Friday, April 29, 2011

A Toast to the Happy Couple

Hockey playoffs? Not today. Canadian federal election? Are you joking? As far as today goes, the whole world is raising its collective glass and toasting newlyweds, Will and Kate. In Vancouver, the wedding ceremony was being shown live at 3 a.m. or some ungodly hour like that. I wasn't one of many watching - let alone lifting one for the happy couple. However, I know of more than a few friends that were glued to the telly, with or without drink.

I'll admit that I turned on the morning news to catch a few glimpses and highlights, but the toast had to wait until later that evening.

788. N.V. Hungaria Grande Cuvee Brut (Hungary)

I'd have really liked to pop a cork on an English sparkling wine - as that is the forte of the fledgling English winemaking industry - but, alas, I've never run across such a bottle in Vancouver. That pretty much opened the door for any bubble that happened to be available - especially since I hadn't actually been invited.

I wouldn't normally think of Hungary as being a source of sparkling wine - does anyone? In fact, I don't really know much about Hungarian wine in general. There's Tokaji dessert wines but they're hardly well-known by the general wine drinking public and as expensive as icewine if I'm not mistaken. All the same, I'd read a bit of buzz of this Hungaria Grande Cuvee and how it offers a lot of bang for the buck.

I doubt the royals were pouring this particular bottle though. If they had been and I were Kate, I think I'd have to re-think the family I was marrying into - as if she hadn't done enough of that already. But the wine served our purpose. I don't know that I enjoyed the Brut enough to buy it on a regular basis. I think I'd stick to a more familiar Spanish Cava or even fruitier Prosecco, but there's no denying that at $14, it offers up more complexity than you should likely expect and the addition of Riesling (20%) to the traditional "sparkling" varietals Chardonnay and Pinot Noir may have given it a fruit profile that was a bit brighter than it would have otherwise featured.

Whether it's my favourite or not, there's apparently a lot of it being made - around 500,000 cases and a lot of it is making its way to Canadian markets. In fact, on one site, I read that Hungaria's producer, Torley, was the first Eastern European winery to export its wines to Canada.

I don't know what our buddy, Merlot Boy, was serving Down Under at his little wedding affair, but he did e-mail us a shot of him doing it up with Will & Kate after they'd finished with the rest of all those guests and hangers-on. Who knew Kate was so tall?

Cheeky Aussie that Merlot boy is though - he asked us if anyone had seen Harry's father at the ceremony?

Cheery-O. Pip. Pip. And all that jolly banter. Here's to ya kids.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Round 2 - Bring on the Predators

Let's face, Round 1 with the Chicago Blackhawks was enough to drive a guy to drink. Taking the series to overtime in Game 7 was bit much for we faint of heart. But, here we are starting a new series with the Nashville Predators.

When the Canucks pulled off the big win in Game 7, I'd sent out an e-mail of relief to friends in far-flung locations - like Australia and Abu Dhabi - you know, places where they don't play much hockey. They know the city is gripped with Canuck fever though. When I said that the boys were going to take on Nashville in Round 2, Sheila - a transplanted Vancouverite who's been living in Oz for decades now - replies, "Nashville has a team???"

For the next while, we're going to see just how good of a team they really do have.

But, with a new round of the playoffs comes a new BC winery to match up with our series. Seeing how we went through eleven different bottles of Red Rooster wines during the Chicago series, I had to pick a winery that we can potentially draw almost as many wines from our cellar, should the need arise. I figured that, since Karen Gillis' wines were up to the task in Round 1, maybe I should go with her her mentor, Howard Soon's, wines at Sandhill. We've added a number of Sandhill wines to The List over these first two years of the Odyssey, so a number of the wines for this series will be new vintages rather than new varietals or blends - but you know we love Howard's wines and this will be great a great opportunity to serve up some of the older vintages we have in the cellar.

787. 2004 Sandhill One (VQA Okanagan Valley)

With over 30 years of winemaking experience, there's been plenty written about Howard Soon - including a smattering on this blog. I find myself continually gravitating to Soon's Small Lots Program. These wines are ever-evolving and generally involve barrels that just seem to stand out above all others or use fruit from distinctly unique vineyard blocks that somehow speak volumes with experimental varietals (at least for the Okanagan) or innovative vineyard management.

A stalwart part of the Small Lots Program has been a series of blended wines - simply named "One," "Two" and "Three." It made sense to me that we open a bottle of One for Game 1 in the series. Like playoff tickets that are crazy difficult to get ahold of, there was never a lot of this wine available. It's not called the Small Lots Program for nothing - only 511 cases of this wine was made. A Cab Sauv-heavy Bordeaux blend, the earlier vintages of this wine were some of the first to start incorporating Petit Verdot (9%) and Malbec (9%) into the blend. This wine is interesting in that I'd certainly expect a BC Bordeaux or Meritage blend to use Merlot as a blending component before Petit Verdot. Indeed, you still won't see a whole lot of Petit Verdot being grown in the province.

A good blend and its winemaker, much like a good hockey team and its coach (if you'll pardon the gratuitous analogy), are generally a whole lot more successful when all the attributes of the individual components are more thoroughly understood. Much like I have to trust that Canucks coach, Alain Vigneault, will come up with the right mix of players and lines in this series, I trust that Howard Soon saw something in the profile of the Petit Verdot and Malbec that just heightened the best qualities of the Cab.

We certainly enjoyed the wine enough though - and we enjoyed the 1-0 Canucks win. If the Canucks don't find easier ways to beat Nashville goalie, Pekka Rinne, however, I don't know if I'm going to be able to handle such a close checking, low-scoring series with only one bottle of wine a game.

Do or Die - It's Game 7

What is it about the Chicago Blackhawks that just scares the bejeezus out of Vancouver Canuck fans? It might have something to do about the fact they're the team that have unceremoniously knocked the Canucks out of the Stanley Cup playoffs for the last two years. Might it be that, at times, they seem to have a way of making our all-star goalie, Roberto Luongo, look completely out of place in a playoff drive? Could it be that they're the defending Stanley Cup champions? Or, maybe, it's just that our boys were up three games to nil less than a week ago and now the teams are tied at three games apiece.

Whatever it is, tonight's game is one of the most important in Canucks franchise history. Win and the Canucks have shaken the monkey that is the Blackhawks off their collective back. Lose and the city may just give up entirely on ever hoping that the Canucks will deliver a Cup in our lifetime.

