Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Beverage on the Bridge

One of the highlights of any walkabout with Berra Yogi is a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. I think the views you get of Manhattan are stunning and it's just one of those activities that's ideal for people-watching and taking your time.

We figured that a late afternoon/early evening hike would provide the best opportunity to enjoy the sun and catch some of the changes in the cityscape as dusk started to set in.

We also figured it would be the perfect time for a cocktail before heading out for dinner.

88. 2003 Chateau Redortier Beaumes de Venise (Cotes du Rhone Villages AOC - France)

I realize now that it was thoughtless of me to bring along a French wine for such an icon of NYC. We should have opened another New York wine given the location, but I suppose life is full of after-thoughts. And, we can say that at least we thought ahead enough to bring along a bottle and glasses in the first place.

We just stopped mid-bridge, popped the cork and had a couple small glasses as we watched the world go by.

As a rule, the Rhone is one of my favourite regions. The Villages appellation isn't the highest level in the Rhone but it is one step up on the basic Cotes du Rhone designation. Chateau Redortier is a well-regarded, family run winery (the founder's daughter is the mayor of the neighbouring town of Suzette, pop. 130) and the winery is known for using a higher percentage of syrah in its red wines and using no oak during the winemaking. I saw on one site that Etienne de Menthon, the proprietor, feels that oak is detrimental to grenache-based wines such as this.

Villages designated wines must have a minimum of 50% grenache and a minimum of 20% syrah and/or mourvedre. Redortier's Beaumes de Venise is around 60% grenache with the bulk of the remainder being syrah.

All of this sounds really good to my palate, but this was one wine that didn't quite meet the occasion. Maybe it was that whole French wine on an American icon thing. Good thing the Bridge still provided a highlight.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Fatty Crabs & Austrians

The first thing that you get when you Google "Austrian Riesling" is "Did you mean Australian Riesling?" Certainly out here in Vancouver, you're far more likely to find an Aussie wine over an Austrian one any day - and, if you do run across an Austrian wine, it's likely a Gruner Veltliner or a Zweigelt.

Bur here we were at Fatty Crab with Berra Yogi, getting ready to chow down on our Asian-inspired tapas, and lo and behold, we're being served an Austrian wine. It was a suggestion of the sommelier when Boo said that he didn't really want any noticeable sweetness to the wine. I'd actually thought that it was a German wine that we'd ordered because of the name, but then I saw Osterreich on the label after we'd had a glass or so and I took a better look at the bottle.

87. 2007 Weingut Brundlmeyer Riesling Kamptaler Terrasen (Kamptal - Austria)

I couldn't find out much about this wine or the winery online. In general, Austrian Rieslings take a back seat to Gruner Veltliner, but it would seem that the good Rieslings can rank right up there with the best of the Germans and the rest of the world producers. It just isn't all that common to find them because the local Austrian market buys up the majority of the good wines.

From what I could find, Brundlmeyer is a known and established producer in Austria. I noted in one "article" that their wines were some of the first Austrian wines to find an overseas market. The winery is located in the Kamptal region which is one of the country's top regions and, according to Jancis Robinson, the Riesling grape reigns in Kamptal. I also read that there are notes on local wines going back to 1280 in the Langenlois Abbey Registry.

I don't think this was the finest wine that Brundlmeyer produces. This was so acidic even Boo was commenting that he wished he'd sat back and kept quiet about the "no sweetness" comment. It wasn't the greatest match to the spiciness of the dishes but it certainly gave us a novel entry for The List.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Well-Earned Reward

I think my very favourite place in New York is Bethesda Fountain and Terrace in Central Park. It doesn't seem to matter what the weather is or how crowded the area is, I simply love the spot! To add to the allure of the spot, when Boo and I were paying a quick visit, there was a lone musician playing jazzy, bluesy saxophone. Before we'd left, a Japanese gentleman stepped up to the jazzman and pulled out a harmonica and started to play along. They riffed back and forth until we had to keep on moving.

As much as I'd have loved to crack a bottle right then and there, we were on a mission. Places to see, museums to visit and clothes to buy.

I was rather shocked today, we were making the obligatory visit to Century 21 to check out the clothes on hand. Now, Boo is NOT a clothes-hound, nor is he known to be a willing shopper. But, he actually outlasted me today as we kept ourselves occupied for probably close to three hours - a previously unheard of feat.

