Saturday, July 31, 2010

Mission Hill Syrah

After having thoroughly enjoyed the 2001 Jackson-Triggs Syrah just the other week (#535), we figured "Why stop there?" I saw that we still had tonight's bottle in our "cellar" and, seeing as how Mission Hill is one of the few wineries that could challenge J-T for provincial (national?) dominance back at the turn of this century, I thought that it might be a good idea to give one of their first attempts at the varietal a try.

542. 2000 Mission Hill Family Estate Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

For a first attempt, the winery must have been proud as a peacock when the wine won a Gold Medal at the 2002 Canadian Wine Awards. There wouldn't have been that many examples of Syrah available yet, but that would have made it very easy for the judges to not issue any gold medals in the Syrah/Shiraz category.

We were glad to see that the bottle was still drinking fine. I'm sure it had more fruit on the palate a few years ago, but it still offered up a decent balance. For a gold medallist, I might have expected a bit more structure and tannin, but, then again, these would have been young vines and I don't think anyone was expecting BC bottles to be cellared for almost a decade.

I'll be interested to see what the current vintages are like. I don't think we have many other Mission Hill Syrah's to pull out at the moment.

Ewe Hoo

541. 2005 Marley Farm Ewe Hoo Pinot Noir (Vancouver Island)

This was one of the bottles that we picked up last Fall while over on Vancouver Island to visit with Bella Jianna and Flyboy B. I've always thought of Marley Farm as producing fruit wines; however, they planted some of their acreage with grapevines that consultants felt could flourish on the Island. Pinot Noir was the one red that they planted and the vines are now producing enough that limited amounts of varietal based wines are now available - in addition to the plentiful (and whimsical) fruit wines.

The Ewe Hoo is a small lot release that celebrates one of the winery's signature community events - the Ewe Hoo Sheep and Wine Festival that features sheep shearing and wool demonstrations. Part of the winery's relaxing and bucolic setting can be noted as resident sheep and geese wander the rows to help weed and fertilize the fields.

Unfortunately, at $30 a bottle, this Pinot didn't really strike our fancy. It's not like I'd go so far as to draw analogies to the sheep meandering in the fields, but we didn't notice the "promised" fruit profile. Rather, it was an earthiness that simply wasn't our cup of tea - or glass of wine, as the case may be.

This is the second Marley Farm bottle in a row that didn't meet our expectations. My first impressions, so many years ago, were really favourable. This last visit has left me somewhat wanting. Hopefully, our next tastes will offer a little redemption (no pun intended).

Monday, July 26, 2010

Boy Meets Grill 5

I suppose I should add a sub-title to "Boy Meets Grill 5." I think "Otherwise known as Boo Meets Five-O" fits the bill since we combined our summer BBQ party with Boo's 50th. OK, the actual birthday was a month ago, but you try fitting in parties with work schedules and out-of-town visits on the actual b-day.

It actually was more of a birthday party than it was a night for wine. But you know us (or, at least me), there's was still wine to be had.

538. N.V. Peller Estates Proprietors Reserve Merlot (Bottled in BC - or is that Boxed in BC?)

I will admit it, I can't say that there are many wines with a pedigree like this that make it onto The List. Then again, when it comes to litre after litre of Sangria flowing for hours, a couple of nice 4L boxes of wine comes in handy.

I like that the picture featurs both the wine (as it arrived) and the finished product. And, if I say so myself, the Sangria was pretty darned good. I was a tad concerned that I might end up with a leftover box o' wine, but we definitely needed a re-mix. Had I needed to finish off the box wine on its own, it might have taken a bit longer to get back on the task of 2001 bottles to be had.

539. 2009 Fazi Battaglia Titulus (DOC Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesu Classico - Italy)

Since man (at least this man) does not live on Sangria alone, I joined in with some Verdicchio that was brought along by one of the partiers. The wine is marketed in an amphora shaped bottle that was specifically designed back in the 1950's to uniquely represent the Le Marche region and its local Verdicchio varietal. Light and easy drinking, it's an easy fit to a backyard BBQ party.

Despite Boo's penchant for all assortments of martinis, I think we were lucky that, unlike Daveyboi's 50th last summer, we didn't have the vodka or gin flowing as freely as the Sangria was. As I recall - at least from most of what I recall - the latter part of Daveyboi's gig revolved around recreating song and dance numbers from Hairspray and interesting configurations involving a four-foot blow-up kangaroo and various out-of-town guests. It's always those out-of-town visitors that carry on so, I figure.

