Monday, June 28, 2010

Chile vs. Portugal


The last of our Round 1 taste-offs in the World Cup of wine is another potential barn burner - well, I suppose I'd settle for a palate-pleaser. Chile was seeded ahead of Portugal more because of the fact that Portugese red wines are more likely to be associated with Port than with any table wine. I do love Port but that's not the focus of this little exercise. Chile may still be known more for its mass market exports of value based wines than it is known for sophisticated, high-end wines, but the latter wines are definitely out there. We just won't be opening any of them in our little World Cup (unless they maybe make the final).

I'm simply looking forward to both.

502. 2006 Casas del Toqui - El Toqui Shiraz Reserva (D.O. Cachapoal Valley - Chile)

503. 2007 Quinta dos Roques - Quinta do Correio (D.O.C. Dao - Portugal)

Just as one might expect on the soccer pitch, this play down was rather close. And, just as both countries have interesting approaches on the field, there's a bit of intrigue behind both wines.

Casas del Toqui is an example of a new breed of wineries in South America. It's a partnership of an established Chilean winemaking family, the Granella's, and a Cru Bordeaux house from Medoc - Chateau Larose Trintaudon. We're seeing more and more wines in our market that are the product of these hemispheric partnerships. While the Shiraz/Syrah varietal isn't the most common red varietal coming out of Chile, it is becoming more available in our parts and it's not difficult to see why if all of those wines are as easy drinking (while still retaining a firm structured framework) as this one was. I don't think the El Toqui should take on an Aussie Shiraz quite yet, but we might see that yet in this World Cup.

The Dao, on the other hand, is a traditionally intriguing blend of indigenous Portugese grapes - Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz and Rufete. One website referred to the wine as having a distinctly Rhone-like palate. That might partially explain the somewhat similar profile to the Shiraz. It was also interesting to read that the winery's vineyards, until the 1980's, were planted more for table fruit production - largely apples and grapes. The current owner decided to change over to traditional wine grapes and now produces over 200,000 bottles a year. The conversion of tree fruit to vines is something that our Okanagan Valley is well aware of as well.

Nowadays, I'm on the lookout for Portugese table wines since a number of the wine scribes are pointing to Portugal as a real up-and-comer - much along the lines of Spain - on the red wine scene. This one didn't quite capture that level of excitement, but it was hardly a shutout either.

The result - Chile wins 2-1. Neither wine was exciting enough to say "book a ticket to the finals;" but we won't have any problem finishing off either bottle.

Springboks and Kiwis

South Africa
New Zealand

As far as preliminary round goes, this was one of the more intriguing matches. As host of the actual World Cup, South Africa got the nod as the seeded team, but, in my opinion, New Zealand is no slouch on the red wine scene.

I think it's fairly safe to say that the two countries have different approaches to the production of wine. I don't know if either one of them can expect to score big on the soccer field, but either one could make quite a run in these World Cup of Wine playoffs.

500. 2007 Goats Do Roam (Coastal Region Wine of Origin - South Africa)

501. 2007 Allan Scott Pinot Noir (Marlborough - New Zealand)

This taste-off had some real potential. Goats Do Roam has been around for a number of years now in our market. Like many, I've enjoyed the wine and whimsical take on Cotes du Rhone wines since it first appeared. I thought even more of it when I read that the French were trying to take legal action to stop the use of the name.

On a side note, I never did find an English red wine (or white for that matter) for this competition but it would have been quite the marketing ploy to dream up a Cotes du Rooney. I can just taste the brusque profile of the wine being served up. It might not have a lot of finesse but it'll have some sort of punch.

But that's for another time.

The Allan Scott was one of the wines that I'd picked up at this year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. I figured it had a good chance at an upset. Maybe it wasn't fair to put a Pinot up against a wine based on predominantly Rhone varietals and, in particular, Shiraz, but, then again, I wanted to put up a representative wine for each of our participating countries and teams on the soccer pitch can be drastically different in game plan as well.

Unfortunately for the Kiwis, this wasn't the foremost of Pinot profiles and it was a bit to reserved when compared against the South African wine. The Syrah takes this match with its more robust structure and fruit. It wasn't a shut out but I score it a 3-1 win for Goats Do Roam.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Italy vs. Greece


This was another match in our little World Cup of Wine preliminaries where the arbitrarily seeded country should easily put the bottle of an upstart challenger to rest. When I think of Greek wine, it's usually white house wines in Greek restaurants (don't mention retsina though, please) - not red wine.

On the other hand, the Italians and red wine go pretty much hand in hand at our pasta-loving dinner table.

498. 2004 Prunotto Fiulot (DOC Barbera d'Asti - Italy)

499. 2007 Boutari Agioritiko (Nemea - Greece)

I've got to say that the taste-off was a lot closer than I had expected. The Greek wine was quite palatable, while, as much as I like Prunotto as a producer, the Fiulot wasn't nearly all that I'd hoped for.

