Saturday, December 18, 2010

Red Rooster Merlot

Between our fairly frequent visits to Red Rooster - that always end up with another case in the car - and the wine we annually receive from the winery as participants under their innovative "Adopt-A-Row" program, we have a fair bit of Red Rooster wine ready to pop a cork when needed. I was, therefore, a tad surprised to find that we've only opened one of their Merlots so far on The List. The 2005 vintage sits way back at #139. So, I guess there should be no problem in enjoying a bottle tonight.

675. 2007 Red Rooster Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The winery produces two Merlots; this is the approachable classic label that comes in at under $20 - their Reserve label is currently around $30. Merlot is often touted as BC's best red varietal and winemaker, Karen Gillis, has the opportunity to choose grapes from a number of vineyards across the Okanagan. Considering the fact that there are now $60-plus BC Merlots out there, she's doing well to produce a varietally correct wine that doesn't break the bank.

I think the strong point with this wine is that it is easy to drink. I generally prefer a little more structure and tannin with my Merlot, but then that pretty much requires food and this bottle could easily be a cocktail party sipper. If I'd really been thinking, I would have opened a bottle of both the Classic and the Reserve to check out the difference but I don't know if we have any of the Reserve on hand. We'll have to save that effort for another post.

In the mean time, we'll just lift our glasses and send a little seasonal toast to the gang at Red Rooster. We'll hopefully be able to make it up their for the Spring Pruning Party that's a big part of the thrill of being an adoptive parent.

Neighbourhood Christmas Dine Around

Local media is always telling us about some major publication that names Vancouver as one of the most livable cities in the world - as if we need the affirmation of something that we all already know. One of the strongest arguments that Boo and I have in making such a sweeping assertion is not the water and mountains but our incredible 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 eight years ago now and we've seen a few changes 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 on and others in neighbouring houses (not one of our duplexes) do what's necessary to join the gang.

You know you've made it into our crowd when you get invited to participate in the annual Christmas Dine Around. Back in the "early days," we started an annual tradition that's carried on for eight years now. During 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.

Scheduling has always proved to be a bit of a task with multiple families to coordinate in December. We've normally gone with the first Sunday in December since the silly season isn't usually in full swing by then. The event is so established now, however, that the gang proposed a Saturday night - and the one just a week before Christmas. It was put out there that, if the Dine Around is a highlight of the year's social scene, it deserves a prime night - and that having it on a Saturday would let us drink longer into the early hours.

That last little bit about drinking "into the early hours" can prove to be a bit hazardous to the morning after. With seven households all serving up a variety of foods AND DRINKS, it's a wise man that watches that he doesn't mix too many martinis with wines with scotches that are followed up by specialty beer chasers. One thing the evening allows me is a chance to add more than a couple bottles to The List. I always enjoy seeing what wines other people choose to serve. Due to the sheer volume (and my desire to function the next morning), I didn't try all the wines but I did get to the five that follow.

670. 2008 Gray Monk Pinot Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

A nice little way to start off the evening with Marquis and Red's oyster bar. Not being one of the original six couples, I get the feeling that they think they're still auditioning for the crew because they always have an incredible spread. I know it's just because they love cooking and entertaining, but it might be worth it to keep up the whole "auditioning" ruse.

I don't have much time to go into the wines themselves on a post like this, but I'll have to come back to Gray Monk because there are a number of interesting stories to tell about this pioneer of BC wineries. It's one of the Northernmost wineries in the province, located just above the 50th Parallel. The grapes for this Pinot Blanc are grown in both the North and South Okanagan. It was a fine match for the oysters and a fine start to the evening.

671. 2007 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso (IGT Rosso del Veronese - Italy)

Finding out what Arty400 and Baby Mama serve up is fun because he regularly meets up with and gets wine tips from Barbara Phillips, one of Canada's few accredited Wine Masters. They didn't let us down. I'm a little surprised that this Ripasso hasn't been added to The List already since I'm always on the lookout for a fine Ripasso. It was tough not to over-indulge in the assorted gourmet pizzas and wine abounding, but it was only the second stop.

672. 2008 Quinta de Aveleda Vinho Verde (D.O.C. Vinho Verde - Portugal)

It was just as tough not to stick to the Buffalo Grass Vodka that was being sipped on at Haggis and Cupcake's place. They were last year's newest additions to the neighbourhood and we still included them this year despite their threat to serve an actual haggis last year. A sip of the vodka was interesting but I had to give the Vinho Verde its due since it allows me to add a couple new varietals to my Wine Century Club application. The winery's website says that the Vinho Verde is a blend of the "most notorious varietals of the region." "Notorious," I like that. 90% of the blend is made of Loueiro (60%) and Trajadura (30%) with the balance being Alvarinho. Adding two new varietals is a bit like being given a little Christmas present.

Not only do we get to sample such goodies as oysters on the half shell, fish tacos, pizza and stews, but we get to check out the year's renovations and seasonal decorations. Danchuk outdid himself with his collection of hanging neon balls. You'd swear the guy did decoration for a living or something.

Our biggest "discovery" for this year though was the fact that we decided to open the neighbourhood parameters even wider and "audition" the new boys across the lane. Mr. Principal and Nature Boy seem to have what it takes to keep us amused and most of us had never been in their house yet. So, it was a good chance to enjoy their company and see their house.

673. 2008 Little Yering Pinot Noir (South-East Australia)

The Pinot was the red that the boys opened to serve with their seafood curry. I didn't mind seeing the bottle at all as it brought back memories of Boo's and my visit to the Yering Station winery when we last visited Merlot Boy in Melbourne. Although the winery is in the "cool" climated Yarra Valley (doesn't that show how relative "cool" is as a descriptor) and the wine is designated as such on the label, this vintage saw 14% of the grapes sourced from the Adelaide Hills to flesh out the profile. A simple, light bodied wine, it's a far cry from the bigger fruit bomb Pinots that sometime show up from Oz, I think I might stick to Yering Station's more premium label or stay with BC or Kiwi Pinots though.

The boys had the Canucks playing big and projected at their place; so, that alone likely gets them back next year in my book.

674. N.V. Graham's Six Grapes Reserve Port (Portugal)

Boo and I drew one of the dessert stops this year. In my book, that calls for my old fave, a bread pudding that's been adapted from a New Orleans School of Cooking recipe. And just to show how well-behaved I was being on the booze front, we offered a red, a white, homemade eggnog and Port, but I only opted for the Port - even with another two bottles crying out to be added to The List.