And, speaking of feet, our's were dead tired after the shopping, so it was back home with our cache of fashion statements - where we rewarded ourselves with a well-earned glass of - what else? - wine.

86. 2007 Le Rose de Phelan Segur (Bordeaux Rose AOC)

When picking up the bottle at our new-found, favourite wine purveyor, I knew he recommended this French rose. What I didn't realize - until we were back at the B&B and took a look at the label - was that it was a rose from Bordeaux. I didn't even know that there was much rose produced in the region. I certainly don't think that I've ever tried one before.

Turns out that, of all the wine produced in Bordeaux, rose wines only account for about 3% of the area's wines. I didn't find a whole lot of other information about the Rose AOC or about the winery though.

Chateau Phelan Segur is a well regarded Cru Bourgeois producer in the Ste. Estephe region. There are no regulations regarding rose wines in the area. So, the wines must carry the generic Bordeaux Rose title. I saw that the appellation requires that all rose wines must be made solely from red grapes; however, after that, there appear to be a great many approaches to the method of productions. I didn't see any specifications about this wine, but the winery is known for large plantings of cabernet sauvignon. I might hazard a guess and wonder if this wine isn't based more on cab franc - seeing as how the grape will be planted for the red Bordeaux blends and it tends to lend itself to a number of other roses you find on the market.

In any event, the wine was fresh and fruity and was just what was needed after a hard morning of shopping.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A Wicked New York Wine

Born and raised on The Wizard of Oz and a long-time lover of Broadway, I have been dying to see Wicked. The retelling of the story of the witches of Oz was my ONE MUST attraction for the trip. I'm not sure of the strings that had to be pulled or the price that had to be paid, but we had absolutely skookum tickets for the show. It was to be my delayed birthday present from Boo and two weeks prior to the trip his neck was on the line when he hadn't procured tix yet - particularly since Ticketmaster said that the show was completely sold out during our stay there.

I suppose that, even during the "economic downturn," Broadway shows are doing just fine, thank you very much.

I've seen some big shows and big names on Broadway in past visits, but this was Boo's first ever Broadway show. And it WAS WICKED!! The show was everything I'd hoped for. But, I digress; this is a wine blog after all.

It would have been very civilized to sit back, enjoy the show, and drink a bottle of wine or two; however, that's just not the way things work on the Great White Way.

We had to enjoy our wine beforehand and that we did with a spread of goodies at our apartment. We'd planned on a picnic in the park (Central, naturally) but the weather didn't cooperate.

We did, however, get the chance to try our first New York state produced wine that night. It only seemed fitting.

85. 2007 Keuka Lake Vignoles (Finger Lakes - New York)

Keuka Lakes is a small, estate winery in the Finger Lakes district in upstate New York that produces both vinifera and hybrid grapes.

Out here in BC, New York state wines are virtually unheard of. There's one kosher concord grape wine in the provincial system and I don't know if any of the private stores stock other wines. I certainly don't think that I've ever tried one - not even at the big Playhouse Festival tastings. So, it was a hope of mine to try a couple of local wines during our visit.

We were very fortunate to find one of the biggest wine shops in the city within blocks of where we were staying. I basically explained the situation and put myself in their hands. They led me to the Keuka Lakes. Having never heard of vignoles, I had to ask if it was a grape or a trade name for that particular wine.

Vignoles is a hybrid grape, also known by the rather tasty name (not) of Ravat 41, and is particularly well-known in the Finger Lakes. This version, at least, was very much like a dry Riesling and we actually liked it quite a bit. Hybrids don't get a lot of play nowadays, but this one was definitely worth developing.

I had, however, heard of the Finger Lakes area which probably isn't that surprising since it turns out that the area produces the bulk of the state's table wines. Unfortunately, we didn't try another local wine on this visit. Guess we'll just have to come back again - if only to try a couple more wines.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Manhattan. We Have Landed!

I love Manhattan!! Home of Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Wigstock, the Meatpacking District and Sex & The City. Come on, what gay man wouldn't?

So, after years of trying to convince Boo into a jaunt in New York City, I finally got him onto the plane for a quick visit to the Big Apple. Naturally, our plane was delayed in Chicago for 2-3 hours. So, all my planning to arrive in Manhattan early enough to enjoy our first evening was all for naught when we finally arrived at our Upper West Side B&B apartment around 10.30 that night.

