Sunday, July 17, 2011

Japanese Gals, Canadian Wine

The soccer's over. The white wine sipping is done. The winners are being announced and there'll be nothing left but the tears - whether they be tears of joy, of dashed dreams or of even bewilderment.

Unfortunately, unlike last year's Men's World Cup of soccer, I didn't organize a neighbourhood gathering to watch the big final and participate in a drink off. Popping corks on a Sunday afternoon is no problem - particularly when you consider some of my friends. Sunday morning, just after breakfast however, is a bit of a different event. I might have been able to pull off some sparkling wines and Mimosas, but that kind of defeats the whole white wine taste-off.

Accordingly, it was just Boo and I and the corks weren't popped until overtime kicked in - just so that I could know that this post's wines were at least sampled during the final match in Germany.

As mentioned in previous blog posts, the two soccer finalists don't match up with our two World Cup of White Wine finalists. We have the US and Japan on the pitch, but it was Kiwi and Canuck wines going at it in the glass.

New Zealand

The Kiwis made it to the wine final with a Sauvignon Blanc knocking out an American Chardonnay. The Canadians won took a little revenge out on the French for a loss on the soccer field when an Similkameen Valley Pinot Gris knocked off a French Viognier. With Boo having put me back on the "No Buy Leash," I had to pull a couple of wines from our cellar - which isn't exactly chock-a-block full of white wine. In a real wine competition, I don't know if these would have been the first wines reached for by the combatants - but, hey, this blog is supposed to be about the fun and frolic involved with wine isn't it.

868. 2008 Rabbit Ranch Pinot Gris (Central Otago - New Zealand)

869. 2008 La Frenz Chardonnay (Naramata Bench)

The soccer matched was one filled with huge swings of momentum going back and forth. At times, it seemed like the American gals had the trophy shipped half way back to the States. Then, the Japanese would pull out a secret hari-kiri move that put them back right in the game. Even with last minute heroics by the Japanese to tie the game and force overtime, it was looking good for the US gals when they scored first. It wasn't sudden death OT, however, and the Japanese girls persevered to tie the game again and send it into penalty kicks - where they totally out-did the Americans 3-1. The final score shows as 3-2 and the Japanese win their first World Cup ever.

Our tasting was somewhat the same. Neither wine completely overwhelmed the other. We tried glasses on their own, with food, with dessert and on their own again (the day after even) - and you could easily think that one was slightly better than the other with one sip and, then, the other would taste slightly better the next.

We've previously had (and added to The List) both the 2006 and 2009 vintages of the La Frenz and winemaker, Jeff Martin's, proclaimed peaches and cream style is a usual favourite. The 2008 vintage won Gold at 2009 All Canadian Wine Championships and Silver at the 2009 Northwest Wine Summit; so, it should have simply wowed us. I can't say that it hit those heights with me though - perhaps I just found a little more oak on this year's wine. Not "oak monster" levels, but a bit more than I like for the level of acidity.

I don't know so much about the heritage of the Rabbit Ranch; however, it was another of the wines that I picked up at last year's Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival when New Zealand was one of the featured regions. The winery's website imbues a great sense of humour and whimsy though. It proclaims that this Pinot Gris is the "Energizer Bunny's favourite tipple" and the label states that the wine is "not tested on animals."

The minerality evident on this wine rather bit into me like the oak did on the Chardy. It wasn't a fault in the wine. It was simply a strong focal point on the wine that is going to agree with you or, maybe, not so much.

As I mentioned, both wines had their strong points and picking a favourite was a tough choice - our choice changed a couple of times. In the end, think we'll say that this tasting, like the game, was tied after regulation time and went to penalty kicks. I decided that the determinative factor might as well be - "If you can only buy another bottle of one of these wines, which one would you choose?"

Both Boo and I went with the Chardonnay. Japan wins the soccer trophy but the Okanagan pulls off a "World Cup" of its own. The better part of the world may not know much about Canadian wines - and Okanagan wines in particular - but those of us with regular access to them certainly know that a lot of them are mighty fine. "Winning" this World Cup may not be quite as prestigious as the one our soccer gals were striving for, but a win is a win - and I'll take the amusement that goes with adding more wines to The List as a win as well.

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