Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Day

"For Our Twelfth Wine of Christmas, My True Love Drank with me,
As Kiddies Played with Presents."

As mentioned in the previous post, Boo had to work Christmas Day and wouldn't be able to make it to my sister's until around 8pm that evening. So, my day was spent finishing up the wrapping and even blogging a bit. Mid afternoon, I headed out to Vixen's home to do the family gathering - and have a couple seasonal tipples.

Only problem was, when I arrived there, I realized that I'd left two of my three bottles of wine laying on the kitchen counter. Now, my sis doesn't exactly have a wine cellar going on. She's like the vast majority of BC residents. The most aging her wines see, on average, is the 20 minutes it takes to drive the bottles home from the liquor store. Nothing wrong with that - it just meant that my mistake could have left us high and dry for Christmas dinner. Luckily, Vixen had been given a couple of bottles for Christmas by clients. So, we'd be able to manage - especially since my Dad's more partial to beer anyhow.

299. 2008 Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Edition Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan)

As can be seen in this blog and The List of wines that we've enjoyed thus far, I don't tend to be the first person to reach for a Chardonnay. I guess to borrow one of wine personality, Gary Vaynerchuk's, catch phrases, I can be very wary of the "oak monsters" that are out there. Nothing to worry about here.

The bottle refers to some oak aging, but the oak wasn't front and centre. The fruit still came through and it was an enjoyable glass as the kids tore away at wrapping paper and I ate more cheese than I likely needed to with a big dinner coming up.

300. 2007 La Frenz Small Lots Riesling (Naramata Bench)

I may not sprint to Chardonnay, but I do love my Rieslings - and this is one of my favourite BC versions of the versatile varietal. In fact, this was one of the wines that Boo and I served at our wedding reception/anniversary party a couple of summers ago. I'll likely come back to a posting on the wines we chose for our second go at getting hitched. For the moment, we fortunately still have a couple of bottles left from the party.

I figured that Christmas dinner is as good an occasion as any to open one of the remaining bottles. This was one of two white wines that we served at the wedding, with the La Frenz offering just enough of a hint of residual sugar to please those in the gang (like Mom) that like their wine on the sweeter side of things. I thought that the Riesling would be a nice counter to the turkey and stuffing spices - and, I mean, what could go better with brussels sprouts? I'm glad this was the wine I didn't forget to bring.

301. 2006 Nk'mip Qwam Qwmt Cabernet Sauvignon (VQA Okanagan)

Admittedly, I'd left a Pinot Noir behind on the counter and a Cab likely isn't seen as being most folks' first choice for turkey, but there was no missing with this bottle. Vixen's to be thanking her client for this bottle. I'm a long time fan of Nk'mip, although I can't say as I've had much of their Cab over the years. I'm still not convinced that BC has a climate all that suitable for producing nice, big Cab's.

BC Cab's can often have that overall "green" aspect that happens when the grapes don't fully ripen. I suppose that if anyone is going to have the heat units to ripen Cab Sauv, it will be the Nk'mip vineyards located right down at Osoyoos and the southern end of the Okanagan Valley. The winery's website says that they found 2006 to be good year for fully ripened fruit and that appeared to have been captured in the bottle.

For having left the dinner wines behind, I think we did pretty darned well. And, in the Christmas spirit, we even made sure that there was some wine left for Boo when he arrived.

There was no seasonal good will present, however, when it came to playing Cam's new Mario & Sonic's Winter Olympics on the Wii. Despite being the skip in the family, I found that my sport may really be the Downhill Cross-Ski or Short Track Speed Skating. I lost all three of my curling matches (our games were only two ends though) but I won all my ski races or skating events.

Cheers and all the best of the Season to everyone!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A Celebratory Martini

"For Our Eleventh Wine of Christmas, My True Love Drank with Me,
A Wine-based Martini."

297. 2007 Elephant Island Apricot (Okanagan)

Before I started our Wine Odyssey and this blog, we used to drink a lot more martinis than we do now. Another bottle of wine, rather than a stiff gin or vodka, just seems a tad more pressing nowadays. All the same, I'm not so sure that man can live on (or drink) wine alone. And, for this Christmas Eve, I figured that we could sip outside the lines for a bit of a treat.

Besides, I clearly remember that, many years ago, when we visited the Elephant Island Winery and bought our first bottle of their Apricot wine, the woman at the tasting bar told us that they particularly like to use the wine as a component of a vodka martini. She wasn't just whistling Dixie either. We generally try to keep a bottle on hand for just such an occasion. I also had to figure out a way to get the Absolut disco "ball"/bottle into a picture somehow. How could anyone who ever danced to "I Will Survive" or "It's Raining Men" not adore that little marketing play?!