I guess the redeeming points of that control were no hangover and another two grapes varietals to be added to the Wine Century Club - on top of the two from the Vinho Verde. Since the Graham's even calls this Port "Six Grapes," I should be able to add all six to my application list. Four of them - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) and Tinta Barroca - have already been counted, that leaves Tinta Amarela and Tinto Cao. A little unplanned Christmas present to myself.

I don't want to go on about the bread pudding but I did have two people ask for the recipe.

We had a final stop with Rock God and Shameless Hussy, but you can't visit them and go with wine. It was a little late for a martini, but I just asked the Hussy to up the juice level in one of her trademark cocktails for me. We didn't quite last through cigars and Scotch, but the Saturday staging did allow a lot more leisure in moving from home to home.

And what more could you ask for? It doesn't get much better than this. Vancouver MUST be the best place in the world to live - or is that East Vancouver?

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Scuppernong Trimming

Boo and I have finally gotten around to trimming our Christmas tree. Naturally, it only makes sense for us to have a little something to sip on between hanging baubles and balls. I figure our choice for the evening is fitting as well in that it came as part of a care package from Boo's twin in North Carolina - sort of an early Christmas present if you will.

HDR3 found it somewhat unbelievable when I asked him if he could corral some local wines from his neck of the woods. Apparently, North Carolina is not a particularly well known wine destination. There's no doubt that the good ol' boys enjoy their libations of choice. They just don't tend to open the local wine so much.

No problem trying the wine here though.

669. N.V. Duplin Scuppernong (North Carolina - US)

I didn't really know what to expect when we opened the bottle. Scuppernong isn't exactly a varietal of grape that I'm familiar with. Boo was bang on excited about the bottle though - the visions running through his head may have been of old memories growing up as opposed to sugarplums. But the sugarplum fairy definitely present as there was plenty of sweet to this off dry wine. I wouldn't say that it has nearly the complexity of a good icewine or late harvest wine from our Northern climes, but the bottle was definitely finished before the tree was.

When looking up a bit about the grape and the winery, I was quite intrigued by all the information. The Scuppernong grape is a large varietal of the Muscadine family - which itself is a different genus from the standard vitus vinerfera varietals that we generally see when drinking wines. It's often referred to as the "big white grape" and grows in small bunches of only three to five large grapes. It was named after the Scuppernong River in North Carolina and is native to the South East U.S. It's also said to be the first grape to be actively cultivated in the U.S. and there are historical references tying it to the region from the 1500's when it was found growing wild. Interestingly, in 1840, the Federal Census named North Carolina as the top wine producer in the U.S. It apparently remained as such until Prohibition was introduced. I don't think that California has anything to worry about currently though.

The Scuppernong grape is the official state fruit of North Carolina and it is mentioned in the official state toast - "...Here's to the land of the cotton bloom white, Where the scuppernong perfumes the breeze at night..." I don't know if British Columbia or Canada have official toasts, but I think I'll have to check that out. The winery's website also states that, in days past, "no plantation dinner would have been complete without this sweet wine."

Speaking of the winery, the grape may have been around for centuries, but Duplin's roots are more recent, having been started up in the 1970's. Originally, the vineyards were planted for table grapes; however, a move to wine was necessitated when the market price for table grapes plummeted by more than half. Despite some desperate years, Duplin is now the largest winery in the South and it produces around 300,000 cases of wine annually. It claims to be the largest producer of Muscadine wines in the world.

A successful evening I'd say. Boo got his Scuppernong, I got a new varietal for my Wine Century Club application and the house got a trimmed tree.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Why Not Another La Frenz?

Why not, indeed?

It wasn't long ago when I wrote that I figured La Frenz likely shows up on The List as much as any other winery. I took a quick look back and, if I'm not mistaken, this will be the 16th wine to be added. Guess it's safe to say that we like this little winery.

668. 2002 La Frenz Shiraz (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

And what's not to like about their Shiraz. Owner and winemaker, Jeff Martin, is an Aussie transplant. I don't know that his genetic make-up just automatically includes DNA for making great Shiraz, but he's certainly putting up a good argument for making such a case - and not just to me. Jurgen Gothe, one of Vancouver's best known wine scribes, wrote a glowing column about a library tasting of four La Frenz Shiraz vintages he had last year. He saved the 2002 for last and said "that the '02's proof that these wines really do age long and smooth."

It was certainly smooth enough, with the flavour necessary, to accompany Boo's surprise camel fajitas. No one may walk a mile for a camel anymore, but I'd sure as heck walk a few for a bottle of this wine.

I've written before about how Jeff Martin doesn't enter but a couple of wine competitions in a year. He'll tell you that, in his opinion, there's only a few that are representative enough to make them worth entering - his regulars including the All-Canadian Wine Championships and the North-West Wine Summit. True to form, he entered the '02 Shiraz in both contests in 2004 and he came away with a silver medal in each one.

The biggest problem with La Frenz wines is that the 8000 cases or so that are made disappear almost as quickly as they become available. There's been more than one occasion when we've driven by the vineyard gate only to find a big sign proclaiming that the tasting room is closed because there's no more wine to sell.

With wines like this, it's not hard to understand why. There may be a lot of La Frenz on The List already, but I can pretty much guarantee that there will be many more to come.

Monday, December 6, 2010


Alrighty, this post is for another BC wine. It might, however, be one that isn't likely going to be a regular addition to The List. Not because we didn't enjoy the wine - far from it. It's just that there are only two wineries to be found in the Kootenays and I don't know that I've ever seen wines from either one of them in Vancouver - or even the Okanagan for that matter.

Back in the summer, when we were visiting Boo's mom at Sparrowhawk in the Slocan Valley, we wandered over to the local general store/mini mart. It just also happens to act as an outlet for the provincial liquor board. Lo and behold, what do I find on the cash counter, along with the penny candy and assorted sundries, but a bottle of "local" wine. How could I say no? After all, this whole blogging adventure is meant to discover what's out there and have some fun with wine.

667. 2007 Skimmerhorn Marechal Foch (Creston Valley - BC)

Now, Skimmerhorn isn't really all that local. The Creston Valley is a couple hours and an entire mountain pass away. There is one closer winery in the Trail area, but there aren't exactly a bunch of other wineries in this part of the province; so, it can be considered about as "local" as they get. The Creston Valley has a long history of agriculture and tree fruit, but wine grapes is something new. On the other hand, Creston has been long known as the home of the Columbia Brewery and Kokanee Beer, but commercial wine is a whole other thing.

Wine scribe, John Schreiner, has written that the Hoag family, owners and proprietors of Skimmerhorn, have 20 years experience in apples, cherries and other fruit trees, but they found that market prices for apples weren't meeting production costs in this 21st Century. Although they considered the possibility of starting a cidery, the Hoags felt that it might be a more fortuitous outcome to give grape growing and wine a go. So, in 2003, they started replacing their fruit trees with grapevines.

