Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Nice Day for a Wine Wedding

As you might have noticed, there haven't been any postings of late. I'm feeling rather guilty about that, but life happens - a bit of work, bit of vacation, house chores that don't involve a computer and some daunting posts. I've delayed a bit with the current post because it's a hefty one to write. There were some honkin' wines here - if you knew where to look or who to stand by. The fact that I didn't know all of the wines or have a "nom de ma plume" for the bride doesn't help either.

It wasn't long ago that I'd said I figured 50th birthday parties were the new weddings for my set. Lo and behold, less than a couple of weeks later, I'm invited to a wedding. True, it was as a date for my sister, Vixen, but it is a wedding all the same. My sis didn't have a date that would be as much fun as me and I did know the bride and groom. However, I gave her an out in that I said she could dump me at any time prior to the wedding if a real date (read "potential shag") suddenly appeared. I wasn't about to be dropped for anyone or anything less.

I wanted to go because this wasn't going to be just any wedding, the Guru and his lady decided to officially tie the knot - and the Guru was raiding his well-endowed wine cellar for some treats.

Vixen had been tipped off, in advance, that there were going to be some gems - other than on the bride's ring - under the table. Not that the regular hoi-polloi were being served homemade U-Brew - although I suppose that in a way they were. It's just that their "home" made wine was a batch made up for the happy couple by their friends at Pacific Breeze winery.

Being the good date that I am, I was the designated driver; so I had to be better behaved than I would have liked to have been at the bar. But that wasn't going to stop me completely - and the Guru pointed me in the direction of a couple of bottles when they were being opened.

199. Some kick butt Riesling - likely from some world-renowned German slope in the Mosel. However, I didn't actually get to see the bottle because my glass was being discretely poured under the table. I'm hoping to hear what the bottle was from the Guru in the near future so that I can officially add it to The List.

Apart from not knowing one of the wines I tried, I also haven't been given a blog-name for the bride. I was toying with The Bride of Frank'n'Wine, but that'd only be good for one post I should think. If she gives me a longer lasting name, I can always amend things later.

200. 1997 Dominus (Napa - California)

It's very befitting of the Number 200 bottle on The List that it be a star like this wine. Dominus is the proprietary wine for Christian Moueix and his historic Napanook vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley. The Moueix family also owns Chateau Petrus - one of the most sought after wines out of Bordeaux.

This wine is also a Bordeaux or Meritage blend, with this vintage being 87% Cab Sauv, 9% Cab Franc and 4% Merlot - unlike its famous cousin Petrus which is all Merlot.

I just saw an an e-mail for Kits Wine Cellars and they were offering the '94, '99 and 04' vintages of Dominus for sale at prices ranging from $133 to $240. I can safely say that we weren't serving wines at this price level at our wedding last year.

My guess is that a number of the other guests were impressed by the "under-the-table" stash because I was standing next to the Guru at the bar at one point in the evening when he was choosing another bottle to open. I saw a helluva lot of heads turn towards the bar when the Guru bent over - and I doubt anyone was checking out the fit of the groom's tuxedo pants.

201. 1999 Tenuta di San Leonardo (Trentino Alto Adige IGT -Italy)

The next bottle that I tried was a Super Tuscan that wasn't from Tuscany. Like the Dominus, this was a Bourdeaux blend of Cab Sauv, Cab Franc and Merlot (60/30/10) but it wasn't so Cabernet Sauvignon based. Seeing as how none of the three grapes are traditional varietals for this region around Verona, the winery has to use the "lower" level of classification of IGT. Those French grapes don't rate so well when it comes to Italian DOC requirements.

Tenuta di San Leonardo is also an historical estate; however, its lineage is perhaps a bit longer than Dominus. The roots of this vineyard go back 1500 years with the current family having been in control of the property since the 18th Century.

It might be seen as being a tad cheesy to talk of nothing but wine at a wedding, but, then again, this is a wine blog. I will state that the reception was full of laughs and some mean dancing. This bride actually did kick up her heals to Billy Idol's "White Wedding." I particularly loved the fact that the cake featured a groom carrying golf clubs and a bride scowling with her arms crossed.

Having to pace myself as all these wines were coming out from under the table was a chore, but I have to be thankful for just getting the opportunity to try all the wines that I did. I managed one more wine before calling it a night and it was one of the big guns that I was well aware of from my days in the Australia Wine Appreciation Society.

202. 1998 Hardy's Eileen Hardy (South Australia)

Eileen Hardy is the flagship Shiraz for the Hardy's winery. It was originally bottled in honour of the family matriarch's 80th birthday and has been an eagerly awaited wine ever since. In fact, this vintage was called the best Aussie red wine of the year by one Australian scribe.

The wine is designated as a South Australia wine as it blends the winery's top Shiraz grapes from whichever areas are seen as performing best in a given year. This vintage saw a blend of 76% from McLaren Vale, 12% from Padthaway and 10% from the Clare Valley.

Tasting notes wouldn't even matter with wines like this. I don't have any of these bottles at home to drink. I likely wouldn't splurge for them even if a restaurant still had a bottle. And, except on exceptional circumstances and big prices, I likely wouldn't be able to find them and buy them anywhere in any event. So, I'll simply enjoy them for what they were - a great way to celebrate a wonderful evening.

All my best to the happy couple. Hopefully, we'll get to share many more bottles over the years.

But I do hope that The Bride of Frank'n'Wine gives me a better name for herself. Soon. Besides, the Guru's real name isn't "Frank."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

How Much? In a BC Liquor Store?

198. Vinicola del Sannio Benvenuto Barbera (IGT - Campania - Italy)

This bottle was added to the basket at the government liquor store simply because I find I'm becoming a bit of a fan of Barbera and I couldn't help but wonder what kind of a wine can be found in our liquor system for $6.99. That's like an unheard of thing up here in the Great White North. Known for health care and taxes in general, the sin taxes on wine are particularly draconian in BC. No Two Buck Chuck up here.

