Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Poplar Grove Merlot

584. 2003 Poplar Grove Benchmark merlot (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)


583. 2007 Domaine des Huards Cour-Cheverny (AOC Cour-Cheverny - Loire - France)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Serving Up the Record Sockeye

581. 2006 Red Rooster Reserve Gewurztraminer (Naramata Bench - VQA Okanagan Valley)

581. 2009 Quintay Clava Pinot Noir (Casablanca Valley - Chile)

Dinner with Marquis

I can't believe that I'm so far behind on these postings - just as we're about to head off on vacation that I have to simply resort to setting out the wines and their numbers on The List. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to actually come back and write a bit.

577. 2006 MontVallon Bourgogne Blanc (AOC Bourgogne - France)

578. 2007 Charton et Trebuchet Puoilly Fuisse (AOC Puilly Fuisse - France)

579. 2008 Ganton & Larson Prospect Winery - Ogopogo's Lair Pinot Grigio (VQA Okanagan Valley)

580. 1998 Chateau de la Gardine Chateauneuf-du-Pape (AOC Chateauneuf-du-Pape - France)

Friday, August 27, 2010

J-T Sauv Blanc

After all the socializing that's been happening of late, it's a welcome respite to just stay at home for the evening and simply enjoy some ("Boo Surprise") salmon & salsa, some fresh Similkameen Valley corn that he picked up and a bottle of refreshing white.

576. 2008 Jackson-Triggs Proprietor's Grand Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

This was one of the surprises that Boo and I were pleased to discover at a BC Wine Appreciation Society tasting last year with Jackson-Triggs winemaker, Brooke Blair. Ms. Blair actually supervises production of J-T's Okanagan red wines - and the reds are usually what I think of first with Jackson-Triggs. However, Derek Kontkanen handles the whites and he has a winner with this Sauv Blanc.

Neither over-the-top with a Kiwi fascination of cat-pee or mulberry bushes, yet perhaps still more assertive with its fruit extraction than the Sancerre's that are available - and affordable - in our market. I don't normally reach first for Sauv Blanc, but we quite liked this one.

Unfortunately, it's not the easiest wine to find as only 500 cases produced and, at $19, it's still affordable. I'll definitely keep my eye open for the 2009 to add to The List since '09 is supposedly a banner year for BC whites.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Goo Goo for Gaga

So, months back, my sis, Vixen, texts me with "Your niece's 16th b-day is coming up. If you want to be remembered as the greatest uncle of all time, Lady Gaga tix would sealthe deal." Too bad she sent it two days after the tickets had gone on sale and had already sold out. Luckily for Stargirl's b-day and my reputation, a second concert was added.

It's been some time since I went to a big demand concert and I wasn't quite prepared for the ticket prices. I don't need to tell you that the two tickets would have kept Boo and I in wine for some time!! When did things change so? When I was Stargirl's age, we could get Elton John tix for $12.

Is that ageing me even more?

For an old coot though, I quite like Gaga. I actually had her CD before Stargirl. What one wears to an outlandish concert like Gaga was way beyond my ken though. I offered to wear a vintage leather jacket and a gag thong that Boo had been given by his colleagues at work, but Stargirl opted to go the tamer route. She later told me that she totally underestimated the crowd. My wearing a thong wouldn't have been the most outlandish outfit there.

At 16, Stargirl hasn't acquired a taste for wine yet. So, she didn't join in on a pre-show cocktail. I, however, wasn't about to forego the opportunity to blog this concert. Boo and I had a quick glass before Stargirl and I left for dinner.

575. 2005 Golden Mile Black Arts Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I'll have to finish off this entry at another time.

Got to head off and dance. Just Dance. OK?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Forgotten Mad Greeks

I was looking some photos that we just downloaded from the second camera. It doesn't get used all that much and, apparently, it gets downloaded even less. I found some pictures from a dinner that I went to with some of the old university boys. I think the dinner was back in June; so, I'm adding it way out of sync here. I thought about leaving it out altogether but we made our way through four bottles of wine - and there just no sense in leaving four bottles off The List - particularly when the only deterrent is a little pride about sequencing.