We did not test the waters to see if NYC is truly the city that never sleeps. After a quick settling in and bite to eat, it was off to bed in preparation for the days and nights to come.

We did, however, keep a brisk pace on our first day. There were scrambled eggs and smoked salmon at the legendary Barney Greengrass to start. No wine though. Then it was off to the first of the trip's museums. That evening, we met up with Boo's old family friend, Berra Yogi. Both Boo and I (separately), and various friends of our's, have been treated to Ms. Yogi's famous tours of her home town, but this was our first time together. First stop was Union Square and Greenwich Village, where we dove right into that great New York tradition - pizza.

John's Pizzeria has been serving up pie for near on 80 years and is well-known as not being a by-the-slice joint. It is known for line-ups and occasional celebrity spottings though. Despite Berra Yogi's protestations that the evening's pizzas didn't live up to expectations since the tomatoes just weren't ripe enough, Boo and I had no problem eating more than our share of our two pizzas.

84. 2007 Arboreto Montepulciano d'Abruzzo (DOC - Italy)

It seemed natural to order an Italian with pizza and this was an easy choice - since I think it was the only red wine sold by the bottle. The number of choices didn't matter in the least as the wine works exactly as it was supposed to. I don't think that this wine is available back home in Vancouver, but that might be because it's all going to NYC. When I Googled the wine, it seemed like most sites were all related to the Five Boroughs. It even got a mention as a perennial best seller by the NY Times.

I'm not sure I enjoyed seeing the price you could pick it up for in the local stores (under $10) - considering what we paid for it in the restaurant. Welcome to New York City dining, I suppose. I didn't know that then, however, and we did have our first bottle from the Big Apple.

I was hoping for many more.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Three Notes before Heading Off

As mentioned previously, the whole keeping up with blog entries is a bit of task - and this recent vacation just made things all that much tougher. The three wines set out here were the last three that Boo and I had before heading off. They were actually over four or five nights and, since they were just enjoyed with dinner at home, I'm going to mention them here altogether.

81. 2004 Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon (Columbia Valley - Washington state)

82. 2003 Boggy Creek Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon (King Valley - Australia)

83. 2006 Poplar Grove Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench - BC)

If memory serves, Chateau Ste. Michelle is the largest producer in Washington and they have a vast portfolio. This is an entry level wine that my folks brought back from Costco (such a novel concept to us here in North of the border in BC - buying wine at Costco that is, not entry level wines). It performed just like it was supposed to.

We didn't really know anything about Boggy Creek. I think we might have won it at a tasting awhile back. It was a very pleasant surprise. The King Valley is located a couple of hours North of Melbourne and I haven't seen or heard much of the area before. The winery's website says that the valley is similar to Tuscany and Piedmonte in its growing conditions and that it's considered cool climate for Australia.

I don't see Boggy Creek listed on the BC Liquor Stores' web site, so I'm not sure where we even look to find more from them. I wouldn't mind checking into them at all.

The flip side of Boggy Creek is the Poplar Grove Pinot Gris. While we don't get the opportunity to drink a lot of Poplar Grove, we're certainly well aware of the winery. Poplar Grove has been considered one of the foremost boutique wineries in BC for a decade now but their production was always limited. In 2007, new partners were brought into the business and access to land, grapes and production facilities was scheduled to increase multi-fold.

This level of investment seems to be happening to a number of the old boutique wineries. It will be interesting to see how standards and reputation hold up. Poplar Grove has concentrated on just a few varietals in the past. The question will be whether they expand production of the same wines or they start producing more and more varietals.

The winery refers to Pinot Gris as their signature white and there was plenty in this bottle to confirm the opinion. There'll be a number of more Poplar Grove wines showing up on The List in the bottles to come.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Discovering Chenin Blanc

One of the most enjoyable aspects of attempting this Odyssey is that we'll have to expose ourselves to all sorts of styles, varietals and areas in order to reach 2001 bottles on The List.

I liken our adventure in new wines and producers to the daily responsibilities of winemakers and growers - particularly in the newer wine producing areas of the world, such as BC. Just as we're finding out which wines and producers move us the most, part of the growing process for BC is to find out which grape varietals work best in the different areas that can produce wine in BC. The Northern Okanagan has growing conditions very different from Black Sage Road that vary from the Similkameen, all of which are a world away from conditions on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

We haven't drunk a lot of Inniskillin's wines over the years but there are a couple of aspects of the winery that I'm quite enamoured with - the first is that it is one of the few wineries that produce wines in both BC and in Ontario. The winery's Discovery Series is another facet of their approach that I like. Under this label, Inniskillin explores varietals that haven't been traditionally grown in the Okanagan.