So this was simply going to be a bit of an adventure. A mid-week wine at home for under $10 has got to be a good thing. As far as adventures go, this one was pretty much one where you get what you pay for. It was far from bad, but it was a simple wine that isn't going to offend but won't send you running back to the liquor store to stock up.

The Barbera grape is a star in its native Piedmont, but it's not a standard grape for the region where this wine originated, Campania. Then again, Campania isn't exactly one of the star regions of Italy when it comes to wine. Tourism, yes. What tour of Italy doesn't at least consider the Amalfi Coast and/or Mount Vesuvius? But, wine, not so much. Located to the South of Rome, I looked up the region's primary wines and, a couple of hours later, I don't even remember what wine varietals are actually sanctioned.

Since Barbera isn't a varietal allowed in Campania, the producer has to market this as an IGT wine - or a wine that is typical of the area. Since IGT is the only designation available to the Super-Tuscans, it's hardly a kiss of death on the marketing front. All the same, the Super-Tuscans flying the IGT banner don't sell for $10 either.

Hopefully, the next time we try it, we'll be in a trattoria or enoteca on the Amalfi Coast seeing just how typical it is of the region.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Bring on the Smoke

197. 2003 Ogier Caves des Papes Les Brunelles Crozes Hermitage (AOC Crozes Hermitage - France)

A couple of years back, we bought a little smoker so that Boo could feel more like he was eating his home-cooking of old. Poor smoker doesn't see a whole lot of use at our house; but we did pull it out to give it a go with a pork tenderloin.

A Syrah seemed like a natural match as you often see "smoke" as a descriptor used with Syrah and Rhone wines. Not that I see how "smoke" comes through in a wine. No matter, the roast was great and the wine went along nicely with it. The wine was definitely in the Old World French style - somewhat austere - and needed the food though.

Crozes Hermitage is one of the appellations in the Northern Rhone and, while the appellation produces mostly red wines, it only allows Syrah wines to be produced under the appellation's name - although it will permit a small percentage of the local white varietals to be blended in with the wine. This is a 100% Syrah wine though.

Crozes Hermitage isn't regarded in quite the same hushed tones as its neighbouring regions of Cote Rotie or Hermitage, but it is well-known for the large amount of cooperative wine that is produced. Rather than make and market their own wines, growers will sell their grapes to the cooperative that will then produce the wines.
Ogier Caves des Papes is such a negociant firm, having had its start in the vaunted Chateauneuf-du-Pape district a little further to the South.

Don't think that I'll rush back and grab another bottle, but I wouldn't say no to another plate of that smoked pork.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Red Rooster Grand Reserve Chardonnay

196. 2004 Red Rooster Grand Reserve Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Just a quick one tonight since we've been drinking our fair share of Red Rooster lately.

My biggest fear with Chardonnay is that the winemaker loves to load on the oak treatment. As a result, we tend not to buy much Chardonnay unless we've actually tried it first and know that we won't be attacked by the "oak monster" (to quote internet wine whiz Gary Vaynerchuk).

Although Red Rooster's Reserve Chardonnay is 100% barrel fermented, it wasn't an overwhelming oak presence. I suppose a bit of integration can be a good thing, but there's not much doubt that I'm a fruit-driven kind of a guy.

Then again, I guess that goes without saying.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Final Summer Picnic?

I keep saying that summer seems to be coming to an end and, then, we get another stretch of wonderful weather. Whether we're already into an Indian Summer or we're still hanging on to summer proper, C. and I took advantage of a beautiful Sunday and fit in another picnic. This wasn't exactly the summer of a thousand picnics, but I guess we're still ahead in the game if we fit some in.

Just as we had some trouble fitting in picnics this summer, it's taken us almost two months to finally get around to seeing the new Harry Potter movie - despite the best of intentions. It's only playing at a couple of theatres now, so we had to pick a picnic site that would allow us a relaxing nosh and still get us to Hogwart's on time.

194. Lillet (France)

This bottle isn't the standard table wine that has filled the majority of the spots on The List so far, but it is a wine-based aperitif and, what's more, I love it and that alone should put it on The List.

Lillet is a blend of wine (about 85%) and fruit liquer and has been in production since 1887 although it has seen a few re-jiggings of the formula over the years, the most recent having been in the 1980's. Lillet has seen its popularity in the cocktail scene rise and fall and it has travelled through the trend-setting centres of Paris, London and New York as the "It Drink" on more than one occasion. It has also generated its share of reference points in pop culture - appearing on Broadway with Sandra Bernhard and as a cocktail of choice by none other than noted epicure Hannibal Lecter.

My favourite reference point though is that it's a component in the classic James Bond martini, the Vesper, named after James' love interest in Casino Royale. Both the Sean Connery and the Daniel Craig versions recite the recipe of 3 parts gin, 1 part vodka, 1/2 part Lillet and slice of lemon peel. You decide if it's to be shaken or stirred.

To be honest, we generally use it in martinis ourselves - but that will have to be another blog. Today it was simply a summer aperitif on the Seawall and it was delicious. Too bad this will be its only mention during our Wine Odyssey. It's not a vintage wine. So, I can't come back to it and count it as a new, unique wine. Won't stop me from enjoying it though. In fact, we didn't finish off the bottle and I'm having a little sip as I complete this post.

Just as we moved on from the Lillet to some wine and the picnic, who should come sauntering along the Seawall, walking her pooch, but RoZee. Not having seen her for a couple of years, we see her twice in a month since she'd joined us for the Kits Girls dinner the other week. Seems that she's crossed False Creek and the confines of Kits to set up shop in Yaletown. We were dining in her new back yard, so to speak.

Good thing our picnic bag had an extra glass in it. We could offer her a quick sip before she continued on her tour du jour.

195. 2004 Santa Rita Triple C (Valle del Maipo - Chile)

This bottle held a bit of surprise for us - after the fact, of course. We were in a bit of rush when leaving for the picnic and I pretty much just grabbed a bottle off the rack and didn't put a lot of thought into what I'd chosen. We were pleasantly surprised with the wine as it was more refined and complex than we're used to with most Chilean wines.