Realizing that the region only has a short, intense growing season, they needed to focus on earlier-ripening varietals. Along with Pinot Noir and whites like Pinot Gris, Ortega and Gewurzt, they planted Marechal Foch - the little known French hybrid grape that still has a bit of a life in BC.

They also knew that they were going to need a consulting winemaker to get them off the ground. Believing that it might be difficult to locate an Okanagan winemaker to help just when those winemakers would be at their busiest time of year back in the Okanagan, the Hoags looked to the Southern Hemisphere and found a Kiwi, Mark Rattray, who agreed to oversee the first three vintages and consult thereafter.

This 2007 vintage was their first and we were nicely surprised by the wine. It was much fuller than we'd expected and had a pleasant nose and taste. I've read that the quality of Marechal Foch fruit can be highly dependant on the age of the vines. Considering that these vines couldn't be more than four to five years old, I'd be happy to come back and try another vintage as the vines become more established.

I'm not so sure that we'll run into those wines that often, if at all, though. The winery only makes 3000 cases and that production is popular throughout the region. We just don't see it down in the Vancouver market and, unfortunately, we likely won't be up in that neighbourhood in the foreseeable future. Boo's mom has since moved away from the Kootenays and our visits up there may be no more. That summer visit was unknowingly my last and, because of that fact, I'm throwing in a gratuitous Christmas photo of Mom Mary's beloved Sparrowhawk from a couple years back. It's one of my favourite seasonal shots and I figure Skimmerhorn earned it.

Here's wishing them good luck at establishing a whole new wine region for the province.

A New Take on Forbidden Fruit

Considering the fact that BC's major wine producing area, the Okanagan Valley, has historically been more centred on tree fruit than grapes, it seems only natural that there would be a few wineries trying their hand at fruit wines. Together with Elephant Island, Forbidden Fruit is probably foremost among those wineries that appear to be succeeding. Indeed, past posts to this Odyssey blog have seen plum and pear wines from Forbidden Fruit added to The List.

Despite the reference to the Okanagan's history as a fruit basket, Forbidden Fruit has been practicing its organic farming in the neighbouring Similkameen Valley - and it's been doing so for over 30 years now. The farm was actually one of the first to qualify under BC's organic certification program and even that was 25 years ago.

Thing is, this time around, I'm working with a different take on Forbidden Fruit. The winery has been winning awards for its fruit wines for years now, but for the past couple of vintages, they've introduced their "Earth Series." Using Similkameen and Okanagan grapes from vineyards that utilize low impact and sustainable farming practices, they now offer two varietal wines.

666. 2008 Forbidden Fruit Earth Series Sauvignon Blanc (BC)

Maybe it just flows from the "unfortunate" aspect of being associated with the "number of the beast" but this wasn't our favourite wine from Forbidden Fruit. I've seen that the Earth Series has garnered a couple of awards, but it just didn't hit the right spots with us - even for a Sauv Blanc. The varietal is about as distinctive as it gets but neither Boo nor I found this bottle to have any of those distinctive characteristics in a favourable way.

Maybe it was because we paired it with a crab risotto. Who knows? I just don't see us picking up a bottle any time soon.

There is a redeeming feature about the wine, however, and that is that the winery uses this series to raise funds for various projects that address "sustainable life on Earth." An early recipient has been the David Suzuki Foundation. It didn't make the wine taste any better, but it is a nice point to focus on.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

It's A C&C Christmas

Did I mention in the last posts that the party season has arrived? If I didn't, I should have because this is like the third Christmas party this week. Hopefully (and I rather mean it), things are going to slow down soon. It's great to be able to continually add new bottles to The List, but I can't seem to find any time to actually blog them.

Oh well, no chance of missing the office party - particularly since I've been tasked with putting together some seasonal tunes for the evening. A task, I might add, that I took quite seriously (at 11 p.m. last night). But, as tempting as it might have been, I did not add "I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas" to the playlist. I do love that song.

Our party this year was held at one of the local French bistros. So, it's not too surprising that all the wines were French. The wines for the evening were four in number - two whites and two reds. I never did get to the whites. It may not have been a work night, but I still had to behave. All those stories about too much at the office party can prove to be somewhat embarrassing. Best to stay away from that in my humble opinion.

664. 2009 Domaine Gayda Three Winds Syrah (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France)

665. 2008 Maison Maurel Vedeau Les Cepages Pinot Noir (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France)

I couldn't find much information on either wine; so, it might make just as much sense to serve up a mini-post on Vins de Pays d'Oc seeing as both bottles were from the that part of France. Quality wines in France are largely regulated by the appellation - or Appellation d'Origine Controllee - system. Vins de Pays wines, or "country wines," primarily find themselves in a middle ground between AOC wines and generic table wines. The VdP system allows wineries to produce wines that can be distinguished as being made from particular varietals and from a specific region; however, they neither have to comply with strict appellation rules, nor designate their wines as basic vin de table.

There are five traditional Vins de Pays regions in France and, as such, the wines produced are still associated with particular areas; however, the regions covered are much larger than standard AOC districts and are, in fact, often broken down into smaller VdP districts. The Vins de Pays d'Oc is a good example in that the region encompasses the entire Languedoc-Roussillon, which itself contains over 30 separate AOC appellations.

An immediate example of the more lenient VdP regulations is that the Maison Maurel Vedeau wine couldn't have been marketed as anything other than a table wine since the AOC rules don't allow the production of Pinot Noir in the Languedoc-Rousillon appellations. Similarly, the labelling practices are also far less regulated. Typical AOC wines would never be labeled - like these two wines - as Syrah or Pinot Noir.

Originally, Vins de Pays wines were generally seen as inferior to AOC wines; however, the last couple decades have seen producers recognizing that they need to make make a higher quality wine to meet world expectations and the burgeoning competition coming from newer regions. Those producers have also recognized that most New World winemakers and most of the global market have taken to identifying wine by varietal - not by its place of origin. Not many of today's consumers know that red wines from Burgundy will be either Pinot Noir or Gamay Noir - let alone that the Cote d'Or is home to many of Burgundy's most famous vineyards.

The flip side of Burgundian restrictions is that, nowadays, there are thirty or more varietals being grown in Languedoc-Rousillon. It's, therefore, pretty much imperative that the wineries have the VdP freedom to label their wines by varietal - especially since over half of the region's wines are produced for export.