Generally, I find the Barbera varietal to produce approachable wines, with less tannin and a bit more fruit on them than a lot of the big Italian reds. I wasn't so captivated by this bottle - although it was still drinking fine and was a more developed wine than the Boutari. Alternatively though, the Boutari was made to highlight the fruit - perhaps a bit too much as it didn't have a lot of structure to it.

The Boutari label talks of Agiorgitiko as being "Greece's most talented red grape." That might be, but it didn't quite match up to the talent found in the Italian glass - even if the Prunotto wasn't my favourite bottle of Barbera.

As it ended, Italy gets a tentative win into the quarter-finals, but it will have to up its game to keep moving on. The Greek wine wins in the fact that I'd actually consider buying another bottle the next time we eat souvlaki - plus, I get to add the Agiorgitiko varietal to my list for the Wine Century Club.

I'd score it 2-1 (mostly because the Greek wine deserves a point but the Prunotto deserves the win).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Battle of the Pinots




Now, if this were the World Cup of Soccer instead of Wine, France and Germany would be a real hum-dinger of a first round game. I'm not so sure that the same level of competitiveness exists in the vineyard when it comes to red wine though. In fact, I wasn't even sure that there was any German red wine available in the Vancouver market.

Lo and behold, one of the best-known (if not entirely most-loved) brands from years past offers up a German red just for the occasion. Does the wizardry that is German engineering and Riesling carry on across the dancefloor for its reds? That is our question for today.

Not to give away the answer too early - but, no.

496. 2007 Black Tower Dornfelder Pinot Noir (Germany)

497. 2006 Louis Latour Pinot Noir (AOC Bourgogne - France)

There weren't any real surprises coming out of this taste off. Although both wines were Pinot Noirs, neither wine was from a higher quality appellation. The Black Tower was simply German (Red Wine) and, while it was labeled a Qualitatswein from Pfalz, at $12, it wasn't going to pretend to be a quality German Pinot. As mentioned though, I considered myself "lucky" to have found a bottle so that Germany could even enter the competition.

Similarly, the Latour was a simple Vin de Bourgogne which basically means that the grapes can come from anywhere in Burgundy. It's not going to rival any of the high end Pinots that cause grown soccer players to weep in joy.

However, there wasn't a whole lot of decision making needed for our choice of a winner. The Black Tower wasn't terrible, but we found it to be more on the lines of glorified pop than being comparable to a fine wine. Not that the Latour was a wine that we would run back to the liquor store to buy again. We've actually had a bottle of the 2005 vintage (#79) and I think it went over a tad better than this bottle did.

Unlike on the soccer field, beating Germany tonight probably doesn't mean a whole lot. Hopefully, the next French wine we line up will have a little more fight in it. France goes up against Argentina next and another wine like this likely won't score nearly enough.

Score it 1-0 for the French. Hardly a thriller of a match.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Orofino On The Go

Unfortunately for me, it's my last day (and night) up here in the Kootenays. Everybody else gets to revel in Sparrowhawk's lushness, but I have to catch a plane in the morning and try to be back at my desk by noon. So, with the American relatives a-visitin', Boo and I figured that we needed to fix them up some BC salmon and pop open some of our favourite BC wine.

Since we had to drive through the Similkameen Valley to get to Mom Mary's, I rather insisted on stopping at Orofino to pick up a few bottles. As Boo is wont to predicting, when it comes to Orofino, a "few bottles" ended up being 16. Oh well. The best I could do to justify the purchase was that a) it was Orofino and we'd be laying down most of it and b) I couldn't very well go empty handed when it comes to dinner with the in-laws.

While enjoying appies al fresco on the porch, I didn't put any of the "juice" in the hummingbird feeder but I'm more-or-less certain that this little beauty knew we were enjoying the Orofino and wanted in on the action. Although we were sipping on the newest vintage of Riesling, our little friend must have known that Orofino Riesling's have won gold medals at Canadian wine championships for the last three years running.

I can't actually add the Riesling to The List because we've already opened a bottle as part of the Canucks' playoff series. Orofino was our BC winery of choice for the second round against Chicago and this vintage was opened as #438. We're definitely adding the next bottle to The List though.

495. 2007 Orofino Pinot Noir (Similkameen Valley)

Normally I wouldn't have opened the Pinot Noir only a couple of weeks after it had been released, but winemaker, John Weber, assured us that it was drinking fine already and that he definitely thought it would serve up nicely with the salmon. He hasn't steered us wrong yet; nor did he do so this time. I'm betting that they don't make Pinot like this in Florida or the Carolinas.

