth game is pivotal.  I'm glad it's going to be in Vancouver.

White Jerseys, White Wine

Canucks 3 - Blackhawks 1

Since the series has shifted to Chicago, the Canucks are wearing the white jerseys.  So, (unintentionally) we pulled out the one white Burrowing Owl that we have.  

47.  2006 Burrowing Owl Pinot Gris (VQA Okanagan)

Boy, did we like it!!  That was a bit of a surprise since we don't really drink a lot of pinot gris.  I took a bit of a Google and saw that this is considered by some to be Burrowing Owl's flagship white and the wine won a silver medal at the Canadian Wine Awards and a gold at the Okanagan Fall Festival.  

Turns out that pinot gris is the second most planted white varietal in BC and at least one commentator thinks that Burrowing Owl is the provincial benchmark for pinot gris.  If it's all like this bottle, I might have to agree - and try more.

I'm a little surprised that the Burrowing Owl vineyard is seen as a great location for pinot gris.  I think of pinot gris as being a tad more suited to the cooler vineyards further up the Okanagan Valley.  Burrowing Owl is almost as far south as grape-growing goes in the Okanagan.  Its vineyards are found at the northernmost tip of the Sonora Desert and that's a good part of why the winery is so well known for its red varietals - ones needing a good long growing season.  I don't mind them giving up so many rows of the red if the result is as good as this.

What's more, the wine not only worked for us, but it worked for the team as well.  If the pinot gris was a pleasant surprise, the win IN Chicago was awesome.

What's a Squinzano?

The theme country/region of the 2008 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival was Italy and, in amongst all the big gun Barolos and Amarones, I found this little pleaser - although nothing about the wine itself is "little."  Well, maybe the name causes a little bit of "what the hey?"  I had to wonder what's a "Squinzano?"  As for the wine though, it's big, concentrated and ripe and very approachable - with or without food - which is something I like.

46.  2001 Apollonio Squinzano Rosso (Squinzano DOC - Italy)

Hailing from Puglia, it turns out that Squinzano is one of the growing areas in the heel of the Italian boot.  Apollonio, the winery, is a smaller, family run venture - now in its fourth generation of sons running the operation.  This bottle is a blend of mostly negroamaro (70%), sangiovese (19%) and two malavasia varietals - malavasia nera di Lecce and malavasia nera di Brindisi.  I know next to nothing about the area or these grapes (okay, maybe sangiovese isn't all that new to me but it's only 19%).  But isn't that part of the fun in trying and discovering new wines.

The Wine Festival brought a number of new Italian wineries to the Vancouver area last year.  I know that our personal exposure to and adventures in Italian wine have certainly expanded over the last couple of years.  Apollonio appears to have gained a bit of a foothold in Vancouver.  I have seen some of the winery's product in the government liquor stores - although not this particular wine.  Hopefully, we'll see more of it.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Latin Left-Overs

Despite the impression that might have been left with the last post - that those nurses were a wild and crazy bunch - I found wine on the counter the next morning. What's more, it was still in the bottle. So, there was a sort of left-over (rather than a hangover) effect. We had two semi-started bottles waiting to be tried the evening after.

Being from Chile and Spain, both wines might have been better with the Latin Quarter tapas the other night, but I don't see myself running out to grab either one as must-have down the road.

44. 2007 Emiliana Etnico Reserva Syrah-Merlot-Malbec-Mourvedre (Valle Central - Chile)

45. 2006 Valcarlos Fortius Tempranillo (Navarra DOC - Spain)

Both are entry level wines and are priced accordingly, but I don't think either one of them really called out to us. The Fortius Tempranillo just missed the mark altogether. While the Etnico started off nicely on the nose and is organically grown, the palate (and particularly the finish) left me wanting.

A Fiery Farewell

One of Boo's co-workers just retired and the gang from his ward were going to bid her adieu with a dinner at the Latin Quarter, a venerable restaurant on the Commercial Drive scene.  Since it's not that far from where we live, Boo invited them by our place for cocktails before the dinner.

To me, "cocktails" means drinks and "drinks" regularly involves wine.  However, once again, this isn't a posting where I get to add an abundance of bottles to The List.  With Boo playing host and me designated cater-waiter, it wasn't a real "sit down and enjoy a bottle" scenario - which appears to be the determining factor for making The List.  

I wasn't about to let the whole affair go without some credit though.  So, when one of the guests brought along a celebratory bottle for the evening, it wasn't much of a tough choice to decide to count it - if only because I made sure that this waiter became a full participant.  We don't get the chance to pop the cork on a true Champagne all that often.

43.  N.V. Piper Heidsieck Cuvee Brut (Champagne - France)

Piper Heidsieck was a participating winery at this year's Vancouver Playhouse Festival and the program notes stated that this is the world's third largest Champagne house and it dates back to the reign of Louis XVI - apparently being the preferred Champagne of his Queen, Marie Antoinette.  Another icon of her time, Marilyn Monroe, is quoted as saying that she woke up every morning with Piper Heidsieck.   Our retiree was obviously being feted with a bit of class.