As much as the Apricot wine lends a strong hand to some tasty mixed drinks, the winery markets it as a dessert wine and the sweet/tart combination appeals just as much to me as a wine as it does as a cocktail component. The price, at $18, is a heckuva lot less than BC's best known dessert wines - late harvest and icewines.

Honestly, there was no ulterior or cunning ploy to open an Elephant Island bottle just so that I could tie it in with a picture of Cam with his elephant. He just happened to get the elephant that night for a belated birthday present. He's one of those unlucky guys that have December birthdays. We don't always get to see him for his actual birthday and, this year, we were even later than usual.

Boo and I had decided to have my sis, Vixen, and her babies over for dinner since Boo was going to have to work Christmas Day and wouldn't be able to join everyone at Vixen's home until long after Christmas Dinner would be over. We left all the effort of a turkey for her though - nothing says lovin' like Costco lasagna (and maybe one early Christmas present) to a bunch of kids. They got a present so that the adults could have another glass of wine.

298. 2005 Col D'Orcia (DOC Rosso di Montalcino)

The story on Rosso di Montalcino - or Baby Brunello - deserves to be more fully fleshed out than I'll be able to go into here. Suffice it to say, that when eating Italian, you can rarely fail by drinking Italian as well. I don't think it would take much arm-twisting to get us to open another bottle of the Col d'Orcia.

Boo and I were lucky enough to visit the Montalcino region briefly during our vacation to Italy in 2008. We didn't see this winery or try any Col d'Orcia wines while there but we likely weren't far from it. Montalcino one of the hilltop towns in Tuscany not too far from Sienna. The Montalcino district is a relatively small area though - being less than a tenth of the size of the nearby Chianti region.

Rosso di Montalcino wines, like their big brother Brunello's, are made from 100% Sangiovese grapes (the same grape that is used in making Chianti), although they use a clone that has particularly adapted to the region's soils and conditions and is known as Brunello or Sangiovese Grosso. The big difference between the two wines is the
reduced period of time that the Rosso di Montalcino's have to age before release - one year versus three. This allows the wineries to make some earlier sales and earn some money much sooner and tends to result in a fresher, lighter wine than is seen with the Brunello's. It also results in prices that are about a third to half the price of the more expensive Brunello.

With all those Italian juices flowing now, a spirited game of the "new" World City Monopoly broke out. We've known for awhile that Skeletor is a master of "whine" - despite never having enjoyed a glass of wine - but who knew that she was so enamoured with London. I didn't get to buy Vancouver, but I did get Montreal and the latter is the new Boardwalk.

Cam got worried about not being home in time for Santa to visit though, so we didn't actually finish the game. We'd see everyone soon enough the next day anyhow.

Cheers and Merry Christmas to all!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Tippling The Solstice Away

For our Tenth Wine of Christmas, my True Love Drank with Me,
Many Solstice Tipples.

One of the traditional highlights of the holiday season for the last so many years has been the Tyrant's Mid-Winter's Eve Solstice party. One of the Tyrant's many talents is throwing a bang-up bash. As our fair city gets ready for 2010 and hosting the Winter Olympics, Tyrant, very wittily, incorporated the Olympic rings into his invite as Christmas tree ornaments. That's just the tip.

Having known him for over three decades now, we've seen a lot of mutual acquaintances and friends pass through and form part of our lives. This annual soiree has become a much anticipated chance to catch up with a great many of those folks - when we might not get many opportunities to cross paths in our every day lives.

And this year was no different. In fact, I think the number of people that I reminisced with might have been bigger than ever. I saw some old friends that had move back to Vancouver after many years, some that I rarely see because they live out in the Valley or have kids that keep them too occupied for socializing and still others that I just haven't seen but a handful of times since we were at university together all those years ago.

As always, there was an endless supply of fine wine and tasty hors d'oeuvres. The only regret was that the Solstice fell on a Monday night this year; so, I had to try and be a good boy. I could have - and would have liked to - add a number of wines to The List after tonight, but I found a new wine that I liked and I decided to simply stick with it.

296. 2007 Cellars Can Blau Monstat (D.O. Monstat - Spain)

Lately, Tyrant has been seduced by the new assortment of tasty, and well-valued, wines coming out of Spain. This is yet another. When many of the sought-after BC wines are now regularly hitting $40 a bottle and up, it's pretty tough to drink them on an everyday basis - and even tougher to entertain a large crowd on. A viable alternative, however, is the selection of Spanish wines that offer some varietal nuance and exposure to new areas of winemaking.