We were a more refined crowd - or maybe it was just that Boo turned the music down a tad every now and then. Despite a possible lack of martinis and/or blasting music, it was a fun crowd and the BBQ feast from Memphis Blues made sure that everyone stayed the course until Boo blew out the candles on his b-day cake. My sis, Vixen, and the youngest niece, Skeletor, baked up a Guinness and Chocolate cake for him. A sure way to that man's heart!

And to end the evening's additions to The List, what's a celebration without a little bubble or frizzante?

540. N.V. Villa Teresa Rose Veneto (IGT Veneto - Italy)

I couldn't locate much information on this bottle - except to see that it's been recommended by a number of local wine writers. Villa Teresa seems to be carving itself quite a nice, little niche in the Vancouver market. Being both organic and decently priced - not to mention tasty - certainly can't hurt.

I don't know what varietal(s) is(are) being used for this Rose. Being an IGT wine, it doesn't have to be made of grapes traditionally grown in the Veneto and could be made of any combination of grapes. I don't think anyone is going to concern themselves though. It didn't last long this evening.

We thought it'd be fun to take a group shot with the birthday boy and many of the revellers that came by to rub in his advancing years. With noise-making cards that involved fat ladies singing and screams straight from horror flicks, Boo will be able to remind himself of the evening for many days to come.

If you look closely in the picture, you'll see one of his birthday presents that may well make it to The List before we hit the 2001st bottle. It was a specially consigned 3L bottle of Red Rooster Meritage that features a caricature of Boo and a number of his favourite things. We already know that the bottle is a work of art. Here's hoping that the wine proves to be equally tasty.

(Editor's Note and P.S. - I've since found out that the Villa Teresa Rosé is made of the Raboso grape - another notch in the belt for the Wine Century Club)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Another Unique Okanagan Varietal

Fast on the heels of adding Ehrenfelser to my Wine Century Club list, I'm adding another and this one is going to be about as rare as any that will make it to my final list.

537. 2008 Calona Vineyards Artist Series Sovereign Opal (VQA Okanagan)

Sovereign Opal is not a trade name for a winery blend. It is, indeed, the grape used for this 100% varietal wine. I mentioned that this will be a "rare" addition to both The List and the Wine Century Club because, as far as anyone seems to know, the grape is only grown for wine production at one vineyard in, not only the Okanagan Valley but, in the world. And Calona is the only winery that actually make a varietal wine with it.

The grape was developed at Agriculture Canada's Research Station in Summerland in the Okanagan. Back in the 1970's, the general consensus was that the classic European varietals couldn't be grown in BC. The objective was to breed a winter hardy grape that could thrive and fully ripen in the Okanagan Valley. In 1976, a new "grape series" was released for trial and the series of grapes was named "Sovereign" and each of the different grapes was then sorted by a gem name; hence, Sovereign Opal was born. It is the only varietal from the series that has found any commercial application at all.

The grape is a cross of Marechal Foch and Golden Muscat - interesting in that Foch is a red grape and Muscat is a white - and is known for its floral, fruity and spicy characteristics and its crisp acid. Since Calona is the only winery that works with the grape, it was up to Howard Soon (who you would normally see associated with Sandhill in this blog) and company to discover that the best means of producing a wine with Sovereign Opal is to vinify it somewhat off-dry and let the high acidity reign in the residual sugar.

Furthermore, this wine isn't simply a quick sip and a spit of some different, god-awful rarity, the 2008 vintage actually won a Bronze medal at 2009 Canadian Wine Awards.

Niether Riesling, nor Gewurztraminer, but reminiscent of both, this is about as "true" a local wine as you'll ever find in BC. How fun is that for a wine lover?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fruit Salad in a Glass?

Some BC wines have established themselves a bit of an almost cultish following. Some of them are the big reds, like Black Hills Nota Bene or Blue Mountain Striped Pinot Noir, and are the ones that many drinkers of BC wine think of when looking to score a notable BC wine. Others like tonight's bottle are more unknown to the general wine drinking public but can be just as difficult to find - and be just as worth locating.

536. 2008 CedarCreek Ehrenfelser (VQA Okanagan Valley)

When you think about it, most people won't even know what Ehrenfelser is if you ask them. Even those that know it's a grape varietal might not know that it's a cross between the Riesling and Sylvaner grapes. The Sylvaner is a not so well-known varietal; however, it is early ripening and, as such, helps make the Ehrenfelser particularly suited for BC's shorter growing season.

For years now, CedarCreek has been promoting its Ehrenfelser as "fruit salad in a glass" and, for many of those years, I tended to associate it with an overly aromatic ripe "light weight." They've had years to work on the varietal though as the grapes are grown on some of the oldest vines in the Okanagan. The vines were planted in the Mannhardt Vineyards in 1977 - long before the introduction of Free Trade and the changeover to new varietals in the Okanagan. Furthermore, the praise continues to grow for this wine and it's not an easy wine to find. I figured I'd better grab a bottle when I actually saw one on one of the local shelves.