80. 2005 Inniskillin Discovery Series Chenin Blanc (VQA - Okanagan)

Known primarily from South Africa and the Loire Valley in France, I find Chenin Blanc isn't all that well-known in BC - particularly when the grapes are actually grown in the province. Wikipedia lists over three dozen names that the grape is known as around the world. Seen largely as a fairly neutral grape, Chenin Blanc is adaptable to a great many set of growing conditions and flavour profiles.

Inniskillin's offering has always come across nicely to us in tastings - nice fruit, body, acidity. It's always been quite drinkable and versatile for simple glass of wine or for accompanying food. It's a great garden sipper. With the 2005 vintage, the vines were still fairly young and only 500 cases of the wine were produced. Production has been ramped up since then, but you still might have to hunt around a bit to find it. Luckily, it was still fresh enough to enjoy. We probably should have drunk this bottle a while back. I think it's worth another bottle or two down the road.

Approachable Burgundy

I've fallen behind with my postings as we were out of town for a bit. I'd hoped to keep posting while away but we didn't have a whole lot of down time. So, it's catch up time.

79. 2005 Louis Latour Pinot Noir (AOC Bourgogne)

This is the second entry level Louis Latour we've tired, this one being a little truer to the family's Burgundy roots. Latour is unique in Burgundy for the fact that the winery has been family-owned and operated for over 200 years and 10 generations.

All the same, Bourgogne Pinot Noir is from the regional appellation and the fruit can come from any part of Burgundy. For a region where some of the best known wines come from holdings that can be as small as a couple of rows, this wine isn't going to be so caught up in the Burgundy love of terroir. In fact, it seemed more reminiscent of New World wines in its flavour profile with a lot of fruit up front. That ought to set French tongues a-waggin'.

Very approachable though and, at $22, it's a lot more approachable from a pocketbook point of view when it comes to Burgundy wines.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Never Drank Like This At University

Got together for dinner with three of the boys from university days on Friday night. They've been meeting like this at least a couple times a year for all the years since, but I graduated to be an addition to the gang as of last year.

It's a great excuse to do some catching up, to eat well and to have a couple drinks to help lubricate the memory. I can confirm that there was some decent lubrication this night as we had no problem keeping the stories going all night - although it didn't hurt to have a cougar in action, a trophy date parading the little black dress (emphasis on "little") with the new jewels (we're not sure if the boobies were new or not) and some City action continually walking by. It's the first time we've gotten together since I started this blog and The List, so we took advantage of that and probably upgraded our wines accordingly.

We decided to meet at The Italian Kitchen and I think I can speak for all of us when I say that we had a great time. The Pink One was organizing the night and he scored us a smoking table. The food was everything I'd hoped for. The wine was great and our server, Masha, was superb. We were missing one tonight (as we were to be five) and the chair sat there empty the whole night - despite the boys' attempt to get Masha to join us for one of the wines she was suggesting.

Speaking of the wines...

76. 2005 Beringer Third Century Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast - California)

77. 2006 Argiano Non Confurditor Rosso Toscano (IGT Tuscany - Italy)

78. 2006 Antinori Tenuta Guado al Tasso Il Brucato (DOC Bolgheri - Italy)

I arrived a tad late due to the fact that I'd forgotten my wallet at work and then decided to take the Skytrain downtown to the restaurant. It just allowed Mr. Big (no relation to Sex & The City - he's the one of us that still works the downtown firm lifestyle) time to peruse the wine list and decide on the Beringer.

It didn't take us long to polish off that bottle, so it couldn't have been that bad. But, it was time to move on to the Italian wines - given that we were at The Italian Kitchen. We'd chosen one that was sold out, so Masha recommended the Argiano and it was a big hit - a definite Tuscan that was just super. The blend of 40% cab sauv and a balance evenly split between merlot, syrah and sangiovese tested our memory of the whole story behind the Super Tuscans.

Having told Masha how much we enjoy the wine, she realized that the evening needed at least one more bottle and recommended Il Brucatio - the little brother (second wine) of Guado al Tasso - one of the big name Super Tuscans. Produced in Bolgheri, the coastal area of Tuscany, this was a blend of 60% cab and 30% merlot, with syrah (primarily) and a couple other varietals making up the balance. Big.

