Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Elephant Hill Viognier

I now have yet another reason that I'd love to visit New Zealand. I picked up this bottle at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival when New Zealand was one of the year's theme regions, but it just sort of got tucked away. Luckily, it's resurfaced and I took a look at my notes from the festival and saw that the Viognier certainly piqued my interest back then.

I didn't know anything about Elephant Hill beforehand and I wasn't all that familiar with Viognier as an emerging varietal from New Zealand. Like most people, I think Sauv Blanc and Pinot Noir when I think Kiwi wine. But, after this bottle and a bit of research on the winery, I think a visit has vaulted up near the top of the Kiwi Wish List.

907. 2009 Elephant Hill Viognier (Hawkes Bay - New Zealand)

The Elephant Hill winery only opened in 2008, having been started by a couple of Germans who fell in love with the winemaking possibilities of the country during a visit in 2001. By 2003, they had returned to find and plant their Hawke's Bay vineyard. Located on the East coast, half way up the North Island, and right off the beach, the afternoon sea breezes temper the warm temperatures of the day.

This 2009 is part of the winery's third vintage and there were only 740 cases produced. With such limited quantities, we were privileged that Elephant Hill came all the way to the Playhouse Festival. The owners are clearly going for a premium, boutique feel to the wines and winery. This Viognier involved seven separate hand picks of the vineyards in order to capture all the best qualities of the ripeness of the grapes - hardly a cost-cutting means of producing a wine.

The winery also features a celebrated restaurant and has an accommodation wing as well. Sounds enticing to me.

As for the wine, after pressing, the juice was fermented in a combination of stainless steel and oak puncheons, remaining on "light lees for four months" prior to be bottled. Interesting that this is the second reference to "puncheons" I've seen in the last couple weeks - the other being with the Laughing Stock Chardonnay. I doubt I could have pointed you to the use of oak puncheons (or larger barrels) a month ago and here we run into them twice in a couple of weeks.

The use of oak and lees likely contributed to the fuller body of the wine but the fruit still shone through with an intense nose. While profound, those aromatics weren't overwhelmingly fruity or floral as some Viogniers can be though. Everything about the wine was integrated and delicious at the same time.

Both Boo and I loved it! I don't think you can label a winery as a "favourite" after only one bottle, but I'll definitely be on the lookout for more wines from these new kids on the Kiwi block.

Cloudline Pinot Noir

Just the other day, I'd posted the fact that the 2012 Wine Bloggers Conference is going to be held in Portland, Oregon, and I mentioned that I don't really know much about Oregon wines. Then, having just quaffed a Napa Merlot at our picnic the other night, I thought why not go full circle on the Sideways reference and try a Pinot.

Despite my general lack of knowledge for this region, I know that Oregon and, in particular, the Willamette Valley make claim to some of the top Pinot Noir vineyards and producers outside of Burgundy. I don't, however, get much chance to try those wines - outside of the odd sip at a wine tasting or festival.

Once again, there are seemingly two forces of evil that construe against my Oregon yearnings. The first is that we just don't see many Oregon wines North of the 49th Parallel. That may be a result of there being a large number of boutique wineries that just don't have a lot of product to send up the I-5. I don't know.

I do know, however, the second reason is that, once a few wines actually make it across the border, the price becomes rather unappealing - regardless of the lure of the wine. I checked the provincial government system and they show only twelve Oregon wines as available. Of that dozen, two wines come in around $20. The rest of them are all between $30 and $50. Unfortunately, my budget just doesn't allow me to spend that kind of cash on a mid-week wine, especially where I know nothing about the producer and just want to give the wine a taste.

I tend to have to grab the odd bottle, now and then, when we get the chance while visiting Washington state. That's how tonight's bottle made it into our cellar. I think it came compliments of a Costco run.

906. 2007 Cloudline Pinot Noir (Oregon)

This is the type of bottle that I might expect to see up here in the Vancouver market. Cloudline is a project of Dreyfus Ashby, wine importers in the States. Similar to the négociant labels in France, the winery doesn't actually have vineyards where they grow their own grapes; rather, they buy grapes from local producers and produce their own line. I understand that Cloudline has a fairly large production (upwards of 37,000 cases of this 2007 vintage).

Not having the costs of the vineyard to deal with, Cloudline has managed to keep the price around $20 which is reasonable for Pinot Noir. That's in the States though; I doubt it could hit the BC market at that price point.

Dreyfus Ashby has a long time relationship with Joseph Drouhin wines in France and with Drouhin's Oregon venture, Domaine Drouhin Oregon. As such, it's been an easy fit for Véronique Drouhin to act as Cloudline consulting winemaker. Accordingly, the wine has some experience behind it.

It's difficult to make a reasonably priced Pinot Noir - at least one that successfully accomplishes a complex and nuanced finish that the varietal is most lauded for. There was a softness and subtleness to the wine, but for my palate, Cloudline didn't hit any wow factors. I may not be the biggest Pinotphile, but it wasn't a wine that would compel me to run out and try more wines from the region. All the same, it was a means of getting a little more exposure to the wines that Oregon has to offer.

As mentioned in my other post, I'm just going to have to do my best to make it down to the Wine Bloggers Conference and dive into all things Oregon next year.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Picnic Time on the Banks

Having recently gone on the annual Miss Jaq Wine Picnic, I realized that we haven't made much time to get out and enjoy the summer weather now that it's actually arrived and stuck around for a bit. What better excuse could there be - than a sunny Sunday - to throw some odds and ends into a basket and hunker down for a bite, a few sips and a sunset? Particularly since we had to head downtown already to register for the upcoming curling season.

I gave Boo the choice of locations and he surprised me by deciding to head out to Spanish Banks to grab a log on the beach. It's definitely been some time since we've wandered out in this direction for something as decadent as a picnic or a walk. By the time we actually made the drive, found parking and settled on a spot to set up shop though, we were starting to lose the sun a bit. It may have taken us years to make it back to Spanish Banks, but, regardless, we were going to have to jump straight into the picnic and finish it off before we were surrounded by the dark.

Finishing off a bottle of wine - sooner than later - is rarely a problem for us though.

905. 2000 St. Supéry Merlot (Napa Valley - California)

My re-jigging of our wines at home resulted in a few surprises. I'm not entirely sure how we had a 2000 Napa Merlot hanging around. I know nothing about the winery and have never been one to grab many Californian wines. It could be that someone brought it by the house and we never got around to opening it, but I suppose we'll never know now.