I'm glad I did because it was far nicer than I'd expected or remembered from earlier tastings. It reminded me a lot more of a balanced Riesling than of an aromatic, Germanic wine and the fruit was hardly over the top. I'd almost expected an off-dry palate but it had a lovely level of acidity to match the tree fruit and citrus.

I'll definitely keep an eye open for it in the future. The fact that I get to add another varietal to my Wine Century Club application is simply a bonus.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

2010's First Picnic

Used to be that Boo and I would use any good weather as an excuse for a picnic. At one point, it was even partially romanticized in a quest form as the "Summer of a Thousand Picnics." Not exactly possible in one summer - but it sounded good.

Here we are well into July and this is our first picnic of the year. Never one to give up quests and "tilting at windmills," maybe we can take on another bit of an adventure - to picnic at as many locations playing site to one of the Vancouver Biennale sculpture installations as we can. Introduced as a means of introducing contemporary art to the masses in unexpected places, over the years, the Biennale has introduced some intriguing pieces in VanCity. My hunts tend to wine over art, but we are looking to feature our bottles in as many different (and possibly exciting) locations as possible.

535. 2001 Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Shiraz (VQA Okanagan Valley)

It was the 2004 J-T Grand Reserve Shiraz that won the Rosemont Trophy as the Best Shiraz in the world in London in 2006. Not this 2001. This bottle's pedigree only travelled as far as to win "Best of Class" at the 2003 Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards - No slouch of an award on its own. As much as I'd like to add the 2004 to The List, I don't think it will happen since I never could get my hands on an actual bottle.

It might be fair to say that it was the '01 Grand Reserve that started putting BC Shiraz on the map however - and it was still showing plenty of reason why there need be no shame in thinking that a BC Shiraz can live up to your dinner table - or picnic table. It's not to say that this wine would ever be confused for a big ol' Barossa fruit bomb, but it still has enough fruit on it to leave a foot in the New World while keeping some of the finesse needed when the fruit doesn't ripen quite as fully as in Oz or California.

Our actual picnic spot might not have been the choicest spot in the city - with Kits Point/Vanier Park passers-by continually taking stock of our goodies - but we did have a spectacular view of the West End and of Jen Ren's piece Freezing Water #7.

All I can say is "Bring it on." More wine. More art. More picnics. It all works for me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Real Wine Boyz Drink Pink

Summer weather. Summer entertaining. An easy excuse to drink. Call it what you may, but Friday saw another edition of Wine Boyz - and, in honour of the summer and one of this summer's trends, we were drinking pink.

Now that the general wine world is discovering that there's more to Rose than White Zinfandel, I figured it would be fun to try an assortment of pink wines to see if we could reach a general agreement or identify some favourites. I think we succeeded on both fronts.

Boo got called in to work at the last minute, so our eight became seven but we still had a rousing time and we encountered a couple surprises.

527. NV Royal de Neuville Vin Rose Petillant (France)

This wasn't an official entry in the evening's tasting. Being "bubble," it was going to be too identifiably different from all the remaining wines and was simply meant as a cocktail while we waited for stragglers. Good thing we had it as well since The Marquis was delayed by a seat-belt infraction and a possible hauling off to the cop shop. Seems his stunningly good looks and accent weren't cutting it with the newbie officers. He probably could have used something stiffer than a sparkling Rose upon his arrival though.

I had to smile upon reading this label and seeing that it was referred to as "Crackling Rose Wine." I almost broke out into song and old Neil Diamond classics. Thing is, even though I remember liking the song "Cracklin' Rosie" when I was growing up, that was one helluva long time ago and I no longer remember the tune or any of the words.

But the real evening was spent blind tasting the seven wines that everybody brought along. It was quite an array; however, after all the wines were revealed, I was quite surprised by the fact that there were two Okanagan wines, one from Italy and all the rest were French. Out of all the Rose wines in our market, most people still grabbed a French wine. A bit of a surprise since I don't think any of us generally reach for vin francais as a rule.

Most of tonight's guests admitted that they don't drink much Rose either and they were surprised at the array of shades in colour and by the fact that all of the wines were dry.

I think we were all equally surprised by our overall choices. Our first two choices were virtually tied. Four of us picked the evening's first pick as their first choice. The second place wine took the other three first place votes. Even more surprising was that both top spots were taken by the two BC wines! Probably the most determinative factor was the fact that I ranked the number two wine as my fifth choice.