A good proportion of the wines making The List are a winery's entry level offerings. That's just where our budget and every day habits lead us. Triple C, however, is one of Santa Rita's (and Chile's) premium wines. I don't quite remember how the bottle ended up on our wine rack since I'm not known to lay out $50 for a Chilean wine - but it's a good thing that we opened it on a decent occasion.

Santa Rita has been in the wine business since 1880 (pretty much the same pedigree as Lillet) and it has grown into the second largest land-owning winery in Chile. It was
one of the pioneering wineries when it came to planting the noble, European varietals and the winery has holdings in all the major wine-producing regions of the country - all of which allows it to offer a variety of products, varietals and styles.

Triple C, itself, is a blend of classic Bordeaux grapes grown in the premier Maipo region. It's comprised of 55% Cabernet Franc, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Carmenere; hence, the Triple C.

As much as we could have lounged a bit longer and enjoyed the world passing by, we had to go and help Harry battle He Who Must Not Be Named.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Kernal of Syrah

193. 2006 Sandhill Syrah (VQA - Okanagan Valley)

This was a bit of an impetuous grab off the wine rack. I realize - now that the bottle's been drained - that I'd intended to drink this side-by-side with a one of Sandhill's Small Lots Syrah to see if there's much of a difference between the two wines.

As with all of Sandhill's wines, this is a single vineyard production and the grapes for this wine are grown on the Sandhill estate vineyards. The Small Lots is grown on the Phantom Creek Vineyard which is actually just down the Black Sage Road. So, I figured it would be interesting to see if we could taste much, if any, of a difference. Guess it'll have to be a good idea for another vintage.

Oh well, the best laid plans...

In the mean time, we enjoyed this bottle along with burgers and the last two cobs of corn that Boo and I actually grew this summer. I've never tried growing corn before but I was pretty much enthralled with the idea that we were actually going to get some cobs. It may have only been a whopping six cobs and we might have waited a bit too long before we harvested them, but I was pretty pleased all the same.

Now, I wouldn't normally think of corn as the most natural match for a syrah, but that's what the burger was for. Home grown and Sandhill - that's a match I can go for any day.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Sibling Rivalry

192. 2007 Henry of Pelham Sibling Rivalry (VQA Niagra Peninsula - Ontario)

Henry of Pelham is one of those high-profile Ontario wineries that I've seen a lot in Canadian wine magazines and articles but don't recall seeing for sale out in BC. If it has been stocked, I don't think we've ever actually purchased a bottle.

That changed with this bottle of Sibling Rivalry. Henry of Pelham is a mid-size family estate winery that opened for business in 1988 on lands that had been in the Speck family for generations. The winery is now run by three brothers and this wine is a play on the different energies that the brothers bring to the business - businessman, farmer and salesman. The graphics of rock, paper and scissors on the label are meant to be representative of the different personalities and is said to be - in a tongue-in-cheek tone - the decision making process used to get through some of the more difficult business meetings.

The Sibling Rivalry Red is a Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon blend and is seen as a little less conservative than the wineries more established brand levels. This was a new entry level wine for Henry of Pelham and a great deal of effort was put into the branding and marketing of the wine's release. Google the wine and you see almost as many articles on the product design as you do on the wine itself.

I don't recall seeing Ontario wines (particularly red wines) in our market in the $15 range. However, I've heard on a number of occasions that Ontario could become a world leader in the production of Cab Franc. I didn't see the percentage of the Franc in this wine, but it's nice to be able to try a wine that at least shows a bit of where Ontario reds might move to.

A Northern White

I don't think I'd go so far as to call this the "Great White North," but it is a "Decent White from the North of Italy."

191. 2008 Araldica Cortese (DOC Cortese - Italy)

Cortese is one of the traditional varietals in the Piedmont region in North-East Italy and this particular wine is found on a number of "value wine lists" in the Vancouver area. Known for its fresh, citrusy profile, it's a good fit for a warm day on the patio with seafood - or a simple mid-week dinner at home.

I didn't find a whole lot about this wine specifically on the company's website, but Araldica Cooperative comprises 300 members in Piedmont and they produce a number of wines under a variety of labels. This Cortese is grown in the Monferrato Hills of Asti province.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Last Supper

It may not have been even a full week, but it had certainly been a heckuva time with Merlot Boy's visit. Even with a couple nights out, a footy game, Daveyboi's 50th - we were grateful that he was using the Vancouver stop as a bit of a recovery from the Big Apple and a rest before joining up with Daveyboi en Espana.

We all decided to just have a relaxed dinner at home for his last night in town. The lovely Elzee joined up for a bit of BBQ. Back when Boo picked up the camel roast (earlier post for that story), he threw some kangaroo strip loin into the shopping basket as well. Would there ever be a better time to serve it than when our own Roo was staying with us? As Merlot Boy put it, "We Australians are the only countrymen that eat their national animal."

Never having cooked kangaroo before, we weren't entirely sure about the best means of preparation. We decided on some simple olive oil and Aussie pepperberry mix. I had been told that the one thing you don't want to do with roo is over cook it. Since the thought of medium rare roo can be somewhat daunting, we needed to ensure that there was plenty of wine to accompany it.

There was no reason to fear it at all (although I did get a few looks when I took the leftovers for lunch at work).

188. 2007 Penfolds Koonunga Hill Shiraz (South Australia)

We had dropped by the local provincial liquor store with Merlot Boy the other day and what does he decide to buy? Nothing but Aussie wines. We tried to talk him into quaffing back a few more of the local wines, but it was a non-sell. I guess you can take the boy out of the Outback but you can't take the Outback out of his wine.

189. 2002 Black Hills Nota Bene (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Some of the biggest laughs we'd shared last night at Daveyboi's 50th involved some heavy bargaining over a bottle or four of Nota Bene - and just how far a particular couple would be willing to pay. Alberta may have the oil patch, but BC still has the Okanagan Valley and our proposal might have been a bit indecent but they were going to have to give over some hefty payment.