In any event, I needed to bring out one more Red Rooster wine. I figured the Canucks need something a little new in their arsenal; so, why not open a bottle that I only picked up yesterday - a bottle, however, that is garnering all sorts of press in our wine news because it was just awarded a Gold medal in the world's largest competition for Chardonnay wines.

786. 2009 Red Rooster Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The Chardonnay du Monde competition was recently held in France and it pitted 914 different Chardonnay wines, from 38 countries, against each other. Not only was this Red Rooster the only wine from Canada to win a gold medal - and only one of 13 wines to win gold that didn't come from France - it was named one of the Top 10 wines of the competition.

And all that for $17.

I dare say the odds of the Canucks winning this Game 7 were somewhat better than those the Vegas handicappers would have given Red Rooster when they entered this competition. But winemaker, Karen Gillis, and her Red Rooster team put it together and produced a real winner.

Regular readers of the blog probably know that Chardonnay isn't my first choice of white wines. I could end up re-thinking that position a bit after tasting this wine. From the first sips, it had a real approachability and balance of fruit, body and acidity - with just enough of an oak presence that you knew it was there but with no "oak monster" domination.

And, then, just as The Big Game started, if the great taste of the wine wasn't a good enough omen, wouldn't you know, we could see from our seats in front of the big screen that a rainbow had just appeared in the sky.

To get the juices flowing even more, all the stars seemed to be aligning with an early goal by Alex Burrows and the Canucks!

All Canucks fans know that it ain't over until it's over and a one goal lead is simply a scary proposition. With only a couple minutes left in the game, the Canucks were on the power play and just as things really looked like the team would finally be able to dispatch the Hawks, the impossible happened. Chicago scored a short-handed goal, with only two minutes left, to tie the game.

When the Canucks were penalized in OT, I'm sure the entire city was just as dejected as I was. But seeing the boys kill off that penalty was as big a relief as I think I felt during the game.

Finally, anxiety gave way to exhilaration with another Burrows goal. The celebrations could begin. Really begin! The Chardonnay was long gone by Burrows' goal, but it sure seemed like the Canucks were every bit the world beater that the Red Rooster was.

I don't know if Karen Gillis is a fan of the Canucks or not, but the Canucks should definitely be a fan of this wine!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Not Even A Canucks Bonnet Can Do The Trick!

Boo and I grabbed a last coffee for our stint in Seattle and then we had to make a bee-line for the border since we had to get back to the True North Strong and Free for the family Easter dinner at my sister's and, perhaps more importantly, Game 6 of the Canucks-Blackhawks playoff series.

Colour me sacrilegious but I'm having a hard time getting over how our Canucks were leading the Blackhawks three games to none and, here it is Easter Sunday, and the Hawks seem to have risen from the dead to win today's game - 4-3 in overtime none-the-less - and tie the best-of-7 series at three games a piece. The next - and final game - is going to see one of these teams' hopes for the season crucified.

But, with no spoiler alert, that little intro rather gives away the ending of this post - at least as far as the hockey goes. I guess I'll just have to carry on with a bit of wine (instead of whining about the hockey scores) and showcase what really mattered to many of today's dinner guests - the creations from this year's annual Easter Bonnet Parade.

783. 2007 Domaine de Chaberton Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Luckily, the hockey game hadn't started yet when Boo and I arrived at Vixen's. Consequently, we didn't immediately open the wines I brought from Red Rooster, the BC winery matched up to this playoff's series. Rather, we started with a bottle that Elzee brought along - a little something to get the juices flowing as we started to work on this year's Easter Bonnet creations.

This is the first wine I'm adding to The List from the actual Domaine de Chaberton label. (A private label wine produced by the winery was added at #596.) So, I was a little surprised to find out that Domaine de Chaberton is one of the oldest and largest estate winery producers in the province - putting out over 50,000 cases nowadays. I was also a bit intrigued by the fact that the first wine we were trying was a Syrah.

Domaine de Chaberton and their estate vineyard is located in the South of Langley in the Fraser Valley - about 45 minutes out of Vancouver. The winery claims to benefit from a slightly warmer micro-climate than the rest of the region. Micro-climate or not, the Fraser Valley is not known to be able to ripen Syrah or Shiraz grapes. Indeed, even the winery has primarily been known for its cool climate varietals, mostly white and often unknown - like its signature grape Bacchus. Because the winery found that its general portfolio was somewhat out of sync with the tastes of the buying public, they made some connections with growers in the Okanagan and have sourced grapes, like these, to put out some bigger reds.

I think, once the hockey season is over - and, hopefully, once some semblance of Spring or Summer arrives - I might need to schedule a visit to the Valley to check out the winery and see what it's up to. There's obviously more going on than I ever knew about.

Creative juices flowing or not, I figured I'd stick with the hockey playoffs theme for my bonnet. You can't really tell by the photo but, together with the "Go Canucks Go" hockey stick, there is a small-scale game going on between two teams of marshmallow peeps - the Bluechicks and the Golden Bunnies. I was rather hoping that both the Bluechicks and the Blackhawks would get eaten alive in their respective games - but it was a case of "if wishes were horses..."

Other notable bonnets this year included Stargirl's hommage to Will and Kate's upcoming wedding, Boo's ocean adventure, Vixen's feather extravaganza and Skeletor's rock chicks concert.

Having made her debut and wowing the masses at last year's Easter Bonnet Parade, Elzee was asked to join us again. Having to equal or out-do her floppy bunny bonnet from last year, she opted for a big, old chocolate Easter egg as her centrepoint for this year. That way, if the gang didn't go ga-ga for the hat, at least everyone could have a bit of a tasty treat.

784. 2009 Red Rooster Bantam (VQA Okanagan Valley)

785. 2007 Red Rooster Reserve Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Boo and I brought along a couple of different Red Rooster wines for the crowd. I think think three different vintages of the Bantam - the winery's easy drinking white blend - have already been added to The List. If this is really the fourth vintage of this wine, it has to be up there as one of the most tasted wines on this Odyssey. I usually bring out the Bantam as a patio sipper, but it seemed a good fit for a crowd that doesn't necessarily drink a lot of wine.

This is the first Reserve Merlot to be added to The List however. We opened a bottle of the regular label Merlot for Game 2 of this series and the Canucks won that game; so I was kind of hoping that bringing out an even bigger gun might help pull out a win. The result on the ice may have not met up with our expectations, but the wine in the glass sure did. At $30, this is one of the most expensive wines that winemaker, Karen Gillis, and team produce. I can see - and taste - why. This is definitely one of my favourite wines that I've tried from the winery.