Here are the wines as they finished in our ranking (total points in brackets - lower being "better") -

528. 2008 Therapy Vineyards Pink Freud (VQA Okanagan Valley) (13) (Pinot Noir, Merlot, Cab Sauv & Shiraz)

530. 2009 Meyer Family Vineyards Gamay Rose (VQA Okanagan Valley) (22) (Gamay Noir)

Only 150 cases made of it.

529. 2009 Domaine Houchart Rose (AOC Cotes de Provence) (15) (Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah & Cab Sauv)

531. 2009 Lorgeril L'Orangeraie (Vin de Pays d'Oc - France) (30) (Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah & Merlot)

532. 2009 La Vieille Ferme Rose (AOC Cotes du Ventoux - France) (34) (Cinsault, Grenache & Syrah)

533. 2009 San Silvestro Cantine Monferrato Chiaretto (DOC Monferrato Chiaretto - Piedmont - Italy) (41) (Barbera)

534. 2008 M. Chapoutier Beaurevoir (AOC Tavel - France) (41) (Grenache)

As seems to be the case with these evenings where there are a number of bottles to add to The List, there's not a whole lot of time or space to write much about the wines or the producers. It was also interesting that the last two wines received the same number of points. The difference was that almost everyone had the Monferrato ranked as one of their least favourites, the M. Chapoutier was the most polarizing of all the wines. Five of our tasters rated it as their last place wine, while The Marquis ranked it as his second and I had it smack dab in the middle.

The fact that the BC wines took the top two spots was surprising to all - and, in particular, I was pretty shocked when I saw that the Therapy was our overall favourite - including mine. I've always thought that the marketing was brilliant, but I just never took it all that seriously as a wine. Guess I'll have to now. I'd definitely re-think their pink and re-visit Therapy's Pink Freud.

Just goes to show, chacun son gout. And that even real boyz can drink pink.

Time to Start Planning

Boo and I have had plane tickets booked - for probably ten or eleven months - to head South of the Equator this October. That's the good news. The flip side, though, is that we have a flight into Lima, Peru, and seats leaving Buenos Aires, Argentina, a couple of weeks later and nothing booked in between. I'm definitely long past the "let's wing it when we get there" travelling mode; so, it's likely time that we started some actual planning.

As luck would have it, one of my co-workers, Juan de Luca, has a good friend that just returned from virtually the same trip. He suggested that we get together, have a couple glasses of wine and let his personal Evita regale us with stories from and pictures of her adventures. Scott and Stephanie Jaeger, of The Pear Tree restaurant, were gracious enough to let us set up shop, with laptop, in their lounge area and Evita got our juices going good.

And that was even without the wine, but, as usual at this site, it always comes back to a bottle or two.

525. 2007 Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne (AOC Bourgogne - France)

Domaine Faively is a well-known and well-established producer in Burgundy. In fact they've been making Pinot Noir for seven generations now. Tonight's wine doesn't make claims to be one of the winery's Premier Cru or Grand Cru wines, but, if it were, we likely wouldn't have been able to afford it. Juan de Luca favours the French and he picked this out as he thought that it would go great with a bite to eat - if we could leave some in our glass long enough to get past the pictures and trip tips.

Evita was great about helping us set some realistic goals for our little voyage. The best news was that she confirmed that it's definitely possible to fit the two countries into our plans - despite the short time and long distances. We might need to sleep on the odd plane, train or bus, but she's pretty sure that we should be able to slow down long enough to try a tango or check out the llama wool sweaters.

526. Bodegas Norton Privada (Mendoza - Argentina)

I actually wasn't familiar with this winery - although I now read that they're one of the most prominent producers in Argentina. I just figured that we should give a "local" wine a taste while we took at peak at Evita's B.A. shots. Not a 100% Malbec varietal wine, it's a Bordeaux blend of Malbec, Cab and Merlot - but, as might be expected, the Malbec percentage is substantially higher than you'd expect to find in a French blend.

This was a nice wine. Rich, with lots of dark fruit flavours - and it is likely better-priced than most wines of this quality due to its Argentinian roots. I'll definitely keep my eyes open for more Norton wines down the road.

And I now I have a winery to watch for while on the road to boot.

Evita has promised us a Top 10 List of her favourite stops on her trip. I could easily spend more nights gabbing with her - all in the effort of planning our trip naturally.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Spanish Celebration Continues

Just like the big show in South Africa, our little World Cup of Wine is over now. And, just because Spain didn't win our taste-off in the wine glass, it doesn't mean that we still can't salute their win on the soccer field. Surprisingly, we had a bottle of Spanish wine left over from the BBQ we threw to watch the final game. Do we need a better reason for opening it? I doubt it.