Big deal. Who gives a hoot?! I'm counting them.

We usually have a bunch of false starts in setting up an evening, this is the second dinner that the boys have managed to pull off since I started the blog. The first round was way back near the start of this whole escapade (#'s 74, 75, & 76). Last time, however, we were drinking and eating with a little higher brow. Guess the more reasonable prices allowed us to indulge in an extra bottle this time. That and we had a guest appearance by the Cowboy Contractor - and that resulted in a little extra consumption.

Despite the fact that we were eating Greek tonight, there wasn't much chance that Mr. Big was going to allow us to drink anything Greek. It's gonna be red - and preferably Californian. I was a tad surprised when he started us off with an Aussie.

571. 2007 Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon (South Australia)

572. 2009 J.J. McWilliams Cabernet Merlot (South Eastern Australia)

573. 2008 Catena Alamos Malbec (Mendoza - Argentina)

Since were chatting about vacations past and pending, I picked the Malbec to add a little heft to our upcoming trip to Argentina. Even though I see Malbec as being rather mainstream nowadays, it was an unknown quantity for the boys. Thoroughly enjoyed by all though.

574. 2006 J.Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon (California)

Eventually, we had to move back to California and decided to go with a household regular for both Mr. Big and GVS.

Considering the dinner was a couple of months ago, I'm not even going to talk about how the wines went over. Suffice it to say, we needed all four bottles and even The Pink One had no problem with the choices - and he was eating his regular seafood. The guy has to learn to drink red with fish in this crowd - either that or take on Mr. Big in an arm wrestling match to pick the next wine.

Another fun night. I'll try to stay more current with the posting for our next dinner though.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Boxed Lizards & Rabbits

It's hard to believe that we're reaching the tail end of August. Can Fall be long off? It hasn't exactly been a summer loaded with picnics, but we found the opportunity to fit at least one more in for the summer.

Boo and I thought we'd hit Granville Island to pick up a few dinner treats. We then decided to move along to the other end of False Creek and set up shop in the recently celebratory Olympic Village. Now open to the public to wander through - and, hopefully, buy up all of the unsold condos - I hadn't been down here yet except to go for a run along the Seawall.

We figured that we'd also managed to fit in a quick sip/cocktail at another of the Biennale installations. Cocktail, yes. Biennale, no. Apparently the 15-foot high sparrows aren't part of the exposition but are permanent pieces of the city's public art program. I guess it was fortuitous that we didn't spend the entire picnic there since it wouldn't have even counted as a check mark in the Biennale wine column.

We carried on down to the edge of False Creek and its views of the downtown skyline, the Science World dome and the Olympic Village. The Village may not be fully populated yet but it boasted a steady supply of folks on a stroll for people watching. Seeing as how I figured there aren't going to be a lot of picnics in the foreseeable future, I brought along both tetra-pak boxed wines that I'd picked up for such an occasion. Neither wine was expected to excite, but I do hear, every so often, that boxed wines are improving in quality.

569. 2007 Cheviot Bridge Thirsty Lizard Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc (South Eastern Australia) 1L

I'm not so sure even the winery intends that you'll expect a wine named Thirsty Lizard to be a 90+ point wine. Surprisingly though, the Sem/Sauv blend wasn't that bad at all. I don't think it'll leave premier Bordeaux white wine producers shaking in their boots, but it is from the same people that bring us the Long Flat range and I think that's a bit of pedigree in the bargain, value wines. This one was easily worth the $11 that the litre will set you back. I wouldn't have a problem opening another box given similar circumstances.

I can't really say the same thing about wine number two.

570. 2008 French Rabbit Cabernet Sauvignon (Vins de Pays d'Oc - France) 1L

This is probably more along the lines of what most people generally think of when they conjure up boxed wine. The French are making conscious efforts at improving their more basic table wines. I think they're going to have to keep tweaking this one. If the Lizard wasn't going to spook Bordeaux producers, this Cab isn't likely going to elicit even a "spit in your general direction" by Left or Right Bank chateaux.