As much as there was a fair bit of red wine enjoyed at the party, I can safely say that we didn't spend the evening discussing appellation requirements or changes in the French winemaking scene. Rather, it was more of a chance to see folks all "dolled up" and talking about upcoming seasonal plans. The opportunity to leave the office behind was great fun - even if this year didn't involve any Bollywood dancing with the annual "turning the lightbulb and patting the dog." Must have been the guy in charge of the music.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Deke Xmas Bash

One thing I do know, despite what seems like an awful lot of wine being consumed for this Odyssey and blog, is that I sure can't drink like I used to in the old university days. All it takes is one evening with some of the Dekes and I'm quickly reminded of days of yore - and of all the beer, dacquiris, shots and other concoctions that have passed under those bridges.

Tonight was the fraternity's Alumni Christmas Party and it's a whole lot easier to behave and get home at a reasonable hour nowadays. Not that the opportunity to keep going 'til the wee hours isn't an always-available option. A couple bottles of wine at the table and I'm still good to go the next morning. It is funny, however, how the same old stories of the old days at the Deke House continue to amuse.

662. 2008 Blue Mountain Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

I picked the first to be served up at the table and I decided to go with perhaps the first of the BC "cult" wines to arrive on the scene. Blue Mountain Pinot Noir was a definite announcement to the world that there was hope for BC wines beyond the old Baby Ducks and Lonesome Charlies. We haven't had the opportunity to visit the winery for years now but I still try some of the wines every now and then - when they're, rarely, found in a bottle shop or, more likely, in a restaurant setting.

Pinot Noir has always been the primary focus of Blue Mountain and their take on the varietal is more Burgundian than many of their Okanagan neighbours. The Mavety family has planted six clones from Burgundy Pinot in their vineyards, with another two clones having been planted specifically for sparkling wines. They produce two levels of Pinot Noir - the cream label that we're having here and a striped label that is more of a reserve wine.

I'm not sure that we currently have any Blue Mountain at home. I'm going to have to remedy that.

The Blue Mountain certainly helped get the conversation flowing at our table. Naturally, I didn't even get around to taking a photo of our little group, but I did manage one shot of a neighbouring table - if only because they started asking about the blog and I remembered that I needed a couple of shots. I figure if I feature them and say nice things about them, maybe they might invite Boo and I over to sample what they've got stocked in their cellars.

663. 2006 Sebastiani Zinfandel (Sonoma Country - California)

Care to hazard a guess as to who chose our second wine? It's a Zin and that often means (at least in this blog) that there's a good chance that Beamer is in the vicinity - and that's certainly the case at hand. He decided to go with the Sebastiani - one of those names in California winemaking that seem to have been around forever. Part of that reason may be that the winery was established over a century ago. Indeed, it was the only winery in Sonoma County to continue operations throughout Prohibition as it produced sacramental and medicinal wines during that period.

After a couple of generational transitions in ownership and operations, Sebastiani was producing 8 million cases of year during the 1980's - under their own label and the Turner Road label - although much of that production was bulk wine made from Central Valley grapes. With the turn of the 21st Century, the family sold Turner Road and re-focused the Sebastiani label on higher quality wines - a fact that, in itself, may have played a part in the sale of the winery to new owners in 2008.

The wine at hand is a blend of fruit sourced from three of Sonoma County's sub-appellations - Dry Creek, Alexander and Russian River. The goal is to take advantage of the strong points that each of the sub-regions can bring to the table - such as ripeness, level of tannin or acidity levels. The Zin blend is then complimented by the addition of small amounts of Petite Sirah and Syrah to add a bit more spice. One interesting point about the wine is that Sebastiani uses some Hungarian - as well as French - oak to age the wine. We always hear about French and/or American oak, but I can't say that I can name anyone else (off the top of my head) that uses Hungarian barrels. I'm going to have to look up what flavour profile differences are expected from Hungarian oak.

Zin is pretty tasty in most circumstances, but throw a bottle on the table with a bunch of Dekes and, odds are, it's not going to last long - best behaviour on a holiday season work night or not. Despite loving every opportunity to add another bottle to The List, I'm rather glad we kept the total down a bit tonight.

Now, to sampling some of the wines in those cellars...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A Seasonal Dinner Club

Normally, Jeaux and Matinder's Annual Christmas Cookie Fest is the definitive start to the holiday season. I've lost count of the different types of cookies and treats that Matinder has offered over the years on that first Friday of December. Unfortunately, Boo and I won't be able to make it this year. So, all the more reason to celebrate the fact that it's their turn to host the Dinner Club and that they wanted to fit their dinner in before the silly season of parties and commitments kicks in and prior to their departure to the Caribbean - particularly since they're going to be gone for the first so many months of 2011.

As mentioned in previous postings of Dinner Club gatherings, Jeaux and Matinder are the theme-masters. I haven't got the slightest idea where the concept for this meal came from but, for the evening, we were taken away to the tropics. Be it Antigua, Barbados or the Virgin Islands, we just had to sit back and let our captain sail away into uncharted culinary waters - even with our "Dark and Stormy" cocktail start.

654. 2009 Domaine Houchart Rose (AOC Cotes de Provence)

655. 2009 Red Rooster Rose (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Any dish featuring saffron and mussels is likely going to strike a chord with me and this soup starter did just that. Jeaux' pre-dinner request for Rose was a great call and it was nice to see the contrast of the BC wine with the French wine. Rose wines are enjoying a popularity that has likely never been seen before (unless you count California's White Zinfandel as an actual Rose wine) and it can be made with seemingly unlimited profiles and from countless grape foundations. Case in point - the Red Rooster is all Cab Franc, while the Provencal is a blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah and Cab Sauv. Both wines passed the muster with this dinner crowd, although I'm sure that the soup had a good part in our enjoyment.

656. 2009 Desert Hills Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

657. 2008 Ruby Tuesday Viognier (Okanagan Valley)

Next came the Viogniers to be matched up with a tuna ceviche that had mango and Asian overtones featured prominently. Both the Viogniers were from BC which was interesting. Had any of the guests gone into the bottle shop to pick up a Viognier a couple of years ago, even if they'd have been able to find one, it's not too likely that they'd have had a choice of BC wines.

I hadn't tried the Ruby Tuesday before - although I've seen the farmgate entrance on the Naramata Bench a number of times. This wine didn't strike a favourable chord though. I think everyone at the table had a distinct preference for the Desert Hills.

658. 2009 Joie Farm Chardonnay (Okanagan Valley)

My guess is that Lady Di brought along the Joie Farm. I think that girl must have stock in the winery. She must be one their biggest fans. Good thing their wines, as a rule, are more than worthy of her praise. Joie produces two Chardonnays - one oaked, one not. This is the latter, un-oaked version. It made its opening debut at the dinner table in between courses and it didn't last long enough to really be tried with any food. Funny that.

