Friday, February 4, 2011

Winter Pride at Whistler

At last year's Chefs for Life gala dinner, Boo and I picked up one of the silent auction items that included a two night stay at Whistler. Time's been flying by and the expiry date was nearly upon us; so, we figured that a couple nights during Winter Pride would be the way to go. My days as a ski bunny may be well behind me, but there's still a fair bit of apres-ski left in my bones - especially when the resort has open arms to gaggles of gay men from around North America and beyond. Ski Week might not reach the party levels of last year's Olympics but it's still a big draw on the party circuit.

We managed to arrive in time to make it for the apres-ski beer garden and ran into more people than we expected to - even one of the Toronto curlers that had played in the Pac Rim Bonspiel last weekend. After the beer-up, Boo and I decided to join in with the Dine Around crowd. Every night during Ski Week, the organizers promote a couple of restaurants in the Village. One of tonight's choices was perennial Whistler favourite, Araxi. We'd never been before; so, we thought it would be a nice start to the weekend.

719. 2007 Telmo Rodriguez Lanzaga (DOC Rioja - Spain)

Araxi has quite the lengthy wine list and I'd never heard of Lanzaga before - likely because my knowledge of Spanish wines is pretty limited - but the waiter recommended it and I figured a Tempranillo wouldn't overpower the wide range of plates that we'd ordered. Turns out that the winemaker, Telmo Rodriguez, is becoming a bit of rock star in Spanish wine. We certainly enjoyed the wine.

Rodriguez comes from an established winemaking family and, after finishing his education and an apprenticeship in France, he took over the reigns at his family's winery in Rioja. He ended up leaving to set out on his own in the 1990's and has since worked to create a range of brands and wines that capture the diversity of nine different viticultural regions in Spain. As he puts it, he's become a "driving winemaker" rather than a flying one - as he moves from one region to another throughout the year.

He's known for his commitment to the uniqueness and regionality that is abundant in Spain; yet, his modern approach to winemaking results in approachable and well-received wines. Known to deride operations that rip out old bush trained vines of indigenous grapes, his wines seem to benefit from the low-yielding vines that fill his vineyards and struggle to produce in some challenging conditions.

The Lanzaga is Rodriguez' mid-range wine in Rioja. It tastes of a New World approach that is well-balanced and soft with lots of red fruit coming through. This vintage was 95% Tempranillo with Garnacha (Grenache) and Graciano filling out the wine at 3 and 2 percent respectively.

As mentioned, we quite enjoyed the wine and I'll be sure to see if he's going to be in attendance at the upcoming Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. With Spain in this year's regional spotlight, there's a good possibility. I can't wait.

By the time we'd finished both our bottle and dinner, we knew we'd had enough and didn't need to hit the big pool party that was the evening's big draw. After all that goodness, even the beckoning view of hundreds of men in speedos, well-chosen swim suits and budgie smugglers wasn't enough to dissuade us from bundling up and heading back to our hotel. That never would have stopped me 10 years ago. Guess I'm getting older after all.

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