Something tells me that there were more medals being won by the athletes that wandered these paths during the Winter Olympics than either of these wines will win. In fact, if the box of Rabbit hadn't told me it was a Cab, I wouldn't have guessed that in the least. Ah well, just like at the Olympics, you win some, you lose some.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Aussie Icons

G'Day. I know I've complained about this before, but it's just so easy to fall behind in my postings. Boo is even threatening that we can't open any more bottles until I catch up. He can try and stop the corks, but I'm not biting.

I am glad, however, that this should be a bit of a "in & out - no messing about" kind of entry.

Shiraz and Blundstones. Aussie icons. Need I say any more?

568. 2006 Kilikanoon The Lackey Shiraz (South Australia)

The label recounts that the winemaker defines a "lackey" Down Under as "a shit-kicker or lowly paid manual worker." Since they feel that they're giving bang up value for the buck, this wine is "lowly paid" and is, therefore, named "The Lackey."

Where the Blundstones come into play, I'm not exactly sure. Since this wine is only made for the export market, the winery might well be latching on to Blunnies as a means of catching the consumer's eye - without relying on cute critters. I will admit that I don't think I've ever seen another label that actually refers to a "shit-kicker" or any other fully spelled-out profanity. Good on ya, mate? They make 'em tough Down Under.

Kilikanoon is actually a very well regarded winery in Oz and the Clare Valley and wins its share of awards and 90-plus scores from many of the big guns. This wine is more on the level of a critter wine though - both with price and flavour profile. Even still, while it sports lots of dark fruit up front, it still has enough structure to make the wine interesting enough to allow you to sit back and think about it.

Just what you need to kick back and throw the boots up on the couch.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Dinner Club at Chez Chasbob

This has definitely been our most consistent year for the Dinner Club. Scheduling with four busy couples can be such a b*tch. There have been times where we've been lucky to fit in two dinners during the course of a year. However, here we are in August and, with Boo and I hosting, each couple will have hosted a dinner in 2010. I love it - not only because of the superb meals that are always prepared - but each dinner is always a a bonanza of wines to add to The List.

For the last so many years, Boo's and my turn to host our dinners has generally fallen around Thanksgiving or December. I'm not sure when we last had summer weather to warm up to. The Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed have magnificently gathered the multitudes a couple of times al fresco on their lush common area and I wanted to try and take advantage of our garden since the opportunity was presenting itself. Moving the dining room table into the back yard was a bit of a task but I think it worked wonderfully.

Themes come and go with the Dinner Club and we decided not to restrict our menu at all. Taking advantage of the outdoor setting, we looked for inspiration from our upcoming trip to South America and to dishes that would match up with outdoor dining. As a tip of the cap to Peru, we served up Pisco Sours for a cocktail rather than a wine. Darn. That's one bottle that I can't add to The List.

562. 2006 8th Generation Riesling (Okanagan Valley)

Pisco's in the late afternoon sun don't last long though, so we quickly went to our first wine - another lovely garden sipper. 8th Generation's Riesling is quickly turning into a "go to" wine for me. Consistently bright, I find it has just the right combination of fruit, acidity and a touch of residual sugar that I like.

2007 Artisan Wine Company Rigamarole White (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Another summer sipper, this "off-shoot" from Mission Hill already made The List last year at Art For Life (#259) - likely because it's an easy drinking, well-made wine at a decent price. As such, it likely sees lots of receptions. A blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and "other Germanic varieties," it's an easy match for the crab and arugula bread pudding.

The fact that it's on The List already makes me think I should require all future guests to check the blog before they bring a wine to our house though. Gotta keep those numbers rising.

563. 2008 Bodega Vistalba Tomero Malbec Rose (Mendoza - Argentina)

It ain't exactly deconstructed - since a salade nicoise wouldn't normally be all mixed up - however, I think it's fair to baptise our second course as rather minimalist. Instead of serving up the nicoise as a full, light dinner, I've wanted to prepare one more as a light appetizer with only a bite or two of each component. I also needed a vehicle to show off the purple potatoes that Boo and I grew this year and the first of our tomatoes.