As noted in this wine's name, it hails from the Monstat appellation which is a horseshoe shaped region that wraps arounds the highly valued (and much higher priced) Priorat appellation. The wine is a blend of Rhone varietals and is the entry level wine for the winery.

The blend consists of the Carignan, Syrah and Grenache varietals - although Carignan is called Mazuelo in the region - and, like the Rhone wines it "mimics," it offers up some nice structure with obvious fruit and tannins. I'll definitely look to try it again and look forward to an opportunity to taste the premium bottle offered up by Can Blau.

It looks like the only picture I took of tonight's bottle was one where I posed with Skipper while giving him a tour of Tyrant's wine cellar. I'd have been very happy to just close the door behind us - so long as we had a corkscrew - and spend a bit of time to ourselves. I can tell you, I'd have a few more additions to The List were that scenario to ever happen.

What fun! Happy Solstice everyone (or whatever the appropriate greeting is).

Still Surviving

For Our Ninth Wines of Christmas, My True Love Drank with Me,
To the Final Survivor.

I probably shouldn't admit to this, but I likely watch more reality TV than I should. I'm a bona fide sucker for Amazing Race and Top Chef and Boo will tell you that I'm addicted to a lot more than that. "Addicted" is a rather strong term - and I think I could give them up easily. Well, maybe not Survivor.

At least I'm not completely alone in my enjoyment of Survivor. Elzee still keeps up with it and Mr. D. catches the odd episode (when all the cute guys haven't been kicked out yet). Even Boo found himself in a love/hate relationship with the evil Russell this season.

We'd been invited to Elzee's for dinner, but we moved the evening to our place when we saw that the Survivor finale was scheduled for that night. We've got a bigger screen and that time differential program with our cable. It's not exactly a Christmas-themed dinner, but it made sense to watch it in HD and know the winner much earlier in the evening.

294. 2005 Golden Mile Black Arts Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan)

It's been awhile since we've opened a bottle of Golden Mile (or Road 13 as it's now known). In fact, I think it was back towards the beginning of this blog and The List - it was last spring and the Canucks were still winning in the playoffs. We won't go there; not much survival in that playoff run.

Names changes, re-branding of wines and label changes made it rather difficult to follow the winery over the last so many years. To play on the Survivor theme a tad, I suppose all the movement at the winery is an effort to "Out play, Out wit, and Out last" the competition. I'm not sure that the current end result is going to be the favourable ending to that journey, but I do think that, as the new Road 13, the winery's marketing is going to settle down for a bit and that's going to help them out in the marketplace.

It's a good thing that it's the wine in the bottles that ultimately has to get the job done and, on the whole, I think the winemaking team is doing a good job. I don't necessarily think that I'd run back to this wine as a $35 Chardonnay, but it matched nicely with Elzee's carrot and brie soup.

Oh yeah, even though we moved the dinner table to our place, she'd already worked on putting together the menu. So, she simply packed it up and brought the soup and entree along with her. Now, this is a concept of throwing a dinner party that I could get used to. Just have your guests bring all the food while you open a couple bottles of wine.

We also discovered that a joy of digital TV is that you can just pause the show whenever you want. A soup course after they vote off the first finalist? Not a problem. You'd like your main just before the final vote? Let me hit that pause button. It allowed us to stop for dinner, avoid all commercials and still know the winner an hour before the show actually ended in our time zone. Gotta love it.

We also had to love Elzee's tourtiere!! None of us hail from La Belle Province but, if memory serves, tourtiere is a traditional meal in Quebec for Christmas. I don't know if Elzee's version would get a big "oui" from les Quebecois, but she can serve it to me any time she'd like to. It also matched up perfectly with a jar of Mr. D's jalapeno jelly.

295. 2004 Chateau Gloria (AOC Saint-Julien - France)

For us, this is one of those "occasion" wines and what could be better than an early Christmas dinner with two of our best friends. This is also a wine where formal tasting notes are common, if not expected. Those notes, however, are best left to those with better noses and palates than I. Suffice it to say, that Boo loved it. For me, I wouldn't stand around drinking a glass at a cocktail party to best enjoy it. This is a food wine and I thought that the meat and richness of the tourtiere matched it wonderfully.

