Saturday, February 27, 2010

Flags, Curlers and Austrians

I'm playing hookey again from work, but this time it's not for hockey. Instead, it's a curling day. We've got tickets for two draws of the curling tournament - women's in the afternoon and men's in the evening. Since we had the opportunity to enjoy the spring-like weather of these Winter Olympics, Merlot Boy and I hit the road to play like all the real tourists were doing. He decided that he'd sport his little Boxing kangaroo flag for the day. Neither one of us ever anticipated the wild attention such a little piece of green cloth and an accent would attract.

It started as we were walking by Russia House. The mascot for the 2014 Games in Sochi was greeting the line-up to get in and, lo and behold, the first of many pictures to come.

We carried on towards Granville Island and saw the original flag, that caused the flap for the IOC, as it adorned the Athletes' Village. If you think the Aussie flag is big, take a look at the Canadian Maple Leaf on the balcony to the left of Merlot Boy's head. Now, that's a flag.

One of the big attractions at the Games has been the experimental introduction of the streetcar along the "Olympic Line" to Granville Island. It's proved to be immensely popular. If only we could make it a more permanent component of Vancouver's transit system. While riding the streetcar, we had a great conversation with a group of Austrians in town to cheer on the Austrian ski-jumpers. Their mood was elevated even more when we advised them that their boys had a clear lead heading into the final round of the team jumping that morning.

When Merlot Boy and I arrived at the curling venue, that little flag caused an even greater stir. Not only did Merlot Boy meet a woman who had started a Facebook group to protest the IOC's banning of the flag, but he was interviewed by Brazilian TV. Brazilian sports commentary of curling by an Aussie. We truly are seeing it all at these Games.

Luckily, the Canadian women are playing in this draw. We still won't get to see the Canadian men play - even in this evening's draw. So, I'm glad we get to see at least one of our teams throw some rocks. Merlot Boy and I had some great centre sheet seats and we were immediately behind a large group of Swiss fans. They were full of song, flag and cowbell. We particularly liked one song that involved swaying backwards, forwards, side to side and up and down. Not your traditional curling cheer, but great fun. The Canadian women had a great game over the defending champion Swedes. Here's hoping.

Following the game, we met up with Boo and hiked across the street to Queen Elizabeth Park to give Merlot Boy a different view of the city - and to have a little park-side sip. Since Boo came directly from home to join us, we had him bring along a bottle of wine and glasses. Now the glasses may not have been Riedel crystal, but you do what you have to do to get around those draconian VANOC and IOC dictates.

373. 2008 Loimer Lenz Riesling (Kamptal DAC - Austria)

OK, so technically if we're to stay with our Olympic wine theme, we shouldn't be drinking this bottle today since Austria didn't win a gold medal yesterday. We could have easily gone the US or Germany route since they did win and their wines are readily available - but we haven't celebrated an Austrian medal yet and they did win the Ladies' Super-G on the Whistler slopes the day before. To top off our justification, the Austrians did win the Team Ski-Jump today. So, we're raising our glasses to our new Austrian friends from the streetcar.

There is a Loimer wine already on The List as Boo, Miss Jaq and I had a Gruner Veltliner back last summer after the Pride Parade. GV is certainly the more common varietal to be found in Vancouver if you're drinking Austrian, but 25% of Loimer's production is Riesling and it seemed like an interesting wine to check out. I didn't talk about the winery much last time - and I don't think there's room to do so here either - but the winery is located in the Kamptal region, North of Vienna, near the town of Langenlois. The Kamptal is one of the principal wine-producing regions in Austria; however, its climate profile differs somewhat from the neighbouring regions because of the moderating influence of the Danube River that flows through it. Hence, you see warm days and cool nights - much like BC's Okanagan Valley.

This Riesling was definitely big on acidity and subtle minerality, with no residual sugar of note. Or, was it just the cool weather and surroundings that we were drinking it in? Despite the sunshine, it was definitely cooling down in the late afternoon. While enjoying our wine as we wandered the gardens and park, I found it interesting to note that, like the Cape Jaffa wine we drank earlier in the week, this winery has recently transitioned to become biodynamic in its viticultural practices. Loimer started the transition in 2005, so these 2008 wines are the starting point for the vineyards to look for certification. Vancouver is touting these Olympics as the "Green Games;" so, it may be fitting that we've opened as many "green" wines as we have.

We still couldn't get Merlot Boy to join us in a drink though. It's been four full days now and he's still sticking to that diet of his. He may have lost 35 pounds since his last visit to Vancouver, but this complete avoidance of the grape while on vacation is simply unnatural.

Following the park visit and our bottle, Merlot Boy headed off to find more admirers of his flag and accent. Boo and I high-tailed it back to the curling venue for the evening Men's draw. Again, no Canadian team to be seen. Nor were there even any wild Norwegian pants to focus on. The closest thing to "all out cheering" we could find was a foursome of face-painted Brits. Yeah, I know there are only three in this picture, but one of them must have been off for another beer run. I'm quite sure that sharing a bottle of wine for The List with them could have led to some interesting stories.

This draw was pretty much at the end of the round robin part of the competition and we were watching the six teams on the bottom end of the current standings. Accordingly, there wasn't a whole lot at stake as far as medals were concerned. Aside from the Brits, none of these teams still had a legitimate chance at making the playoff round. All the same, Vancouver rarely gets to watch a curling competition of this magnitude. So, you enjoy what you can, when you can, especially since these were the last of our tickets for events at the Games. Well be sipping wine in front of the telly from now on.

Hey, that might mean that the blog entries will feature more wine and less street meanderings for a bit. Nah, doubt it.

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