524. 2008 Bodegas Real Nazares Macabeo (Spain)

This bottle not only lent itself to a bit of a Spanish celebration but also to the addition of another varietal to my Wine Century club efforts. I don't know that I'd give it a whole lot more of my time though.

Macabeo is another Spanish name for the Viura varietal and it isn't one that we see a whole lot of in the Vancouver market - particularly as a 100% varietal wine like this. The grape is seen as producing early drinking, acidic wines and is probably better known for being blended in Rioja-styled wines and particularly as a major player in the production of the Spanish sparkling Cava's. In fact, we were drinking some Macabeo while watching the soccer final the other day in that the Segura Viudas in our mimosas contained a good percentage of Macabeo in its blend.

The Nazares is, no doubt, an entry level wine for the winery and may well be an export-only wine. Bodegas Real doesn't even refer to the wine on its website. At $12, it's definitely priced for easy drinking on a hot patio but its lack of prominent fruit didn't particularly suit my palate.

Monday, July 12, 2010

And The Winner is...

Thirteen countries, twelve taste-offs and twenty-four wines it's come to this. Our little World Cup of Wine didn't quite quite gather the prominence or the international attention of that gang of soccer players and fans in South Africa, but we managed a few good times, a number of fine sips and no hooliganism - or Vuvuzelas.


Considering Boo's and my personal tastes and current international trends, our North vs. South final may be entirely appropriate. I've been drinking Australia ever since I started thinking about wine as a serious libation of choice. And like the rest of the wine world, we've been looking to Spain as an inspiring source of fine - and well-priced - wine over the last couple of years.

So let's get to it...

522. 2006 Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

523. 2001 Montecillo Gran Reserva (DOC Rioja - Spain)

As befitting a final, these were no doubt our most expensive wines through the World Cup. Both clock in at about $40 - hardly an insignificant sticker price. At that level, I'm hoping for some depth and development in my wine and, luckily, both wines hit the mark.

The fact that both wines offered more than big fruit and a bit of body didn't make it an easy choice - we were definitely dealing with some New World vs. Old World profiles. I've generally assumed that I fall into the camp that likes nice forward fruit on the nose and palate and the Aussie, Two Hands, outshone the Montecillo on that front. In soccer parlance, it might be seen as a strong offensive attack as opposed to a big defence.

In the end, you need an offence to score the winning goal though and both Boo and I chose the Two Hands as our fave. Spain might have won the actual World Cup, but the Aussies took our wine championship!

Boo had to miss the actual game during the afternoon, but I taped the overtime so that he could sample our championship wines during the game. By then, I was still sporting his orange Roots t-shirt with Dutch writing. I never did find out what it actually said, so if anyone asked, I just said that it was Dutch for "Blow my Vuvuzela."

And on that happy note, we'll call an end to our World Cup of Wine. Spain came close to the hallowed double play, but the Aussie wines proved too tough an opponent in our wine glasses. The soccer game may have ended with Spain winning 1-0 in OT, but we scored our match 3-2 for the Aussies - no extra time needed.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

World Cup Finals

Hard to believe that a month has come and gone so quickly. I don't know if our little World Cup of Wine has been filled with as much excitement and as many surprises as the actual games that took place in South Africa. Our results didn't mirror the scores on the pitch but our final is a worthy battle in its own right. No doubt, it would have been far fetched to find a betting man willing to back the Aussies all the way to the soccer final, but wine-wise, I think that's rather believable.

On the other hand, our other semi-finalists - Italy, Spain and Argentina - could easily have gone a long way on both the dinner table and the soccer pitch. But, here we are, a lot of soccer games and more than a few bottles of wine behind us and we have Spain doing battle with both the Netherlands on the field and the Aussies in the wine glass. Keeping to the sports cliches, a win here on the blog and another on the soccer pitch could give the Spaniards quite the double play.

Seeing as how we started off the World Cup in South Africa with a bang and a group wine tasting, I decided to host a BBQ and wine duel during the grand final as well. Boo had to head off to work and I didn't particularly feel like watching the game and drinking a bunch of wine all by my lonesome. So, it's a good thing that we have friends that enjoy soccer, wine or both.

I had a small supply of Spanish and Aussie wines to open for a mini-taste-off (the Grand Final was set to involve Boo and a couple wines of "bigger" pedigree - worthy of a final), but the gang wasn't completely ready to dive whole-heartedly into multiple glasses with 11.00 a.m. start.

I'm not so sure that this is a sign of true fanatics.

