Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Snow Day - Wine Blog Wednesday #65

The other week, while surfing the net for tasty bits of info for the blog, I ran across a reference to "Wine Blogging Wednesday" (or "WBW" for short). Now, I vaguely recall having seen such a reference once or twice previously but I never followed up on what it was all about. This time, I took a couple extra minutes to check out the concept.

Having been conceived over five years ago by a New York blogger, Lenn Thompson, as a monthly, virtual event, it's simple enough. As this month's host - Michelle of blog "My Wine Education" at - has recapped, "people interested in wine, the world over, would coalesce each month around a single theme." Everyone submits their postings or e-mail comments to the coordinator, which are then coordinated and shared. This month is WBW#65 and it's hard to believe that it took me so long to discover it.

Michelle is starting off the new decade with the theme of "Snow Day!" Being a home grown Canuck in the True North Strong and Free, you'd think that this theme would be a natural, a no-brainer, a slam-dunk so to speak. Guess we'll see.

In a way, I hate to fall back on such a cultural cliche but, being Canadian, how can I not just go with the GREAT WHITE NORTH. I'm just going to put aside my curling broom for the moment (which I really do have) and sit myself down to ponder snow and wine.

Ironically, out here in Vancouver, the headlines for the past week have been the LACK of snow. Perhaps the "Great WET North" is the more appropriate moniker for our town nowadays. The big news has been whether organizers will be able to keep enough of the accumulated base on the local hills to successfully host the Winter Olympics next month. Other than for one or two days at Christmas, it's not too often that, as a city, we find ourselves collectively hoping for colder weather and for the white stuff to fall. Over the next couple of weeks though, there might be the odd snow dance being performed around here.

It's a good thing that we had a cold November and there was a good build up of a snow base in the mountains, because I was actually driving around this weekend past
with the top down on the car. Compare that to these shots of last year's winter when, at times, we had more snow than anyone could remember.

But, this is a wine blog - not a weather report - so let's get to it and add another bottle to The List (since that's what I do here) and do a little deconstruction of the phrase "Great White North."

339. 2005 Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Sparkling Riesling Icewine (VQA OkanaganValley)

There are a number of reasons I chose this wine - least of which is that it only seems fitting to feature a bottle of icewine for a wintery topic like snow.

To start, the "North" component of this posting is rather self-evident. How could I do anything but head North of the Canada/U.S. border and the 49th parallel? Done.

"Great" might be a little more subjective, but it certainly doesn't hurt that the production of icewine may still be seen as Canada's biggest strength on the international wine stage. I also figured that Jackson-Triggs would be an appropriate choice. While some might balk at describing J-T as a "Great" winery, it is certainly one of the few Canadian wineries to consistently garner attention both nationally and internationally. It has been named "Best Canadian winery" 19 times in competitions over the last nine years. The fact that Jackson-Triggs is a corporate sponsor of the upcoming Winter Olympics also seemed fitting.

To capture the essence of "White," I'm going with perhaps my favourite white varietal - Riesling. I've blogged previously about one of Vancouver's best known wine commentators, Mark Davidson, and paraphrased his well-worked statement that he tells his students: "By the end of this course, you will come to understand and appreciate Riesling. If you don't, you will not only fail this course - but in life as well."

There you have it, - Great - White - and, North - all encompassed in a single bottle (and a half-bottle at that). But what hopeful expectations for a bottle!

Icewine, in itself, is rare enough, but a sparkling icewine is that much rarer of a bird - much like a snowy day in L.A. or Sydney. I didn't see how much wine was produced with this vintage, but it isn't produced every year and there were only 101 cases of the most recent vintage in 2007.

In 2005, the grapes were harvested on December 7 while the temperature was a balmy -11 C degrees. That's 12 F degrees for the Americans amongst us. The grapes were then pressed immediately upon arrival at the winery to prevent any of the water in the grapes from thawing. Following an initial fermentation, the juice was re-inoculated with yeast for a secondary fermentation in a sealed, stainless cuvee-close.

To be honest though, I'm not so sure where the "sparkle" was in the icewine. If the bottle hadn't told us that this was a "sparkling" wine, I doubt that I would have noticed much of a difference from a more standard icewine. I will say that there was a very slight effervescence in the mouth-feel which might have lightened up the unctuousness I often find with an icewine, but there was certainly no mousse along the lines of a Champagne or even a Cava - which is more what I had hoped for.

I wouldn't exactly call the marketing a snow-job - the wine had a deep, golden hue and a rich, full body that screamed honey and ripe tree fruit and a finish that lasted forever. There was also just enough acidity to counterpoint the sweetness. It's just that, when I reach for sparkling, I'm big on bubbles going crazy in my mouth and that wasn't happening here - although I think the idea of it still intrigues me.

All the same, the wine was hardly out of place with the creme brulee we matched it to and I can just imagine tasting it along with some foie gras. When it comes in at $60 a half-bottle, however, this is definitely a special occasion wine - at least for this household. Then again, what could be more special than a very first posting for Wine Blogging Wednesday? I'm thinking I'll have a few most WBW postings under my belt though before we head back to the sparkling icewine though.

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