It only seemed natural to pull out a bottle and re-live the laughs all over again. Should the discussed payment ever be offered up by our Hurtin' Albertans, a tad more detail may be forthcoming.

I won't give the Nota Bene its due and talk further about it (since there are more bottles to drink), but Merlot Boy was duly impressed by our little BC wine. When it came to the final wine of the evening though, he brought out - what else - a bit of where his name all begins, Aussie Merlot.

190. 2008 [yellow tail] Merlot (South Eastern Australia)

We flopped out on the couch and decided that a little Sex and The City was in order. M.B. had actually taken the tour when he was in NYC the other week and had a blast. Since he was the only gay guy on the tour, he got all of the quiz questions right. Boo, on the other hand, is not enamoured with Carrie and friends, if only because, regardless of who the foursome consists of, when it comes to assigning characters, he's usually paired up with Miranda. Then he just gets annoyed that we won't let him be Big. For those of us that know him, it pretty much goes without saying that Merlot Boy has Samantha tattooed somewhere that you and I are just not likely to see in the light of day.

Alas, as the evening's wines vanished, so did Merlot Boy the following day. G'day mate. Great to spend a little time with you and we'll hope to see you and do a little more adding to The List sooner than later.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Happy B-Day Daveyboi

Now that most of my friends have already been married (in some cases, more than one), most of the big social gatherings that I attend are no longer weddings. It seems that the party of our times has become the 50th birthday party.

No one may want to admit that they've hit the Big Five-O, but it seems to be one of those milestones in one's life where a party of some sort must be held - whether you want to or not.

Not wanting an "it's all about me" kind of party wasn't an issue for Daveyboi. Rather, this was the perfect opportunity to show that he could still party like he's a spritely 29 (OK, maybe 37 is more realistic). Daveyboi has been a great part of my and Boo's lives over the last so many years - particularly on the "big laugh" front. So we thought we'd offer up our back yard for his shindig. Being a West End kind of guy made it a tad difficult for him to host more than a handful of friends in his apartment.

Despite the stress of putting it all together, Daveyboi was in his glory mixing with family and friends - many of whom had travelled big miles to be there, including Australia, Ireland, California and Canada (Toronto, Calgary & Saskatoon). I'd often seen his family members (of which there are many) at special events - particularly Irish coffees with his Mom on Christmas Eve - and seen the party gang at, well, parties over the years. But, the two sides of his life didn't usually see this much crossover.

Despite rain through the week and even the morning of, the weather was pretty cooperative. We even had some sun breaking through on occasion. That is, except for the brief downpour when we all got to laugh about how many gay guys it takes to set up a tent/awning. Sprucing up the garden was done in a flash, but assembling a tent for the first time? Priceless. Although to be fair, the straight relatives weren't all that much help either. Me, I just went inside for a drink.

Which brings me to the real point of this post - what wines did Daveyboi choose to serve at the shindig?

184. 2006 White Truck Pinot Grigio (California)

185. 2008 Hardy's Stamp of Australia Riesling/ Gewurztraminer (South Eastern Australia)

186. 2007 Bodega Nuviana Tempranillo/ Cabernet Sauvignon (Spain)

187. 2007 Montalto Sicilia Nero D'Avola/Cabernet Sauvignon (IGT Sicily - Italy)

I was surprised by the Hardy's and the Spanish Nuviana was very popular among the guests. I barely got around to trying it and it was all gone shortly thereafter. Mind you, all the wine, not to mention the vodka, was had been drained by the end of the evening when Boo finally just ordered a batch of cabs and advised the stragglers that their rides were waiting outside.

We're being kind with the accompanying pictures. There were at least a couple of doozies by the time the blow-up kangaroo arrived on scene and the song and dance sing-along to the Hairspray DVD broke out. Mama Mia and ABBA didn't have the same draw, but Good Morning Baltimore and You Can't Stop The Beat have apparently joined the gay lexicon of classics.

Considering Daveyboi had to catch an overseas flight the next day, I hope his recovery powers were those of a 29 year old. It was a super night!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cats & Dogs & Shiraz

After the garden spruce up and dinner, our final stop for the evening was smack-dab in front of the big screen watching one of the Elimination Finals in the Aussie Rules Football playoffs. With our resident Aussie, Merlot Boy, in attendance, watching the footy was inevitable.

Tonight's game didn't have an awful lot at stake for any of us since all of Boo's, M.B.'s and my respective teams either didn't make or had already been knocked out of the playoffs. Quite the blow for Merlot Boy since his Hawks were the defending champions. We were to be treated to the Geelong Cats and the Western Bulldogs. Although the Cats were clear favourites, our couch was barracking for the Doggies. (Apparently one doesn't root for one's team Down Under like we do here in the Great White North. To "root" in Oz is to have a go at it in the sack. Aussies always seem to get a kick when we talk about "rooting" for the Canucks - let alone when we wear a Roots sweater or t-shirt.)

And what better to sit back and enjoy an iconic Aussie sport than to sip on an Australian icon - Barossa Shiraz.

183. 2002 Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz (Barossa - Australia)

This is the second vintage of the Langmeil Shiraz that has made it to The List - and, thankfully, there are more to come. Sure, it's a $30 bottle, but it's a wine that I've loved vintage after vintage since I first tried it at charity fundraiser a number of years back. Had never hard of it at the time - but I've never forgotten it since.

Langmeil's vineyards have a long history; however, the current winery ownership and structure has only been in place since 1996. Despite the recent pedigree, James Halliday, one of Australia's premier wine writers has given the winery a 5-star rating, his highest.

The winery's website refers to the valley floor as the heart of the Barossa - "a rich strip of land exposed to the driest conditions" - and this wine is a blend of grapes from selected vineyards from across Barossa sub-regions, with vines aged from 50 to 120 years.

The website lists a fair portfolio of wines; however, we don't see the vast majority of them. Too bad. The ones I've tried are definite keepers.