We'd actually hoped that Boo's brothers might be able to bring up a couple bottles of wine from the South. I figured that they'd make interesting additions to The List and the blog, but it wasn't to be this time around. BD said that he didn't think there were any Florida wines worth bringing - particularly on short notice. And HDR3 and kin were travelling with nothing but carry-on luggage. That didn't leave any option for packing liquid - even for such a noble cause.

The evening - and my visit - came to too quick of a conclusion, but it was a fine way to celebrate the birthdays and meet the rest of the in-laws. Hopefully, I'll get the chance to blog some wine from their homes before we hit the 2001st bottle here.

Big Birthdays Deserve Big Wines

Last night's late arrival didn't really present the greatest opportunity for a birthday dinner befitting the occasion. Boo wasn't sure when he last celebrated a birthday together with his twin, HDR3 - but we're probably talking thirty years plus. Living in different countries, on opposite sides of the continent just doesn't seem to lend itself to getting together on a regular basis.

That just meant that we had to do this b-day up in style - and what better way is there than to start the evening off with a little bubbly. Granted, we didn't go the vintage Champagne route. But, all things considered, our actual choice was likely better received by the gang on hand.

493. NV Seaview Sparkling Shiraz (Australia)

Hardly traditional, but no one can deny that sparkling Shiraz doesn't have a cachet all of its own. Sparkling red wine has a history in Australia dating back to the 1800's and some studies have concluded that Shiraz was the primary grape being used despite the fact that the wines were called Sparkling Burgundy (which should connote the use of Pinot Noir or Chardonnay).

This isn't a bottle from the higher end of the spectrum - you can find Sparkling Shiraz, like E&E, made in the full Method Champenoise - but it's a nice alternative to a Kir Royale (Creme de Cassis and bubbly). Sparkling Shiraz has found a traditional niche in Aussie culture of being served on Christmas Day.

We weren't exactly basking in the heat of an Aussie Christmas Day, but the occasion of all three brothers visiting Mom Mary was just as special - particularly since the newest little man in the family was making his first visit to Sparrowhawk. Indeed, as the twins were hitting yet another decade, little Boogerhead (their nickname for the little guy, not mine) still hadn't reached his first birthday.

While Boo and I didn't bring along a grandchild for Mom Mary, I did bring along a big baby of my own that I'd been saving up for the right occasion.

494. 2002 Mission Hill Reserve Shiraz (VQA Okanagan Valley)

This is the first time that I've ever opened a Jeroboam (or a 3-litre or double magnum - equal to four standard bottles) of wine. I'd picked up the Mission Hill at a fundraising auction a couple of years back. Despite the fact that Boo and I might go through a fair bit of wine in an evening, we've never considered - let alone attempted - trying such a hefty task before. I honestly didn't even think that the eight of us would finish off the Mission Hill tonight - particularly since Mom Mary's wine glasses are on the smaller side. This bottle was going to provide a good number of glasses.

I also wasn't sure that the wine itself would live up to the occasion. It's not like we have proper storage facilities for bottles of this size.

Luckily, the wine was still fine and was almost as big as the bottle. This was a gold medal winner for Mission Hill back when it was released and it was still nicely balanced with lots of dark fruit. It was a great match for the rack of lamb that we served up to the assembled family.

The quantity of wine certainly lent itself to increasingly interesting stories and reminiscences of the boys growing up. Twins truly can get into troubles that other siblings just don't seem to get involved in.

Although this was a story from more recent years, we shared a good laugh over the tale of which brother is the "evil twin." Be sure to ask Boo to tell you about it. Better yet, ask me. He's likely to leave out all the juicy parts or deny the anecdote altogether.

As the evening wore on and folks tuckered out, Boo, BD (Boogerhead's Dad), Sunshine and I headed back out to the porch to do a little more damage to the Jereboam. Since BD was going to be given "BD" as his nom-de-ma-plume for this
this blog, I'd considered BM - for Boogerhead's Mom - as well, but Sunshine said emphatically that, "No. That's just so wrong." In retrospect, it's possible that a teensy bit of wine might have played a part in that suggestion. Such a thought process isn't all that outlandish considering, however, that we did manage to - gingerly - pour out the last of the wine before we all headed off to bed. Getting the last pours was a bit of an exercise though.

I think we need a few more bottles like this - and occasions that we can celebrate them with.

Monday, June 21, 2010


I can't say that I know of many people who have homes "stately" enough to have their own names. It rings rather grandiose - think Tara, the White House, Rideau Hall. Mom Mary has named her property Sparrowhawk and I don't think she's over-stepped any level of audacity. It's a spectacular setting and a marvelous place to sit back and soak in the beauty while enjoying a glass or two.

Boo is going to stay on with his family for a bit longer than I can. So, I hope to make the best of the two days that I have here. The weather forecast hadn't been that favourable, but it couldn't have been much nicer than the day we woke up to on our first full day.

Rather than wax on about the property, I think I might just let some of the pictures speak for themselves. There were lots more where these came from.