Top presentation marks were awarded for the crown roast pork, complete with a pineapple tiara. Served up with a tropical rice and salsa, the lighter body of a couple Tempranillos was, again, a good call by our hostess.

659. 2007 Ercavio Mas Que Vinos Roble (Toledo - Spain)

660. 2006 Bodegas Palacio Glorioso Crianza (Rioja - Spain)

Both of the reds were new to all of us. I leaned towards the Ercavio but Tyrant liked the Glorioso so much that he went out and picked up a case for his own party that was pending.

661. 2000 Paradise Ranch Merlot Icewine (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The icewine was an interesting treat that was matched up to a tropical tarte tatin and to a retreat to the living room. While an icewine made from a red varietal isn't unheard of; it's still far more common to find icewine made from white grapes. Despite being a 2000 vintage, it held up nicely in terms of a balance of sweet and acidity.

Seeing as how it was going to be months before we're going to be able to pull off another Dinner Club, tonight's gathering of the gang was a perfect way to start the upcoming holiday season. No doubt, Jeaux and Matinder's trip to the Caribbean is going to give them a whole new set of inspirations for the next time they host. I can't wait.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Wine-Fueled Culture Crawl

The last thing that Boo said to Mr. D. as he headed off to work was, "Don't let him buy anything." And, for once, Boo wasn't even talking about wine. Mr. D. and I were going to wander around some and take in part of the East Side Culture Crawl. The Crawl is in its 14th year and has become a highly anticipated weekend for the Vancouver's often sombre Novembers.

The Crawl is a three-day event that sees upwards of 300 artists - of all types - open their studio space to the thousands of visitors that take in the painting, jewelry, sculpture, woodwork, photography or any other type of medium that one of the East Side artists has decided to dabble in.

I don't know what Boo was afraid of. It's not like I buy art like I buy wine. Turns out, however, that he might have known a little of which he spoke.

Mr. D. and I were going to be wandering buildings and studio on a wet Friday night; so, we took a little encouragement along with us. It wouldn't have been possible to wander around with wine glass in hand, but taking along a couple of travel coffee mugs is a whole other thing.

653. 2009 Edgebaston The Pepper Pot (W.O. Stellenbosch - South Africa)

I haven't added many South African wines to The List; so, it'd be nice to spend a little more time on this wine, but that might have to wait. I see Edgebaston has a "Honey Pot" as well. Maybe a further look at the winery can be completed should we open a bottle of that. In the meantime, winemaker, David Finlayson, refers to this as a "fun, funky blend" of Rhone varietals. It's meant to be all about bringing out the pepper, spice and primary fruit in this Syrah, Mourvedre and Tannat blend (65/28/7). I've never associated the Tannat grape with the Rhone, but Finlayson is also quoted as saying, "Don't think about it. Just drink it." I can go with that.

I do find it interesting that the wine has made it to the Vancouver market when only 1000 cases were made. We're a long ways from South Africa - especially when we're only talking a thousand cases.

There wasn't much opportunity to talk wine with our busy schedule at hand. There was even less chance that three hours or one bottle of wine would be enough to visit all of the artists - but we did manage to fit in just enough on our tour to get into a bit of trouble. Through his association with the Board of Friends For Life and the fundraising Art For Life, Mr. D. has come to know a couple of the artists who's studios we visited. I love the bright colours that Carla Tak includes in her palate and when I saw a small piece for a reasonable price, I felt I needed to pick it up. I was pretty sure that Boo would understand - and, after all, I could always blame it on the wine.

There was a second piece, however, that was a little grander in scope. I have been intrigued by Eve Leader's distinctive paintings for a number of years - ever since she had a piece that caused a bit of a bidding war at Art For Life. Her art definitely isn't for everyone, but I find it compelling and have wanted a piece ever since that first night. Mr. D. and I did find one painting that fit my sentiments nicely - but even I knew better than to spend the more-elevated sticker price on this piece without a bit of consultation at home. Blaming a purchase on the wine wouldn't quite cut it in this instance.

As you can see by the photo accompanying this posting, I got the "go-ahead" to go back the next day and pick up the piece. Not that the painting will ever be a particular favourite of Boo's. The issue now is just to find some wall space for it.

Like Herd(er)ing Cabs

One of these days, when I have a spare moment (as if that ever seems to happen), I'm going to have to go back and see just how many BC wineries have made The List. At 650+ wines on The List now, I should think that there's a good collection of them. I find though that I'm still being surprised by the number of well-known BC operations that have yet to be added.

Case in point, Herder was one of the first wineries to put the Similkameen Valley on the radar of BC wines. If the Okanagan is seen as "Napa North," the Similkameen is looking to establish itself as BC's Sonoma. Herder is certainly playing its part. From its first vintage in 2003, Herder has developed a bit of a cult following. Although I've certainly recognized the name and we even stopped in briefly one time when passing through the Similkameen, Herder hasn't really been that high on the wine list in our home. After tonight's wine, that may change a bit.

652. 2005 Herder Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc (Okanagan Valley)

After saying that Herder helped put the Similkameen on BC's wine map, it might seem a bit of a puzzler that the grapes for this wine were sourced from the neighbouring Okanagan Valley (from Oliver and Osoyoos vineyards). Owner and winemaker, Lawrence Herder, is a transplanted Californian and, perhaps as a result, has a passion for big reds, but this wine was still one of his earlier vintages and his big red varietals hadn't quite established themselves in the Similkameen vineyards. That's been changing with the newer vintages as the winery is now enjoying the fruits of their own labour and doesn't need to source as many grapes from other growers.

Indeed, even the winery has been experiencing change as it is already in its second location. The initial vineyards were found to be a little to vulnerable to early frost; so, despite having only set up shop in 2002, the Herders took advantage of a property a few miles down the road that became available in 2008 and they started anew.

I no longer see a Cab Sauv/Cab Franc listed on the winery website; so, I'm thinking it has likely been "replaced" by their icon wine, "Josephine," and by the Meritage. All I can say, is that Boo and I are going to have to try both of those wines because we really enjoyed this bottle. Good firm structure, with nicely integrated tannins and acidity, and beautiful, dark fruit on both the nose and palate.

Those other wines will have to suffice because we're unlikely to find another bottle of this 2005. The label says that only 220 cases were produced. Looks like we were lucky to have picked this one up. Indeed, as one writer has been quoted, "the biggest lingering problem with Herder wines is the lack of supply."

This may have been the first Herder wine to be added to The List, but I'm pretty sure that it won't be the last.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Italian Oddball

I'll admit it, I've become a sucker for a non-traditional varietal. Whenever I read about a wine that features some sort of foreign, indigenous grapes in local columns, I immediately wonder if I could use it to advance my application for the Wine Century Club. When it's an easy find and a decent price like this bottle, it's a bit of a no-brainer.