The wine was better than the game. A televised footy game can be harder to find than a Langmeil wine, so we have to savour the few we get. But this game wasn't the best. The Cats got the better of the Doggies and it didn't have much suspense to it. We'll see what the balance of the playoffs can produce. Good thing the weekend still had a big party to come.

A Twisted Tree at Timbre

Having finished the garden and a bottle of wine and having let Daveyboi and the others carry on downtown, it was time to start thinking dinner. It was no time to start cooking, so we just went over to The Drive and had a nice break from the cleaning at Timbre.

182. 2006 Twisted Tree Six Vines (VQA Okanagan)

Twisted Tree is one of the newer players on the Okanagan wine scene. Based right down in Osooyoos on the sun-drenched Eastern bench, they've got the ability to go for some of reds that others in the Okanagan can only think about ripening.

The Six Vines is a Bordeaux blend that utilizes six of the traditional grapes - a couple of which are rarely even seen in Bordeaux. This vintage was about 2/3's Cab Sauv, but there's also Merlot, Cab Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenere and Malbec. You're not going to find much Petit Verdot or Carmenere in the Okanagan and even the Malbec isn't that common.

Twisted Tree's growing of eclectic grapes in the area doesn't stop there either. They grow possibly the only Rhone white varietals of Marsanne and Roussanne that I know of in BC and are also producing some Tempranillo and Tannat.

Guess we'll be coming back to the Twisted Tree again.

A Little Weed-Whacking

With the big B-day Party happening, Daveyboi managed to rustle up a gaggle of the guys to come and do a last minute clean sweep of the garden. As Boo is often quick to point out, I'm as likely to be found in front of the computer blogging this summer as I am out weeding in the garden. Having weeds underfoot all the designer shoes that will be in attendance was not part of Daveyboi's plan.

It's actually quite amazing how much touch up can be accomplished by seven guys in a short time. And all it cost me was a bottle of red.

181. 2005 Earl Le Brun Lecouty Bebianito (AOC Coteaux du Languedoc - France)

If I'm not mistaken, using the suffix "ito" is used as a term of endearment with a "little one." I couldn't find out a whole lot about this wine but I do gather that it is an entry level (read "little") wine for the Lecouty brand and the vineyard is in Prieure St. Jean de Bebian. I also saw that it is a blend of Grenache and Carignan grapes and I've been seeing it in a number of private wine stores around town. So, it must have been impressing a number of buyers.

The wine is produced in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, found straddling the Mediterranean coast of France between the border with Spain and Provence. The region is the biggest wine-producing district in France as it alone produces 1/3 of France's total production. For many years, the wines in this area have been of lower quality, but as all of Europe has seen a bit of a glut in production lately, the Languedoc has seen much improvement in quality. The region is also seeing the establishment of more distinct sub-appellations as the wines improve. Coteaux de Languedoc is one of the best known.

Hopefully, Daveyboi and Merlot Boy enjoy it since they're going to be not to far from this region when they hit Spain after the party. My guess is that they'll entertain themselves with enough similar wine on their vacation that they could start a List of their own.

Boo, M.B. and I passed on the rest of the evening out though. There was still lots to get done for the party on Saturday and we had a feeling, they'd be hitting the bars fairly hard for Daveyboi's last night in his first half-century. Turns out we were right when they announced that they were out until 3 am that night.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Run and a Red

The topic of running hasn't come up much in the blog (yet?). I guess nowadays I'm more apt to fill my time with wine and this blog rather than hitting the streets for a bit of a jog. But, Merlot Boy has a half marathon planned upon his return to Oz and he's trying to keep up with a bit of training while on vacation.

So Mr. D. and I joined Merlot Boy for a run around Stanley Park and the Seawall. Well, I should say that they did the whole Seawall and I cut off the last chunk. Despite my not completing the full 13 kms, I got to join them for the burger and drink afterwards - not feeling the least bit guilty about the fact that the calories from the wine pretty much undid the benefit of the run. I mean, who's kidding who? I'd've joined them for the drinks whether I'd gone on the run or not. So, I'm still ahead of the game.

179. 2007 Hester Creek Merlot (VQA Okanagan)

The bar had a pretty limited wine list, so I was rather pleased to find the Hester Creek. It's a winery that I usually enjoy but I don't tend to buy a lot of their wines. John Schreiner, one of BC most-storied wine writers, tells some interesting notes about the Hester Creek property but the history doesn't really fit with this posting, so I'll have to pick up another bottle and come back to the stories on another occasion.

Daveyboi - or shall we call him "Birthday Boy" for the weekend - had picked up another couple of out-of-towners, Cracker and Diego, so they came and joined us for another bottle before they took on the rest of the evening.

180. N.V. Painted Turtle Cabernet Sauvignon (not likely to find out)

This is a Canadian entry into the "critter wine" stakes. No vintage on the bottle, but it does state that the wine is "cellared in Canada from imported and domestic wine." Not exactly a pedigree to bring out the wine snob in all of us, but the price isn't going to break the bank either. Then, there's that little thing about ordering a bottle of wine at a Davie Street bar. Not so sure there's a lot of call for that.

We all had a great chuckle, if not a full-blown guffaw, at the fact that Daveyboi and M.B. both wore the same t-shirt. The two of them had visited Cracker and Diego in California the other year and they bought the same t-shirt, thinking that they'd never wear it at the same place since they live on different continents. They may be laughing here, but it's a good thing it wasn't at the big party. I can only imagine the fireworks over who was going to have to change.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Merlot Boy But No Wine Number

It's to be a busy extended weekend!! We're hosting a landmark birthday party for a good buddy of our's come Saturday and the out-of-town guests have started to arrive.

First up is none other than Merlot Boy. (And that was his nickname ever before all this blogging foolishness began and names had to be devised for our drinking buddies.)

Merlot Boy has flown in from Melbourne - via a short stint in NYC - but his is going to be his shortest visit with us in all his visits as Spain and Sitches with the birthday boy beckons next week. The more normal weeks or month time frame has been reduced to only six nights. This means we'll have to fit a lot of wine in that short time - generally not a problem when M.B. is with us.