The 2008 vintage is the bottle currently available; so, I didn't see any wine notes for the 2007 on the winery website. I did, however, see a one line snippet of a cached page on a Google search and it said that there was 5% Malbec added to this 2007 vintage. If it was the Malbec from the vineyard just outside the winery tasting room, that might explain the great appeal. The row of "Malbec" that Boo and I "adopted" at Red Rooster may have contributed to this wine. Having a little bit of "us" in the bottle, it's no wonder the bottle was as good as it was. I'll have to see if we have any more of this wine at home. I hope so, but we went through three bottles of it during dinner. Perhaps the additional stress of the overtime period just required a continual filling of our glasses.

As a final note to the Easter Bonnet Parade, it's become such a little event in our calendars that folks spend a whole lot of time coming up with some rather inventive bonnets. And, then, there are those that think completely outside the box. Two years ago, Big Rod tapped into a new market with his Easter brassiere. Not wanting to abandon his love of all things Victoria's Secret, this year we were treated to his take on the Easter thong. Despite calls for a full modelling of his carrot-ed extravaganza, a full runway show, sans jeans, was not to be coaxed out of him.

In retrospect, that may have been a good thing. Some creativeness is best left untapped.

Despite the game's outcome, a fun time was had by all. These Canuck losses are fraying my nerves however... you'd best pass me another glass of wine.

A Stealthy Seattle Picnic

No trip to Seattle ever seems to be complete without a trip to Pike Place Public Market. Boo and I got tied up a bit at the Nordstrom's Rack during the morning though - another Seattle "must-do" - so, we didn't arrive at the Market until well past our intended brunch time. Accordingly, we just carried right on to a picnic lunch at the neighbouring park. Problem with opening a bottle of wine to accompany our picnic purchases was that the park was as public a space in the Emerald City as you'll likely find - and the greenspace was being patrolled rather rigorously due to a demonstration that was taking place during our little respite.

We just had to be a little circumspect in how and when we poured our wine into our high-end wine glasses - a couple of Starbucks go cups that I grabbed that morning. I mean, come on, do you really expect Riedel crystal in a park? Besides, it is Seattle after all. I doubt anything could be more appropriate than Starbucks. The cups worked though and that was probably the most important factor. They might not have provided the best opportunity to enjoy the wine's bouquet, but they didn't attract any unwanted attention either.

782. 2009 Eroica Riesling (Washington State)

Every time I make it down to Washington State, I inevitably try to pick up a bottle or two of the current vintage of the Eroica Riesling. Launched in 1999 as a joint venture between one of Germany's Riesling wonder estates, Dr. Loosen, and Chateau Ste. Michelle, one of the foremost producers in Washington, this is one of the few Washington wines that I'm fairly familiar with. I tried it at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival many years back and immediately gravitated to its fresh and intense style.

The Eroica website refers to the wine as being "an intermingling of Old and New World," "bold and forward from its Washington roots, elegant and refined from German inspiration." The bright acidity is balanced by the slightly off-dry finish to the wine. Full of fruit on the palate, it was a nice match to the oysters on the half shell and tuna poke that we picked up at the market.

We didn't quite finish the bottle off during our picnic. There are some limits as to how long you can handle the incessant blare of a protest - even at a sunny, parkside setting. So, we had just enough left for a little happy hour cocktail back at the hotel while we contemplated the day's purchases at Nordstrom and before heading out for dinner.

This is the second vintage of Eroica that I'm adding to The List and I went into the wine a touch more thoroughly with the previous entry (#456), so I'll keep moving on at this time. Suffice it to say, I very much doubt that this will be the last Eroica to make it to this blog either.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Sazerac & A Zin Blend

We don't get down to Seattle enough to have the slightest idea of where to go for dinner. So, I went to Chowhound to see what sort of recommendations seemed to pop up over and again. I jotted down some of the names that were within walking distance and Boo and I set out.

After a bit of a jaunt, we decided on Sazerac as it had quite an impressive look about it, it was basically full but had a nice table available and the New Orleans/Cajun theme isn't one that we see much of back home. The fact that it was showing a hockey game above the bar was a bonus and quite the unexpected surprise for Seattle - not that I wanted to be reminded in any manner whatsoever of last night's embarrassment of a Canuck game.

781. 2009 Owen Roe - Abbot's Table (Columbia Valley AVA - Washington State)

Another winery that I don't believe I've ever heard of before. When looking over the wine list, I was intrigued to see a Zin based blend from Washington. When I think Zinfandel, I generally assume it's from California. But then, there are a couple of BC wineries that are experimenting with Zin; so, if our guys can do it, there's surely no reason why it couldn't be explored to the South of our border.

The waiter said that the wine is actually one of the best sellers at the restaurant - both by the glass and by the bottle. That could have been either a blessing or a curse, but we decided to go with it. We weren't disappointed - despite the fact that it might have been a bit bold for a couple of dishes that we ordered (truffled potatoes and a cream-sauced ricotta gnocchi). There was no denying its appeal with some homemade sausage. It even went down - with no problem - with Boo's catfish.

A wild blend of Zin, Sangiovese and Cab Sauv for the base (at 25/20/20% respectively), with Syrah, Grenache, Blaufrankish, Cab Franc, Malbec and Merlot (10/13/7/2/2/1) completing the wine, it's not one you'll likely see elsewhere. I don't know how much the blend changes from year to year or whether it's more-or-less a set formula, but it certainly makes me wonder if the winemaker was just throwing a bit of everything that he had left over after making the varietal wines.

As eccentric as the blend may be, the winery obviously puts a lot of stock in the wine's ability to deliver and at least one local writer looks at it as the "gold standard of Washington blends" for its sticker price of around $20.

Other than discovering a new winery, Boo and I learned two basic rules about Seattle dining. The first is that servings are bigger than we get back home and the second is that Friday night (in particular) is all about "Happy Hour." As mentioned, Sazerac was hopping when we arrived around 7.30 or so. It started emptying out table by table right after we ordered and there weren't many new tables being seated. By the time we were finishing up, the restaurant was mostly empty - and that wasn't that long after 9.00, on a Friday night. We asked the maitre d' about a few points and he said that most downtown restaurants are totally geared for an early sitting of business folk starting the weekend; that they go at full speed for so many hours, but that things slow to a grind once the work crowd calls it a week and starts to head home.

