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.

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