In recognition of the two teams playing the soccer game though, we had a few more takers on the "lighter" side of the wine world. A Sangria was served up for the Spanish backers, while Mimosas were the splash of choice - because of the Orange juice - for those cheering for the Dutch.

519. NV Veuve du Vernay Brut (France)

Looks like a bit of bubble to bring on the Orange is the only way that the French are making it to a World Cup Final this time around - be it for soccer or wine. This Veuve isn't quite the level of a Clicquot or true Champagne but, hey, we're talking mimosas here - and it's doubtful that the French would ever do much to actually help the Dutch out on a soccer field anyhow.

And, when you think about, it's not like the Dutch even have any wines available in the Vancouver market. So, adding a bit of French sparkle to start the day - and to The List - can't be all bad.

I didn't actually make the Sangria, so I'm not sure what wine or other ingredients went into it. The number of guests that grabbed a glass to toast La Furia Roja was a good indication of just how good the Sangria was though. It was gone long before the first half was over and/or the Mimosas were finished.

As for the leanings of our crowd to one team or the other, it was pretty even - although I think the Dutch fans were a little more flamboyant as there was definitely more orange being worn than red. Both sides would have been a little more involved had the game provided more excitement than our wine glasses did.

As the level of game was in need of a bit more excitement, we turned our minds a bit to the World Cup of Wine and brought out another two contestants for the day - a Spanish and an Aussie wine.

520. 2008 Timbuktu Offshore Shiraz/Grenache (South Australia)

521. 2006 Campo Viejo Rioja Crianza (D.O.C. Rioja - Spain)

Both wines were entry level red blends and drank as such - almost as pedestrian as the game was - although there were no red or yellow cards being handed out because of faulty wine. The day's plethora of cards were limited to the play of the soccer game. With this level of wine, fruit is usually the most prominent note - and such was the case here. However, the Aussie was slightly favoured over the Rioja by our crowd.

Despite reaching overtime in the soccer final, our crowd didn't even finish off the wines at hand. Maybe beer remains the beverage of choice for soccer fans.

After the game was over and the gang had dissipated, Mr. D. and I took a jaunt over to The Drive to see how VanCity's "soccer central" was taking the big day. I gather the powers that be were fully expecting a celebratory crowd because the road had been blocked off to cars and the revellers had taken to the street. Despite the odd cry of a lost vuvuzela, the atmosphere was a tad subdued. I've seen The Drive way more alive after big soccer wins by Italy (naturally) and Brazil. Even Greece's win as European champions a few years back seemed to bring out a livelier crowd.

Or maybe it's just that there were no cars driving up and down The Drive honking their horns. In any event, Mr. D. and I didn't hang around for too much longer.

There was a bottle of Spanish bubbly, that had been left at home, that cried out to be opened to toast the new World Champions on the soccer field.

NV Segura Viudas Cava Brut Reserva (Spain)

The only "problem" is that it's Non-Vintage and I've already added a bottle to The List at #168. Consequently, it's another of those bottles that can fill the glass but not help us reach our own goal of 2001 distinct bottles.

Now that the play on the field is over, there's just one more task at hand - and that's to wait for Boo to get home from work so that we can have the big taste off and declare our World Cup of Wine winner.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Semi-Final # 2 - Spain vs. Italy


Another big showdown in our World Cup of Wine - if Spain and Italy don't count as heavy hitters in the world of red wine, who does?

Spain, of course, is simply mirroring its successful run in the "real" World Cup in South Africa, but can it take out the Italians after they suffered so on the soccer pitch?Knowing that Italian wine might now have to take a back seat to upstarts Spain may just irreparably damage the nation's collective psyche.

If any grape is capable of taking on the weight of a nation, it may well be the Nebbiolo varietal, but the Spanish are on a real roll. We'll only know following a couple glasses.

517. 2008 Bodegas Carchelo - C (D.O. Jumilla - Spain)

518. 2004 Gianluca Viberti Nebbiolo (DOC Langhe - Italy)

Spain. Italy. Blend. Baby Barolo. Too bad we have to pick a winner.

I can't say that I know much about either of these producers. The Carchelo is a very popular wine at Marquis Cellars and the Gianluca Viberti received some good local press a couple of years ago (when I bought this bottle). Both are excellent examples of how labelling has become such an intricate part of trying to sell a bottle of wine - even in the Old World. The Carchelo is striking and eye-catching, while the shot of Gianluca (or whomever) in a vat of grapes to be crushed is intriguing. From a quick look at the Italian website, I dare say the North American label is not the same as the one sported in Italy.