Given the age of the bottle, I wonder if it was picked up and given to us as a bit of joke and nod to the 2004 movie Sideways? Could anyone who had seen the movie ever look at California Merlot without thinking of Jack and Miles' banter about never drinking Merlot - not even in order to get lucky?

Seeing as how Merlot is the pretty much the "go to" red grape in BC, we've never been as driven to avoid the varietal in our household. But then, I seem to recall Miles as quite the pretentious fool anyhow. I don't generally think of Napa when it comes to Merlot. There might be a ton of it available in the States, but I tend to think more of the Cab's, Zin's and maybe even the Pinot Noir's when it comes to California reds in our market.

I'm not even sure that St. Supéry puts a lot of emphasis on the varietal. Their website refers a lot to Cab Sauv and Sauv Blanc but it doesn't exactly extol the virtues of its Merlot.

The wine was approachable and entirely suitable for our occasion though. I don't know if it's even available locally, but I'm not sure that I'd be quick to reach for another bottle - maybe if I were going to re-watch Sideways, but I think I'll save my American buys for a varietal that isn't as available locally - or even as mass-marketed by other global regions.

How can you go wrong with a bottle of wine and a beach sunset though? Maybe Miles just needs to re-think his limits a bit.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Saturday Night Salmon

I always enjoy running across wines that have a unique aspect to them - whether it be the varietal or varietals used or the method of production or the location of the winery - but it definitely helps when those wines are not only unique but enjoyable enough that they keep you coming back for more.

Nichol Vineyard has been known for a number of innovative approaches to BC wine over the years, but their take on Pinot Gris is one that always garners its share of press and eyebrow raising.

904. 2009 Nichol Vineyard Pinot Gris (Naramata Bench - Okanagan Valley)

Pinot Gris remains the most widely planted white varietal in BC and there's quite a range in the wines that are made available. Very few, however, take the route that Nichol has become well known for (at least among local wine geeks) - and that route includes leaving the crushed juice on the skins for a short time. The contact with the skins - even though it's only for a matter of hours - results in the juice taking on some colour. This is a procedure similar to one used for making Rosé wines; however, Rosé wines, by definition, come from red grape varietals.

The Pinot Gris grape has a darker coloured skin than most white varietals and that allows the possibility of adding some colour to the wine. Nichol has been known for its wild orange-y, salmon-esque colouring for some years now. I love it.

Of course, as much as Boo loves the colour orange, that alone isn't going to cause us to keep going back to a wine. There must be something going right with Nichol though because this is the third vintage of their Pinot Gris that I've added to The List. We tried the '05 vintage back at #252 and I took a bottle of the 2008 with me to Cuba last Christmas and we opened that at #691.

The thing about skins and wine, however, is that they are also used to impart tannin into the finished product. Coloured or not, this Pinot doesn't exhibit the tannic finish of even a lighter red. The length of the contact is so limited that the tannins that do exist in these skins don't have the time to add any influence. It's a wine that still hits you with a wallop of acidity. It also boasts a bigger body to it than most other BC whites.

Indeed, I find that the combination of body and acidity rather calls for food - more so than many BC Pinot Gris wines that are great little patio sippers. A sweet corn on the cob may not be the ideal match, but our salmon, beans and tomato bocconcini didn't seem to suffer any.

As if the unique colour wasn't enough, I was interested to read in a Globe & Mail report that the Naramata Inn chose this Nichol Pinot Gris to be the first Canadian wine to be served on tap in a Canadian restaurant. Nichol arranged to "bottle" some of its wine in 19.5L stainless steel kegs and it's being served by the glass at the Inn. The article reported that restaurant manager, Quentin Kayne, was skeptical at first but re-thought his opinion after doing a taste comparison between a tapped glass and a bottle poured glass of the same wine. His conclusion was that the wine "actually tastes better on tap than it does in the bottle."

Wine on tap may still be a rarity in BC, but the cost saving, eco-friendly, by-the-glass pours may become more and more common in time. Nichol certainly seems to be playing its part in giving the concept a chance.

Just goes to show that being different and unique can definitely have its upside.

Friday, August 26, 2011

An Evening of Serenity at Marcello's

Ever since I bumped into Ms. Serenity, as she was exiting an evening of pizza at Marcello's last year, we've kept telling each other that we should figure out a night to get together and head over ourselves.

It's taken awhile and a few false starts, but we finally worked out an evening that was good for all three of us - Boo, Ms. Serenity and me. I told her that I didn't even know that she liked pizza. I'd always seen her as being a dim sum and sushi kind of gal. Generally, it doesn't take too much to convince Boo and I to make the trek for calamari and the funghi e prosciutto. So, this shouldn't have needed to take as long as it did.

While Marcello's may be home to perhaps the most intriguing wood burning oven in the city, it doesn't exactly feature the most complete wine list. I did see one wine that at least tweaked my interest though. We ordered a bottle - not expecting much - but hoping to see what one of the better known Italian producers (at least in Vancouver) does with a purely non-Italian varietal wine.

903. 2009 Tommasi Viticoltori Le Prunée Merlot (IGT Della Venezie - Italy)

The Tommasi family is now into its 4th generation of winemakers and, since its start in 1902, it's seen steady growth and expansion. One site referred to the Viticoltori label as being the "Tommasi family's ode to innovation." One of the newest lines and projects is the Le Prunée vineyard that is completely planted with Merlot while being located smack in the heart of Valpolicella country.

I didn't find much, if any, reference to the winery's concept behind the making of a varietal Merlot; however, it doesn't seem to me like it's a simple off-shoot of the Super Tuscan movement. I might have expected to see some blending in a situation like that.

In any event, the wine was pretty much what I'd expected - fruity with medium body - and it was simple enough to go with our pizza. I think I'll stick to the region's more traditional wines - like Amarone, Ripasso and Valpolicella - in the future. Unless, of course, the winery does go the route of a Super Venetian and blend the Merlot with the historically local grapes. That might be interesting.

Now that I know, however, that Ms. Serenity is a pizza afficionado, we'll have to try and check out some of the new gourmet/authentic pizzerias that are popping up around town. I've heard good things about Nicli Antica in Gastown and I'm quite looking forward to the opening of Via Tevere Pizzeria Napoletana on Victoria Drive later this Fall.