Chateau Gloria, itself, is an interesting story. It produces well-received Bordeaux wines but those wines are produced outside of the historical 1855 Bordeaux classification which plays a huge part in the setting of wine values and prices. The reason for that exclusion is that the winery was only started in 1942, almost a century after the original classification was made. All of the winery's approximately 120 acres were purchased from "class growth properties" but the tradition - and vested interests - in maintaining the original list pretty much rules out the possibility of any reclassification in the foreseeable future.

Located in the Haut-Medoc region, the vineyards have been planted in a fairly traditional Left Bank composition - 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot, with 5% each of Petit Verdot and Cab Franc.

For those of us not able (or willing) to stock up on the big name Bordeaux wines at huge prices each fall, this is a reliable, higher end on the entry level wines from the region.

The only thing left after the Chateau Gloria and the tourtiere was Boo's pecan pie. We figured that, as Southern a tradition as this is, it's pretty close to the Quebecois sugar pies that would be a tremendous finish to the evening. The sweetness wasn't going to easily lend itself to a further wine though, so we stopped at the Chateau Gloria and settled back for a coffee and the final Survivor vote.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Eight Flamboyant Reindeer

For Our Eighth Wine of Christmas, My True Love drank with Me,
And Eight Flamboyant Reindeer.

293. 2007 8th Generation Dry Riesling (Okanagan)

The bottle might read "Since 1783;" but 8th Generation is a fairly new winery in the Okanagan. The label refers to the fact that proprietor, Bernd Schales', family has been in the winemaking and grape-growing business for eight generations back in Germany. The Canadian connection for the Schales family began when Bernd and his wife, Stephanie, decided to set up shop in the Okanagan after brief stints in New Zealand and South Africa.

It would seem that Germany's "loss" is our gain. The winery's first commercial white wines were from the 2006 vintage. I'd seen the winery represented by a table at three tastings over the last year or so and I walked away each time thinking that they've hit their stride straight out of the blocks. I'm now starting to see their wines show up on some shelves around town as well - which is going to make it easier to actually try a few more bottles.

As might be expected with the German background, to me, this Riesling is more indicative of a European style - a bit more tree fruit and lower acidity than some of the sharp acid and citrus that is common with some of the big name Rieslings we see on the BC market. Since my preference tends a bit towards this type of Riesling, I really look forward to seeing what their wines are like in the years to come.

(I also note that they've already changed their labels since the initial offerings and I quite like the new artwork.)

Eighth wine. 8th Generation. Eight tiny reindeer. It seemed to make sense.

Monday, December 21, 2009

An Oh-Seven Viognier

For our Seventh Wine of Christmas, my True Love drank with me,
An Oh-Seven Viognier.

292. 2007 Sandhill Small Lots Viognier (Black Sage Road - Okanagan)

I thought it would be a nice little seasonal treat to ourselves to open a bottle of the Sandhill Viognier. There's been a fair bit of press (at least for wine-related topics in BC) about Sandhill and the fact that Howard Soon and company were recently announced Canadian Winery of the Year for 2009 by Wine Access magazine.

They also named the 2008 Sandhill Viognier as the magazine's Canadian White Wine of the Year. That's 2008 though. We've opened a 2007. Now, I've been a fan of Sandhill pretty much from day one (since it had the buzz of being Burrowing Owl's neighbour and you actually had a good chance of finding their wines), but I'm going to have to locate a bottle of the 2008 vintage because this 2007 didn't stand out enough to me to make it a wine of the year.

Don't get me wrong, the wine was still tasty and had its trademark vibrant nose and ability to go with food of all sorts. But, I likely would have sung its praises a bit more had I not known that the 2008 is supposedly such a big shooter.

As with all Sandhill wines, this is a single vineyard - Robert Goltz's Osprey Ridge vineyard, which is just down the road from Sandhill on the Black Sage Road. Osprey Ridge is a 12 acre vineyard that specializes in Rhone varietals (of which, of course, Viognier is one) and planting the vines in high density rows. This limits the yield of fruit per vine; however, the greater number of vines results in an overall vineyard yield that would be similar to one where fewer vines are planted. This hopefully intensifies the flavour profile of the grapes.

The production of and availability of grapes remains limited though and Sandhill only produced 241 cases of Viognier in 2007. That definitely qualifies as a "small lot."

The WineBC website has limited data - because not all wineries and growers participate - but it shows Viognier as being only the 16th most produced white varietal in the province. However, it is first in value per ton - excepting grapes harvested for icewine.