651. 2009 Inycon Estate Fiano (IGT Sicily - Italy)

Knowing next to nothing about Sicilian wines, I wasn't aware of this producer - nor had I heard anything about the Fiano varietal. Inycon is a label that is produced by the Settesoli Cooperative in Sicily. The cooperative consists of around 2300 members and they collectively farm 16,000 acres of vineyard - with production hitting about 15 million bottles a year. With that many producers, that much acreage and that many bottles involved, you have to expect that they have a great selection of varietals available - and they do, from traditionally indigenous grapes to international varietals.

Fiano isn't, apparently, a grape that is traditionally associated with Sicily; however, it is particularly well-suited to the the warm Sicilian climate. The varietal is known as a strong flavoured, medium bodied grape - often noted for a taste reminiscent of hazelnuts. I didn't notice any nuttiness to the wine, but I was pleasantly surprised. As a rule, I don't look to Italian whites for a whole lot of complexity. Easy drinking, summer wines is my general take on these wines, but the Fiano had a freshness - with a bit of acidity and slight fruitiness - that made it a nice match to the creamy, mussel pasta.

I could see returning to Inycon.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cotes du Rhone & Mussels

Some may think that a nice, big Rhone red is a bit too much for moules-frites, but I figure they must eat a lot of mussels in the South of France, so what's the problem. I'll just jack up the flavouring on the mussels a bit and add a little more garlic to the aioli.

We don't drink enough French wines for me to be familiar with many producers. One of the few that I tend to run across now and then is M. Chapoutier though - perhaps that's because I've generally had a tendency to drift to the Rhone and its Syrahs when it come to France. Chapoutier is certainly one of the better known names in the region.

650. 2005 M. Chapoutier Les Meysonniers (AOC Crozes-Hermitage - France)

The winery has a long history in the Northern Rhone, having been established in 1808. It's been passed down from father to son since that time; however, the winery's presence really started to build in the 1980's. World-famous wine writer, Robert Parker, had started drawing continual attention to the Rhone around that time and the newest generation of the Chapoutier family had recently taken over in the late 1970's.

The change in control also came with a shift in the winery's approach to its winemaking. It was becoming clear that the wine world was changing around them and that there needed to be a shift from quantity to quality in order to stay in the spotlight. Foremost among Chapoutier's changes was a switch to organic and bio-dyamic viticultural practises in almost all their vineyards. There was also a distinct decrease in the amount of fining and filtration that was used on the wines before bottling. Add to that an eschewing of the use of cultured yeasts over natural ones and the result is a determined expression of everything that the soil has to offer.

An attempt at a higher degree of terroir in the country where terroir is king.

All considered, the wine didn't strike us as fully as we might have hoped. Everything about the winemaking sounds right and we do love our Syrahs - but the wine itself seemed a bit lean with understated fruit. Maybe we're just a little too accustomed to big Aussie Shiraz.

Any wine, however, is going to disappear without a problem when moules-frites are on our dinner table. This was no exception.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Thanksgiving Transplant

We missed out on turkey dinner this year for Canadian Thanksgiving. I think we were likely dining on guinea pig, alpaca, blood sausage or the like in South America at the time. So, it was a welcome invite when Mimster and Mr. Cool announced that they had a turkey with Boo's name on it - not that they were calling him a "turkey" or anything. They just remembered his American roots and thought a gathering of the vacation photos was in order. We had South America. They had Cuba and the other guests, Spartacus and Diana, had Paris.

Mimster is known for her dinner table spreads and there was no disappointment on that front tonight Not only was there Boo's turkey, but Mimster had thrown in ham, sauteed brussel sprouts, baked and mashed potatoes and all sorts of other trimmings. Plenty o' food to give thanks for - and plenty o' spirits as well.

Mr. Cool and Spartacus are both known to like their specialty beers and scotch, but the evening's pours on that front, unfortunately, won't get more than a passing mention here. I'm having enough problem trying to keep up with the wine - let alone adding in all the other possible ways there are to pass an evening. We still managed to work our way through three wines though - all three from wineries that have seen at least one wine already added to The List.

647. N.V. Mionetto IL Prosecco (DOC Treviso - Italy)

Is there a more traditional way to celebrate, toast the good times and give thanks than with a little bubble? Things don't get much easier going than with Prosecco and this one from Mionetto is gentle, fruity and all about being good for almost any occasion. Not meant to compete with traditional Champagne, this wine is fashioned from the Prosecco grape in Northern Italy (above Venice). The winery uses the Charmant method to produce the sparkle in the wine - meaning that the second fermentation, that results in all the bubbles, takes place in a pressurized tank instead of individual bottles. Being a faster and easier process, it also allows you to buy more bottles than you could for the same price of Champagne. All the more to celebrate with.

648. 2007 Joie Re-Think Pink Rose (Okanagan Valley)(1.5 l)

It's not too often that the opportunity to open a larger format of bottle presents itself. Boo and I had this magnum (double bottle) of Joie Rose and figured a Thanksgiving dinner is about as good an opportunity as one can get. Rose, turkey, ham - sounds great to me. The winery's website states that they feel the Rose is likely their most versatile wine when it comes to matching it up with food.

You can tell that the folks at Joie take their Rose seriously. Not just a simple addition to a portfolio, made from excess grapes or juice, their Rose is predominantly a blend of Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir, with some Pinot Meunier and a bit of Pinot Gris added to flesh out the structure and flavours. A lot of thought goes into the wine. Indeed, Jurgen Gothe, one of Vancouver's most prominent wine writers wrote that he figures Joie Rose needs to be ranked as one of the best pinks in the world. Good thing we had twice as much as we would have normally had in a bottle.

We must have been enjoying the first wines just fine because I never even got around to taking a close-up picture of the evening's third wine. If you look carefully on the table in the accompanying picture, you can identify the bottle if you can get past the goofy look and the Joie.

649. 2007 Peter Lehmann Clancy's Legendary Red (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Believe me, it's not a deliberate slight on my part to give the Clancy's the short shift. I figure that, by the time we opened the red, we were already fully ensconced in dinner and there were more important things going on than a picture - like drinking the wine.

Lehmann wines have previously made The List and there are, no doubt, more to come. So, I won't go on about the winery or the man this time around. Continually referred to, in the wine press, as a "great value" or a "smart buy," Clancy's is well-known in our circles as a crowd pleaser if you're looking for an approachable red that still packs a punch. A take on the Australian tradition of blending Shiraz with Cab Sauv, the folks at Lehmann have added in some Merlot to soften the wine on the palate a touch.