Nelson is the closest city to Sparrowhawk and it's about 45 minutes away. Throughout the summer, they have a Farmer's Market and we decided that it'd be nice to take in the market while accomplishing a couple of chores in town. It's still a bit early for a lot of local produce up here, but there was plenty of tasty treats to be had. Unfortunately, I didn't bring along a bottle of wine with us but the market's location by a small waterfall would have made for a great picnic and addition to The List.

We made up for the lack of a bottle at the market by enjoying a sip upon our return to Sparrowhawk however. Mom Mary inherited a number of old fruit trees when she purchased the property and she still gets a good crop of plums and apples - if the bears and deer don't get them all first. It's still a bit early for the bears to be venturing onto her property, but we did see more than a couple of deer wandering around. I hadn't expected, however, to see a pair of alpacas on the opposite bank when I took a stroll down to the river.

Irrespective of the local fauna, it's still too early for plum season, but somehow it seemed appropriate to open a bottle from Forbidden Fruit to celebrate the whole garden-esque nature of Sparrowhawk - particularly since the winery plays with the whole Garden of Eden theme and Mom Mary does have her own little corner of paradise. This was one of the wineries that Boo and I had made a quick visit to on our drive up.

492. 2008 Forbidden Fruit Plumiscuous (Similkameen Valley)

Plumiscuous is a fortified red plum wine and it has been a consistent award winner for the winery since they started making it a few years back. In fact, Forbidden Fruit is playing a big part in opening folks' eyes to the attractiveness of fruit wines - particularly on the dessert wine front.

A bonus attraction to this bottle was owner, Steve Venables', confirmation that it would make a great addition to a birthday martini featuring a little Absolut and some muddled cherries from the neighbouring lands.

It was good for Boo and I that we didn't have any other takers on the martinis. With only a 375ml bottle, there wouldn't have been much of the wine left for sipping - and that would have been a sin.

A Slow Can Do Weekend

We're off to the Slocan Valley in the Kootenays for the weekend. Boo is celebrating one of those landmark birthdays that involve zeros - and his twin and younger brother have flown up from the Southern States for a bit of a family bash. If the powers that be were to declare a single region in Canada as a throwback to the 60's and hippie-dom, I think the Slocan would be a prime possibility.

Mom Mary (formerly known as Princess Long List) has lived in the idyllic surroundings for many a year now and this is the first time in my Boo years that the family has been up here together. It was tough taking a bit of extra time off of work, but how could I not make the effort? The eight hour drive was made a bit easier by the opportunity for a couple brief stops at a handful of wineries in Cawston (Similkameen Valley) and Osoyoos (Okanagan Valley) as we drove through on our way to the Kootenays.

We didn't have much time to stop though because we were going to be late for a birthday dinner as it was, but Boo was in a happy place (it's more likely that he was just tired from the lingering effects of a night shift) and I managed to fill the trunk a bit more with a couple new cases of wine.

We managed to catch up with the family just after they'd ordered dinner at the local hot spot. In fact, the Cedar Creek Cafe might be the only spot for many a mile. Mom Mary kinda lives in the middle of nowhere and I've never actually been out for dinner when visiting. It's a beautiful middle of nowhere, but the middle of nowhere all the same. We've always eaten at home. I was pleasantly surprised by the whole atmosphere and by the food. Our BBQ'd chicken pizza was quite tasty - and the Friday night stomp music completed the atmosphere.

True to the region, the wine list was one that I'd never encountered before - every wine on the list was organic or biodynamic. There are likely such wine lists in Vancouver, but I've never run across them. There wasn't a huge choice on the wine list, but we were very pleased with the bottle we ordered.

491. Vinedos Emiliana Adobe Reserva Syrah (Rapel Valley - Chile)

Turns out that Emiliana is operated by the same family that owns the Chilean wine giant, Concha y Toro, and Emiliana itself consists of a handful of brands - Etnico, Adobe, Novas, Coyan and Ge - many of which are available in our market. All of Emiliana's wines are either organic or biodynamic. Indeed, local wine writer anthony Gismondi reported that Emiliana is the single largest source of estate-grown organic wines in the world.

The winery has been operating its vineyards since 1986 and it started converting them to organic and biodynamic practices in the late-90's. Their website dedicates a healthy proportion of its space to discussing viticultural practices and the philosophy behind their wine. This was the first time that I've seen a bit of extended detail, by a winery, on the different preparations used with biodynamic viticulture.

I'm not all that used to Chilean Syrah, but it offered up big new world fruit, without going over the top. The wine sells for $15 in the liquor stores and that's the price point that I more-or-less look at as the upper limit for bargain priced wines (it is a BC market and our inflated prices after all). Guess this qualifies as a nice, little QPR wine (Quality Price Ratio).