Ciao & Buon Appetito.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wine Bloggers Conference

Despite my continual complaints about how much time I'm spending at the computer with this little Wine Odyssey - way more time than I ever anticipated - I still wouldn't consider myself anywhere close to being a truly serious blogger or wine commentator. I have to keep the regular job - if only to afford all the wine - and this escapade is still meant to be a fun little pastime for me.

I've seen a couple of references and articles about a gathering of like-minded souls (or lushes as the case may be) - the Wine Bloggers Conference - and it's definitely piqued my interest. In 2010, the event was held not too far from here, in Walla Walla Washington, and the 2011 conference recently finished up in Charlottesville, Virginia. Timing and distance prevented my attendance at either of those get-togethers, but I'm going to try and organize schedules so that I can make it to the next two.

This year's conference announced that everyone will be meeting up again from Aug 17 - 19, 2012 in Portland, Oregon for the 5th Annual North American Wine Bloggers Conference. That's rather exciting in itself, but they also announced the location for 2013 and it's going to be held right in our Okanagan Valley at Penticton, BC. I can't really ask for much more in the way of convenience - short of being held in Vancouver itself.

Seeing as how I've just passed bottle #900 on The List, I'm almost half way on this journey of mine to 2001 Wines. By the time 2013 rolls around, I'm hoping to be almost in the home stretch. I think it only makes sense, however, to try and get my feet wet with this gang well in advance if I can. Lord knows, I'm a babe in the woods when it comes to Oregon wines as well.

I dare say that there may just be some enjoyment to be found in three days of educational and networking sessions. Count me in!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Divino Barbaresco

If I haven't already declared my profound love and excitement for all things Dolce Amore Gelato on Commercial Drive, I need to correct my neglect. The shop may not have anything to do with wine, but Boo & I have enjoyed our fair share of their gelato over the years. When we heard that they were going to be involved with the opening of a wine bar and restaurant next door, my hopes ran rampant that I'd have a new favourite stop on The Drive.

Ever since Divino Wine Bar opened, I've wanted to see it succeed and to seduce me. Somewhat controversial from its opening in 2008, I don't know if it's ever lived up to those hopes - but we stopped by for another visit and to see if there was anything new or exciting. I have to admit that I've always enjoyed it more than Boo has, but I don't know if it's the concept of having a "wine bar" in the neighbourhood or the actual restaurant that I've enjoyed. Boo's found it pricey since day one and he's never really gotten over that - whether he's enjoyed the food or not.

For me, the most glaring issue is that, for a wine bar, I've never found that they cater much to the discovery of wine - whether by flights or wines by the glass. I've definitely seen other wine bars do it better.

In any event, we've found ourselves here and we're ready to be won over. Now, this isn't meant to be a blog about finding the best restaurants in town or critiquing a menu; so, I won't ramble endlessly about the state of the restaurant. I will say though that I rather enjoyed the original concept that was more of a tasting bar with salumi, cheeses and condiments (a là Salt in Gastown). Divino seems, however, to have morphed into more of a full scale restaurant.

We thought about going with the tasting menu but decided to stay simple and just have a couple of dishes for sharing. Considering the fact that we ordered mostly fish, fowl and pork, the choice of wine became a little more difficult. Preferring to go red, we probably needed to stay on the lighter end of the spectrum. Naturally, reason didn't necessarily win out and we went for a "Baby Barolo" - hardly a light or simple red.

902. 2005 Ricossa Antica Casa Barbaresco (DOCG Barbaresco - Piedmont - Italy)

I don't exactly know my way around Piedmontese wines or wineries. We're far from being regulars with $60 weeknight Barolos and I'm not sure there are even all that many of the more reasonably priced Barbarescos in our market. The Ricossa name is one that more than occasionally comes up as being a great bargain for its $22 price tag.

My suspicions that the bottle was going to be a bit over the top for our lighter fare were probably truer than I'd hoped they would be, but we managed to "force" our way through the bottle - without too much coaxing I might add. The word "rustic" is often seen in reviews of the wine and I think that's a pretty apt descriptor. There's a definite Old World bent to the wine - it won't grab you with its subtlety, but it also doesn't force the fruit to the forefront at all. It might have gone better with stronger fare on the menu but our game hen and a bit of pork belly lent themselves nicely to the final sips.

I've read on a couple of occasions that Divino has monthly wine dinners but I've yet to follow up enough on the details but I think that might have to be the impetus for my next visit. If need be, wine dinners can always be pulled off without Boo (so long as he's working that night).

Knowing that Dolce Amore was only steps away, we passed on the restaurant dessert and went next door for cones to go. After all, I think it's all still in the family and we'll use almost any excuse for some of their gelato. If only we could discover a way to help them find the candy they need to start making their Merenga gelato again. That was our undisputed favourite and we rue the day that the candy manufacturer or distributor closed up shop.

I don't know if this visit to Divino helped convert Boo into a believer, but I know I'll make it back at some time down the road. Until then, we'll keep counting the wines for The List and the gelatos that we've enjoyed.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blasted Church Gewurtz

The last wine that I clocked in with was a bit of a study in marketing. Whether Vincor's Open series succeeded or not might be debatable. On the other hand, I don't think there are many that would argue with the success that Blasted Church has experienced. Known for it's cutting edge labels and sense of fun, IMHO they've worked as hard on producing better and better wines - as much as they've worked on the whole marketing end of the business.

I haven't explored the winery's entire website but what I've seen of it is both informative and entertaining. It's easy to find the humour and inventiveness that must abound at the winery.

901. 2009 Blasted Church Gewurztraminer (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Blasted Church has always been known for its colourful cartoon labels. I recall that, when they first appeared on the market around a decade ago, response went all over the map. Many even questioned if the wines were meant to be taken seriously? Still going strong after all these years, the vintages that were released in 2010 were adorned with new labels that are even more cutting edge.

Local wine scribe emeritus, John Schreiner, likens the characters on the labels to avatars. This is the first of the newly labelled bottles that I've tried and I'm prone to saying that I'm on the fence about the new art, but this Gewurztraminer was eminently drinkable - whether I gushed over the label or not.

Being one of the Germanic varietals, BC's climate is well suited to growing Gewurtz and there's a fair bit of it around. I'm not necessarily the varietal's biggest fan - particularly when the floral and perfume-y characteristics of the wine are highlighted or exaggerated. I didn't find that exaggeration at all with this wine though. Indeed, if I hadn't opened it as a Gewurztraminer, I might not have guessed what it was. We thoroughly enjoyed it.