I think the Argiano was the favourite pretty much across the board - although The Pink One might have preferred the Brucatio - but he's a vegetarian (that eats fish). So, can we really trust his taste?

We didn't quite pull off having Masha model the wines for us, but she did take the link for the blog. That actually prompted one of the better laughs of the night. One of the gang commented on the state of everyone's studliness when it was the gay guy handing out his card and personal info to the hot server. Wisely, the response was that, "yeah, but everyone's married. We shouldn't be handing out cards to girls young enough to be our daughters."

We may not have left the restaurant as hooched as we might have back in university days, but then again, I know we wouldn't have eaten like that or tried such wines. In those times, it was beer. The closest we would have come to a Super Tuscan would have been a straw-covered bottle of chianti if we were really being adventurous.

A Changing of The Guard

No wine to report on from this evening even though there was plenty of wine to be tried. It was the Annual General Meeting for the BC Wine Appreciation Society and there was plenty happening.

The society has been around for five or six years now and, for as long as I've been around (which was pretty early on), the two foremost personalities behind the organization were Tim Ellison and Francis Dorsemaine. Last fall, we saw Francis resign due to changes in his personal life.

That was a big shift in itself, but, as of this week's AGM, Tim has resigned as the President of BCWAS. I don't think there's a person that has had the slightest association with the Society who has not been struck by Tim's gregarious presence. There really was no possibility of a dull moment with Tim at the helm. I mean, really, who else could actually get away with describing the signs of a corked wine by stating that "if the wine has an aroma of Satan's anus, it is bound to be compromised." My apologies to Tim if I didn't get the quote perfectly, but you get the point.

And, if comments like that didn't keep your attention, the man's choice in ties and socks alone was likely enough to ensure you stayed awake at any Society tastings. It didn't hurt, however, that he knows his stuff.

I hope he keeps his word that he intends to still be a presence in the Society. Things would just seem so much tamer without him.

A big shout out to both Tim and Francis for all their hard work over the years. And good luck to Brian and the new Executive. Here's hoping that BCWAS continues to grow in its stature. If the last couple of years is any indication, it's on firm footing.

A Return to Margaret River

75. 2004 Evans & Tate Margaret River Chardonnay (Margaret River - Australia)

The last Chardonnay that I tried from Margaret River was the Cape Leeuwin Artist Series at the AWAS Great Chardonnay Taste Off. It was my favourite of the night - which was an interesting surprise because the tasting was blind but I've previously mentioned that I'm enthralled with the Margaret River region - south of Perth.

Unfortunately, this wine didn't wow the taste buds like its neighbouring winery did. But then again, you can actually afford this wine AND find it in Vancouver.

E&T is one of the best known producers from the Margaret River district, particularly for its reserve wines. But, part of that recognition stemmed from the fact that the winery experienced a large expansion during the 90's and this last decade - to the point where it had become one of the largest producers in Margaret River and had even continued on into additional states.

It ran into difficulties in 2005 when the "wine lake" that was Australia caught E&T spread too thin. The winery was ultimately bought by another well known producer in Oz, McWilliams. However, one of Australia's pre-eminent wine personalities, James Halliday, has praised the winery for maintaining its quality throughout the turmoil.

This was not my favourite E&T wine but won't give up on the winery. I know that there are other wines that will be viewed more favourably when they hit The List. I think I might just hold out for the Leeuwin Estate when it comes to Chardonnay.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Comes the Summer

Boo and I were invited to dinner Saturday night by Beamer and The Divine Miss M. Just to avoid the creation of any pre-conceptions, the monicker "Beamer" wasn't taken on because of a penchant for driving BMW's, although he does loves his cars. Rather, it's a take on B.M.'er (as in Best Man - twice in fact). Using B.M. just seemed a little too bathroom-y.

This was our first al fresco dining of the newly arrived "summer season." We might not be fully into reliable summer weather yet (is there such a thing as "reliable summer weather" in Vancouver?) but it was good enough for tonight. A little BBQ, some good wine, and great friends. What more do you need?

71. 2008 Laughing Stock White Blind Trust (Naramata Bench - Okanagan - BC)

72. 2008 Laughing Stock Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench - Okanagan - BC)

We were lucky in that Beamer had just received a mixed case of Laughing Stock wines. He brought out a couple of the whites for the evening. A relative newcomer to the Naramata Bench, Laughing Stock was a hit with the critics and wine public almost from day one. I think their incorporation of stock market terms into their branding is both witty and thought out.