With a behaved, but restless, babe in tow tonight, we hurried up on the last glass and made our move back to the homestead. I could have lingered a bit longer with the Syrah and listened to the music since the down home sounds had morphed into jazz, but it had been a long day and Boo had been up for 30 hours straight - save a few uneasy "zzzz's" while in the car. And, we still had to get to Sparrowhawk and unpack.

Welcome to "slow."

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

World Cup of Wine - Round 1

So, my little concept here is that I'm counting on a tournament format - with bi-national taste-offs between countries participating in this year's World Cup - to give us a neat opportunity to try wines from around the globe, all while finding our own way to have a little hands-on participate in all this "soccer madness."

Prior to our Wine Boyz World Cup-themed tasting the other night, I'd hit a couple of the bottle shops in town (government and private) to find a bottle or two of red wine from as many countries as I could that were participating in South Africa. It was a given that there wouldn't be wine available from all 32 nations competing - although they likely make wine, the expectation of finding juice from soccer favourites like Brazil, England or Holland wasn't too high. Indeed, it was a bit of a stretch to find the 13 countries that I did. There was actually a 14th - Uruguay - but our market only has one wine and we've already tried it and added to The List (early on at #7 actually) and if that tasting was any indication, I think the Uruguayans would have a whole lot more success on the soccer field.

So, the best I can aim for is a draw of 16 - allowing for 3 byes into the quarter-finals. Since we Canadians don't seem play soccer as well as hockey or curling, there wouldn't be any BC wines in the tournament. That likely leaves Boo's and my favourite red wine producer as Australia. Therefore, the Socceroos (or should that be Wine-aroos?) get the number 1 seeding and a direct spot in the next round. When Spanish and Argentinean wines took the first three spots at our Wine Boys tasting the other night, they also earned a free pass.

The highly anticipated draw was facilitated by the youngest niece, who happened to be gracing us with her appearance. I'd seeded the participating countries into two groups - the bigger guns in the red wine world and those that aren't necessarily considered top producers - so that we wouldn't end up with a France vs. Italy or a Germany vs. Mexico match right off the bat.

The draw ended up as follows:

Australia - bye
USA vs. Mexico
Argentina - bye
France vs. Germany
Italy vs. Greece
South Africa vs. New Zealand
Chile vs. Portugal
Spain - bye

There might not be a Group of Death to fight your way out of, but I think there are some intriguing match ups there. We'll see if there are as many surprises in the wine glass as there are on the soccer pitch.

Our first taste off is between the US and Mexico. Not the easiest start to our tournament since there aren't exactly a lot of Mexican wines in our market to choose from - particularly since we recently opened a bottle for Cinqo de Mayo.

But let the games begin. We're off and sipping -

489. 2008 Casa Madero San Lorenzo Cabernet Sauvignon/Tempranillo (Valle de Parras - Mexico)

490. 2005 Columbia Crest Walter Clore Private Reserve (Columbia Valley - Washington)

I've never actually seen San Lorenzo wines in our market before this. Usually, L.A. Cetto is the only Mexican producer that I see on a "regular," if very limited, basis. It didn't help that the producer, Casa Madero's, name isn't anywhere on the bottle, but I eventually found a website for Casa Madero. That wasn't necessarily offer a whole lot of assistance though because the English translation pages weren't working. If my meagre Spanish skills got it right though, it seems that the winery claims to be the oldest winery in the Americas, having got its start in 1597.

Despite the winery's pedigree, I still don't think of Mexico as much of a wine hotbed. Hot, yes. Top notch wines, not so much. But, Boo and I were rather surprised at how drinkable the wine was. The only problem was that we were drinking the Columbia Crest at the same time.

The Washington State wine was one of the bottles forming the "Costco Collection" from January's trip below the 49th Parallel. A Bordeaux blend of almost equal parts Cab Sauv and Merlot (with 7% Cab Franc thrown in for good measure), the Walter Clore was just a more sophisticated and balanced wine. I didn't know this at the time we were drinking the wine, but the "Private Reserve" brand actually is the higher end of Columbia Crest's portfolio and the '05 Walter Clore vintage was scored at 92 points by Wine Spectator. I'm not a regular point-chaser, but I think the scribes got this one right. I'd easily pick this up again.

Maybe not the fairest of line-ups for the Mexican bottle, but, hey, the Mexcians have no problem taking it to the Yanks on the soccer field either.

Verdict - a big win for the US (but a surprising performance by Mexico). Let's say 3-1 (and the US had some near misses that could have driven up the score).

Sunday, June 13, 2010

A Multi-Layered Dinner Club

Excitement may have been mounting for the World Cup - particularly for this blog and my World Cup of Wine playdowns - but our first "match" will have to wait a bit because tonight Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed are hosting the Dinner Club gang. These evenings are always awash in wine, but it's the Lady's party - and menu - so, she played head sommelier and suggested the wines we were to bring for the evening. There was to be no commandeering of the wine list by me for my little soccer games.