The 2010 releases also saw the winery introduce new eco-friendly bottles that weigh a third less than the bottles used previously. This lighter glass helps with better efficiencies in transportation, handling and resource requirements. Capturing the cheekiness that abounds with Blasted Church, winery owner, Evelyn Campbell, has been quoted as referring to the new bottles and the "significant environmental benefits" as "a godsend."

It's been a few years since I've ventured by the Blasted Church tasting room. It might just be time to try and get there again. I see that they've introduced a few new wines and a premium tier since I was last there. With even more irreverent names like Nothing Sacred Meritage and OMG Sparkling, a visit sooner than later would be a blessing.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Open or Closed?

I was a tad surprised to find tonight's bottle on top of our of our wine racks. I'm quite certain that I didn't buy it myself and Boo is not known to buy wine - particularly when he's tightened my "No buy Leash" of late. My guess is that someone must have brought it over to our place and it just didn't get opened or finished during the course of the evening.

There was a time in my life when such a thing as an unopened bottle at the end of a party would have been inconceivable. Guess this is yet another sign of our becoming just a little long in the tooth.

900. 2008 Open Merlot/Cabernet (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I was equally surprised to see that this is a VQA bottle. I'd certainly never heard of an "Open" winery despite the fact that new ones are popping up all the time in BC. I did find out, however, that there is no actual winery behind the wine. Rather, it's a new-ish product from Vincor International. Vincor, in itself, isn't a winery; however, it was Canada's largest wine producer and did own a portfolio of wineries that included some of the biggest names in Canadian winemaking: Jackson-Triggs, Inniskillin, Sumac Ridge, Nk'mip and international names like Kim Crawford (New Zealand), Hogue Cellars (Washington State) and Robert Mondavi (California) before Vincor was purchased by an even bigger fish - Constellation Brands, Inc.

The Open line of wine is a bit of story in that, while trying to find out a bit about the wine, I found more articles and stories relating to the reasoning and thought processes behind the wine than I did about the wine itself. Vincor is quite open about the fact that Open is a direct play at marketing to millenials (20 - 25 year olds) who are only starting to learn about wine.

It's a moderately priced bottle, $15 at government liquor stores, and a sibling to Vincor's Strut series of wines. Both brands appear to be as much about marketing as they are about good wine. The millenials are great imbibers of coolers and Vincor is trying to gently wean them from that beverage and onto wine. Strut is clearly aimed at women and Open seems to be the male counterpart.

The line was introduced in Ontario under the same Open name; however, being VQA products, the wines offered in Ontario are different from those sold in BC. BC wineries cannot qualify their wines as VQA unless 100% of the grapes were sourced from BC vineyards. Accordingly, Ontario VQA wines are inherently different in that they couldn't be based on BC grapes. My assumption would be that the Open brand is being utilized in both regions to simply try and market a more national brand. Very few Ontario wines ever make it to BC and vice-versa. Seeing the same brand on both sides of the country has got to be a bonus when trying to market your wine though.

The whole concept of "wine by design" may be a savvy business decision. For my wine-buying dollar though, I'd rather look at the wine in the glass. This Merlot/Cab was too simple and tame for my liking. Then again, I'm hardly the demographic Vincor was trying to sell the wine to. I have no problem with Vincor - not at all - but I think I'll be sticking to the more "serious" brands. I'm not really open to entertaining more Open.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The 2011 Miss Jaq Wine Picnic

I was thinking there must be some sort of a witty title involving "Stock" and "Rock" but then realized that, nah, this was a rare Miss Jaq event and she deserves the headline. MJ and I were chatting the other day and we realized that her departure was imminent and we hadn't arranged the annual wine picnic yet. Neither one of us could conceive of it not being held. Luckily, we were able to work out the one night where everyone was available and we set the date in stone.

The picnic is our gift to her for being such a wonderful gal and friend. We work out the nibblies and wine details, while her job is to pick a location. This year she opted to stay on the North Shore and to partake in a little ramble in Ambleside and Dundarave. It's not often that Boo and I get a chance to take in the West Van Seawall; so, we were thrilled when the weather decided to cooperate.

Living in Abu Dhabi (a Muslim country), can prove a tad difficult when it comes to wine. Although you can buy alcoholic drinks at Western hotels, Miss Jaq tells us that you need to obtain a government licence before you are able to buy anything for home consumption at one of the few liquor stores that actually exist - and, even then, the selection is limited. I fully remember her distinct instructions that we needed to buy the maximum number of bottles that we were allowed at the Dubai Airport the last time we visited.

Accordingly, we like to pick some nice wines when we're with her - and I'm rather certain that there aren't any BC wines accessible over there.

898. 2008 Laughing Stock Chardonnay (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I know that Miss Jaq is partial to her Chardonnay. So, I figured a bottle of Laughing Stock would be a welcome pour. It shouldn't be a surprise to any regular readers here that I'm not much of fan when it comes to heavily oaked Chardy's.

Although Laughing Stock's Chardonnay certainly sees its share of oak, I'll readily admit that this is not a case of the "oak monster" proclaiming its dominance. A healthy 70% of the wine is barrel fermented and then aged in French oak; however, I think they've handled their integration of oak nicely. It likely stems, in part, from the fact that the winery has introduced the use of oak puncheons instead of the more standardized oak barrique barrels. Because the puncheon is about twice the size of a barrique, the wine's continual exposure to the oak is moderated. The actual fermenting of the wine in oak - rather than simple ageing in oak - is generally seen as resulting in a better integration of the oak as well.

The good news was that Miss Jaq declared the wine a successful introductory bottle to our Oyama Sausage patés and Moonstruck and Salt Spring Island cheeses. We had to be rather circumspect with our glasses since we were out in the open, but those glasses didn't stay full for long anyhow.

899. 2007 Painted Rock Syrah (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I was particularly looking forward to the picnic's second bottle. This is the first Painted Rock wine that I've added to The List - not that I haven't wanted to. I managed to snag a few bottles of the winery's limited production, but they're known to have some heft to them and I wanted to give them a bit of time to age.

The relatively new winery on the BC scene has been pulling in accolades since it released its first wines in 2009. Indeed, I read that, at the 2009 Okanagan Fall Wine Festival, Painted Rock was named Best New Winery of the Year. It followed up that win by garnering two Lieutentant Governor's Wine Awards in 2010 (the only winery to do so that year) - for its initial release of Cabernet Sauvignon and Red Icon Meritage blend.

