Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Charity Dinner

For the last so many years, the firm where I work has had an annual silent auction as a charitable fundraising activity. The donated items go all over the map - from bottles of fine Scotch to a girls' night of cocktails and nails to throwing a pie in the face of a co-worker. Much to Boo's great delight (yeah, right), I've donated a wine dinner for four at our place. It's proved popular on the bidding front and we finally managed to find an evening that would work for last year's high bidders.

It just happened that The Boss inched up the bid one last time and ended up winning. He said that he was going to leave it to the next bidder to win - but that bidder didn't show up in time. So he was stuck with us. I warned him during the week leading up, though, that I was going to have to behave myself since the company was entering a team in the Sun Run the next morning and - whether he was going to show or not - I had to be able to at least make it to the start line. Accomplishing that feat might mean hustling him out the door before he was ready to hit the road. Forewarned is fore-armed, I figure.

A couple of days before dinner, he advised me that he was bringing along some wine. I told him that the prize included wine with dinner, but he was adamant that he had already picked some out. They have a place up in the Okanagan that's only about a mile from the nearest winery; so, I figured he was bringing along some Blasted Church or wine from a neighbouring vineyard.

Turned out that he and Bosswoman thought it'd be more fun to head to one of the specialty shops in town and find some wine that I might not have run across before. Boss knows about this blog and made it a bit of an evening's fun and a challenge for the wine clerk. He did a good job; I tell you. We opened one of the bottles he brought as our first of the evening.

441. 2006 Firriato Harmonium Nero d'Avola (IGT Sicily - Italy)

I wasn't quite sure what we were going to get when I opened the bottle. I generally think of Nero d'Avola as a Southern Italian grape that is used in entry level wines. This was no entry level wine. That's for sure. There was lots of fruit and structure and it's given a whole new appreciation for what is possible with Nero d'Avola. It wasn't too much of a surprise that it sells for $50 a pop in VanCity. All the same, it was one of the favourite wines of the evening.

The weather was totally cooperative and unexpectedly nice, so Bosswoman, The Duke and Duchess all thought we could do appies in the garden. I grabbed the Sicilian red since we were serving up peppered pecorino cheese drizzled with truffle honey and were taking advantage of the occasion by pulling out the salt block and "grilling" thinly sliced lamb and quail eggs. How can you go wrong with al fresco steak and eggs?

Once the temperature started getting a bit nippy without coats, we moved inside and the first course was a favourite of mine - Soupe aux Moules - a Provencal mussell soup made with plenty of wine and saffron. When I think Provence, I think Rose.

442. 2008 Domaine de La Renaudie Perle de Rosee (AOC Touraine - France)

This Rose isn't actually from Provence but I'd picked it up with an assortment of Rose wines for the upcoming summer season. Not only did the wine go wonderfully with the soup, but it turns out that I get to add another varietal to my list for the Wine Century Club. The wine is made from the Pinot d'Anuis varietal - one that I'm definitely not very familiar with. Wikipedia says that the varietal was a favourite of Henry Plantagenet (England's King Henry III); so, I suppose it's sensical that we were serving it to a Duke and Duchess.

443. 2008 Fairview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

We stuck a little closer to home with the next wine, but the fact that it's from the Okanagan doesn't necessarily mean that it's an easy find. I was actually quite surprised to see a bottle on the shelf at Everything Wine (one of my favourite places to pass an hour or two); so, I just grabbed it.

Bill Eggert of Fairview Cellars is known for his big reds, but, for the last couple of years, he's been offered a small amount of Sauvignon Blanc that he's blended with an even smaller amount of Semillon to produce his "oyster wine." We didn't serve it up with seafood, but we did match it up with another classic pairing - goat cheese - which formed the base of the sabayon cream that we served on the asparagus.

So far, so good.

444. 2002 Cedar Creek Platinum Reserve Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan)

The main course was duck confit; so, I pulled out one of our favourite local Pinot Noirs - the Cedar Creek Platinum. Boo doesn't often reach for Pinot Noir when he has a choice, but he immediately fell for this wine when we first tried it a couple of years ago. When available (the winery doesn't necessarily produce the Platinum wine every year), I think it usually clocks in around $40. As such, it's a special occasion wine - as befitting an evening like tonight - and a bargain when compared to top flight Pinot Noir from around the world (not that I want to encourage the folks at CedarCreek need to rethink their pricing).

We finished this bottle off rather quickly, however, so I grabbed another from the wine that Boss had brought along.

445. 2006 Frescobaldi - Tenuta di Castelgiocondo - Lamaione (IGT Tuscany - Italy)

Good Boss. I think we could have cellared this bottle for some time to mellow it out some, but, after having polished off four bottles already, I can't say that I paid a whole lot of attention to what I was about to open. Again, The Boss succeeded in bringing along a wine that I wasn't familiar with. I will be now.

Lamaoine is a Frescobaldi Super Tuscan from the Castelgiocondo vineyards and winery. Located in the Brunello di Montalcino DOCG region, it's a wine made with 100% Merlot. Since it's not a Sangiovese varietal wine, it therefore, has to be an IGT wine and can't be denoted as a traditional wine for the Montalcino or even Tuscany region. It doesn't matter that this wine was rated given a 95 point score by Wine Spectator. Technically, it is not a traditional appellation wine and is labelled with the "lesser" IGT designation.

A single vineyard Merlot, Lamaione is said to be the first of its kind to be produced in Montalcino and was only started well after the Frescobaldi family purchased the old "Happy Castle" in 1989. Legend has it that the old estate is where the Mona Lisa was painted and, hence, the castle's name was born. It's bottles like this that made this dinner and our home into a happy castle.

446. NV (Series 122) Seppelt Para Aged Tawny (Australia)

A star from the land of "stickies." I've been waiting to serve up this bottle for some time now. I figured that this was a great occasion, especially when matching it with Elzee's famous Torte di Mele con Pinoli e Uvetta (Apple Torte with Pinenuts and Raisins) and a cheese plate.

An SGM blend (Shiraz, Grenache & Mataro/Mourvedre) - unctuous, luscious, rich - call it what you may, Seppelt is a (if not "the") personification of Aussie fortified wines. However, that "is" might be a "was." In the mid-2000's, Seppelt was sold to the Fosters group and they, in turn, sold the collection of fortified wines to Kilkanoon. Fosters kept the name "Seppelt" though. So, you won't find any new series of this wine beyond Series 226. There is a Para Tawny being made but it's now produced by Seppeltsfield.

Luckily, I didn't have to shoo The Boss out the door in order to get the needed sleep before the big race. Bosswoman did a pretty good job of doing that herself. All in all, I think the dinner was a grand affair - hopefully, worthy of a high bidder. I figure it was a pretty darned good collection of both folk and wine. If nothing else, it's a great addition of six wines to The List.

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