Luckily for us, the weather actually cooperated and we were able to enjoy the repast al fresco in the girls' lush patio. As we started nibbling on a trio of tasty hors d'oeuvres, the Lady brought out one of her favourite bottles and it starts off our new additions to The List.

479. 2007 Joie - A Noble Blend (Okanagan Valley)

Could there have been a better start to the evening? An (almost) summer evening, a garden setting and one of BC's signature white blends. Since the winery opened in 2004, this aromatic blend of Germanic varietals looked to take advantage of some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan. Taking a shot at producing big reds might have been the flavour of the day for BC wineries, but the white varietal vines had already been in place for years and were well-established and producing wonderful fruit.

The lady might have brought out a magnum but it didn't last long with our crowd and her assortment of bruschetta, beef sates and filo rolls. So, next up was a little bubble (as modelled by the equally bubbly Jeaux).

480. N.V. Mumm Napa Brut Rose (Napa Valley - California)

A methode traditionelle cuvee that is made from Napa Valley Pinot Noir (with a small addition of Chardonnay - which, curiously, is not a "noir" grape), it was equally as refreshing as the Joie. And, bubbles just seem to go with almost anything.

As refreshing as these wines might have been, they did sport a touch of an off-dry sweetness and the boys were already calling for a red. The Lady and She Who Must are doing a little renovating and cleaning of stuff - and that includes a bunch of wine. A fortunate happenstance for the gathered, but not necessarily for the blog. The reds that she produced were a treat, but one of the bottle had already been added to The List and the other was another vintage of the iconic BC wine that we'd just done two library tastings of recently (at home and at the BCWAS dinner).

2002 Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Too bad for The List. We don't see $100 bottles offered up very often. I love this wine, but why couldn't it have been any other vintage than a 2002?

481. 2003 Black Hills Nota Bene (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Considering that the 2008 vintage of Nota Bene was just released at $60 (more in the private wine shops), you'd likely have to drop $100-plus for a bottle of the 2003 by now as well. Nothing but the finest for this crowd, I tell you. I think this addition will definitely solidify Nota Bene's position as the single wine that has seen the most vintages added to The List. I think this puts us a five years now.

482. 2004 Quinta do Ameal Escolha (Portugal)

483. 2008 Burgans Albarino (D.O. Rias Baixas - Spain)

Being time to start dinner proper, Lady Di was serving up a favourite of mine - mussel soup. She'd asked for two bottles of Alvarinho and I'd ordered two bottles online from Everything Wine - one Spanish and one Portugese - but it turns out that the Portugese bottle was an imposter. It was actually a Loueiro varietal which is often (generally) used in producing Vinho Verde - but at least it's another addition to my Wine Century Club efforts. Loueriro is regularly blended with Albarino; so, perhaps that's why it was listed as such online. We preferred the Spanish wine but that might be because the Portugese wine was actually oaked - interesting for a supposedly fresh white.

As the plates kept coming, Jeaux asked She Who Must Be Obeyed if there was a theme to tonight's dinner. Her reply, "Pandemonium." Given all the preparation and varying tastes on each course, it's no wonder the kitchen was "off limits" to all the guests. The Lady was raising the bar. Tyrant has used plates with four sections over the years but our hostess was pushing it with her introduction of a six-sectioned plate. Good thing that Boo and I are scheduled to host the next dinner. We may need to bring the menu plan back down to mere mortal levels.

To match the multi-plated courses, the Lady had me open five different Pinot Noirs for pairing up with the main course. My first thought was good lord, we'll never get through them all. One doesn't question a Lady however.

484. 2006 LaFrenz Reserve Pinot Noir (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

485. 2008 Mark West Pinot Noir (California)

486. 2008 Meiomi Pinot Noir (Sonoma/Monterey/Santa Barbara Counties - California)

487. 2006 Paritua Pinot Noir (Central Otago - New Zealand)

2001 Kettle Valley Foxtrot Pinot Noir (Okanagan Valley)

Once again, it turns out that one of the wines is already on The List. It's getting to be a bit of a chore trying to keep track of just what vintages of what wines we've already tasted. Since the Kettle Valley is already noted up at #310, I was, thankfully, able to concentrate my efforts on the remaining four Pinots. I tasted the Foxtrot but there was more than enough wine to keep me occupied without returning to bottles that won't count a second time around on this little "trip."

Pinot was a wonderful match for Lady Di's extravagant main course - a salmon coulibiac. The servings looked huge and I was asking for a doggie bag before I'd taken the first bite. However, this pastry wrapped salmon, layered with spinach, mushrooms, onions, egg (and on and on) was so tasty, there was nothing left for me to bring home.

Having finished off that super-sized portion, I suppose I shouldn't be overly shocked that we also managed to finish off all five bottles of the Pinot Noir as well.