This Spring, I was lucky to attend the BC Wine Appreciation Society's annual Gala Dinner that brought the wines of Painted Rock and the culinary treats of Rain City Grill together. I've already written about that dinner; so, I'll try not to repeat myself here, but I remember particularly liking one story about the Syrah that owner, John Skinner, told the assembled diners.

He recounted that the winery has planted two Syrah clones in the vineyard. Being new to winemaking, John asked his consultant, flying Frenchman, Alain Sutre (who also consults for big name BC wineries Burrowing Owl and Osoyoos Larose), if they should consider using the two clones to make two differently styled wines - one New World and one Old World. We all chuckled when John said that Sutre's response was to basically question Skinner's sanity. He was told, in no uncertain terms, that blending the two Syrah clones would capitalize on the strong points of each and create a more complex and layered wine. To do otherwise would be foolhardy.

They seem to have resolved that discussion successfully. Sutre still consults for Painted Rock even though his original contract has expired. We were told that he specifically asked to stay on because he wanted to be involved in capitalizing on the opportunities being placed before the new operation. Sutre told John that he feels the winery's terroir has the potential to create wines to rival some of the best in the world.

He might be on to something. This 2007 Syrah was the only wine from BC to be served at this Spring's Bacchanalia Dinner - the centrepiece event and prime fundraiser for the Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival. Not a bad gig for your first vintage.

We didn't have the finest of crystal glasses to fully enjoy the nuances on the wine's nose, but I think it's fair to say that our location and company was a sufficient compromise. The wine in our little picnic glasses, was dark and full with plenty of fruit and spice. Unfortunately, the bottle was long gone by the time we moved from our grassy perch to the beach to watch the sunset and dig into the cherry pie that Boo slaved in the kitchen to make for Miss Jaq.

It was hard to believe that this was going to be our visit with Miss Jaq for this summer. Her visits come and go so quickly - and she's in such demand - that there's never enough time to get fully caught up and enjoy each other's company. It's a good thing that she looks forward to the annual wine picnic as much as we do. At least we know that there'll always be one great chance to connect.

Too bad we have to wait another year before we can do it again.

Township 7 Merlot

Township 7 is another of those BC wineries that I hear about all the time, but seem to know more about the winery than I've actually experienced their wines. I suppose I'm likely guilty of being a little lackadaisical about them. Their wines didn't immediately garner cult status in the province and they've largely stayed in the background of my wine experiences.

I ran across this older bottle while recently re-adjusting our "cellar" and, "cult status" or not, I'm going to have to give them a more thorough look.

897. 2004 Township 7 Merlot (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Township 7 is one of a handful of wineries that combines operations from two locations. In their case, it's the Naramata Bench in the Okanagan and Langley, in the Fraser Valley, outside Vancouver. I've often thought of making the short trip out to Langley for a visit but just haven't seemed to have pulled it off.

We have, however, dropped into the Naramata version and I believe that's when Boo and I picked up this bottle since the grapes going into the wine are Okanagan-grown.

Township 7 has seen a some significant change since we picked up this bottle of wine. Ownership changed hands in 2006 and the winemaker for this vintage, Michael Bartier, moved on in 2005. I've mentioned the Bartier name a bit in this blog as he moved from Township 7 to Golden Mile (come Road 13), but he has since even moved on from that winery.

The wine seemed to have the Bartier touch in that, even with the age, we found the bottle to have a decent punch. It might have resulted from the nearly two years spent in American oak but it just as likely came from the fact that it was an unfiltered wine. I often find that I'm drawn to unfiltered wines - finding them to be just a bit bolder.

In any event, I may need to make a visit to the township sooner than later.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fillmore Family Reunion

Every year, one of the highlights on the Gay Vancouver social calendar is the Prairie Fairy Fowl Supper. If Boo and I are in town, we're there - one way or another we do what we need to get some of the hottest tickets in town. Well, for the first time ever, the folks behind the hallowed Fowl Supper hosted a summer event. The Fillmore Family Reunion was a long time coming, but it arrived with a bang and over 600 folks headed out the to UBC Farm for entertainment, BBQ, a slew of naughty picnic games (I've never seen a ring toss game the one there) and plenty o' libations in the sun.

Now this isn't exactly what you'd think of when it comes to visualizing a classic wine tasting event - particularly when the nearest barkeep is slinging beer shirtless. When you have to walk half a field to get to the one bar serving wine - and find that the view isn't nearly as nice - it's easy to revert back to my old UBC beer-swilling days.

I wasn't about to let an opportunity like the Family Reunion go by without blogging at least one bottle though. They weren't about to let us take a full bottle back into the throngs but we made an arrangement to satisfy the rules to get a bottle onto The List - especially when there are only my rules to deal with anyhow.

896. 2010 Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc (W.O. Western Cape - South Africa)

This being primarily a brew-centric situation, there were only two wines on offer - a white and a red. Being a sunny afternoon, I went for the white. It's (relatively) cheap at $10.50 in the provincial liquor store and it's cheerful enough for a farmyard frolic. I don't know a whole lot about Sauvignon Blanc in South Africa - or even South African wine in general to be honest - to expound on the wine for any length. I wouldn't say that the winery website is encyclopedic with its information either though. Cheap and cheerful - let's leave it at that.

Especially when the wine was hardly an integral aspect of the Family Reunion.

Linda Fillmore, however, is pretty darn close to being the essence of "integral" when it comes to any Fillmore experience. You don't need me to go on here, but you can always check out the website to read about Linda's colourful past - and the good work that she and her friends do. Of course, part of the burden she has to bear is playing MC to the event and coming up with interesting props to catch and keep people's interest. I can't even remember how these gents were involved but Linda had our attention when she needed it.

Having had to put up with and be seen with young'uns like that on stage, it's no wonder that she came running straight to Mr. D, Boo and I after the announcements. There's only so much that an old ticker can take up close you know - not to suggest that either Linda or we are getting long in the tooth. It's just that there's twenty - and then there's our age. It's somewhat like taking two of them, mixing them together and getting almost one of us.

It's enough to drive you to drink.

The Reunion brought out all sorts of relatives - from the young, farmhand cousins to an OUT TV celebrity to some of the sisters and aunties that, as a rule, only come out at night. The heat of the day must have been getting to the girls here, but the gingham tablecloth outfit, with matching parasol, was particularly fetching.