The Blind Trust is a unconventional blend of 65% Pinot Gris, 18% Viognier, 13% Pinot Blanc and 4% Sauvignon Blanc. They've said that they're "looking to add unique characteristics of each varietal to add layers of flavours and complexity." I think it works.

Silly of us, but I guess we didn't know that we'd go through as much wine as we did. It would have been interesting to drink the Blind Trust side by side with the Pinot Gris to see what the additional "complexity" did add to the mix.

73. 2006 Rosedale Wines Cat Amongst the Pigeons Nine Lives Shiraz (Barossa - Australia)

Dark and full bodied, it just called out for steak on the barbie. The Wine Advocate has called the whole Cat Amongst the Pigeons as great value.

74. 2005 See Ya Later Ranch Ping (Okanagan - BC)

One of SYL's web pages starts off with a heading of "A Quirky History on a Remote Ranch." This is the old Hawthorne Mountain winery that's been re-branded to capitalize on some of the ranch's interesting history and characters. You know there has to be stories when the label features a white dog with angel wings and a halo - all visitors to the winery are sure to be advised of the doggy cemetery found on the property.

Ping is SYL's entry into the Meritage/Bordeaux blend category. This vintage is a blend of 69% merlot, 20% cab sauv and 11% cab franc. Although it may not have the pretensions of a Nota Bene or Oculus, at half the price of those wines, I like a nice glass of Ping.

Cinderella Comes to the Table

Noted wine journalist, Oz Clarke, has written that he "can't think of a single region in the world where Pinot Blanc is regarded as a star grape.  It's widely enough grown, but never plays the leading roll. "  PB "is one of the world's genuine Cinderellas."

The Okanagan is one area where Pinot Blanc has a bit of a foothold and some very nice wines are being produced.  During the 1990's, when the first steps were being taken to move BC winemaking into a new era of free trade, Pinot Blanc was one of the varietals that was identified as having good potential in the province.  The varietal is currently the fourth most planted white grape in BC; however, its  prominence seems to be declining, if anything.  

The varietal does have its supporters though.  Barbara Philip, Canada's only female Wine Master, wrote her thesis on Pinot Blanc production in BC and often poses the question of whether it could or should become BC's signature grape in the eyes of the world.  Naturally, there are pros and cons for any BC winemaker willing to risk their reputation on the grape as a showcase wine - the primary con seeming to be that PB is generally seen as having a more subtle and uncomplicated taste profile than other more popular white varietals.

70.  2007 Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc (Okanagan - BC)

Although Pinot Blanc is far from a flagship for Blue Mountain, the winery does make one of the better received PB's.  This is the first time I've added a Blue Mountain wine to The List; however, the winery is one of the very first that I encountered when drinking BC wines started becoming "acceptable" at the gourmet table.  The winery set some early benchmarks for BC wines.

Blue Mountain is a family estate operation - with the Mavety family being fully involved from growing all their own grapes, to making the decisions in the winemaking process and through the marketing stages.  The family has been continuously producing grapes, traditionally from Burgundy, Champagne and Alsace, in the Okanagan Falls area for over 30 years now. 

The Mavety's have never shied away from taking their own position in the business.  They have never applied for VQA certification (although no one doubts that they would get it at the drop of a hat) and they are one of the Okanagan growers to introduce biodynamic principles in the vineyard where they can.

They have, however, often been painted as being somewhat standoffish or not that customer friendly.  The biggest "complaint" always seeming to be that you can only buy their wines at the winery but that it is so difficult to visit them.  I recall the "joke" making the rounds during the Okanagan fires of 2003 - "Why did the fire stop at the gates to Blue Mountain Winery?  It didn't have an appointment."

I've heard some say that such a stance comes from the fact that they don't need to court the public since they know that their wines will always sell out.  I'm going to be more generous and say that I think it stems from the fact that they're a small operation and are generally out working in the vineyards or in the offices and they're just short of both wine and bodies to fully stock or man a tasting room - something that is not so foreign at other BC estate wineries nowadays either.  Although I haven't tried to recently, I presume you still simply have to call a day or two in advance to arrange a visit and tasting.  

