Friday, February 4, 2011

A Couple Furrocious Wines

Since Boo and I behaved ourselves last night and didn't stay up until the wee hours at the Pool Party, we were actually able to get up and function through the day.

We may not have had it in us to hit the slopes but, even at our advancing ages, we could still wander the Village, do a little shopping, sip back on coffees - even blog a little - along with the best of them. It was actually a bit of a surprise to find the Village as decked out with Pride flags as it was. I've been to a number of Gay Ski Weeks over the years but I don't recall the locals as being as all-embracing as they seemed to be this time. I guess the post-Olympics let down has been a bit rougher on the economy than expected. If a little rainbow colouring spurs spending of the "gay dollar," so be it.

It was a little disappointing that there wasn't much in the way of snow in the Village. There was plenty on the ski hills and the less travelled paths, but the Village itself was rather bare. You didn't have to go too far to find the snow though and during a stroll to the Upper Village, I noted the deck chairs along the river bank and thought it would be cool to open a bottle and blog a wine out in the snow. My brilliant idea was a bit of a non-starter, however. Boo thought there was a tad too much emphasis on "cool" being the operative word here. He said he had no objection to an afternoon tipple but it wasn't going to be while we were playing snowman.

I'd grabbed a couple of bottles from the wine rack to bring along for just such an occasion. So, we settled back into our suite and opened another bottle that's been hanging around for awhile, thinking that having a glass before heading off to the apres ski activities was exactly what we needed.

720. 2003 Jacob's Creek Centenary Hill Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Jacob's Creek is one of the largest selling brands in the world, but such success can come with its own cross to bear. I'm probably like most people in that I tend to associate them with their value-based Classic series - especially when that line is pretty much all that receives a general listing in our provincial liquor stores. The winery actually has three levels of wines and the Centenary Hill is one of their "Super Premium" wines. I'm pretty sure that I must have picked this up at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival a couple of years back when Australia was the featured region. I don't know that the wine is otherwise available in our market.

Chief winemaker for twenty years, Philip Laffer - who just happened to be named Australia's Winemaker of the Year in 2002 - has since stepped aside from a daily involvement in the winemaking but he was still in charge of the Centenary Hill with this vintage. He's been quoted as stating that it's far more challenging to make a large volume of good wines, at a reasonable price, than it is to make a small quantity, boutique wine. On the other hand, it's a lot easier to have the wherewithal and resources to make premium wines when you have those volume wines to help pay the bills.

I don't think Centenary Hill qualifies as a "boutique" wine, but Laffer does strive to make it to exacting standards. Three blocks of the winery's vineyards have been identified as producing particularly nice fruit. Those blocks are fermented and matured separately and Laffer chooses what he feels are the best barrels to blend as the final wine.

I don't know how much of the Centenary Hill was produced but I see that our bottle was individually numbered as "20717." As unlikely as it is, if we purchased the last numbered bottle of the vintage, that's only about 1700 cases. Even if you double or triple that rather limited production, when the winery as a whole can produce up to eight million cases annually, we're potentially talking nothing but the winery's finest.

We found it a bit bold without food but the full and intense, dark fruit was up front and likely could have withstood even some more aging to mellow out some of the big edges. I can see why I would have gravitated to a wine like this at a tasting though. I might need to give the value lines a bit more of look.

721. 2006 Nk'mip Qwam Qwmt Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

We followed that premium Aussie with one of the Okanagan's more notable labels during dinner at the Westin's restaurant, Aubergine Grill. Nk'mip was an early favourite of mine in the new BC wine regime. I loved the whole involvement of the Osoyoos Indian Band and the fact that this was the first aboriginal owned winery in North America - but I've already written about much of this in past posts.

The QQ series is the premium label for the winery. We're told that "Qwam Qwmt" translates from the band's native tongue as "achieving excellence," although you'll often see the phrase "best of the best" in many articles. Regardless of the translation, the wine in the glass clearly translates as "tasty." We needed a wine that was versatile enough to match up with Boo's buffalo and my lobster pasta - not the easiest of pairings but the wine was approachable and more than suitable.

It's not too often that BC wines get a front seat on the world wine stage but Nk'mip experienced precisely that when, in 2009, one of the world's most renowned wine writers, Jancis Robinson, titled one of her regular Financial Times columns, "Nk'mip - Qwam Qwmt Merlot Anyone?"

I don't know how Ms. Robinson would have reviewed our next little pastime but I doubt she could have given it a better name. Following dinner, we joined up with some of the Whistler Pride gang at one of the two big parties being held that night - Furrocious. This is hardly the forum to discuss the in's and out's of "bear culture" in the gay world, but this party seemed a little more appropriate for Boo and I than the "twink" heavy disco night at one of the Village's more notarious night clubs.

Having already done a good job on the better part of two bottles, there was no need for another here - even if it had been possible to buy an entire bottle. But, you know, it's not every day that we join in with an international party crowd; so, it only seems fair to mention Furrocious in this post. We might not have been drinking wine here, but the evening's earlier grapes definitely played a part in the enjoyment of the evening.

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