We are, however, about the wine and not the labelling and, once again, Boo and I both chose the same wine as our "winner." This time around wasn't any different from the last couple of taste-offs - both wines were happily consumed, but we both had to admit that the Spanish blend was just more enjoyable than the Nebbiolo. The Carchelo is a blend of Monastrell (Mourvedre), Tempranillo and Cab Sauv (40/40/20) and it may just be an indication that a sum is stronger than individual parts. It may just have been that the blend allowed more complexity and layers than a single varietal could do on its own.

All the same, La Furia Roja ("The Red Fury") seems an appropriate name for the Spanish side because this red takes the day and propels Spain into our Grand Final with its Aussie counterpart - and infuriates one or two Italians at the same time.

Score - 3-1.

Semi-Final #1 - Shiraz vs. Malbec


This little World Cup of Wine of our's is getting down to the final matches. I don't doubt that picking winners among our final four countries is going to be pretty subjective. The fact that I even have the wines in our cellar is likely going to be indicative that we already like the wines. So, picking a favourite for the night and saying that it wins national honour and winemaking supremacy might be a tad over the top - particularly when it's not like the local consulates are sending along their country's top wines for the taste off.

Then again, who cares? Wine drinking is meant to be fun - at least around our table - and the Wine Cup has been nothing, if not fun.

Boo and I have a couple of heavy hitters in our glasses tonight though - Barossa Shiraz vs. Mendoza Malbec. Are their any wines that better capture what Australia and Argentina are both best known for?

515. 2005 Langmeil Valley Floor Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

516. 2006 Bodegas Sur de los Andes Malbec Gran Reserva (Mendoza - Argentina)

Both bottles come in at just under $30 in Vancouver. Langmeil is rather a favourite of our's and this is the third vintage of the Valley Floor Shiraz to be added to The List (the '06 is #58 and the '02 is #183). The Sur de los Andes isn't so well-known around our place, but, then again, I doubt that there are any Argentinean wineries that have made it to "always on hand" status with us. I'd picked this bottle up after a tasting at Marquis Wines. They, on the other hand, have done a bit of championing for this label.

As expected, both bottles were fine drinking - full of dark fruit and good structure. Once again though, both Boo and I didn't have too much trouble picking a winner. At the risk of incurring the wrath of Maradona and all soccer fans, this win goes to the Aussies. The Socceroos may not have a realistic chance at trumping the La Albicelestes on the pitch, but the Wineroos have got what it takes in the wine glass - at least on this outing.

The Shiraz had just a bit more finesse with the integration of its components. Both wines might have seemed a bit heavy on the fruit extraction, but the Langmeil countered that a bit with a touch more tannin and some nicely balanced oak. And, just like on the soccer pitch, you need some great finish and the Shiraz definitely had that down. I don't think that this is my favourite vintage of Langmeil, but I'd still never turn down a bottle or a glass.

And it's still enough to give a 2-1 win over the Malbec - extra time wasn't even needed.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Quarter-Final with Latin Heat


We're down to the last of our Quarter-Final taste-offs in our little blogosphere World Cup of Wine and it could be a real dandy - both of tonight's wines hail from countries known for producing wines with big QPR values (Quality Price Ratios). After two evenings with plenty of Quarter-Final tasters on hand, tonight's match finds just Boo and I deciding the fate of our last countries trying to stay in the competition.

So far, this is the only match-up in our little World Cup of Wine that mirrors an actual game from the tournament in South Africa. During the preliminary round, this was one of the games with the most at stake. Spain went into the game facing a possible ouster from the competition if they lost to Chile; while the South American surprise faced a similar outcome if they lost and Switzerland ended up annihilating Honduras. As all soccer fans know, Spain won that game 2-1 and both teams qualified for the Round of 16 elimination games.

Can the Spanish pull another win out of the hat?

513. 2008 MontGras Quatro (Colchagua Valley - Chile)

514. 2008 Celler Pinol - Ludovicus (D.O. Terra Alta - Spain)

Both wines were intriguing blends of four grape varietals - and both featured Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah as two of the varietals. The other two grapes were more local in nature and are particularly associated with Spain and South America. The Chilean wine was Cab, Syrah, Carmenere and Malbec, while the Spanish wine saw Garnacha (Grenache), Tempranillo, Syrah and Cab blended together.

Pricing was similar as well. Ludovicus rang in at $22, with Quatro hitting you for 20 bones. The Spanish wine was not in the provincial system; rather it was picked up at Everything Wine and the private stores can often account for a premium on the price. So, let's call this part of the game a draw.

