Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Painting the Town Blue with Painted Rock

You have to know that tonight's BC Wine Appreciation Society annual Gala Wine Dinner had to be something special to get me to miss a third round playoff game - especially one that could see the Canucks move on to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 17 years!! I'd bought the dinner tickets some time ago, long before it became evident that there'd be such a big hockey game on the same evening.

But such is the buzz that both Rain City Grill, a long-time favourite on the Vancouver dining scene, and Painted Rock, a new star in the BC wine world, currently have.

I haven't dined at Rain City Grill for some time now but it's always one that figures into a list of "we could always go to....." options for fine dining - especially as their emphasis on local and sustainable is clearly now being emulated by more and more of the city's restaurants.

Painted Rock, on the other hand, is a new kid on the wine block and I've had my eye on it ever since I tasted their wines at a charity event last year. I haven't had a bottle yet so as to be able to add it to The List, but I WILL get there eventually. I have a couple Painted Rock reds in our cellar but they're big and I'm hoping to give them a bit of time.

So, like its Black Hills wine dinner at West last year, a combination of Rain City Grill and Painted Rock is a bit of a prize pairing for BCWAS. Playoff hockey or not.

Besides, isn't this the kind of situation that iPhones are made for? I figured that I could stay current with the game by checking every so often. So long as it wasn't going to be too obnoxious to the other table guests. Plus, the restaurant is located smack dab in the West End of Vancouver, where Manahattan-esque residential towers abound. I figured there'd be local honking and screaming if anything good was happening in the game.

Turns out that I wasn't even the most concerned hockey fan about the status of the game. Two of the other attendees, at a table near our's, actually wore radio ear buds throughout the dinner. Their reactions told us faster - than any update on the phone could - if anything of note happened on the ice.

As for the dinner and the wine, there was no skimping by either restaurant or winery. We enjoyed five courses and tried all but one of the wines ever produced by Painted Rock. Owner, John Skinner, couldn't serve the 2007 Cab Sauv because there is none to serve anymore. The wine won a Lieutenant Governor's Award for Excellence and the demand for it quickly depleted the limited production. John told us that there are now only 17 bottles left in the winery's cellar. Not bad for an initial release by a brand new winery.

Indeed, the Cab wasn't the only wine that won a L-G's Award, the 2007 Red Icon, a Meritage or Bordeaux-style blend, was also one of the only ten wines that were so awarded in 2010. Painted Rock was the only winery to win two awards last year - and, again, that was from its first vintage of releases.

To help get the winery off to such a good start, Skinner and company hired French consultant, Alain Sutre, to advise on the vineyard layout and initial vintages. Sutre was so impressed with the site that he asked for an extension to the contract. BC wine scribe, John Schreiner, writes that Sutre told Skinner, "I think you own the Petrus of the Okanagan." Heady words when you consider that Petrus is perennially one of the most expensive wines in the world.

I particularly liked John's story where he tells of his throwing out the idea that they produce both a Syrah and a Shiraz since he had two different clones of the varietal planted. Sutre looked at John and basically asked him if he was crazy. Sutre told him that, with wine, 1+1 do not equal 2 - rather they can equal 3 or more when blended. He felt that capitalizing on the strong points of both clones, the wine would result in a much more complex and enjoyable sip. Whether Painted Rock's Syrah proves that point or not can be debated, but the 2007 Syrah added to the winery's lustre by being the only BC wine served at the recent Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival's gala Bacchanalia Dinner - gotta be a decent feather in the cap.

Not going through tasting notes for all of the wines or the dinner courses, I will say that I think my favourite wine of the evening was the 2008 Cab Sauv. It might be that it matched wonderfully with the ribeye, but I think I'd like it in any setting. I know Elzee particularly enjoyed the Syrah with the mushroom tart.

I'd be remiss if I didn't say that Elzee and I were fortunate in being seated at a table with a young couple that I'd never met at BCWAS before. Turns out it was Russell Ball, who writes the blog Adventures in BC Wine, and his wife. Comparing blogging notes was fun - and they took my Canucks-mania in stride. Russell has written up the event as well and has discussed the wines on a far greater scale than I have. Indeed, in my rush to get to the dinner from work, I'd left my camera behind; so, I even borrowed some of his pictures for this post.

In a way, I might have been lucky that we were at the dinner tonight. The Canucks seemed destined to lose before Ryan Kesler scored a goal to tie the game with only 14 seconds left. The game was into double overtime when Kevin Bieksa and the Canucks scored a flukey goal to end the series and set the stage for the Stanley Cup Finals. I don't know if my heart could have taken the stress of watching the game live.

The taxi ride home was an interesting one though. The game ended only minutes before dinner did and we had to make our way home as all the delerious fans were partying it up in the streets - both downtown and along Broadway all the way to the Commercial Drive area.

It's almost like the Winter Olympics all over again.

Now, come on Stanley. Come to Vancouver!


  1. Thanks very much for the mention Bob! We enjoyed sharing a table with you, and sharing in the joy of the Canucks win. I look forward to reading more of your blog; I really enjoy your writing style. Cheers!

  2. Bob, thank you to you and your wife for coming on such an important night. I'm happy that you enjoyed our first vintages and look forward to sharing the journey with you and your friends with the BCWAS.
    Please come to the winery for a visit sometime. There is always something interesting in barrel.