We saw countless ads for Happy Hours here and there and read a whole bunch of reviews and recommendations on the best Happy Hours - and, surprisingly, most of the Happy Hours were largely based on food and menu items not the drink specials that we might associate with an H.H. back home.

Definite food for thought. And a great start to our stay in Seattle.

Does This Bottle Remind You of The Space Needle?

Part of what I like most about our short trips to the States is the opportunity to browse around in the wine shops to see all the different wines that are sold here, wines that we likely wouldn't run across at home. I'd never expect to see a BC wine being sold South of the border - it just doesn't seem to be done - but we do see some Washington State wines (as well as Oregon and California) at home. The choices available are just so sadly lacking - and, for whatever reason - the prices seem to skyrocket as soon as the wines cross the border.

We're always told that it's just because the BC government taxes alcohol so highly, but I see plenty of the same foreign labels down here as at home and some of the prices aren't all that different. There's got to be something more to it.

In any event, there's precious little in the way of Washington wines back home and these infrequent jaunts allow us a brief opportunity to discover and try some Washington labels that we likely would never see otherwise.

Not knowing much about Washington wineries, however, means that I don't know what to reach for or order at all. So, we pretty much put ourselves at the mercy of the wine shop assistants or restaurant sommeliers. That's how we came about our first wine for this trip. Since we were in Seattle, we couldn't help but succumb to the siren call of having coffee and a bit of lunch. We headed up to Capitol Hill and then stopped in at the wine section at QFC. It's kind of crazy to us BC folk to imagine a wine shop as nice, if not nicer, than most of the private bottle shops in Vancouver in the middle of a local supermarket. Boo and I had a great little wander around and discussion with one of the attendants there though.

He pointed us in the direction of this bottle, saying that they'd just happened on a case of it and that, being a 2003 and already aged, it would be a great start to the weekend. In fact, I think his exact words were that, "it should be drinking like great sex."

780. 2003 Reininger Merlot (Walla Walla Valley - Washington State)

Reininger is one of those labels that I can't remember having ever seen or hearing about previously. Having been established in 2006, Chuck Reininger was a senior mountain climbing guide for a Washington company until married a local Walla Walla girl and caught the wine bug. They now strive to produce premium wines under both the Reininger label - which features only Walla Walla Valley fruit - and the Helix label, which sources grapes from throughout the wider Columbia Valley.

We had a choice of heading down for some of Seattle's apparently famous "Friday Night Happy Hour" or opening the bottle in our hotel room and having a bit of a rest and a glass of wine before heading out to find some dinner. We chose the latter and found the bottle going down rather easily.

Harkening back to the shop clerk's comment, I suppose if you like your "sex" all juicy and full of structure and ripe, dark fruit, this wine will be right up your alley. This vintage was made with a touch (4%) of Cab Franc and, indeed, it was a nicely balanced wine.

We probably were pretty lucky to come across the bottle because there were under 1200 cases produced of the 2003 vintage. The fact that there was still the better part of a case hanging around - particularly in a fairly busy location - was a great find. Coming in around $30, it's not an entry level price, but then it didn't drink like an entry level wine and I'd hate to see how much it would go for back home.

Not a bad start to our little Seattle jaunt.

Hawks 5, Viognier 1, Canucks Need to Turn it Around

Easter and the highly desirable four-day weekend finally arrived and Boo and I had decided to head down to Seattle for a couple of nights. Knowing that the border line-ups would be horrendous on Good Friday and that we would have to stay down a full 48 hours before we could bring back even our paltry two bottles of wine each, we coaxed my Dad to join us for Thursday night at their trailer down by Mount Baker.

A highlight of the night at the trailer is that it gives us a chance to take a side trip to the Bellingham Costco - where, unlike in Canada, they actually sell wine. This is the second year that I've arranged to make a Costco Wine Run. The plan is to take advantage of the lower prices and better availability to buy a case or two of (primarily) US wines, leave them at Mom and Dad's and have the P's bring back a couple of bottles of wine every time they go down for a weekend visit.

We had a bit of dilemma to deal with though. I wasn't able to get out of work until the mid-afternoon and it was going to be a stretch to fight rush hour traffic and get through the border in time for a 7 o'clock start to the hockey game. The teams were back in Vancouver, following the Canucks' Game 4 stinker in Chicago, and the plan was to head over to the Nooksack Casino and watch the game there while having dinner.

Traffic wasn't as kind to us as we'd have liked but we made it to the trailer part way through the first period - and the Canucks were already down a goal. Jeez.

779. 2009 Red Rooster Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Whether or not we made it to Costco, I knew that the chance of finding a Red Rooster wine in the States was somewhere between slim and none. So, I brought a bottle with me to open at the trailer. I didn't know that we'd be opening it before dinner and the casino but it's a good thing that we did have it.

As it turned out, we needed to start dulling the pain as early as early as possible. It was another game to be forgotten. The entire city of Vancouver (if not the province and country) was hoping for a rebound effort from the 7-2 loss the other night, but it was a quick 2-0 for the bad guys before we even took off for the casino between the first and second periods. We might as well have stayed at home and drowned our sorrows because there's precious little to cheer about a 5-0 loss.

Thankfully, the wine was better than the Canucks' effort. Viognier is a relatively new addition to the Red Rooster portfolio. The 2009 vintage is only the second one produced and there's only 224 cases of it. I found that it wasn't the most expressive of Viogniers I've had and that it wasn't my favourite wine that Karen Gillis makes. At the same time, maybe the game was just putting me in a sour mood and nothing would have tasted all that good - short of a couple stiff shots of tequila or scotch. As you can see from the shot, Boo more or less just wrapped himself up in a blanket to comfort himself from the game's harsh realities.

I see, after the fact, that the '09 Viognier was a Double Gold winner at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Awards. At least something from the evening managed to win something. Nothing to do with the hockey game was a winner. Good thing we have another bottle of the Viognier still hanging around. Maybe if there isn't a stinker of a hockey game to set the mood, the wine might take on a different taste profile.

The next game isn't until Easter Sunday. Boo and I will just have to continue on to Seattle and drink away the pain of the last two games. The boys are going to have to turn things around if they're going to end this series however.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Another New BC Winery for The List - Le Vieux Pin

Still suffering from the result at last night's dismal hockey game, I've headed back to the bottle in between Games 4 and 5. Since it's not a game night, we're straying from this series' designated winery, Red Rooster. I'm going to stick with the BC/Canucks connection for tonight though and Le Vieux Pin is found in the Okanagan, not that far down the Valley from Red Rooster.

