Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dinner Club Like Never Before

After the "build up" of the last couple posts, it's time for the big "reveal." Over the years, our Dinner Club has seen its share of themes, holiday dinners and al fresco locales, but this is the first time that we've actually hit the road. Ever the innovator, Tyrant suggested that, if everyone was willing to hop the strait, he'd love to host his round at his new place and let everyone escape the hustle of the city for the long weekend. Coordinating everyone's availability can be a task - but there wasn't a whole lot of arm twisting required.

Boo and I arrived yesterday. Lady Di and She Who Must Be Obeyed had the tightest schedule but caught one of the puddle jumping flights from harbour to harbour and, then, Jeaux and Matinder completed the gang with an afternoon ferry arrival. There was a tiny bit of island touring and artisanal cheese shopping, but by the time Boo and I arrived back from a quick trip to the Farmers' Market and local wine shops, everyone was enjoying an early start to the cocktail hour.

847. 2009 Elephant Island - Pink Elephant (Product of Canada - Naramata Bench)

Tyrant and co-host, SYG2, started us off with a novel and refreshing twist. Pink Elephant is Elephant Island's Methode Champenoise wine that's made with Granny Smith apples and finished with a dosage of the purely fruit winery's Cassis. On its own, Pink Elephant is reminiscent of a Kir Royale - with a twist - but Tyrant also kicked it up a level with "pour your own" Vodka and an additional fruit cocktail. Knowing we were already headed for an evening long on the wine, I opted for Elephant straight from the bottle. I heard of this fairly new offering from the winery, but I hadn't tried it before. Add some warm weather and I think we'll be trying it again down the road.

When it comes to our Dinner Club, I always run into a problem of not being able to give sufficient props to, adequately discuss or even show pictures of all the wine and dishes presented. This dinner was no exception when it came to outstanding food. Seeing as how it was the Canada Day weekend, Tyrant asked everyone to bring all Canadian wines to match up with a menu of worthy Canadian products.

848. 2001 Hawthorne Mountain Gold Label Series Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The list of wines showed that some folks clearly pulled some bottles from the lower reaches of their "cellars" (such as they are). I very much doubt that there are many bottles of this 2001 Chardy still hanging around - and, you know, it did okay. Maybe not quite as fresh as the sunny afternoon could handle but it had the body to stand up to one of Tyrant's appies, a lamb and pesto bruschetta.

We were ever so lucky that the weather turned nice for our dinner date. Thus far, this has been a bit of a bummer of a summer, but we managed cocktails and three early courses before we had to head inside for the main course. The fountained patio was as pleasant a dining location as the Dinner Club has seen in the great many years that it's been around.

849. 2010 Dirty Laundry - Woo Woo Vines Gewurztraminer (VQA Okanagan Valley)

850. 2009 Artisan Wine - Rigamarole Rose (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Tyrant was so true to his July 1-themed dinner, but the pièce-de-resistance had to be his gazpacho with "Canada" written out in crème fraiche. As much fun as we had with the presentation of the soup, we probably had more fun with the WooWoo and Rigamarole labels. Dirty Laundry's story of the winery's location being an old brothel/Chinese laundry is always a fine tale to tell and Rigamarole's use of "legendary" animals can definitely set you to talking. Good thing both of the wines can hold their own against "worries" of marketing departments gone awry.

851. 2005 Burrowing Owl Syrah (VQA Okanagan Falls)

During our tour of the "estate," Boo had commented on the sorry state of Tyrant's rhubarb plant. What Boo didn't realize is that most of the plant had been harvested to make a palate cleansing sorbet. As we moved into the reds, the rhubarb freshened us up enough to appreciate the consistency that is Burrowing Owl. Merlot hasn't generally been my first pick of Burrowing Owl wines but the years behind this bottle hadn't hurt the integration of the wine. Hardly a big fruit bomb, but totally befitting the circumstances.

852. 2007 Howling Bluff - Sin Cera (Okanagan Valley)

853. 2008 Bonitas - Artist Series Merlot/Shiraz (Okanagan Valley)

Following in Burrowing Owl's footsteps (so to speak), Howling Bluff is gaining its own reputation as a bit of a cult wine producer. After its triumphant arrival on the scene with a Lieutenant Governor's Award for its Pinot Noir, howling Bluff has concentrated on a limited number of wines - unlike many Okanagan producers with more than a dozen offerings. The Sin Cera is Luke Smith's entry in the Bordeaux blend/Meritage stakes in the province. Merlot-dominated, the Sin Cera is one of the bottles that has survived Tyrant's and my visit to the winery a couple of years back. With only 200 cases produced in total, we'll have to consider ourselves lucky that we had the chance to savour it.

As for the Bonitas, this is yet another BC winery that I've heard of but can't recall ever having tried. Unfortunately, this probably wasn't the bottle that any of us wanted to be our introduction to the winery. Take a look at the face on the label. I think he might have tried the wine in the bottle as well. I don't think the bottle was corked but it might as well have been. Unfortunately, this was, by far, our least favourite wine of the night.

854. 2003 Stag's Hollow - Renaissance Merlot (Okanagan Valley)

855. 2007 Stag's Hollow Heritage Block Cabernet/Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Having two Stag's Hollow wines at one sitting was a rarity for me as well. Another winery that I've heard and seen more about than I've tasted, it's wines were rather more successful than the Bonitas. Jurgen Gothe, one of the local wine scribes, called the 2003 Renaissance Merlot one of "The Best Wines of the Year found close to home" in 2007. Personally, I enjoyed the '07 blend a bit more - however, I might have a completely different take on the wines after the fact. There had been a bit of imbibing by now. I just know that the wines went perfectly well with Tyrant's elk burgers. Rather fitting, I might say, given the stag on the label - not that I have the slightest idea of whether a male elk is called a "stag" or not.

856. 2001 Black Hills - Nota Bene (VQA Okanagan Valley)

The Nota Bene wasn't planned as a dessert wine - and wasn't exactly served as one. There was just no way that this bottle wasn't being opened - if only so that I could have a bit of night cap. I think this was our last bottle of the 2001 vintage and I figured the occasion called for its opening. Once again, none of us was likely at the peak of our tasting abilities by this point of the evening. But, I was pleased that the wine was definitely on queue and had aged gracefully after all these years. Much like our Dinner Club has.

All in all, it was another dinner to remember. If I could add this many wines to The List every week, I'd be through this Odyssey in no time. My liver might not survive the trip, but it would be a whole lot faster.

Big kudos to Tyrant and SYG2 for a grand evening and weekend.

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