A salade nicoise screams for great Rose and I pulled out one of the bottles I picked up at lasat Spring's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. One of the feature regions was Argentina and Vistalba or Tomero was a producer that I hadn't run across before. They definitely tweaked my palate at the Festival and we're planning on finding a way to visit the winery when we hit Argentina.

564. 1996 Remirez de Ganuza Old Vines Reserva (DOCa Rioja - Spain)

565. 2004 Cellar del Pont Lo Givot (DOCa Priorat - Spain)

As always, The Tyrant delivered with a couple beauties from his cellar. No one else I know was buying Spanish wines back when a '96 vintage would have been available. Ahead of his time and full of surprises, Tyrant's Rioja and Priorat matched up superbly with our take on an asado grill - with beef, lamb and pork belly hitting the grill.

I had never heard of the Remirez de Ganuza before but it is apparently one of the star wines coming out of Rioja (and, therefore, one of the stars of all Spain). It's stature is such that internet wine guru, Gary Vaynerchuk, talked about the 2001 vintage in one of his earliest webcasts and announced it as one of his favourite wines. Almost fully Tempranillo (with some Graciano and a touch of Garnarcha), this was my favourite wine of the night.

The Lo Givot was new to me as well. A blend of Garnaxta (Grenache) (33%), Carinyena (Carignan) (32%), Cab Sauv (25%) and Syrah (10%), it would be nice to have more time to dwell on this wine as well, but suffice it to say that Tyrant remains welcome to bring wine to our home any time he so chooses!

567. 2006 Bodegas y Vinedos de Murcia - Mad Dogs & Englishmen (DO Jumilla - Spain)

Another Spanish blend, this wine takes a different - perhaps a little more modern - approach to production. Whereas the last two Spanish wines are more traditional and aimed at the higher end of the spectrum, this wine is more a creature of the new marketing world of wine. Spanish wine, as it comes of age, in a post-[yellow tail] world.

Its component varietals are Monastrell (Mourvedre) (60%), Cab Sauv (30%) and Syrah (10%); however, it definitely looks more for the big fruit and soft tannins. An interesting contrast to the other Spanish wines - and I daresay many folks would prefer it to the higher end wines due to its approachability.

NV Seppelt Rutherglen Tokay DP37 (Rutherglen - Australia)

We opened one last bottle to go with Boo's peach pie, but we neglected to take a picture of either the pie or the wine. After all our food and wine, taking photos is hardly a priority - blog post pending or not. Turns out that no picture may have just been a bit of unbeknownst foresight because it turns out that we've already added this bottle to The List some time ago as well (#108).

That's two bottles in one night that were simply there for enjoyment. What's the world coming to? I don't think any of the guests minded though. For me, it just tacks another day or two on to my time on this Odyssey.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Annual Miss Jaq Wine Picnic

A definite highlight of our summer is the Annual Miss Jaq Wine Picnic. Each summer, during her visit from the Emirates, we make time for a relaxed afternoon with plenty of good food and lots of wine. It's become a tradition that is greatly anticipated - and todays' the day.

We try for a different location each year, leaving it up to her to pick a quintessential spot that says Vancouver and British Columbia to her. This year, she chose Lynn Canyon Park and the Suspension Bridge. Bringing back memories of Miss Jaq's youth, it was a great choice for Boo as well as he'd never been to the bridge before.

Built in 1912, the steel cable and wooden slat bridge still bounces and sways enough that many still experience a slight apprehension - or even sense of dread - as you hang 50 metres above the canyon and stream below.

We had a picnic waiting though and Boo just chided those moving too timidly or stopping to take in the view. Luckily, it wasn't quite so rude that anyone threatened to throw him over the bridge. As for the re-crossing later, I wasn't exactly sure whether the wine to be consumed would make our voyage easier or suicidal.