Le Vieux Pin (translates as "The Old Pine") first appeared on the BC wine scene in 2006. It's one of those wineries that I know of but that I know very little detail about. Part of the reason why I'm not that familiar with their wines is that they introduced their initial wines at the higher end of the price spectrum in BC. Known for their limited production and very low yields in the vineyard, most of their bottles are priced as those "special event wines" - at least for my pocket book - and I tend to want to know a bit more about wines in that range before I pick one up.

I did get the opportunity to try some of their wines (and some of their sister winery, La Stella's, wines) at an event earlier in the Spring and they were among my favourites that evening. Naturally, it was the $70 Merlot that really wowed me, but I did find their entry level red and white at one of the BC VQA wine shops. I thought it'd be a good time to give one of them a try.

778. 2009 Le Vieux Pin Petit Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The winery primarily releases varietal wines; however, both the introductory red and white are blends. Le Petit Blanc combines Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc and Rousanne - a rather unorthodox blend if there ever was one. As the back label states, "we decided to fuse several unlikely suspects to create a unique, crisp and beautifully aromatic white."

A couple of the articles that I've read about Le Vieux Pin have discussed the winery's goal of showcasing the terroir of their vineyards. With grapes sourced from "various vineyards" (according the the website), this isn't necessarily going to be the wine to give you that sense of location. I think, however, that the wine is indicative of the winery's take on creating a full and bold product. More and more Okanagan wineries are introducing eclectic white blends like Le Petit Blanc but I find that most of them are lighter in body and maybe a little on the fruitier side of the palate.

With only 600 cases of this wine being produced, it's not likely going to be one that is readily found in all sorts of stores for a long time to come. At $22, I'm not sure that it stood out enough for me to run back and grab more.

I will, however, continue to look forward to the opportunity of exploring more of their wines when the opportunity arises. Much like I'm looking forward to tomorrow night's Game 5 - when, hopefully, our boys can regain their composure on the ice.

Can You Say "Blow Out"?

Okay, even if everyone in the city was hoping for a sweep of the Blackhawks in four games straight, how stupid is it for one of the city's daily newspapers to express those desires on the front page of the paper? Like duh!! Could there be a more sure way of jinxing the prospect?

Whether The Province paper was the actual cause of the debacle that was Game 4 - and I suppose we'll never know for sure - there's absolutely no doubt that the Canucks team that showed up for the game must have had their collective mind on something other than a hockey game. A 7-2 shellacking is enough to drive a guy to drink - even more than the bottle we'd opened for the game.

777. 2008 Red Rooster Meritage (VQA Okanagan Valley)

All those "7's" proved to be a whole lot luckier for Chicago than they did for the Canucks. And I'd had such high hopes for the game. The bottle that we opened was one of the "trial" bottles I'd picked up for the 2008 vintage of Red Rooster's Meritage. This is the wine that winemaker, Karen Gillis, and general manager, Blair Dufty, chose to fill the 3L bottle I'd had painted for Boo's birthday last year. I thought we could try a smaller bottle every so often to see how it's drinking before we open the big guy.

I'm rather distraught about the game; so, since I know we'll se this wine again, I'll just wait until we open the special bottle before I discuss the wine more.

At least the wine performed substantially better than the team did. Many more games like this one and we might need to open that big bottle - a lot sooner than we might otherwise need to - just to drown our sorrows.

Good thing I've got another bottle of Red Rooster that we can open for Game 5.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Game Day to Be Reckoned With

Talk about your busy days! By the time Game 3 between the Canucks and the Hawks was set to kick in (and another Red Rooster wine was to be opened), I was pretty much tuckered out. The things I'll commit to in order to keep this Wine Odyssey and the building of The List moving on... I tell ya.

First up was an early start to the morning and a decision to join 50,000 of my closest friends and subject myself to the inevitable aches and pains of the 10k Vancouver Sun Run - or, as I've taken to calling it, the Sun Dawdle. Now, there was a time that it would have taken a lot more than 10k to faze me - but those days are probably a decade and 20 some odd pounds ago.

I would never completely blame my "personal worst" time on this blog, but it's not too shady of me to say that, if I'd spent less time at the computer blogging and more time pounding the pavement to train, I likely wouldn't have been labeled the "old, fat, slow guy" at work. Even if it was me that coined the phrase.

After the Sun Run, I was ready for a drink - if not a nap - but I needed to get a few chores done before heading off to a small tasting at Marquis Wines in honour of World Malbec Day. I didn't even know that grapes had their own days, but, apparently, at least the Malbec varietal does. The organization, Wines of Argentina, christened April 17 World Malbec Day as a means of celebrating the emergence of the varietal as a global force in the wine world and of further marketing Malbec and its largest producer.

The Argentines must be doing something right because there isn't a bottle shop or restaurant in town that doesn't have an assortment of Malbec bottles to chose from - and, lately, not all of them have had to be at the cheap and cheerful level to succeed.

The tasting was short one, but I did discover another couple wines to look forward to in the future. For the here and now though, there was a housewarming to attend. Angel had purchased her Vancouver pied-a-terre downtown when she returned to Canada from being years abroad. Once it had been determined that her television would be big enough to permit a realistic viewing of Game 3, it was off to catch up with a bit of a reunion with a few of the legendary Kits Girls.

Having been most recently abroad in Italy, Angel has that continental appreciation of sparkling wines and she had more than a couple corks popping as Bella Jianna, RoZee, Flyboy B and Nor-ee helped christen her new abode.

773. N.V. Pasqua Prosecco Treviso Extra Dry (DOC Prosecco Treviso - Italy)

774. N.V. Sumac Ridge Tribute Gold (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Angel had grown to love Prosecco while living in Italy and she was especially happy to find this Pasqua at the recent Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. Normally, Pasqua Prosecco isn't available in our market but the winery brought it in for the Festival and Angel strategically bought up more than her share of what was available.

With the Prosecco being lighter and fruitier, she followed it up with the more traditional bubble from Sumac Ridge. They may not be able to call it Champagne (since it isn't made in the Champagne region), but everything else about this bottle is classic. Sumac Ridge released two versions of Tribute for the 2010 Olympic Games held in Vancouver last year. We already tried the Silver label at Jeaux and Matinder's Olympic dinner (#346), but this was the "select" Gold label.

The hope with these two sparklers was that we'd not only match the bubbly personalities of the Kits Girls but we'd be able to toast some "golden" efforts by the Canucks when Game 3 got under way in Chicago.