With the higher profile of the varietal and with the success of wines like Sandhill's in national competitions, my guess is that we'll see more BC Viognier in the years to come. We may never be like "seven swans a-swimming" in a sea of Viognier, but I could think of worse things.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Six Sets of Neighbours

For Our Sixth Wine of Christmas, my True Love drank with me,
And Six Sets of Neighbours.

We actually do have great neighbours. We live in a trio of duplexes that were built at the same time and, accordingly, a new little neighbourhood cadre of sorts sprang up at that time. That was a full seven years ago now and we've seen a few change in faces and addresses, but the neighbours have always stayed a great crew. To the extent that some still hang around after they've moved and others in neighbouring houses (but not part of our six) have worked themselves into our jolly little gang.

With our first Christmas season, after everyone had settled in, we started an annual tradition that's carried on for those seven years now. Early in the holiday season, we have a "dine around" where we spend between 30 minutes and an hour (when we can keep to schedule) in each of the homes. Everyone serves up nibblies and cocktails and we all get to snoop and see what changes or renovations have occurred since last year.

It's challenging enough to try and coordinate six or seven schedules, but this year there was added pressure of full-on renovations in one house and a changing of the guard at the end of November in another. Talk about pressure for the newbies. Try "Welcome to the neighbourhood. BTW, you'll be hosting and regaling 15 - 20 others - two weeks after you move in.

We thought we might have bitten off more than we could chew (literally) when our newest neighbours advertised that they thought it would be nice to serve up a hefty haggis. Strangely enough, the order of the homes was revised so that they'd be serving dessert. They was some talk of maple-flavoured haggis as a treat, but the end result was an incredible trifle.

There was quite the assortment of wine to be tasted through the evening, but I limited myself to the three being added to The List - mostly because it was a school night, but also since these folks don't live by wine alone. In addition to the wines, there were martinis, eggnog, mulled apple juice, scotch and liquers to be quaffed - should you so desire. And, I think there were at least a few who did. Present company excluded.

Not only do we get a great assortment of goodies to nosh on and bevvies to down, we get to enjoy a broad spectrum of culture and approaches to this season. For the first time, our party was scheduled during Channukah and we enjoyed potato latkes and the lighting of the candles. I was also introduced to a new go to wine.

289. 2006 Bodegas Campinas Sabor Real Tempranillo (Toro D.O. - Spain)

This is yet another Spanish wine that is getting all sorts of buzz as a big, flavourful red at a great price (around$17). The winery is pretty new on the scene, having been started in 2003 but it is getting praise from a number of the big wine magazines, including Robert Parker. It was actually recommended to one of neighbours by none other than Barb Phillips, Canada's first woman Wine master. Pretty high praise. I thought it was everything advertised (and even saw it another party a couple of nights later).

As a rule, I don't immediately reach for Tempranillo wines, but something tells me we'll be seeing more Sabor Real at our household down the road.

290. 2008 Anakena Single Vineyard Viognier (Rapel Valley - Chile)

The second wine that I gravitated to was at GatuBela's and Danchuk's home. This is always a favourite stop of mine on the Dine Around. Both have mucho experience in catering and event planning, so their place is always seasonal to the hilt and they serve up food to keep you talking. This year it was a pear and blue cheese salad.

And the Viognier matched it beautifully. When we started these parties all those years ago, I doubt anyone had ever heard of Viognier. Now I drink it as much as any white varietal. I haven't had the Anakena before but it had a nice acidity and the aromatics to match the pears nicely. Yet another wine to look for again.

I don't really have the space to go into detail with all the dishes and the drinks, but I didn't even have any of the wine we served up at our place. So I can't blog it - or at least not add it to The List. I was more occupied frying up quails eggs on the salt block as something novel for the gang. The (near) carpaccio kangaroo loin was likely even more novel, but I think everyone - who get over the thought of a bit of roo - thought that the take on steak and eggs actually worked.

Considering the fact that kitchen renovations were in full swing at Marquis and Red's place, I was rather impressed with their full spread. As stop number 4, they pretty much served up a full main course of three pastas. I stuck to the vongole and loved it.

291. 2008 Tenuta Villanova Pinot Grigio (DOC Friuli Isonzo - Italy)

Marquis was recommending the red - which normally would have been more than enough to steer me that way - but the clams seemed to call out for white. Tenuta Villanova is another winery that I hadn't heard of, let alone tried, previously. Then I read that it's only been available in Canada since September of this year. The winery's vineyards have been in production for over 500 years, but it's only just entered our market with this "approachable white" and a Merlot.