The Suspension Bridge connects with any number of trails that continue through Lynn Canyon or connect to the Seymour Demonstration Forest or Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. Our task today wasn't to take on the Baden-Powell Trail though. We were simply hiking down to the creek bed area near the 30 Foot Pool. The hike in, with all the picnic supplies, and the hike out - with all the wine in our systems - was a perfect length. Just long enough to give you a real sense that you'd put some distance between you and the bustle of the city.

560. 2009 LaFrenz Chardonnay (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

Miss Jaq is definitely one of our favourite friends; so, it only made sense to bring along one of our favourite Chardonnays. I don't generally gravitate to Chardonnay when it comes to my white wines, but the "peaches and cream" style that Jeff Martin and team strive for at LaFrenz is one that I have no problem returning to time and time again.

Capturing great Okanagan fruit but balancing it with enough oak (50% of the blend sees some French oak), the complexity and balance is a perennial pleaser. The 2009 vintage seems to be pleases those that know as well. It won a Silver medal at the Northwest Wine Summit - one of the most prestigious wine competitions in the Pacific Northwest. If nothing else, Jeff Martin is a tell-it-like-it-is kind of guy and he says that any winemaker can win some medals if you enter enough competitions, but then says, "so what?" Accordingly, he only enters his wines in competitions that he feels really mean something.

Award winner or not, this Chardonnay was a perfect accompaniment to our Miss Jaq and the setting.

561. 2002 Yalumba Tricentenary Vines Grenache (Barossa Valley - Australia)

I'd been waiting for a special occasion to pull out this bottle. This was one of those wines where I tried a sample at a tasting event and then immediately ran out to try and find a bottle or two. Despite the fact that Yalumba is a big name, large-scale producer Down Under, I'm still drawn to their ability to bring home their family-owned, approachable nature. Maybe I'm just in love with their travelling ambassador, Jane Ferrari, but Yalumba is just a brand that starts off favourably in my glass.

This bottle is more on the reserve end of Yalumba's list of wines. It's not outrageous. I think it was around $45, but that's a special occasion wine in our household. Special occasion. Miss Jaq. There you have it.

The name Tricentenary comes from the fact that the grapes for this wine are grown on a single vineyard that was originally planted in 1889. Some of the vines span three centuries and are some of oldest Grenache vines in Australia (if not the world). At that age, you don't get a lot of grapes off the vine, but, hopefully, the ones you do get are intense and powerful.

Sipping from little plastic wine glasses may not have provided us with the best means of fully enjoying the bouquet and profile that the wine had to offer, but the richness and depth of flavour was still evident and the company and occasion more than made up for any lack of crystal.

This was to be our last visit with Miss Jaq for the summer. She left the picnic and had to start getting ready to head back to the 50C degree heat of Abu Dhabi. There's certainly no Canyon park and suspension bridge picnics to be had in the Emirates, but, then again, maybe one of the local sheiks could build one. They've built everything else.

Another fabulous Miss Jaq Wine Picnic was enjoyed and we won't be able to wait until next year's.

Friday, August 13, 2010

David's Thank You

It's hard to believe that almost year has gone by since we hosted Daveyboi's milestone of a birthday party. He's been trying to set up a dinner with us for months as a thank you. But between his being in and out of town continually for work and Boo's weird schedule, finding a suitable time was not the easiest of tasks. We finally managed to set up a suitable evening and, wouldn't you know it, during the afternoon Boo got mandated in to work nights. He managed to put off staffing until 11.30, but it also meant that he wasn't going to be able to slurp back on the vino like Daveyboi and I are wont to do when we get together (more so D. than me, but what's an extra glass or three between friends).

We started with some cocktails (okay wine) at Daveyboi's apartment and he'd been keeping a special bottle just for the occasion.

557. 2006 Bodega Pulenta Estate Gran Corte VII (Mendoza - Argentina) 1.5L

Daveyboi had been given this bottle as a birthday present last year and he kept it especially for this thank you dinner - and we were glad that he did. I knew nothing about Pulenta but Daveyboi had been told that there were an extremely limited number of the large size bottles produced and they aren't available in our provincial liquor stores. When I Googled the winery, I saw that there's another Pulenta winery in Argentina - and it has a wine or two in the Vancouver market - but it didn't produce this wine. Cousins or something like it.