775. 2009 Red Rooster Malbec (VQA Okanagan Valley)

776. 2006 Red Rooster Malbec (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Seeing as how Red Rooster is the companion winery for the Canucks' first round in this year's playoffs and how it was World Malbec Day, it only seemed natural that I bring along one of the Okanagan's first efforts at producing the varietal in Canada. The 2009 is the newly released vintage and I brought it along to serve up at Angel's. Turns out that I was home in time for the final period and Boo "insisted" that he get his fair share as well. So, we opened the 2006 that we had left in the cellar.

Now, you know it's hefty "wine time" if we bring out one of the few 2006 bottles still standing. 2006 was the first year that Red Rooster produced Malbec as a varietal wine. The vines were planted primarily to be used for blending in the winery's Meritage, but they found that the 2006 vintage was so tasty that they decided to bottle it as a varietal wine. Since our "baby" under Red Rooster's "Adopt-A-Row" program is one of the Malbec rows that went into the wine, we got first dibs at buying some of the limited production.

Luckily, we jumped at the chance and the wine went on to win a Gold medal at the 2007 Canadian Wine Awards and, perhaps even more prestigiously, picked up a Lieutenant Governor's Medal for being chosen as one of BC's top wines - only nine medals were awarded in 2008, the year Red Rooster's Malbec won.

With such an eventful day and all the great wine, it's almost easy to forget that there was a hockey game to boot. However, the Canucks lived up to the challenge and much to the delight of the city won their third straight game and - even if the win was a tad unexpected - this one was in the Windy City.

Do we dare hope that our boys can finally shake the playoff monkey - that is the Chicago Blackhawks - off their collective back? We'll keep toasting the Red Rooster and the team in the hope that they can.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Canucks Take The Elusive Game 2 Win

For the past two years, the Canucks have started off their Round 2 playoff series with the Blackhawks with a win. They hadn't been able to follow it up with a second straight victory though.

Until tonight because that was then and this is now!! It was a fantastic Friday and a great start to the weekend. I went around and knocked on a couple of the neighbours' doors to see if they wanted to come over and watch the game with us. Not only was it a way to add an extra dimension of excitement to the game, it was an opportunity to open a couple different Red Rooster wines to set the mood.

770. 2008 Red Rooster Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

771. 2008 Red Rooster Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

772. 2009 Red Rooster Pinot Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

This trio of wines actually shows some of the different approaches that the winery has adopted. One of the solid reasons our hopes for a long playoff run by the Canucks is that the team is balanced and deep in talent. The team's diversity is being touted as one of its strongest attributes this year. Likewise with Red Rooster methinks. Under the guidance of winemaker, Karen Gillis, the wines are gaining more depth with successive vintages and they offer a portfolio that looks to cover all tastes.

The Merlot we opened is very approachable in both its profile and its cost - being under $20, it's more affordable than most red BC wines. It's not on the same level as Red Rooster's Reserve Merlot, but then every hockey team needs a second, third and fourth line. The Syrah is more on the reserve end of Red Rooster's portfolio, seeing both new French and American oak for aging. It's also limited in availability but, at $30, it still sports a lower price tag than most BC Syrah.

The Pinot Blanc is also a great team player at $17. A small portion (15%) of the wine sees some oak aging as well and that six months of aging on its lees (or the dead yeast cells that result from changing of the sugars into alcohol) help to flesh out the wine's body and to add a slightly creamy profile. With lots of tree fruit and balanced acidity, the visiting hockey fans were pleasantly surprised when told that it was a Pinot Blanc.

It seemed like we were working on the theory that a bottle was being opened with each Canuck goal, but even with the gang over, we didn't hit a fourth bottle when our boys scored their fourth (and the winning goal). With the Shameless Hussy celebrating goals with martinis and Marquis and Red having to ultimately behave because they had dinner plans for their anniversary, the triple tasting worked out just fine.

To keep with the sports metaphors, it was a solid team effort by the three wines tonight and, with the Canucks winning that second game, there was certainly reason to toast the team over and again.

Being up two games to nil, I'm liking this match up of Red Rooster and the Canucks.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

This is What We Live For!!

Hockey Playoffs are under way and the good folks of Vancouver (and hopefully many others) are having dreams of our Canucks winning sixteen more games this season - since that's the magic number of wins the team will need to win the Stanley Cup.

As I've done for the last two years of playoffs, I'm going to match a BC winery with our boys and we'll try to coordinate a different bottle from the winery with each Canucks game. The further the Canucks go into the playoffs, the more wine we'll be able to enjoy.

Red Rooster, on the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan, is the winery I'm lining up for Round 1. Regular readers of the blog will be used to seeing Red Rooster on these pages. Boo and I have "adopted a row" at the winery as part of a unique community marketing scheme and, indeed, I was just up at the winery a couple of weeks back for their annual Spring Pruning Party. Not surprisingly, we sip back enjoy a great many of their wines. And this year, they get the task of helping us drink our way through these initial games.

Of course, we've got a bit of a hurdle to get over with the first series. As luck would have it, the Canucks have drawn the Chicago Blackhawks - the buggers that have unceremoniously tossed us from the playoffs for the last two years running. We Canucks are hanging our collective hat on the fact that this is a different year with different teams. The Canucks head into the playoffs stronger and Chicago is missing a couple of players that really disrupted our team last year.

And the boys are off to a fantastic start!! The 2-0 win is exactly what was needed to help the City set the mood for the games to come.

769. 2009 Red Rooster Pinot Noir (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Red Rooster has recently announced, proudly, that the 2009 Pinot won four top titles in the same competition - the 2011 Jerry Mead International Wine Competition. The competition is open to wines produced anywhere in the New World and entries come from North and South America, South Africa and Australia/New Zealand. It is also somewhat unique in that it not only judges wines by varietal and blend, but also by price range.

Tonight's Pinot won a Platinum medal, was named Best in Class for Pinots priced $12-$25, won Best of Varietal and was named Best New World Pinot Noir. Heady praise! I was hoping that opening the playoffs with a big winner might encourage the boys a bit. It sure didn't seem to hurt.

Pinot Noir isn't generally the first Red Rooster wine I reach for, but I'm certainly glad we had this one on hand. Neither big with overwhelming fruit, nor completely restrained and full of earthy notes, both Boo and I thought winemaker, Karen Gillis, and team hit a lovely balance of deep cherry and medium structure that was completely approachable with both dinner and just watching the game. I don't see laying it down for years to see if it improves but I can see why it's hitting all the right notes at this moment.