We didn't get off to the best of starts as far as The List is concerned though. Boo had to work nights, so M.B. and I just hit Commercial Drive for a pizza at Marcello's. We shared a carafe of wine but it wasn't a bottle and we didn't have a camera. So nothing there.

Back home, I popped the cork on a bottle of La Frenz Montage to show our Aussie a bit of what BC has to offer. "Problem" is that I didn't check previous entries first. We've already had added the 2006 to The List.

Zero for two. We're going to have to do a little better to give Merlot Boy his due while here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Mendoza, Madrigal & Malbec

178. 2006 Bodega Familia Cassone Madrigal Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

Another producer that I knew nothing about when I saw it in the shop awhile back. Like the rest of the world, now that Argentine winemakers are becoming as concerned with quality as with quantity, I'm trying more Argentine wines - Malbec or otherwise. Or, like this one, a blend featuring Malbec.

I didn't find an awful lot about the producers, even after buying the bottle, but I did discover that this is a 50/50 blend of the Cab and the Malbec and that the winery and vineyards are located in the Mendoza region of Argentina, just outside of Lujan de Cuyo, the region's first sub-appellation.

The Cassone family emigrated to Argentina in the 1800's, from Piedmont, and restarted wine production in 1998 with grapes from their three properties in the area - some of which featured 90-year old Malbec vines.

Mendoza is the most important wine producing region in the country. The area accounts for 60% of Argentine wine and an even higher percentage of the country's wine exports.

I'm particularly fond of the fact that the prices are staying relatively low even as the quality is improving.

Back to Back Bantam

177. 2007 Red Rooster Bantam (VQA - Okanagan)

So why two vintages of Bantam in just a couple of days? You might well ask.

Boo and I recently received our case of wine from Red Rooster in appreciation of our being adoptive parents of a row of grapes. Accordingly, we have a bit of Red Rooster in the house. I've mentioned in a previous post that I think the winery's Adopt-A-Row program is a stroke of marketing brilliance. Success has its side effects however. An acquaintance of our's has tried to become a doting parent as well, but I understand they currently have a waiting list to adopt (much like it is in the world of adopting a child, I suppose).

I believe I mentioned in that earlier post that our row of vines is actually the Malbec grape - so, there isn't any of "our progeny" in this bottle. I don't even recall seeing what varietals did go into the Bantam blend for 2007. It has changed over the years, but it remains a thoroughly pleasing summer sipper. This bottle was just that much fresher than the 2005 at Monte's Yacht Club BBQ - regardless of the fact that we didn't have the marvelous scenery to go with it this time around.

I wouldn't mind seeing what grapes did go into this vintage. We thought it was a keeper. Good thing we have another couple of bottles. Too bad I can't add the same vintage to The List.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

...Then Dinner with Mickey Rooney

Following the quick in and out at the Yacht Club BBQ, we made our way to Mickey Rooney's home. Mickey Rooney is one of those combo couple names and together - just like the old neighbourhood kids "let's put on a show" movies starring the real guy - they throw down a mean dinner party. Tonight was just to be the four of us, but they were still working their way through a five-page article/recipe on back ribs just for Boo since they knew he loved them.

Rooney is also the Queen of the Garden. Her back yard is always a pleasure tour in itself. And we've benefitted on more than one occasion when she's needed to split her plants and had green to spare.

The garden's a marvelous place for a cocktail or glass of wine. So, we did both.

175. 2006 Orofino Riesling (Similkameen Valley)

Maybe it's fitting that we decided on an Orofino wine for the garden home. As mentioned in an earlier post, Orofino is one of the greenest wineries in the country and the winery itself is made of straw bales.

A gold medal winner at the 2007 All Canadian Wine Championships, this is one of our favourite BC Rieslings and we always look forward to opportunities where there's an open bottle of it.

176. 2005 Canonbah Bridge Ram's Leap Shiraz (New South Wales - Australia)

What better to go with BBQ'd ribs than an Aussie Shiraz? This is a very intriguing bottle. Firstly, it doesn't really come from a designated wine region of Oz. It's more of a pioneering vineyard and winery, on the edge of the Outback, 600 km North-West of Sydney. The vineyard is located on 80 acres of the family's 30,000 acre sheep farm. Having raised prize-winning merino sheep for four generations, the McLaughlin family has now taken a stab at grape-growing in the semi-desert conditions.

Those conditions allow an organic approach to grape growing, with low yields of fruit. Organic to the extent that the family uses the sheep to keep weeds down in and to fertilize the vineyard. They might let some of the sheep in, but they still use an 8-foot fence to keep the kangaroos out.

I didn't know any of this information when I bought the bottle. At the time I grabbed it, I was thinking more about the fact that I'd never tried the producer before. It makes me all that more interested in finding another bottle of their's to try and to maybe see how the growing circumstances leave their mark on the wine.

An Afternoon Sip at the Yacht Club...

It's actually seeming like, this month, we've got a bit of a social calendar happening. It's Saturday and we're facing another double play. So long as I can stay awake long enough (after a hectic week at work, I need the sleep), it'll give us a chance to add a couple extra bottles to The List.

First up was an invite from a couple of old work colleagues who had moved on. This is the second year that Monte has hosted a summer BBQ at his yacht club. Sounds pretty good to me. The Kitsilano Yacht Club may not have quite the address or amenities as the Royal Vancouver and the boats may not be ocean-faring luxury palaces, but it's still smack dab on English Bay - with a view of Kits Beach, the downtown peninsula and the North Shore mountains - on some of the most expensive real estate in town.

I'm more than happy to wile away the afternoon sitting in the sun and taking in the view.

174. 2005 Red Rooster Bantam (VQA Okanagan)

This is the second time that we've added Bantam to The List - the first being back in the early postings when a bottle of the 2006 vintage was opened at our Dinner Club. It was good back then, but I think it might have been better this time around.