All in all, the family seemed to be enjoying themselves. No doubt, we'll see many of them at the Fowl Supper later this year and, who knows, maybe back on the farm next year as well.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

An Oldie But Goodie

Lately Red Rooster and winemaker, Karen Gillis, have been up front and centre in the publicity rounds for a number of big wins on the international wine competition circuit. I've already tried their 2009 Chardonnay (#786) which was awarded a Gold Medal and named one of the top ten Chardonnays in the prestigious Chardonnay du Monde and we've also opened the 2009 Pinot Noir (#769) that was named Top New World Pinot Noir at the California-based Jerry Mead International Wine Competition.

Just the other week, Red Rooster's 2008 Meritage was awarded one of the coveted Lieutenant General's Wine Awards of Excellence. We've actually enjoyed a bottle of that vintage already as well (#777) - although the L-G's Award hadn't been announced yet at that time.

Seeing as the winery is on such a roll at the moment, I might as well grab a bottle from Red Rooster's past to see how the old relates to the new.

895. 2002 Red Rooster Meritage (VQA Okanagan Valley)

This vintage relates to the days of Red Rooster when the winery was still under the direction of Beat and Prudence Mahrer and before it had been purchased by Canadian wine juggernaut, Peller Estates. I think this might also be the last vintage to have been made at the old winery at the opposite end of the Naramata Bench. In 2003, the current showcase winery was built and Karen didn't join the fold until the 2007 vintage.

Before all of the changes, Red Rooster was known for its whimsy but also for somewhat inconsistent wines. This was not one of the inconsistent wines. Almost a decade later, we still enjoyed the wine's smooth integration of body and fruit. I'm not even sure what grapes went into this blend but, back in 2002, it was likely just Merlot and the two Cab's - Sauvignon and Franc - if it even consisted of all three. There hadn't been many ventures into the addition of Malbec and/or Petit Verdot in BC Meritages yet.

The Mahrer's were pretty happy with this wine though. When the wineries in the sub-region formed the Naramata Bench Winery Association in 2004 (a brilliant move on their part - one that other sub-regions in BC are still trying to successfully emulate), they marketed a "high-end" Best of the Bench collector's wooden slab case. Each of the ten wineries (hard to believe that the number has almost doubled in only seven years) contributed their top wine. The 2002 Meritage was Red Rooster's contribution.

Back then, there was a whole lot of question as to whether a BC wine could even age for ten years. I think it's becoming common knowledge that the well-made ones certainly can. From my point of view (for what that's worth), this wine is a good example of that fact. This makes me think that I might need to look a little further at the wines being produced by the Mahrer's now at Ruby Tuesday. I know they're out there, but I haven't had more than a sip of their wines.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Nuragus" You Say?

If I asked you to describe what a "Nuragus" is, how would you reply?

Now that I've actually sent off my application for the Wine Century Club, I seem to keep running across bottles that I'd picked up prior to having reached my first century. Since the group has double, triple and quadruple memberships available as well, I suppose there's plenty of continued reason to keep looking for the new and, perhaps, unusual on this Wine Odyssey.

Hence, a new white to add to both The List on my blog and to the list of varietals I've tried for the WCC.

894. 2008 Argiolas - S'elegas (DOC Nuragus di Cagliari - Italy)

I don't actually remember where I came across this wine. I can't say that any of the bottle shops I patronize are exactly known for their collections of Sardinian wines - maybe an odd bottle of Cannonau - but especially not a varietal wine made of 100% Nuragus grapes. I mean what are the chances of anyone even knowing about Nuragus - let alone heading in to specifically buy a bottle?

The reference to the grape in Jancis Robinson's exhaustive Oxford Companion to Wine is even limited to one line in which she states the varietal is unique to Sardinia where it is used to make an "unremarkable" varietal white wine.

Also indigenous to Sardinia, it is the island's most prolific white varietal. It is apparently named after the ancient stone towers that are found in the area. It is considered to be a reliable grape to grow and is also called "pagadeppidus" which I read translates as "to pay debts" - much like the old "mortgage helper" tomato that you can find for sale at farmer's markets.

The wine is inevitably aged in stainless steel and is known for a nutty characteristic. I can't say that I noted that about the wine (not having read that little tidbit of info before we opened the bottle). I don't know that I'd go as far as calling it "unremarkable" - as Jancis Robinson notes - but it wasn't a wine that I'd run out and buy again. I think it goes for around $20-something and, for that amount of coin, the novelty isn't probably worth the second bottle.


It rather floors me when I read that Costco is the largest purveyor of wines in the US. The reason, of course, is that big box stores, supermarkets, and anything of the like, aren't allowed to sell alcohol of any sort in British Columbia - not even beer and wine. So, when Boo and I visited Seattle back in the spring, we made a bit of a Costco run in Bellingham while en route.

This was one of the bottles I thought I'd give a go.

893. 2009 Kirkland Signature - Cuvée de Nalys Châteauneuf-du-Pape (AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape - France)

I could be wrong (after all, it has been known to happen), but my guess is that Costco hasn't set up Kirkland vineyards in the Rhone to grow grapes and make wines. They must have contracted with Domaine de Nalys to produce this Châteauneuf-du-Pape for bottling and sale under a Costco label. It would be interesting to know what level of involvement, if any, the big box shop has in the winemaking process to influence the final product.

This is the first time I've ever seen - or even heard of - a Kirkland Signature wine. I don't know if they - and Domaine de Nalys - bring out a vintage of CdP every year or whether it's a one off arrangement that simply depends on the availability of grapes after the harvest. There were only 4000 cases of this wine produced. And, after all, the Domaine produces its own line of wines as well.

I like the fact that the label set out the blend of grapes. Domaine de Nalys appears to be one of the producers that likes to go beyond the base GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre) blend and uses noticeable percentages of some of the other varietals allowed in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. I'm definitely taking advantage of the fact that they've stated that the wine blend includes 4% Vaccarèse, 4% Counoise and 3% Muscardin and adding all three varietals to my Wine Century Club membership list.

None of these three grapes are found much outside of the Rhone and, indeed, they are hardly even grown there. A 2004 study showed that Vaccarèse comprised only 0.15% of vineyard plantings in the Rhone. The other two grapes aren't much more common - Counoise plantings represent only 0.5% of Rhone grapes and Muscardin only 0.4%. The Domaine de Nalys website discusses the thirteen varietals that are allowed in a CdP and their unique characteristics. Counoise is apparently noted for adding walnut, nutmeg and green peppercorn notes. Muscardin has a bright floral nose and Vaccarèse is used for its unusual floral tones and for toning down the brawny nature of the wine's often dominant Grenache.