So, all in all, it was a wine of good food, good company and good wine. Sounds like something worth giving thanks over.

Friday, November 19, 2010

An Old Viognier and a New Riesling Walk Into a Bar...

I'm sure there must be a joke somewhere in the title to this posting but... I'll just leave it for another occasion. The only thing that makes the Viognier "old" and the Riesling "new" for now is that we've already enjoyed a bottle of this vintage of the Viognier and it, therefore, can't be added to The List, while the Riesling is the first bottle to be added to The List from this particular winery - despite it being well-known in BC circles.

2007 La Frenz Viognier (Okanagan Valley)

I shouldn't be too surprised we've already opened one of these bottles. There are likely as many La Frenz wines that have been added to The List as there are for any one winery. Regular visitors to the blog likely know it's one of our favourites. The Viognier, in fact, has already been added for two vintages - the 2006 (at #28) and the 2007 (at #256). Neither one of those entries saw much of an opportunity to add much in the way of information though; so, maybe I'll expand a little - despite not adding a new number to The List.

As much as Viognier has quickly caught on as a popular varietal in BC (and North America), I find it can be made in all styles - much like a Riesling. This is definitely a rich and fruity one and, as such, is an easy sip - particularly with its slight sweetness.

The '07 obviously caught on with various competition tasting panels as well. Owner and winemaker, Jeff Martin, is known to only enter a couple of competitions a year, but this Viognier won a Gold Medal, "Best of BC" award and the "Best White Wine of Show" trophy at the 2008 North West Wine Summit. That entitled Jeff to enter the 2009 Winepress Northwest's Best of the Best Competition - where it won a further Platinum medal. The latter competition is perhaps the most prestigious in the Pacific Northwest.

That's got to be worth a few bragging rights. Too bad it was our last bottle.

I hadn't realized this when I grabbed the following bottle for dinner the next night but it turns out that this bottle has a pretty similar pedigree to the La Frenz.

646. 2008 Gehringer Brothers Estate - Private Reserve Riesling (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Although Gehringer Brothers is located on the Golden Mile right around Oliver (one of our favourite wine regions in the province) and it makes 22 wines under 6 brands, this is the first bottle that we're adding to The List.

Gehringer actually offers three distinct styling to its Rieslings - a dry, a less crisp general release and this reserve version which is flush with a nice touch of residual sugar.

Looks like there was a reason that this is one of the few bottles of Gehringer that I've picked up over the years. Much like the previous Viognier, this vintage of Riesling must have tickled the taste buds of more than a couple judging panels. Having won a Gold medal at the All Canadian Wine Championships (and a silver at the Northwest Summit), Gehringer entered it in the Winepress Northwest Best of the Best where it also walked away with a Platinum medal.

That was a bit of a fluke that we opened two Platinum winning wines in a row - especially since both were slightly off-dry. If only all the bottles we opened were so honoured.

Since I didn't realize the pedigrees of the two bottles when I chose them, I hadn't actually expected this entry to be as lengthy as it turned out to be. Accordingly, I think I'll have to commit to picking up another bottle of Gehringer Brothers so that I can discuss the winery a tad more down the road.

In the mean time, I suppose it might seem like we'll be back to more "pedestrian" wines after this.

Sumac Ridge

Considering Sumac Ridge is another of the "big" BC wineries, we don't drink an awful lot of their wines at our house. One might think that Boo and I aren't finishing our share of the 100,000 or so cases that the winery produces each year. As may be the case with Mission Hill, I think their wines might suffer from my perception that they'll always be available in the liquor store and I don't need to really buy any to cellar.

That's likely not being fair to Sumac Ridge. But I did find tonight's bottle in amongst the boxes and I figured we'd laid it down long enough to give it a whirl.

645. 2002 Sumac Ridge - Black Sage Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Along with being one of the largest producers in the province, Sumac Ridge is also one of the earliest, being one of the first estate wineries to open under the new wine regime that the provincial government set up in 1978. They released their first vintage in 1981 and will celebrate their 30th anniversary this year in 2011.

The winery has been associated with many other firsts in the BC wine industry. It was the first to open a cellar door restaurant. It was among the first to produce an icewine. It was the first to popularize - outside of the US - a Bordeaux blend under the Meritage name. And it was the first to introduce a premium sparkling wine - particularly since it still uses the classical Method Champenoise.

However, the winery first that is particularly germane to this bottle is that Sumac Ridge is based in Summerland, but the home vineyard was originally planted with strictly white varietals for commercial production. In 1992, they purchased a tract of land further South, below Oliver, on the Black Sage Road and embarked on what, at the time, was the largest planting of classic Bordeaux varietals in Canada - and the first in what is now recognized as one of the finest regions for grapes in the province.

The "Black Sage Vineyard" designation has become one of the premium lines for the winery and this bottle was part of the first vintage for a Black Sage Cab Sauv. The '02 vintage, at the time, was the largest vintage ever at Sumac Ridge, but there were still only 1200 cases of the Cab produced.

There's been a lot of "first" mentioned in this particular posting, but I don't know that I'd say that this wine will sit first on our list of "Must Buy" Cab's. It was a solid wine, but it didn't really have enough ooompf to impress as a Cab. The thing to remember is that the vines would have still been young at this point and wouldn't have had a lot of time to start to really deliver the best fruit. Even if this bottle didn't have us ringing bells of joy, I'd pick up a more recent bottle to see how the vineyard's fruit is progressing.

This Cab may be our first from Sumac Ridge to hit The List, but my hunch is that we'll taste some more of the winery's Black Sage Cab before we hit 2001 bottles.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Red Rooster Pinot Noir

Regular readers of the blog (and most of our drinking buddies) know that Boo and I have "adopted" a row of Malbec vines through Red Rooster's novel - and very fun - wine program. Part of the benefits to being an adoptive parent is that you receive a case of wine every year - and our case for this year just arrived (along with a few other bottles that somehow seemed to slip through Boo's "No buy Leash" restraint).

Despite the fact that a number of Red Rooster wines have made The List, we still have more than a couple bottles currently residing in our home. I think we need to open a few of them to free up some space.

644. 2005 Red Rooster Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I have a feeling that the Pinot Noir might be one of our "parental" bottles from a few years back. I don't usually lean towards Red Rooster for its Pinot Noir. They make a lot of different varietals, but I've never personally thought of the Pinot as being their strongest - at least not the Pinot Noir. Neither as nuanced as more traditional Old World Pinot, nor as boldly structured as some of the bigger New World entries, this rather straddled both worlds but didn't really capture enough of either to really whet my whistle.