This wine is a classic "summer sipper" and this was the perfect summer sipping location. I believe the winery changes the blend every year; however, I did see one reference to this vintage as being a blend of Auxerrois, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. I was actually a tad worried that the bottle might be a little too long in the tooth since it was a 2005. This is definitely meant to be enjoyed while it's young, bright and lively. It was surprisingly fresh though. Maybe there's something to bottling under screw cap after all.

A good percentage of the guests were Monte's dragon boat crew, so I didn't know many folk there, but I did get the opportunity to catch up with a couple of old faces that I hadn't expected to bump into.

Due to our dinner engagement, we had to leave before the BBQ hit its true stride but it was a great way to add another bottle to The List.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Paella Perfection

Boo and I (and The List as well) lucked out the other night. Awhile back, we realized that we hadn't seen Axel and the English Doc for some time. So, I e-mailed them to see if we might be able to get together for dinner. We managed to decide on a Friday night, but I guess I worried them a bit with a "warning" that I wasn't going to promise anything extravagant since I'd be at work all day. Axel decided to host us instead since he had the day free.

My guess is that he didn't have a whole lot of free time during the day because there was plenty of food that all took a good amount of prep time.

Seeing as how Axel also invited along some other friends, it made for, not only an evening of good food, but also a chance to add a number of wines to The List.

168. NV Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva (Spain)

Much of the evening's menu flowed from Spanish tapas food. So, a bit of Spanish bubble seems like a good fit for the evening. Serving sparkling wine along with food seems to becoming more popular even at home dinners. Food and wine writers have long praised the foodworthiness of bubbles and it seems to match particularly well with tapas.

This wine is a perennial favourite of critics and writers as it is made in the traditional methode Champagnoise but is sold for a fraction of the price. For the wine trivia lover in all of us, it's also a blend of three grape varietals that few (short of the bona fide geek) would recognize - Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo.

Space likely won't allow as much information on the remaining wines from the evening, but you could tell that Axel had let his guests know the planned menu in advance. Most of the wines were fine matches for the paella and tapas.

169. 2007 Bene di Batasiolo Barbera d'Alba (DOC Barbera d'Alba - Italy)

I'm finding that Barbera is a bit of "go-to" varietal for me nowadays. It always seems to be quite food-friendly and this was no exception.

170. 2008 Quinta Ferreira Rose (VQA Okanagan)

I was intrigued to see that this Rose was a blend of a number of varietals - Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc. I wouldn't normally expect so much blending in a Rose.

171. 2005 Bodegas Zabrin Atteca Old Vines Garnacha (DO Calatayud - Spain)

Tyrant brought this along and it definitely showed why he's on a bit of Spanish wine kick at the moment. Bang for buck. Isn't that music to all our ears? Lovely wine (although it's completely in a New World style and that might not be your bent) and nice marketing job on the packaging. I'll keep my eye open for their wines in the future.

172. 2005 St. Hallett Unearthed Touriga Nacional (Barossa - Australia)

I couldn't find much about this wine online but I briefly read the back label of the bottle that evening. The information proferred stated that every so often the winery finds, or unearths, some blocks of grapes - not normally used for single varietal wines - that scream to be set apart that year. St. Hallett normally uses its Touriga Nacional (one of Portugal's big grapes and a primary ingredient for Port) in one or more of its red blends, but the 2005 vintage saw this separate bottling. I don't think that they've done it again since.

173. NV LaFrenz Liquer Muscat (Okanagan)

The final wine of the evening was another treat brought along by The Tyrant. We have some of this at home as well - one, because it's from LaFrenz and, two, since it's fashioned after the Aussie "stickies" that I love so much.

This is a perennial award winner for the winery and those awards are won at some of the bigger competitions around in these parts. It received a Double Platinum (one of only eight awarded) by Winepress Northwest this year; was given Gold & Best Fortified of Show at the Northwest Wine Summit; and brought home Gold at the 2008 All Canadian Wine Championships.

It was a grand way to sit back after dinner and finish off a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

A Return to Kits

It's hard for me to believe but it was close to 20 years ago when I'd often hit the weekend with the "legendary" Kits Girls. I used to work with Miss Germany and she had a gang of girlfriends that were all bright, beautiful and bouncy. (I'd have used "vivacious" over "bouncy" but I thought I'd stay with the alliteration. Sorry.) And they all lived and partied in Vancouver's Kitsilano part of town. For the non-locals, think young, trendy, beaches, pubs, you can probably catch my drift.

Hence, the Kits Girls. There was a core of about six to eight and, if they all walked into Bridges' Pub or Biminis or one of the other happening spots as a group on a Friday night, there could often be a case of whiplash from all the heads a-turning. As I sit here, I just realized that they were very much like a pre-cursor to Carrie Bradshaw and her Manhattan gang. A kinda Vancouver-based Sex & The City. I remember at one point, a couple of them were going to write a book about all the pick-up lines they'd heard. They were some doozies.

I suppose, however, that some of those lines must have at least opened the door for the guys, because most of the Kits Girls have long since married and moved away - New York, Calgary, Washington, Vancouver Island, Italy. There's not a lot of Kits left in the Girls.

I don't hear of or see much of the Girls nowadays, but I was thrilled to hear that Bella Jianna was going to be in town and hoped to get together for dinner one night. By happenstance, Angel was visiting from Europe and she and two of the remaining local girls could make it as well.

I had to laugh when I heard that we were to meet at The Sandbar. The restaurant has a reputation as being one of Vancouver's foremost cougar bars. I'm not sure if I elicited a chuckle or not from anyone else, but I amused myself when I asked if it was still appropriate to refer to the gang as the "Kits Girls." Being of a more delicate age now, I suggested that the chosen location might be a great place to introduce a new team name - the Kitsilano Cougars.

I didn't get smacked, but I don't think it caught on either.

Bella Jianna loves her BC wines, so we decided to stick with two from one of the early stars of BC's winemaking pioneers.