As for the wine itself, Boo quite liked it. No doubt the pronounced earthiness stood out and worked for him. Me, I found it a bit slight on the fruit and body for my taste. It rather came across as an introductory level version of CdP - as opposed to the more expensive versions that we usually see in our market.

All the same, an interesting bottle that I never would have run across without having traversed the 49th Parallel. There are more bottles to come from the "Costco Collection" as we managed to work out getting about a case and half up to Canada - if only a couple of bottles at a time due to the ridiculous border restrictions and taxes. But that's another story.

Saturna Island Rosé

Despite the fact that the Gulf Islands are about as close a vacation getaway as you can get from Vancouver, we don't tend to see many wines from island wineries on the shelves of Vancouver bottle shops. I suppose a good part of that reality is that there isn't an awful lot of wine made there, but it would still be nice to see it over here now and then.

While visiting the Tyrant at his new place on Salt Spring Island, we stopped in at two of the island's wine stores and grabbed some bottles that I doubted we see over on the Mainland. Tonight's bottle was one of them.

892. 2009 Saturna Island Rosé (VQA Gulf Islands - BC)

I grabbed this wine in particular because it was sporting a little advert card around the neck stating that it was named as one of winning wines in this year's Vancouver Magazine Top 100 Wine Awards. The magazine's wine competition is now the largest judging of international and domestic wines in Western Canada. It focuses only wines that are available in the BC market and awards wines in a wide array of categories and from all over the price spectrum.

There were only five Rosé wines chosen this year. So, Saturna Island's being included on the winner's list is a nice little tip of the hat - particularly since this is the winery's very first release of a Rosé based on 100% estate grown fruit. The grapes were all Pinot Noir and they lent themselves to a nice tartness. I've seen both cranberry and rhubarb used to describe the fruit on the palate and I think that gives you a pretty good idea. The $16 price tag doesn't hurt that much either.

Our friends, Mickey & Rooney, have a lovely cottage on Saturna. I think I might need to work on getting us another invite so we can make a further exploration of the winery and its offerings.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A Charitable Dinner

For the last so many years, the firm where I work has had an annual silent auction as a charitable fundraising activity. The donated items go all over the map - from bottles of fine Scotch to a girls' night of cocktails and nails to throwing a pie in the face of a co-worker. Much to Boo's great delight (yeah, right), I've donated a wine dinner for four at our place for some years running. It's proved popular on the bidding front but managing to find an evening that works for the high bidders can be a tad difficult.

This year's silent auction was being organized when I realized that we still hadn't arranged the dinner for last year's winner, Stacey. We finally worked out a good night for her and her guests - Mr. Cool & Mimster and Gryff & Rain. Since neither Stacey, nor the Mimster drink and wine plays a big part in the dinner, it was easy to make room for an extra person.

886. N.V. Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut (Sonoma - California)

What better way to start than a sparkler in the garden - particularly when the hors d'oeuvres ranged from a shrimp and tomato bruschetta to spiced olives to saffron pickled cauliflower. Sparkling wines are often only brought out for special occasions (much like this); however, it's amazing how a bit of bubble can match up with a vast range of tastes and foods.

I've got a bit of a soft spot for Gloria Ferrer wines since Boo and I attended a wedding on their estate terrace almost 15 years ago. The winery is known to produce some of the best and most consistent sparkling wines in California - even though they only set up shop in the Sonoma Carneros region in 1986. They now produce quite a selection of sparkling (and still) wines, with most of those wines being based on Pinot Noir.

Made in the classic Méthode Champenoise, the Sonoma Brut is a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes - and they aren't kidding when they say it's a "blend." They've planted over 40 different clones of Pinot and Chardonnay in their vineyards to capture the diversity of both grape and vineyard characteristics. At $30 in our market, it remains a bit of a special occasion bottle but it's still about half the price of a true Champagne.

Fitting everyone around the picnic table was a bit of squeeze, so we moved the gang inside for dinner itself.

2009 Red Rooster Viognier (VQA Okanagan Valley)

I guess I was somewhat involved in kitchen duties because I neglected to take a picture of either the soup course or our second wine. Subconsciously, I might have known that I'd already added the 2009 vintage of Karen Gillis' Viognier to The List (at #779) - back when Red Rooster was being served up through the Canucks' round 1 playoff series with the Blackhawks this spring - but I doubt I was that organized.

887. 2008 Church & State Cabernet Blanc (VQA Okanagan Valley)

One of the dinner courses was a deconstructed Salade Niçoise. I always think Rosé when it comes to this favourite of salads. I'd picked up the Church & State at the 2010 Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival. I'm not sure how it's stayed hidden for so long. My recollection is that there wasn't a whole lot of this wine produced though. I see that there are only 450 cases of the 2010 vintage; so, I'd assume it would be about the same for the 2008.

I've seen a few BC Rosés being made from Cab Franc; however, the Church & State features Cab Sauv grapes. Their web site now states that they use only North-facing clusters in order to preserve the acidity. The use of those grapes for a Rosé might also be an efficient use of the Cab Sauv grapes that didn't ripen quite enough for the winery's big reds. Regardless, this is a fine example of what I love in a Rosé - capturing all the fruit, acidity, lightness and playful colour that just epitomizes "summer."

888. 2002 Burrowing Owl Meritage (VQA Okanagan Valley)
889. 2005 Golden Mile - Black Arts 5th Element (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Pulling out the BBQ and the big steaks naturally called for some big reds as well. I thought it'd be appropriate to serve the Golden Mile because Stacey had given it to us a few years back. The Burrowing Owl seemed like a nice comparison even though it was a few years older.

Both wines are blends - the Burrowing Owl is a straight Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cab Sauv and Cab Franc while Golden Mile has tweaked its Meritage-styled wine by adding a smidgen (2%) of Syrah. The Syrah was the "surprise" 5th element to the Merlot-dominated (65%) Merlot, Cab Sauv, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc mix.