With only 421 cases having been made. I don't know if there's enough around to send a case to the Canucks to celebrate their first win, but I'm glad we still have a couple of bottles on hand.

Here's hoping that the outcome on the rest of the games - and the wines to accompany them - are just as successful.

A Viognier to Muse Over

768. 2008 Muse Viognier (Vancouver Island)

Another quick post to try and catch up before the hockey playoffs start later in the week. I've mentioned previously that Viognier is making its presence known in BC as a varietal to be reckoned with. That being said, I didn't find that this bottle was overly characteristic of what I associate with the varietal - it didn't seem to have the nose or the body of other versions of the wine in our market. The wine was fine, but I wouldn't have ever guessed that it was Viognier if it hadn't stated it so on the bottle.

The label also has a sub-title of "piquant vivant" and I think that might be a little too precious - the wine didn't quite live up to the billing.

I couldn't find any reference to where the grapes were sourced. The winery is located on the Saanich Peninsula above Sidney but my guess is that the grapes were sourced from the Okanagan. I'm not so sure that Vancouver Island weather patterns are readily agreeable to ripening Viognier.

In any event, the wine might have been a-muse-ing (pardon the pun), but I think a little bigger inspiration might be needed in my glass.

I suppose we should just move on into the playoffs.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A 2nd Crossing with the Little Lost Lamb

This was a second serving of our neighbours' "thawed out" lamb that we inherited when their freezer broke down. A second serving of lamb. Seemed easy enough to serve a wine called 2nd Crossing.

767. 2007 Twisted Tree - 2nd Crossing Long Creek Red (VQA Okanagan Valley)

2nd Crossing is the second label for Twisted Tree, the winery on the hillside to the East of Osoyoos in the Okanagan. Seemingly priced to be a bit more value oriented than the Twisted Tree label, the name 2nd Crossing comes from the location of the winery, being where Highway 3 crosses Long Creek. The creek is seasonal and may not even appear in certain years. That's apparently the plan for this label as well. The making of these wines will depend on the harvest and the availability of grapes.

Like the creek, the wine may or may not appear.

From its start, Twisted Tree has been interested in working with varietals that aren't run-of-the-mill in the Okanagan and this wine features the winery's first use of the Tannat grapes that were planted. The winery has since come out with a full varietal Tannat wine, but I can only assume that they just didn't have enough quality fruit to produce that varietal wine in the first year. Rather, this is a blend of 50% Tannat and equal portions of Merlot, Cab Sauv and Malbec - a blend that I'm pretty sure you won't find being produced anywhere else in BC.

A solid wine, easy to drink with nice ripe fruit. It wasn't as bold as the Shiraz we had with the other lamb that was inherited, but I wouldn't say "no" to another bottle if I were to run across a bottle.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Nooks & Grannies

As I continue to get longer in the tooth (hence the "Granny" bit in the title), I may not need or enjoy nearly as much attention as I might have in years past when birthdays come around. Nowadays, I'm just as happy to get a little pampering at home and leave it at that. Boo isn't one to let me easily forget that I'll always be older than him, but to do that, he has to make up for the ribbing.

Since that "big" day was on the doorstop yet again, Boo decided to take me out for dinner to Nook, a little restaurant in Vancouver's West End that a number of our friends had been saying good things about. Nook doesn't take reservations, but we were very lucky with our timing. The line up was full of threes, fours and larger parties. but there just happened to be a table for two available. Basic Italian fare, it was a great little choice. Naturally, our wine was Italian as well.

765. 2006 Tenuta Lodola Nuova - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano (DOCG Vino Nobile di Montepulciano - Italy)

I didn't recognize many of the wines on Nook's list but I've enjoyed Vino Nobile di Montepulciano before - not to mention I just love the way that the name runs off the tongue. I thought this one sounded as good as any. When the bottle arrived, I saw that it was part of the Ruffino family - one of the most important wine companies in Italy. I don't know much about the Ruffino of today, but the first thing about them that will always come to my mind is university days, their Chianti and the old straw wrapped "fiasco" bottles it arrived in. How many of us used those bottles as candle holders way back when?

Tenuta Lodola Nuova is one of seven estates (and brands) that Ruffino now has in Tuscany. Its vineyards are mostly planted with a Sangiovese clone, Prugnolo Gentile, that is used particularly for Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. This wine is 95% Sangiovese and is finished off with 5% Cab Sauv - the use of the international varietal is something that has become more common since the success of the Super Tuscans in foreign markets.

It was perhaps a bit bolder than expected but that was no problem. I can work with big. But the best part about the bottle was that the waitress came over to our table and asked "Is one of you named Bob and is it your birthday?" Thinking that they wanted to bring some silly cake with a candle in it, I said "No," but Boo set her right. Good thing he did because, earlier in the day, I'd mentioned that we were going out for dinner and The Boss had called to arrange to buy a bottle for us.

If I'd known that in advance, I'd have asked to look at a reserve wine from the secret list. It was a perfect little treat though - and, since we'd saved the price of the wine, I called up Mr. D. to meet us for a cocktail over by his place and I made Boo treat us. Those cocktails - a Pink Brazilian and a Pretty Boy - were pretty hard to take though. Good thing the bartenders provided a good dose of eye candy. Otherwise, that would have been a good waste of an hour.

What we hadn't expected was that Lady Di would call up and urge us to join them at their place for cake and wine.

766. 2008 Bonny Doon - Le Cigare Blanc (Central Coast - California)

This was an interesting wine that Lady Di pulled out. I know that Bonny Doon is known as being front and foremost among California's Rhone Rangers. Le Cigare Blanc is a blend of Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, two white Rhone varietals that aren't seen too much as varietal wines in the Vancouver market. In the Rhone, this would be marketed as a white Chateauneuf -du-Pape. How appropriate for this little b-day - around our house, (thanks to my sis) these wines are known as Chateauneuf-du-Poof, although they're usually the red ones.

Little did she know, but Lady Di gave me another present as well - another varietal to add to my Wine Century Club application. I haven't added Grenache Blanc before now. Yippee and happy birthday to me!

As far as birthday cakes go, this was a keeper, strawberry shortcake - but this was, naturally, a high end version because that's how the Lady and She Who Must Be Obeyed work their magic.