Whether you want to characterize the winery as an ugly stepsister or not, Blue Mountain has invited Cinderella to the dance and their Pinot Blanc is a welcome addition to The List.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

W.O.W. or Wow?

Jancis Robinson has called Bierzo an "increasingly fashionable" region of wine production. I have to admit that it certainly seems to be catching folks attention. I've seen three random articles about the area in the press over the last couple of months - after never having heard of it before (or at least not having remembered hearing of it). To the extent that Boo and I were given a rather high-end bottle from a Bierzo producer last summer as a wedding gift and I didn't even realize that we had a bottle from the region in our cellar.

This is not that bottle. We'll bring that out on another occasion. This post's addition to The List was a Wine of the Week (WOW) at Marquis Cellars last month. Having just read about the area and seeing the wine, it only made sense to give it a chance.

69. 2005 Tercer Motivo (DO Beirzo - Spain)

I couldn't find much information about this wine - virtually everything that showed up in a Google search was en espagnol and I'm pretty much stuck with "dos cervezas por favor." I don't even know if that phrase is the same in Spain as it is in Mexico. But it was interesting reading more about the area.

Bierzo is a small region in the North-East part of Spain, known for small valleys in a mountainous part and wide flat plains. Historical records have shown that viniculture has been known in the area since the Roman Empire; however, the largest growth in winemaking seems to have occurred with the expansion of monasteries in the Middle Ages.

The "problem" has been that the wines produced were largely simple and not exciting enough to catch the world's attention. The wine industry started changing in Bierzo with the creation of an official denominaciones (DO) in 1989. In the 90's a group of small producers looked to resurrect the sleepy region and started producing wines that were grown more on the hillside than in the fertile plains with their high yields.

Most of the grape growers had small holdings and, therefore, cooperatives were important in the production and actual winemaking. In 2000, there were apparently 20 wineries in the area, a number that had grown to over 50 in 2007.

The DO limits the varietals that can be grown in the region and the primary red grape is the indigenous mencia. Yet another grape that has managed to slip my attention all these years. The Motivo is 100% mencia and, in fact, all red wine in the DO must have at least 75% mencia in its blend. The grape is known to be fruity and delicate, but definitely more noticeable when the cropping levels are reduced.

Intriguing area and grape; however, I can't say that the W.O.W. factor was there for me. This Bierzo didn't particularly WOW me. But it did provide yet another area and varietal to keep an eye out for.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Zealand Wine Fair

We got the chance to see, close up, the new Trade and Convention Centre. Just recently opened to the public, this was the first event that I've had occasion to attend there. Having seen the building slowly take shape and having read reams about over-blown cost expenditures, it was nice to head off with Boo and Mister D. (a regular drinking and one time running buddy) to see that the New Zealand Wine Fair was set up in one of the new meeting rooms.

It was a small event in a big building, so the full potential of the Convention Centre wasn't on show, but I trust they'll be able to throw some pretty impressive events there. If the Olympic broadcasters get a couple of sunny days to showcase the views, there won't be any denying the beauty of the city.

For me (and likely most others), the first wines that come to mind, with the mention of New Zealand, are sauvignon blanc and pinot noir - and there was plenty of those wines to try this evening. However, it was interesting to try some of the "newer" varietals seeing some growth along with the Kiwi stalwarts. We tried a handful of rieslings, pinot gris and even a couple of syrah/shiraz.

Despite the handful of new wines to try, I think the favourites of the night were still the sauvignon blancs and the pinot noirs. Perhaps there's a reason those are the wines the New Zealanders are best known for.

I had gone with a goal of trying all the wines from the Central Otago region. I haven't tried that many wines from the area - as many of them take a bigger hit from the wallet than I can manage on a regular basis. But my recollection is that I've always thoroughly enjoyed those wines that we've sampled. The wineries weren't organized by area - in fact, I haven't the foggiest as to how they were organized - but I think I managed to find all the Central Otago wines. Most of them were worth the effort to find them.

It seemed like the regulars to the Vancouver scene that I know were all there - particularly Kim Crawford and Babich - but I especially liked trying some of the producers that aren't fully established in the city yet. I'll definitely keep an eye open for wines from Amisfield, Auntsfield, Churton, and Waitiri Creek. I want to give them all another go. And then, Boo and I were both quite fond of a sparkling sauvignon blanc from Mount Riley that was quite unique for us.

No picture and no wine to add to The List this time around; but a good time all the same.