166. 2007 Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc (Okanagan)

167. 2007 Blue Mountain Pinot Noir (Okanagan)

This has been a rather lengthy post, so I'm not going to spend a lot of time on Blue Mountain itself. I can rely on the luxury of knowing that I'll be adding more of their wines to The List. I can expound on the winery at that time. As a brief note here, Blue Mountain was probably the first Okanagan winery that made me sit up and think that there might be something to BC wines after all. In fact, I remember that I first tried a Blue Mountain wine at a work dinner for the same firm that Miss Germany and I were both working at back in the days of the Kits Girls.

The wines were a fine accompaniment to an evening of laughs and memories. It wasn't like one of those nights of old that carried on into the early morning hours, but - for a group of more mature folk - I think we carried ourselves off pretty well. I hope to see a lot more of the Girls as The List grows.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A Bit of BC Cab

I'm going to have to play a bit of catch-up (haven't I said that a couple of times already) as I'm finding it a little tough to find the extra time for the blog. When life gets a little busy, I'm finding that I'd just as soon sit back and enjoy the drinking of the wine more than the writing about it. Funny that.

The irony of it all is that, the more I sit back and enjoy the wine, the more there is to blog about. And, gosh darn, it just seems to leave me with more of a backlog to catch up on.

I might just have to go have a glass of wine and mull it over some more.

I'll be quick about this wine since I've talked about Jackson-Triggs fairly recently and I'll definitely be talking about it more as we progress with The List.

165. 2002 Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon (VQA - Okanagan)

BC Cab's aren't usually the best-stocked wines in our cellar (such as it is). The growers and winemakers are still trying to identify what areas of the Okanagan are truly going to be able to fully ripen Cab Sauv grapes. Consequently, it was a little bit of surprise to see that we still had a bottle of a 2002 vintage.

I think it's safe to say that I don't tend to reach for a BC Cab as often as I would for a blend, Merlot or even Syrah. Not when the rest of the world seems to be able to fill the shelves with seemingly endless product - often at very decent prices (if there is such a thing in BC). Our BC Cabs tend to be on the higher end of the price spectrum since there isn't an awful lot of it being grown.

Whether it's global warming or whatever, BC growers do seem to be providing more ripe Cab in recent years. Boo and I thought this bottle held up just fine - particularly since it's not J-T's premium label. We just might start seeing more appear on The List.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Mastering the Art of Wine Blogging

We seem to be moving a little faster into the fall weather than we were expecting. The nights are definitely getting cooler and we're not getting the endless stream of sunny days. So, we're having to take advantage of the al fresco dining opportunity when we can. Boo had to head off for a night shift at work, but Elzee joined us for a quick dinner before she and I headed off to see "Julie and Julia."

Earlier in the day, I was over in a part of town that I don't get to all that often. So, I felt obliged to drop into the Kits Wine Cellar. I know that the "No Buy Leash" is still to be in place but, you know, sometimes you just have to seize the opportunity when it presents itself.

Case in point, I don't think I remember ever having seen a Portugese sparkler before. How could I say "no" when it called out to me?

163. N.V. Luis Pato Vinho Espumente Bruto (Portugal)

Once again, I'm surprised with what a little "Google" after the fact can reveal. Turns out that Luis Pato is one of the most influential names in Portugese winemaking and his is one of the names most closely associated with the Barraida region. Called one of the most "punctilious" winemakers in the region by Jancis Robinson, his attention to detail appears to be working.

Known as an innovator, he is also one of the staunchest defenders of the Baga grape, one of the most original grapes in Barraida. In a country with a bewildering variety of indigenous grapes, the Baga is more known for producing tannic, fruitless wines - not exactly what I'd expect to be the grape of choice for a sparkling wine. This bubbly Baga is apparently made from grapes that are part of a green harvest - the removal of grapes that are not fully mature in order to hopefully increase the energy and intensity that the vines can impart to the remaining grapes. The grapes for this wine are green harvested later than usual in that they've already started to change colour and ripen but the characteristic tannins associated with the grape aren't fully developed.

I'll admit that, before we tasted it, I was a tad apprehensive about the type of wine and the fact that the label was somewhat reminiscent to me of the old, and god-awful, Baby Duck. The little duck head on this label could have been a harbinger of evil bubbles of the past. Not to worry though, apparently "Pato" means duck in Portugese, so Mr. Pato was simply playing with his name. Big sigh of relief.

I suppose the choice of a wine by a larger than life character goes hand-in-hand with the encounter we had planned with Julia Child for later in the evening.

164. 2002 Francois Villard Reflet (AOC Saint Joseph - France)

Since Julia was to be on the evening's menu (so to speak), we thought it best that our second wine be French. Once again, a little Google seems to have shown the serendipity of this choice. Francois Villard is an ex-chef. So, I'm sure he could tell us a story or two about Julia Child. Information about him and his wines wasn't quite as easy to find as it was about Luis Pato but a fellow blogger (at "Rhone Around the World") has written, "Francois Villard worked as a chef for a time and is himself a solid menu whose specialties are fricasse of independence, carpaccio of energy, gratin of boldness & saute of ambition. All liberally seasoned with intuition." Sounds appropriate for an evening on the Art of French Cooking.

Although M. Villard has only been making wine for 20 years, one of the better known wine merchants in town has referred to him as already among the elite of the Northern Rhone. Saint Joseph is a region, or appellation, in the Rhone where the only red grape that is allowed to be grown (and labelled as an appellation wine) is the Syrah. The region allows the addition of two white grapes to the wine up to a limit of 10%; however, this is a 100% Syrah wine.

It set us up for the evening's movie far better than our decidedly non-gourmet, non-French dinner menu.

Elzee and I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I had to laugh out loud, nudge Elzee and give her a "Boy do I know that feeling" look when Amy Adams, as Julie, is questioning all the effort going into her blog and bemoaning the fact that she doubts anyone will ever read it.

Good thing this is an enjoyable activity because I don't see any books or movies being made in the near future.

PS. I'd be remiss in not pointing out that Boo and I actually grew the beans and purple potatoes on the dinner plate. Never grown potatoes before. I'm sure that Julia would have been supportive.