Marie Antoinette may have "let them eat cake," but this gang was eating tapas.  And to me, tapas cry out for margaritas or sangria - neither of which are topics for The List. 

By the time the after-party arrived back at our house, it was bed time for this boy - it being a "school night" and all.  So, I packed it in upstairs.  That didn't mean that I was oblivious to the shenanigans that were continuing downstairs - even the neighbours were asking about some rather raucous activities.  Knowing that the mild and demure reputations of certain participants may be at stake, I'll leave it for other media to recount the on-goings.  Far be it from me to go into tales of belly dancing, grass skirts and flaming matches.  

I remember, back in university days, that the nurses could always be counted on for partying.  I guess some things never change.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Two Wines for Game 2

For me, one of the best part of a Canucks playoff game is when Mark Donnelly sings the Canadian national anthem.  For the last so many seasons, his trademark has been to stop singing during the second verse of "O Canada" and he just lets the crowd sing their hearts out.  And they do!!  Just hearing the sold out stadium singing away gives me goose bumps!  (In fact, you can even You Tube it.)

So, this entry features me as I am standing at attention, with our wines for the night, and Lou (the Canucks' goalie and captain for the non-Vancouverites) in the background, while thousands of our neighbours and friends warble "with glowing hearts, we see thee rise..." and so on.  

Elzee came over for dinner and the game, so we knew one bottle wouldn't be enough - particularly when drinking Burrowing Owl.  I figured it might be best to feature two vintages of the same wine and chose:

41.  2001 Burrowing Owl Meritage (Okanagan) and

42.  2005 Burrowing Owl Meritage (Okanagan)

We thought that, if one bottle of Meritage was going to be good, two were going to be great.  Burrowing Owl has been producing a Meritage, Bordeaux-style blend, since 2001.  I couldn't find the exact blend of the 2001, but I did see a reference that the early years actually had a heavy lean towards the cab franc.  As the winery expanded its plantings and added some malbec and petit verdot, the 2005 saw all five of the traditional Bordeaux grapes being blended - with 64% merlot, 25% cab franc, 10% cab sauv and a smidgen of the malbec and petit verdot.  Both vintages saw a bit of hardware coming their way - including bronze medals at both the '04 and the '08 Canadian Wine Awards.

It likely goes without saying that we enjoyed both wines; however, it was nice to drink the two vintages side-by-side to see what some aging might do to a wine.  All three of us had a bit of a preference for the 2005 as it had a bit more fruit on both the nose and the palate.  Although the '01 definitely opened up a bit more on the nose by the time the second period had rolled around.

Two wines, a quick 2-0 lead for the Canucks.  We were sitting happy.  Unfortunately, the wine ran out, as did the Canucks' control of the game.  The Hawks just kept on coming and really out-played our boys, smacking them with 5 straight goals and, ultimately, a 6-3 loss.

Now, I don't think anyone realistically expected the Canucks to sweep Chicago, but this was a devastating loss.  If we're going to be superstitious about this, Boo and I may not be able to watch another game with Elzee - or drink another vintage of Meritage.

A Roogle You Say

40. 2004 Marquis Philips Sarah's Blend (South Eastern Australia)

Reliable. I'll sum up this wine with that one word. This is a blend of (predominantly) shiraz, cab sauv and merlot and is a collaborative effort between Australian winemakers and American importers that hits all the right notes. Big, new world flavours. Decently priced at just over $20.

I wouldn't exactly call it a critter wine, but I like the marketing nod to the cross-border effort by gracing the label with a mythical creature called the "roogle" - part kangaroo, part eagle.

We were introduced to Marquis Philips when we were given one of their higher end wines as a present a number of years back. We'd never heard of it and then, immediately thereafter, a couple of their wines started showing up on the provincial liquor store shelves. It's an easy grab come BBQ party season.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Round 2 - Canucks vs. Blackhawks

OK, so the second round of the playoffs has kicked off and our boys have drawn the Chicago Blackhawks as their opponents.  Using my Hockey and the Quest for the Stanley Cup along the Golden Mile, a new series calls for a new BC winery to be featured.  I decided this is a perfect excuse to open up some of the Burrowing Owl wines that we've been hoarding in wait for a special occasion.

Some might question putting a burrowing owl up against a black hawk but, remember, the concept is that these wines are going to top anything that Illinois can put up against them.

39.  2005 Burrowing Owl Syrah (Okanagan)

Go big or go home, they say, and this wine delivers on that front.  As with much of the wine world, 2005 is generally seen as being a year of good growing conditions in the Okanagan.  This syrah has garnered its fair share of praise - winning local, national and international awards.  A worthy wine to put up against Chicago.