Pinot Griogio is a standout varietal for the winery and for $15, I found it to be very agreeable as well.

I likely would have found the other wines to be quite tasty as well, but I stuck to juice and water at the last two stops - particularly when the scotch came out at the new kids' shop and when the Shameless Hussy offered her trademark martinis at our final stand. I found the trifle and chocolate fondue to be more than satisfying.

Three wines in the evening and all three were really tasty. Makes me just look forward to next year already.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Five Golden Rings

For our Fifth wine of Christmas, my true love drank with me,
Five Golden Rings.

Mind you, those "golden rings" naturally relate to the Olympic rings. Seeing as how we're through and through Vancouverites, the upcoming Winter Olympics are pretty much front and centre nowadays. This wine seemed like a natural fit for our Twelve Wines of Christmas.

288. 2006 Jackson-Triggs Esprit Merlot (VQA Okanagan)

Jackson-Triggs' parent company, Vincor, is a branding partner with and an "official supplier" to the Vancouver Olympic Organizing Committee. The Esprit line of wines is co-branded with the Games and features the Vancouver logo on every bottle.

Given the reasonable price tag of $11, I thought the wine was quite drinkable - simple, but not unpleasant - in an introductory taste sort of way. If this is the first red wine you ever drink, you won't be scared off by it.

Even more surprising for that $11 is the fact that $1.25 of every bottle goes to support the Canadian Olympic and Paralympic teams and the wines are VQA (or 100% BC grapes). The wines have been around for about a year and a half now and I understand that the wines haven't been VQA from the start. A better than average harvest in 2007 apparently allowed the winery to find enough grapes to carry them for the time being as a VQA product.

I've always been a sucker for the Olympics and I'm very much looking forward to their arrival in the city (despite all the naysayers). I don't regret adding this bottle to The List in the least.

Go Canada Go!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis The Season

For our Fourth Wines of Christmas, my true love drank with me,
At the Office Party...

For a number of years now, the office has celebrated the holiday season with a dinner party at Ciao Bella restaurant. The Big Guy has had a great relationship with the owner and they've closed the restaurant for us and put on a grand display of multiple courses. It's a good thing I wasn't raised Italian or I'm sure I'd be fighting the pounds a lot more than I already am.

It was a rather tumultuous year at the office - from as slow as we've seen to picking right up through the summer to the present. I think it's safe to say that we were all happy to be celebrating where we are now at the close of the year, as opposed to the start of 2009.

I know I was ready for a toast to the season.

286. NV Mionetto Prosecco di Valdobbiadene (Prosecco IGT - Veneto - Italy)

What better way to toast the holidays, particularly when at an Italian restaurant, than with a bottle of Prosecco? The crisp and fruity Italian sparkler is a grand way to get your fix for bubbles without having to worry about leaving the loved ones without presents because you emptied your wallet on Champagne.

Mionetto is a specialist in Prosecco and bottles an range of different wines. This Prosecco is the traditional one that the Veneto region is well known for. It is made from 100% Prosecco grapes - a grape not really known outside the Veneto.

It was a perfect start to setting a mood - although I think it was mostly Boo and I that took advantage and put a little frizzante into the evening. I thought it went especially well as an aperitif and with the initial seafood course.

287. 2008 Finca Flichman Misterio Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

As the food became more substantial (and continuous), we moved over to the red chosen for the evening. Finca Flichman is one of the better known Argentine wineries up here in Vancouver - particularly as delivering bang for the buck. Vancouver writer, John Schreiner, has written that they offer 29 wines and produce over a million cases a year - and this is after they've tightened up their quality and production methods after the winery was purchased around 10 years ago by the Sogrape group out of Portugal.

Malbec isn't necessarily my first choice for Italian food, the tannins can be a bit much for tomato-based dishes. No worries though, we were full of lively talk and fun and the wine kept things moving along.

On occasion, our gang has been known to throw back the tables and kick up our heels. Our dancefloor antics were curtailed a tad this year when the Christmas dance CD wouldn't play. Cutting a rug to An Ally McBeal Christmas isn't the easiest task - plenty of wine flowing or not. We did get a chance to practise our "turn the lightbulb" and "pat the dog" moves though when we found a bit of bhangra to groove to. Our best Slumdog Millionaire moves came to the fore when "Jai Ho" blasted from the speakers.

A couple of high energy songs tuckered me out though. Can't quite keep up the way I used to twenty years ago. It was hard to believe how quickly five hours came and went though. Good thing I got to sleep in the next day.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Our Third Wine of Christmas

For our third wine of Christmas, my true love drank with me,
trimming the tree.