It was a beautifully full wine that is largely a Bordeaux blend. By "largely," I mean that, as might be expected, Malbec plays a much larger role in the blend (45%) - after
all this is from Argentina - however, there is also a small portion (3%) of Tannat added in. That leaves the remainder to be divvied up by Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot.

It was great of David to keep the wine for us to enjoy - because we did - however, he did save some of that 1.5L for some other friends as well. That just left us wanting more. Maybe when we head to Argentina in October.

Since the boi wasn't exactly ready for us when we arrived (he lives on West End time), it just meant that we had to open a second bottle of wine before we left the apartment.

558. 2008 Vinedos y Bodegas Pablo Menguante Garnacha (Spain)

Another new winery for me. What little I could find out was that it is a family owned winery in the Carinena region in Northern Spain. The Pablo family has a long tradition in the business and has been dedicated to biodynamic farming and viticulture for years.

The wines of the region are known for their characteristic intensity, although that traditional robust nature is evolving into a more fruit-forward, lighter, balanced wine. This one still has a pretty hefty profile for a Garnacha (or Grenache) - particularly when opened right after the Pulenta, but, for a Friday night before heading out to dinner, there were no complaints.

David chose to try Twisted Fork, a tapas-styled bistro on the Granville entertainment strip, that none of us had ever tried before. Atmosphere was great (despite, rather than because of, the drifter on the outside looking in on the background of our picture). Food was totally tasty - duck confit and lamb shank particularly hitting home. And really friendly service.

To top it off, we had another winner of a wine during dinner.

559. 2006 Pentage Syrah (Okanagan Valley)

We'd actually ordered this wine as the wine list was particularly BC-centric and this was one that jumped out at me as one that I hadn't tried previously. I knew of Pentage as a small producer from the Okanagan but not a lot more than that. I certainly didn't know that this bottle was a Gold medal winner at that All Canadian Wine Championship in 2009.

We thoroughly enjoyed it - both from the standpoint of drinking it on its own and pairing it with the food. I'm a little surprised that they're growing Syrah like this as far North as Penticton in the Okanagan Valley. Most of the better known Syrahs are a touch further South. Just goes to show how the Okanagan is full of surprises.

I'd easily go back again - to both restaurant and Pentage.

Big thanks to Daveyboi for a wonderful evening - although I did feel sorry for poor, old Boo since he had to behave, unlike Daveyboi and I, and head off to work once we left Twisted Fork. In a way it might have been a good thing for me. Had we been able to spend more time with the Boi, I would have been feeling way worse than I was the next morning.

Monday, August 9, 2010

More Landmark Birthdays

Having celebrated a couple of 50th birthday parties with friends this year, this was the weekend for landmark birthdays in the direct family - my niece, Stargirl, was all set to turn Sweet Sixteen and Dad - or Grandpa to Stargirl and the kids - was hitting the Big Eight-O. Both were having swell parties thrown for them - and I had no illusions that they were going to be high brow affairs with wines worthy of the Tyrant's cellar being served up.

In fact, the party for Stargirl was primarily for the teens with a few adults thrown in for good measure. I arrived thinking that I wouldn't even have a drink until I got home and needed one to relieve what I fully expected to be blasted out eardrums.

Turns out that my sis, Vixen, came to the conclusion early on that we were going to need a little help to get through the evening. What, with both a blown fuse box and the fog machine setting off the fire alarm within the first hour, there was potential for a long night. Good thing there was a small bottle shop only a block away and there was a kitchen in the back of the hall where Vixen and crew could secretly sip away while preparing all the foods.

Great example for the kids, I know. But, who's kidding who? It wasn't long after 16 that I was sneaking a drink before the school dances. At least we weren't going full out on lemon gin - then or now.