I thought that might have been a good enough haul on the wine for one evening, but, no, there was one final treat for the gang.

488. 2007 Pilliteri Estates Vidal Icewine (VQA Niagra Peninsula - Ontario)

Let's face it. Whether it was past my bedtime and I'd polished off a dozen wines alone (which I hadn't) or not, I'd still join in on a taste of icewine. Finishing off an evening with a sweet wine is a favourite pleasure of mine. The honeyed sweetness and brisk acidity is a perfect ending to a grand evening.

I'm just going to warn all of our Dinner Club mates that our next take on the dinner is going to have a theme of "simplicity" - whether it's going to be easy or not.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Wine Boyz & World Cups

Today is the start of the 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa. Now I can't exactly say that I'm as passionate about my soccer as I am about my wine - particularly when Canada failed to qualify, yet again, for the world's favourite sporting tournament. But The World Cup does provide plenty of opportunities to for imaginative pairings of wine and soccer.

Unfortunately, for those of us following the tournament on the West coast of North America, I don't think there will be a lot of sipping back on wine while watching the games live. The games starting airing here at 4 or 5 a.m. and even the latest games of the day kick off at 11 a.m. I'm likely to neither still be up from a night of partying to carry on with drinking prior to "breakfast time" games, nor will I be opening many (any?) bottles - particularly during the work week - for the lunch hour.

That won't prevent us from finding ways to enjoy both wine and soccer over the next month though. And it started this evening when we called a Wine Boyz night. The World Cup only comes around once every four years and, lately, it seems that we haven't been calling in the gang for tastings much more regularly. I think our most recent gathering was last August. Sad.

But this was a great opportunity to meet and I thought an appropriate theme for the evening would be "red wine from any country participating in this year's tournament - for under $25, naturally." It was about as wide a theme as we've ever had - and, while we wouldn't be trying any Canadian wines, almost all the big guns in the wine making world also seem to have a bent for soccer. Italy, Argentina, France, U.S., Australia, South Africa, Chile. The list goes on.

As usual, all the wines were brought to the house in brown bags and they were numbered and decanted by a non-drinker so that none of the participants would know what they were tasting - or which wine was their's. Since everyone would be picking their most and least favourites of the evening, we don't want any pre-conceived notions floating around.

We had a full slate of eight wines for tasting tonight, but we actually started off with a meet and greet wine while we waited for everyone to arrive. I figured it was only fitting that kick the evening off with celebration of the South African tournament.

470. 2009 Nederburg Limited Edition twenty10 Dry Rose (W.O. Western Cape - South Africa)

Nederburg has created a limited edition of three FIFA sanctioned wines to commemorate the arrival of the World Cup on the African continent. There's a Cab Sauv, a Sauv Blanc and this Rose which is also made completely from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. A Cab Sauv Rose would be a pretty rare product in our neck of the woods. If a BC winery can ripen Cab Sauv grapes, they inevitably go into a varietal or Bordeaux blend wine. Despite the use of a different - and big - varietal, the wine was still fresh and full of red fruit. I don't think anyone was shouting out "Goooooooooooal!" after sipping it, but it was a fine start to the night.

Unfortunately, in a subsequent cleaning frenzy, Boo threw out all our notes and "scoring" sheets. As a result, I don't have all the final scores after we all ranked the wines from first to last and tallied the scores. I still remember what the first three choices were and what the least favourite of the evening was - however, there wasn't a single wine that didn't have at least one admirer and, except for the two most popular sips, the total scores were pretty darned close.

I can list the three favourites in order, but after that, I don't know how we ranked the wines except for the bottle pulling up the rear.

471. 2005 Sabor Real - Vinas Centenarias (D.O. Toro - Spain)

A clear fave with this crowd. Out of the six voting participants, it received four first place votes and two second place votes. I was quite intrigued when we unveiled this as the favourite wine of the night. I had purchased this bottle after we thoroughly enjoyed the Sabor Real "entry level" wine last Christmas (#289). This makes two wines in a row for this producer; we've obviously hit upon a winemaker that meets our collective palate - and then some.

472. 2006 Bodegas Mahler-Besse - Taja Monastrell (D.O. Jumilla - Spain)

This bottle received the other two first place votes and it was probably the best bargain of the evening. Whereas the Sabor Real was $25, this bottle was only $12 - and in this city, that's a very reasonable price point. It's not a general listing at our government liquor stores though. It was picked up at Marquis Wine Cellars but they're now all but sold out. Too bad.

473. 2009 Bodega Renacer - Punta Final Malbec (Argentina)

I was also pleased to see that this wine was favourably reviewed. Renacer was one of the wineries that I'd enjoyed discovering at this year's Vancouver Playhouse Festival.