285. 2006 Rocca delle Macie Occhio A Vento Vermentino (Maremma IGT)

It goes to show how little I know about the Vermentino grape. When I grabbed the bottle - it was so dark - I thought I was opening a red wine to go with some pasta before we finished decorating the tree. It may not have been what I'd expected, but, luckily, it was still fine with the food and might have been a better fit for sipping as we strung the lights and chose the ornaments to suit this year's colour scheme. Boo's fashion sense dictated orange this year - and the wine matched the colouring perfectly.

Taking a look at the winery's website - after the fact - I found some interesting information, in addition to my earlier discovery that Vermentino is a white wine.

Initially, I found out that this is a "sister" wine to Sasyr - a Sangiovese/Syrah blend that is now readily available in Vancouver. We just happened to have tried it while in Rome last year and were quite impressed. That gives the winery a bit of pedigree for my books right off the top.

Rocca delle Macie is based in Tuscany - largely in the Chianti region - however, this wine is sourced from vineyards in Maremma on the Southwest coast of Tuscany. The fact that the Mediterranean breezes have a big effect in the vineyards is reflected in the wine's name. "Occhio a Vento" translates to "eye of the wind."

This was the 2006 vintage and it still had a bracing acidity, if not a full palate or body, but I see that the 2008 version has just been named as a "best value wine" by Canadian wine magazine, Wine Access.

I also got a bit of a kick from the website in that the winery describes itself as a "young" winery, being only 30 years old. I should think that we can count - on our fingers - all the BC wineries that have seen that many vintages. Quite a different viewpoint for the European experience I suppose.

I do know that we finished the bottle long before we finished the tree.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cool Sips Outside

Back in September, we made a stop at my brother, Ron's, memorial bench at Lost Lagoon in Stanley Park. We took advantage of a sunny December day to visit again. Sunny, yes, but cold as all get out. You can actually see Lost Lagoon starting to freeze over. Incorporating the chill seemed a natural for our little seasonal tune...

"For our Second Wine of Christmas, my true love drank with me,
Cool Sips Outside."

284. 2004 Domaine la Barroche Pure (Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC - France)

I've never tried this wine (or producer) before, but I certainly want to again! I was tipped off to this bottle by the fine folks at Marquis and they hit the mark with it.

Domaine la Barroche is a family effort, led by the youthful (still under 30) Julien Barrot. His family has been growing grapes in these vineyards for many years; however, his father has always sold the grapes to local negoiciants. Julien decided to produce his own wines and has made a name for himself, as an up-and-comer, right from the initial 2003 vintage. All the big names have lavished big scores on his three wines and, indeed, Robert Parker (wine arbiter extraordinaire) annointed the 2005 vintage of this wine a 100-point bottle.

The wine is 100% Grenache which is rather unusual for Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Grenache is almost always a central component of CdP, but it is usually blended with at least some of the other dozen grapes that are allowed to go into the wine under appellation law. My French will never fool anyone who actually speaks the language, but I gleaned enough from the winery's website to understand that, with this wine, M. Barrot strives for an authenticity a purity of place and of the Grenache varietal. The grapes are grown on a small parcel of 100 year old vines and the winery looks to grow them in as natural an environment, with as little intervention, as possible.

At $75, it has to be a very special occasion for us - and today seemed appropriate. We've taken to decorating Ronnie's bench at Christmas to add a little seasonal colour to the landscape. My brother might well have found things a little more festive with an abundance of vodka, but hey, he'll likely have to settle for wine until we've reached our goal on The List. The wind actually blew over one small glass, so Ron did get a sip of his own.

It was incredibly fortunate that the sun was in its full glory, but the cold air and wind sure made for some quick sipping. As much as this beauty was rich and full of raspberry on the nose and the palate, our hands had to be out of our pockets to actually hold a glass. We finished our decorating, enjoyed a quick glass and saved the balance for that evening - where it wasn't chilled like champagne and opened up to its full effect.

We did have to wait a bit for the sun to fully hit the bench for our picture though. So, we took a brief tour along the lagoon path where we encountered our preening friend. We'll never know whether he was trying to get our attention for a sip of the wine or attract one of the lady swans for a little nookie. But we thought the picture might come in handy - too bad we weren't already drinking for our seventh verse in our little wine tune.