Naturally, I feel like I'm saying naughty things about one of the children, but this was a wine made by the previous regime at Red Rooster. Perhaps the Pinot, under current winemaker Karen Gillis, will show a different side yet again. I have more than a feeling that we'll get the opportunity to discover that possibility.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Pink Wine at the Pink Broom

Each year at the start of the curling season, our league holds the Pink Broom, a fun bonspiel (or funspiel as we dyed-in-the-wool curlers call them) as an opportunity to meet'n'greet other curlers in the league. Since the PRCL is one of the biggest leagues in the Vancouver area - 40 teams of gay curlers (who knew?!) - there can be a lot of faces that you never play against or even meet. Even if you religiously head up to the bar after your game.

There has been a Pink Broom, in one form or another, for more than 25 years and it is likely the most social - and least competitive - event of the year. Everyone is encouraged to Think Pink - from costumes to prizes - and that call is taken to heart. All curlers play four shortened games (only four ends) and the teams are completely re-mixed after every game.

The curling rink is NOT generally associated with a lot of wine consumption - even with a crew like our league. It's a different story when talking beer, but I doubt the rink goes through a case of wine a week. If that.

I thought, however, that, to keep in theme, this was the perfect opportunity for a pink wine.

643. 2009 Kim Crawford Pansy! Rose (New Zealand)

If a Rose was the perfect wine for this event, the Kim Crawford was going to be the perfect pink. Their website even announces that "this wine was made for our friends in the gay community in thanks for their support of our wines." Originally conceived and marketed for the Sydney Mardi Gras and its known inclination for imbibing (much like the Pink Broom), I've had a soft spot for Kim Crawford and its Pansy! from the first time I saw and tasted it. It also doesn't hurt that it's a nice little wine as well.

In fact, Pansy! was the only non-BC wine that we served at Boo's and my 10th Anniversary/Wedding Party a couple of years back. It made perfect sense to me. Hot summer day. Fresh, cheeky wine.

Since I was blogging the wine this time, I checked the website and was intrigued to learn that Merlot is the base varietal for the wine (with a bit of Cab Franc and/or Malbec also thrown in) and that the winery uses the saignee method. That's where they "bleed" or run off up to 25% of the crushed juice before it starts to ferment. The winemaker stated that, because of New Zealand's cool climate they often need to intensify their Bordeaux red varieties. After this process, the original juice develops into a fuller wine and the juice that is bled off results in a whole new Rose.

Method aside, I say "Bravo!" to the marketing department and "Cheers" to the Pansy!" I have a feeling the winery would see our event as a good fit.

The wine must have done me some personal good on the day. I got quite the big surprise when they were announcing the awards and prizes. My curling didn't exactly earn me "top skip" marks at the bonspiel, but my Pansy!-enhanced play did win me the "Miss Congeniality" trophy for the event. And, guess what, the prize was another bottle of pink wine. It wasn't Pansy! but that bottle will no doubt make The List in short time as well.

A Divine Dinner

Since we hadn't been able to get together for awhile, Beamer and The Divine Miss M invited us over for dinner. The Divine One wanted to try out a couple of new recipes - and she knew that we eat anything and everything...if there's plenty of wine to go around.

As if we'd ever need to worry about any such situation (be it the menu or the availability of the grape).

The first bottle of the night is one that's already on The List though (#449). Consequently, we got to enjoy it but we don't get to give it a new number.

2009 Laughing Stock Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

This Viognier was actually added during a dinner with these guys earlier in the year. Beamer and Miss M are often our best source (after the winery) for Laughing Stock. Beamer has a decent portfolio of their wines - be it the premium Portfolio or one of their other stock options. It was good of them to offer up this bottle though because it's highly touted and is quite difficult to get ahold of.

We know that The Divine Miss M. is particularly fond of her white wines. So, we thought that we'd bring along a little reminder of our recent trip to Argentina. We didn't bring this bottle back with us but we managed to locate a bottle - even though the varietal is hardly a common find on local shelves.

640. Bodega Norton Lo Tengo Torrontes (Mendoza - Argentina)

Although we brought this wine (along with some photos) as a tip to the Argentina vacation, we didn't try it or anything else from Norton while we were there. The Lo Tengo brand is strictly for export - or so it seems. The winery has a number of lines - some strictly for homeland consumption and some for the rest of the world. Lo Tengo may be more of an introductory label but the Torrontes is both sufficiently different and tasty to make it worth the $12.

The Torrontes grape is pretty much specific to Argentina when it comes to wine - at least at the present. It is apparently also used in Chile to make Pisco but that's a whole other ballgame. The varietal is a cross of Mission, the old sacramental wine workhorse grape of Franciscan missionaries and Muscat of Alexandria. It's primarily know for its aromatics and low acidity.

This was the first time that Miss M had tried it and she was an easy sell.

641. 2003 Fairview Cellars Bear's Meritage (VQA Okanagan Valley)

As much as The Divine Miss M likes her white, Beamer saves most of his excitement for big reds (when he's not still reminiscing over the many beers that he's loved in his life). We thought pulling out the Bear's Meritage would be a good fit. It comes from one of the best known winemakers - and biggest characters - in the Valley.

I've known of Bill Eggert and Fairview's wines for many a year now - and have down a few as well - but I've never actually made it to his tasting room despite the fact that I know we must have driven by its entrance on the Golden Mile on more than a couple of occasions. We've even specifically tried to locate the winery - to no avail - but we have GPS now and I'm pretty sure that I'll be able to get Boo to loosen the "No Buy Leash" a bit when we finally make it there.

As I'd have expected the the Bordeaux blend quickly disappeared with the individual meat pies that we dined on. I left the bottle behind, so I wasn't able to see if it mentioned the actual blend. I'm pretty sure (knowing a bit about Fairview's other wines) that it would likely have been predominantly Cab Sauv and Merlot based with a bit of Cab Franc. The current '08 vintage has small amounts of Malbec and Petit Verdot as well but I don't know if they were part of the mix back in '03.

The bottle went quickly enough that we were "forced" to open another bottle. What a terrible situation to find ourselves in.

642. 2007 Paso Creek Zinfandel (Paso Robles - California)

I mentioned that Beamer likes a big red; well, he pulled out a California Zin to finish off both us and the evening. I don't tend to drink a lot of US wine because I don't like what seems to happen to the price as soon as a bottle crosses the 49th Parallel, but I have to agree with Beamer that you have to give in every so often to assuage the need for some Zin. I think Beamer discovered the Paso Creek at this year's California Wine Fair - and the fact that it comes in at under $20, even North of the border makes it a good bet that we'll remember it for future dinners.

All in all, a great night for wine, conversation and new recipes. I could be talked into this more often. Easily.