I don't recall the actual order of the next four bottles; however, there wasn't a whole lot of difference in their point rankings. A move up or down by one or two points might have completely changed any order in any event.

474. 2008 Clos de los Siete (Mendoza - Argentina)

475. 2006 Franco Molino Nebbiolo (Langhe Nebbiolo DOC - Italy)

476. 2008 J.P. Chenet Premier de Cuvee - Merlot/Cabernet (Vin de Pays d'Oc - France)

477. 2007 Chateau de Paraza Cuvee Speciale (AOC Minervois - France)

2006 Bodegas La Milagrosa Milcampos Tempranillo (D.O. Ribera del Duero - Spain)

I don't get to give a number for The List to the last Spanish wine. Not because it was the bottle garnering the lowest number of points among our tasters, but rather because we already added it to The List back in January (#332). I was really quite surprised to find that it was our least favourite because I recall quite enjoying that earlier bottle.

The funny thing about the bottle though was that Arty400 brought it. The poor boy has been cursed with his limited participation with the Wine Boyz. The first two bottles that RD4 brought to the table were corked. Tonight, it was the least favoured. Methinks he's never going to come by again. At least, the bottle wasn't corked tonight.

During the evening, we'd picked up some of the neighbours who were drinking in the streets. (Yes, we have a fun neighbourhood.) The Shameless Hussy and her Rock God stopped in and then Red and Marquis paid us a visit as well. As such, we figured another bottle would make a fine addition to the mix. I'd picked up a sparkler as well since this was a celebration - plus it provides another addition to both The List and my Wine Century Club efforts.

478. Luis Pato - Maria Gomes Bruto Vinho Espumante (Portugal)

I'd tried one of the Luis Pato wines last summer (#163) and was pleasantly surprised; so, I figured it might be fun to have another Portugese bubbly on hand. After all, Portugal is one of the faves heading into the World Cup. I think our tasting capabilities might have been a tad suspect by this time however. Suffice it to say that I think we'd all be happy to pop one of these corks should Portugal have a long run for the Cup.

All in all, it was a great little start to all the soccer madness to come. It was interesting to see that our selection of wines was so Euro-centric and that Spain led the way with our top two picks. Is this an omen for the tournament to come? And why no Aussies or South African wines?

We ended the tasting on a fun note that will continue into the next month. My niece, Skeletor, was around to play drawmaster and pick the line up of countries that will go head to head in our World Cup of Wine - but that's a whole other set of postings and this one's getting way too long. Until then, I think I better work on making sure that the Wine Boyz don't take so long to meet up again because this was a hoot.

"Sur Lie" or Surly?

I thought I might score another varietal on my Wine Century Club - seeing as how this is a 100% Melon de Bourgogne wine - but, much to my surprise, I find that we tried another bottle from this winery right at the very start of our Wine Odyssey. Bottle #4 on The List was another wine from the Loire at our Wine Boyz session that kicked off the blog. Funny, that.

469. Domaine de l'Ecu - Expression d'Orthogneiss (AOC Muscadet Sevre et Maine - Loire - France)

So here we are, 460-some odd bottles done, and another Domaine de l'Ecu wine shows up on our table. I just re-read part of that original post and the Nantais was not a crowd pleaser. There was even a reference to "nasty." I know that some of Domaine de l'Ecu's wines are vinified "sur lie" - meaning that the wine is aged on the lees, or the deposits of dead or residual yeast that precipitate in the wine, instead of fining or removing those deposits earlier in the aging process. And, while there is no reference, on the label, to this wine being aged "sur lie," our immediate reaction to the first so many sips was that it was rather "surly."

Everything I read about this winery sounds favourable, but the actual taste just didn't seem to pull it off for us.

The current owner/winemaker, Guy Brossard, is the fifth generation of the family to run the winery and he moved the winery in the direction of a full celebration of the terroir of the lands. They started farming organically in 1976 and, after ten years of organic viticulture, the winery followed fully biodynamic principles as of 1986. In fact, three of the reserve cuvees are actually named after the soil characteristics of the vineyards where the grapes are grown.

This "Expression d'Orthogneiss" was sourced from a five acre vineyard where the soil and rock resembles schist that is derived from igneous rock (and is pictured on the label) - as opposed to the winery's other vineyards that are composed of gneiss or granite.

As I mentioned, family-owned and operated, biodynamic, interesting varietal and a long history - what's not to like? Unfortunately, the contents in the bottle seemed to be the answer. Despite high recommendations from the bottle shop and some highly-regarded wine writers, Boo's and my initial reaction didn't have us running back for another glass.

I will say though that the wine opened up and became more approachable after an hour or so. But still didn't offer up much in the way of fruit and/or acid like so many white wines we see nowadays and I don't think it really matched our palates. Not sure that I'd pick up another bottle - even though I didn't remember having tried a Domaine de l'Ecu wine before this.