My sister, Vixen, is going to be disappointed that she missed out on both the decoration and the Pure. She's quite partial to a nice Chateauneuf-du-Pape when she with us. She's asked for a little Chateauneuf-du-Poof, as she calls it, on more than one occasion. We'll have to remember her if I try another bottle from Dme. la Barroche, but she might have to wrestle us for the glass. It was that good.

Monday, December 14, 2009

And A Wine From A BC Pear Tree

With the holiday season now upon us, I thought it'd be fun to take on - and re-jig - a seasonal classic. I'm sure you'll get the gist - even as you groan away. Here we go...warm up those golden voices. I'm sure you'll recognize the tune and want to sing along.

"For our first wine of Christmas, my true love drank with me,
A Wine from a BC Pear Tree."

283. N.V. Forbidden Fruit Pearsuasion (Similkameen Valley)

For my tastes, Forbidden Fruit is in the forefront of producing fruit wines in BC, right up there with perhaps the better known Elephant Island. And this wine hit the spot a lot more successfully than the Kiwi wine we had recently tasted from Marley Farms.

I was first introduced to Forbidden Fruit at a BC Wine Appreciation Society tasting of Similkameen Valley wineries about three or four years ago. It would have to have been one the winery's first vintages. We were immediately taken with the wonderful flavours and the whimsical names that were chosen for their wines - many having a tie-in to the story of the Garden of Eden.

The winery is an out-growth of Ven'Amour Organic Farms. The farm has been somewhat hidden away along the Similkameen River and has operated on an organic basis since it started up in 1977. It was one of the first farms in BC to receive organic certification in 1984. At that time, they were helping to lead the way in organic farming in the province and the fruit was readily snapped up. As other farmers began converting to organic methods and the volume of organic fruit continued to rise, retailers started to be more selective in the prices that they were willing to pay for fruit that had less than a perfect appearance. The fruit tasted the same but the blemishes in appearance left the fruit less valuable.

Lucky for us, the result was that a new use for the "seconds" was discovered in the making of fruit wine.

This is one of the dry wines that are produced here and it is made from Bartlett Pears and actually sees some oak in the winemaking process - not something that I immediately think of with fruit wines. There's no doubt that the aroma and taste of pears is front and centre.

We may not have eaten partridge along with the wine, but it was a lovely way to start off our Twelve Wines of Christmas.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Time Warp

Seeing as how the most recent postings have been from around the nights surrounding Halloween, it might make sense that I've titled this post as the "Time Warp." I've always thought of the Rocky Horror Picture Show as a Halloween treat - and isn't the Time Warp simply synonymous with that movie.

But, that's not the reason. Rather, I'm feeling so backlogged with my postings that I'm simply going to jump up to more present bottles and try to catch up with the others as time presents itself.

That's kind of a time warp, isn't it?

OK, enough babble, time to get to a new posting.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Laramie Project

276. 2006 Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel (California)

Thompson Estate

275. 2003 Thompson Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (Margaret River - Australia)

Nichol Pinot Noir

274. 2002 Nichol Vineyard Pinot Noir (Naramata - Okanagan Valley)

Red Rooster PInot Blanc

273. 2008 Red Rooster Pinot Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Friday, December 11, 2009

Culture Crawl

272. 2007 Lyngrove Collection Cabernet Sauvignon (Stellenbosch - South Africa)

Bodegas and Missions

270. 2006 Bodegas Carchelo Altico Syrah (Jumilla DO - Spain)

271. 2004 Mission Hill Reserve Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Tango Me Off to Buenos Aires

269. 2007 Zuccardi Textual Caladoc (Mendoza - Argentina)

Buenos Aires here we come!

Cleaning Up after Dinner

267. 2007 Red Rooster Pinot Gris (VQA Okanagan)

268. 006 Red Rooster Malbec (VQA Okanagan)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dinner Club 3

Of all the posts to be behind on, it has to be Boo's and my turn to host the Dinner Club. I will definitely come back and enter a more complete post from the host. In the meantime, I'll at least set out the wines and show a couple of shots from the evening.

261. NV Blue Mountain Brut (Okanagan)

262. 2008 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre (AOC Sancerre - France)

263. 2007 Peller Estates Cabernet Franc (VQA Okanagan)

264. 1998 Marietta Angeli Cuvee (Alexander Valley - California)

265. 2003 Osoyoos LaRose Le Grand Vin (VQA Okanagan)

266. 1998 Churchill's Crusted Port (Portugal)

Stinger Red

260. 2002 Bumble Bee Stinger Red Reserve (Okanagan)

Cooking wine in its truest sense.