I can't believe that I wasn't taking pictures of everyone (especially the bartenders) through the night. Hence, I don't have any shots to add of the evening. I suppose my mind is just slipping somewhat at this advanced age. Good thing I at least remembered to take shots of the wine.

All in all, a great night. I might even be willing to do it again next year.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A Little Lamb Lost

Well, that's "a little lamb lost" to our neighbours because their freezer went on the fritz. Luckily for us, that lamb found its way to our dinner table. The other night, Red came by our place to drop off a couple racks of lamb. She and Marquis had come home to find that their freezer had given up the ghost and all their stores had thawed. They weren't going to be able to eat their way through everything quickly enough; so, anything that couldn't be re-frozen was doled out amongst the neighbours.

We offered to have them over for dinner to help finish off the lamb and Red chuckled and responded, "What do you think we're eating for the next couple of nights?"

Good thing I just happened to have some Aussie Shiraz to open with the lamb.

764. 2004 Kangarilla Road Shiraz (McLaren Vale - Australia)

Both Boo and I immediately jumped on the fact that this wine had a nose that just leaped out of the glass. Simply brilliant! The fruit on the palate didn't quite match the nose, but that might have been a good thing. Fruit that big likely would have been way over the top.

Kangarilla Road road is pretty new on the Aussie wine scene. Established in 1997 and with an annual production of 40,000 cases, they practise sustainable farming, incorporating organic and biodynamic methods in the vineyards. The winery is comparable in size and scope to Elderton, the winery who's icon label Cab we tried just the other night. Both are found close to Adelaide - Kangarilla Road is in McLaren Vale which is South of Adelaide, while Elderton is in the Barossa which is North-East of the South Australian capital.

Another - and a bigger - difference is that this bottle is $25 in our market versus the $80 that the Elderton Cab set us back. The Shiraz wasn't quite the wine that the Cab was, but then again, we can grab three times as many bottles and sit back and enjoy that nose for three times as long or as often.

If we can save some bucks on the wine and get the lamb for free, we might be able to pull off a few more dinners like this. Not a bad plan, if you ask me.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Happy Anniversary!

Well, here we are TWO YEARS into this blog. If you're one of the many who have talked to me in person, you'll know that I generally flavour that "two years" with a few expletives thrown in to liven up the phrase. When I started this little baby in April 2009, I never foresaw just how much work it was actually going to be. More than a few folks have said, "Well, just stop." As tempting as that might be, the whole escapade is as much a labour of love as it is a task - and I certainly can't deny that I'm learning one helluva lot.

So, rather than bemoan the thought that I've still got another 1200+ bottles to go on this little Odyssey, I figured Boo and I should celebrate the start of Year 3 with one of those bottles you tend keep around for a special occasion. After all today is pretty extraordinary after all.

763. 2001 Elderton - Ashmead Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Elderton has a pretty good presence in the Vancouver market. With a couple listings in the provincial liquor stores, I'd kind of assumed that it was a large player in the Aussie wine scene. I was surprised to find out that they have an annual production of only 32,000 cases. That puts it on par with a number of BC's better known wineries - and I wouldn't categorize BC wineries as being large producers.

I suppose I shouldn't be all that surprised. Elderton is a family-owned and run winery and was only established in 1982. Despite the seemingly recent pedigree, the Ashmead family bought the Barossa Valley Elderton vineyards that feature vines that were planted as early as 1894. Indeed, the winery has risen to prominence quickly. It's pulled in some major awards - both at home in Oz and abroad.

Those 100+ year old vines are all Shiraz; however, the vines that produce the fruit for this Cab are pretty well established, themselves, at 65 years. With that age of vine, there's a limit on just how much fruit you can grow. These old Cab vines produce about one ton per acre and most winemakers will proudly tell you that they're using the very best of grapes when they're cropped at two tons an acre.

The Elderton website tells a story of how these special vines were almost destroyed in 1997 so that they make way for higher yielding vines. The fruit from this solitary block was being blended with grapes from other parts of this and other estate vineyards and used for the winery's premium Estate label, but at under $30 a bottle, it just didn't make economic sense for the winery. Luckily for us, before they'd started ripping the vines out, they decided to release a limited volume, single vineyard wine using the family name, more in line with their iconic Command Shiraz.

With only 700 cases having been made of this fourth vintage, this is a wine that hit all the right notes - if you like your Cabs big and ripe. Definitely New World on the palate, I didn't find that much of the mint-y or eucalyptus notes that are often prominent on Barossa Cabs, but the balance and length made for a delicious treat.

Too bad we don't get to drink like this every night. I may need to drag this Odyssey out longer than necessary so that we can come up with a few more anniversaries and special occasions.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Playhouse Primer

The 2011 Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival kicks into action today and I've got a fair bit of my week planned out with tastings and events - but not tonight. Boo doesn't get nearly as wound up as I do for the Festival. Indeed, I figure I've been pretty successful in drawing him out if I can get him to one or two events in any given year. To try and key him up - and give myself a bit of a start to to the week and to this year's theme region - I've picked out a Spanish wine that I haven't seen in the market before.

762. 2006 Bodegas del Rosario - Lorca Monastrell (D.O. Bullas - Spain)

I'm quite looking forward to finding out more about Spain and its wines. For a couple years now, Spanish wines have been getting quite a bit of attention in the Vancouver market (and everywhere else I assume) as the country's producers have been improving the quality of their wines and have been actively marketing the region as providing great bang for your buck - basically taking on Argentina and Chile in the current market and positioning itself as this decade's answer to the Australia of years past. With all those efforts, our household has certainly seen an increasing Spanish presence, but I still don't know a great deal about the great variety of wines that the country has to offer.

Lorca is located in the Bullas region. Never heard of it before - and maybe that's not too surprising. Bullas is a coastal Mediterranean area located in the South-East corner of Spain - along with Jumilla and Yecla, two other appellations that I recognize a little more. This is Monastrell (or Mourvedre) country and the official recognition as a Designation of Origin appellation was only granted in 1994. So far, it seems to have been a fairly slow transition for Bullas wineries to take a big step into the modernization and marketing of their wines internationally.

I didn't find a whole lot of information out there about Bodegas del Rosario but it looks like they produce four or five labels and they represent about 95% of the region's exports. I can't say that I found much in this wine that made me go "Wow" though. It still seemed pretty rustic, with only muted fruit. I'd expected a bigger start to the week.

All the same, it looks like there's going to be plenty of opportunity to get some Spanish exposure this week. I'm looking forward to identifying a few more wines that might strike my fancy a little more.