The one "treat" - if you want to call it that - about the fire alarm going off was that the Fire Department actually had to attend at the hall and turn it off. For 15 or 20 minutes, there was a hall full of grumpy teens, bemoaning the fact that the party was being ruined. As soon as the truck arrived and the girls saw that the attending firemen were all poster boys for the marketing stereotype, this was a party never to be forgotten. The two birthday girls posed for pictures with the city's finest and then the whole gaggle of gals lined up along side of the firetruck and started chanting "We want firemen" for the picture.

As they stood in the background, waiting for all the twittering to end, the guys that were attending the party learned an early lesson in life - it's going to be an effort for them to live up to the reality that chicks dig the myth (or not) of hunky firemen putting out their fires.

When Vixen and I headed over to the bottle shop, we succumbed to the reality that now plays a big part of wine - we bought partially because of the labels.

553. N.V. Bottega Petal Vino dell'Amore Moscato Spumante (Venato - Italy)

I actually knew what to expect with this "Wine of Love" as I've tried it in the past (although it hasn't made The List yet). The sweetness of the bubbly, low alcohol (7%) contents seemed perfectly matched to a Sweet Sixteen party. Too bad, Stargirl wasn't actually trying any of it. Thus far, I haven't found a wine that she's really wanted to have a glass of. She might have liked this one.

An added bonus is that the Moscato Giallo grape used to make the wine hasn't been added to my list of varietals for the Wine Century Club either.

554. 2008 Little Black Dress Merlot (California?)

We chose this bottle simply because Stargirl's theme for the party was "black & white." We knew that the bottle was obviously being marketed to the girly segment of the wine-buying public, but it worked with the party theme. This is no doubt a common result nowadays - and exactly one that the brain-thrusts behind branding had in mind.

I find it hard to take a wine like this that seriously though when its branding is so blatant. The website even spends more time talking about fashion and accessories than it does about wine. It also states that the Merlot is actually blended with 12% "mixed reds" and 7% Carignan. I'm not aware of the "mixed reds" varietal but it simply adds to my suspicions - that, and the fact that the website doesn't even confirm that the grapes are all California grown.

The wine wasn't bad though. It's clearly made as a fruit-forward, easy-drinking wine. I doubt that I'd buy it again but it worked on this occasion.

That was Saturday night. Sunday was Dad's do. I was joking the night before that the police had come to Boo's and my wedding for slightly over-zealous partying and now the fire department had attended Stargirl's 16th. I wondered out loud what government emergency services were going to grace Dad's party? The emergency response ambulances - it only made sense considering the collective ages of the expected partygoers.

Luckily that didn't happen.

The party was another example of wine branding at its best - or worst as some might see it - however.

555. 2009 [yellow tail] Merlot (Australia)

556. 2009 [yellow tail] Cabernet Sauvignon (Australia)

What hasn't been written about the story that is [yellow tail] - the bestselling wine that snobs love to turn their collective noses up at? [yellow tail] is the most spectacular story of wine to ever come out of Australia and I think it's the success of the brand that people dislike - not the wines themselves. The approachable, fruit forward taste of [yellow tail] is exactly what my Mom enjoys and correctly assumes that her guests will enjoy. Dad would probably drink anything, but at 80 you're allowed to without much impunity. The bigger sized bottles at decent prices certainly didn't hurt either.

As much as I pointed out some disdain towards the Little Black Dress concept, I think their zeal goes a bit too far in its efforts to capture the type of marketing success that is [yellow tail]. The thing for me is that [yellow tail]'s success is based more on well-made wine at a good price point - not the brand being the whole raison d'etre for the wine itself.

Back to the party though, Dad was in his full glory - with friends popping in from all different eras to wish him a happy birthday. As embarrassing as it might seem, the cutest gift of the day was the afro fright wig. One of Dad's friends was trying to think of a gift that would be really useful to an octogenarian. She was wondering what can a 80-year old man use more than anything else. The obvious answer to her was hair. Dad might be well advised to trim it down a bit if he's going to wear it on a daily basis however.

A busy weekend. Maybe not as many wines for The List as one might hope for from all the work involved, but everyone had some laughs and good times. What more can you really ask for?