The wine ran out long before the game was over - maybe that's why the Hawks made up a 3-0 deficit; however, our boys in blue, ultimately came through to take the first game.  A huge sigh of relief could be heard throughout the city.

The 9-day lay off between this series and Round 1 left me counting the hours to opening the Burrowing Owl.  As much as I'm looking forward to drinking the wines, I think I'd still prefer the Canucks to make short order of the Hawks.  Seven games would lead to some nice wines but it might also lead to my needing something stronger to drink than wine as a coping mechanism.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Man From Margaret River

38.  2004 Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc Semillon (Margaret River - Western Australia)

I've always found the selection of Margaret River wines to be rather scarce in BC liquor stores.  As mentioned previously, I'd picked up a bit of a jones for the region while visiting down under back in 1996 - not that I made it as far as Perth and the West Coast.  Upon returning to Vancouver, I made a bee-line for one of the specialty shops but there were only a couple of wines available.  I remember that Cape Mentelle was one of them and it was affordable, being in the $20-$30 range - a bit of a splurge for a Tuesday night, but it wouldn't break the bank.  I continued to keep an eye out for it.

The winery doesn't seem to be on the shelves regularly nowadays though - which is too bad because it's garnering a lot of attention back in Oz as one of the premier producers in the Margaret River area and in the country.  I like my sauvignon blanc this way - not quite as grassy and acidic as is commonly found while so many strive to be New Zealand all over again.  However, that "restraint" might relate a bit to the fact that this was the 2004 vintage and the winemaker recommends that the wine be opened in the first couple of years.  The back label recounts that there is a bit of oak treatment, but it must be limited because it certainly didn't overpower the still noticeable fruit.

I hope to see more of Cape Mentelle.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Just for the Halibut

Having the last name "Halifax," it was only a matter of time before I actually took the time to visit the city.  I figured being Mr. Halifax had to be worth a beer or two in the bars.  Things didn't quite work out that way.  However, when we made it there a couple of summers ago, we did find out that Nova Scotia actually has a wine industry happening.

We weren't exactly thrilled to find out that there wasn't a single car to be rented for the four days that we were there.  Believe it or not.  So, we were rather stuck to foot and cab.  But we did fit in an arranged tour of some the wine districts - not only allowing us to see a bit of the province that we couldn't drive to but teaching us about an area that I'd never thought of as wine producing.

Our current addition to the list is nice example of what is regularly announced as Nova Scotia's quintessential grape - a hybrid that was developed in Ontario, but deemed not suitable to the Ontario growing season.  It did take nicely to Nova Scotia though.

37.  2005 Domaine de Grand Pre L'Acadie Blanc Reserve (Nova Scotia)

Boo and I were both pleasantly surprised that it was still fresh and very drinkable.  This bottle reminded me mostly of pinot gris, but it's often compared to and referred to as "Nova Scotia's Chardonnay" because it takes to a number of different treatments - oak, malolactic, sur lees, or straight fruit.   The Haligonians repeatedly said that it goes extremely well with lobster.  I'd been holding out on the off chance that lobster might hit our dinner plates, but it's been almost three years and  I don't think I've had a whiff of lobster since being in Halifax.    There may be the old adage, "no wine before its time," but this L'Acadie's time had come and it was just fine with halibut.  

I don't think I've ever seen any area other than Nova Scotia grow the varietal and you've gotta know that you'd never seen a Nova Scotian wine for sale in BC.  Heaven forbid that.  Based on this wine, too bad.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"For All the Right Rieslings"

36.  2005 Tangled Vines Riesling (Okanagan)

The bottle says, "For all the right Rieslings."   The only problem this time around was that it seems it took us too long to open the bottle.  The fruit and the lemon and lime that the bottle also talked about just wasn't there any more.  The bottle wasn't corked; it had just lost its freshness.  

It's a good thing that I've previously had the wine on a couple of occasions and I know the style that winemaker, Craig McKenzie, is going for - largely stemming from his years in Australia's Clare Valley - because I might not have thought much of the wine if this were my only try.

Tangled Vines is a small BC winery that I really want to see succeed.  I love the fact that they prominently feature pinot blanc as a varietal, but even more-so because I used to bump into the winemaker back in university days (just like the host in the last post) - and I like seeing contemporaries score big.  Craig was in our neighbour and rival fraternity and even though we weren't exactly drinking buddies, we knew who the other one was.  

A couple of years back, some friends and Boo and I went up for the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival and Craig was serving at the big festival tasting.  It didn't click at the moment (because it had been a number of years after all), but I mentioned to the others that I was pretty sure I recognized him at the winery's table.  As chance would have it, we were doing a bit of a tasting tour the next day and we drove right by Tangled Vines and decided to stop in.  Over this same riesling, Craig and I figured out where it was that we knew each other from.  I've tried keeping an eye out for them ever since.

We'll see more Tangled Vines on The List.  I'm just mad at myself for not being able to sing the praises of Craig and his wines this time around.  My bad.