I don't think I need a website to figure out the reasoning behind the name Quatro. Could it have anything to do with the four grape varietals? But, Ludovicus? Got me there. I didn't find any clarification on the winery website and a brief Google didn't seem to reveal any revelations from other sources. A site for baby names reveals that Ludovicus is a name that is a take off on "Louis" that combines French and Old German and that it means "famous warrior." There's a story behind this choice of a name somewhere but it's not going to be available with this post.

As for the juice in the glass, we needed to see if the "famous warrior" could take on and defeat its foursome foe. Despite the fact that both wines were similar in structure and profile - with lots of body and fruit - both Boo and I thought that the Spanish wine had a bit more of everything - nose, complexity, finish. Ludovicus may not exactly be all that famous, but it did win this battle and leaves the Spanish alive to fight another day.

As for a score, let's stick with the score from the actual pitch. Spain wins 2-1.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Canada Day Quarter-Final Quartet

South Africa

The other week, our neighbour, GatuBela, popped her head over the fence and jovially wondered if we'd be interested in co-hosting a Canada Day BBQ with the neighbourhood crew. As regular readers may have gleaned from these postings, our neighbours are always good for adding another round of bottles to The List - and are a fun crowd to be with on top of it. Win/Win, methinks.

If nothing else, it would add some more participants to deciding this quarter-final winner - and force us to clean up the garden a bit (although admittedly GatuBela deserves major props for that task).

The weather was hardly shorts and no shirt weather, but at least it didn't rain on us. The only thing about it being both our World Cup of Wine and Canada Day was that there were no Canadian wines to be had since they didn't make it to the World Cup. Whoa Canada.

509. 2007 Porcupine Ridge Syrah (W.O. Coastal Region - South Africa)

510. 2005 Corte Giara Ripasso (DOC Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore - Italy)

I can't recall ever having a full bottle of South African Syrah before and I find that (even though I love the whole concept behind the wine) Ripasso's can go all over the map. So, I didn't really know what to expect in this taste off.

As it turned out, naming a winner to move on to the semi-finals was pretty much unanimous. The bottle of South African Syrah was finished off easily enough - but everyone who cast a vote picked the Italian Ripasso as their favourite. The more serious wine-drinking neighbours liked the complexity of the Ripasso and the others just liked the taste more, even if they couldn't say why.

Other than having an opportunity to get together for the World Cup, food and fun, Canada Day gave a number of us an opportunity to bring out all those patriotic pieces of Olympic clothing that have been in the drawer for the most part since March. In a way, it might have been a good thing that the day was a bit cooler. We wouldn't, otherwise, have been able to comfortably sport the long sleeves.

Short sleeves, long sleeves, patriotism being worn on the sleeve, there was no way that two bottles was going to be enough to keep this crowd satisfied for the evening though - especially when the food started coming out in earnest. The Marquis and Red volunteered their down home ribs and we've decided that they are welcome to do so at any future gathering. In fact, we may just come up with some events simply so that we can coerce them into making the ribs. Even Boo - who fancies him quite the ribs-master - went back for extra servings (I won't say how many) and managed to put a few away for future nibbling. Now, that's not a common occurrence.

As the ribs-munching continued, there might have been another bottle or two opened during the evening, but I never got around to trying them. They won't make it to The List this time, but there were a couple that did.

511. N.V Carpene Malvolti Prosecco (DOC Treviso - Italy)

Yet another Prosecco that I haven't seen before. There can't be any doubt that this style of wine has hit its stride in Vancouver. It wasn't that many years ago that no one had really heard of it. Now it seems like there's a new brand available at the provincial shop or one of the private stores every time I go. A quick search on the internet showed that the winery's website states that it was the "first company to submit quality Prosecco to the sparkling process." Welcome to the market.

It was rather fitting that the Carpene Malvolti made an appearance - a bit of bubbly to celebrate the Italian win in its quarter-final match. After all, the Azzuri didn't make it this far in the real tournament.

But for the serious ribs nibbler, another red made an appearance -

512. 2008 Shot In The Dark Shiraz-Petite Sirah (Australia)

I'll admit that I simply succumbed to the packaging with this bottle. I picked it up last Halloween because of the dark theme of the label. We just didn't get around to opening it that night. It's a bit of surprise that it lasted this long. I don't know that it'd win our little World Cup of Wine for the Aussies, but this is a wine that isn't shy when it comes to BBQ time. There are probably a whack of Bruce's, here and there, snogging on a glass of this and proclaiming that it's time to throw another rib on the bar-bee.

What more can a neighbour ask for?

The quarter-final match score? Since it was substantially more popular, we'll give the Italians a 2-0 win, but, even though South Africa has been shut out of the semi's, the Syrah was hardly a "zero" of a sip.