The two wineries aren't much more than a stone's throw between them as well. Golden Mile is, naturally, on the Golden Mile, while Burrowing Owl is on the Black Sage Road - basically on either side of Highway 97, leading from Oliver down to Osoyoos. Both wines were also crafted by big name BC winemakers. Bill Dyer was still with Burrowing Owl for this vintage and he really moved the winery even further to the forefront with this vintage as it won two Best of Class awards at big California competitions. Michael Bartier was at the helm of Golden Mile until recently and he helped transition Golden Mile into Road 13 and its new stance of producing primarily blends.

Both wines showed really nicely and I think we'd have been hard-pressed to pick a favourite. We didn't hold a straw poll or vote but I heard a few "I think I like the ______ a bit better" comments for both wines. If I could only have another bottle of one of the wines, I'd probably opt for the B.O. - but I wouldn't exactly be disappointed if you told me I had no choice but to drink the 5th Element.

Indeed, both bottles disappeared rather quickly. I hadn't quite expected that and didn't have another red all thematically lined up. Accordingly, I had to just reach behind me and grab the closest bottle in the rack that was a red with a bit of ooompf.

890. 2006 Tintara Horseshoe Row Shiraz (South Australia)

Looks like I didn't manage a shot of this bottle either. So, I'll just throw in a pic of Mr. Cool showing the Mimster that he's being being fully sated by the evening's fare.

Tintara is a proud wine name in Australia, having been established in 1861. It is part of the Hardy's group and this Horseshoe Row label is a basic introductory line - making it nicely suited to being your sixth bottle of wine in an evening when tasting skills and notes aren't nearly as reliable.

891. 1997 Quinta do Noval Unfiltered Late Bottled Vintage Port (Portugal)

We finished the evening off with an LBV Port, a lavender crème brulée and cheese. No dinner is complete without cheese when either Gryff or Mr. Cool are in attendance. While I totally concur with that position, a port, fortified wine or sticky can do it even more for me. The LBV was a nice little finish to the evening - not that I'd even pretend to play the discerning wine connoisseur at this point of the evening.

By now, it was time to simply sit back, enjoy and relax - before the clean-up and realization that I'm going to have to get things moving now for this year's top bidders.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

An LG-Winning Riesling

The 2011 Lieutenant Governor's Wine Awards were recently announced and I thought it might be appropriate to blog about them while adding one of this year's winners to The List.

The L-G's Awards were introduced in 2003 to help celebrate the improving quality of BC wines and bring a bit of hoopla and media prominence to the industry. BC winemaking is still very much a locally driven affair. Very few bottles ever travel outside of the province; so, exposure of this nature is very much welcomed.

The L-G's seek to honour BC wines of high quality. The wines must be made from only BC-grown grown grapes by a BC winery. There is no specific style or varietal that is featured, excellence in wine alone is meant to be celebrated. However, a maximum of twelve wines will be awarded in any one year and, regardless of the number of wines that a winery might produce, each winery is limited to a submission of four wines.

In 2011, 83 wineries considered the best of their wines and submitted 309 of them. Eleven wines were awarded and we're lucky enough to be enjoying one tonight.

885. 2009 St. Hubertus Dry Riesling (VQA Okanagan Valley)

There aren't a lot of St. Hubertus wines on The List. I think there might be one or two that have been added; however, it isn't one of the wineries that regularly grace our table. I think the most prominent reference that I've made to the Gebert brothers is that their's remains the only BC winery that has ever been consumed by a forest fire.

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm a big lover of Riesling and this one is a wonderful blend of fruit and acidity. John Schreiner, one of BC's most prominent wine writers, calls this vintage a "classic." Who am I to disagree?

And you know what? The wine sells (sold?) for $15.50 - a bargain in any market, let alone BC.

This year's winners included some familiar names like Howard Soon and Sandhill's Syrah, Wild Goose (for its Pinot Blanc) and Sumac Ridge's classic bubble, Stellar's Jay Brut. Half of the award recipients were first time winners though - St. Hubertus being one of them.

I look forward to the Lieutenant Governor's Wine Awards every year. The "problem" is that, once the Awards are announced, the chances of actually finding the winning wines can be as elusive as the Canucks winning the Stanley Cup. I definitely lucked out in finding this Riesling at one of the VQA shops.

I don't expect to run across too many other winners - although I'm extremely happy to note that Karen Gillis and Red Rooster also won an L-G for their 2008 Reserve Meritage - and that's the wine that Karen chose to fill our 3L bottle with for Boo's 50th birthday. When picking the wine for the bottle, I told her to just go with whatever she thought her best wine on hand was. She chose the Meritage and, here, she wins an L-g with it. Guess the girl knows her own wines - not that I ever doubted that!

Methinks St. Hubertus needs to be on my radar a little more.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Second "Three"

Goodness, some of the recent postings have been bigguns'. The extravagant events and wines aren't exactly providing me with much opportunity to catch up quickly here. Luckily, tonight's wine was simply opened at home on a regular old "school" night and it's a wine that has seen another vintage already added to The List. So, I won't repeat myself too much when referring to the wine or winery. Who knows, I might even be able to think about starting in on another post right away.

884. 2005 Brancaia Tre (IGT Tuscany - Italy)

I'm not exactly sure how this happened but that other bottle of Tre I mentioned was a more recent vintage than this one - even though we opened it almost two years ago. The 2006 vintage is "charted" way back at #213 despite the fact that we're only opening the 2005 tonight. I can't say that it was a conscious decision to age the wine, especially since some commentators have stated that this is a wine that's ready to enjoy as soon as you take it from the bottle shop shelf.

I can attest that the additional ageing didn't hurt the wine at all though. If anything, it probably mellowed it out some because this seemed a little more balanced than what I remembered from the 2006. The earlier bottle was polished off while Boo and I were making and canning tomato sauce. Tonight, we enjoyed it as we chowed down on tomato sauce (not that same sauce though; it's long gone). Do I sense a theme happening?

You can go back to the earlier post to read a bit more, but I like the story about Tre (Italian for "three" BTW) and how it's a blend of three grapes - Sangiovese, Merlot and Cab Sauv - is sourced from Brancaia's three different vineyards and is the third wine that they produced.

Given all that, I think we may just have to try a third vintage down the road and show that, indeed, three's a charm. (Now to see about that next post.)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bubbly After Thoughts - Additions to The Century Club

So, I was laying in bed last night thinking about the post for the Pride Parade wines and I realized that, in my haste to get through the pictures and day's stories, there wasn't much time to write about the wines. No surprise there.

However, I did think that I should go back and check on the grapes that went into the Segura Viudas Brut Rosé. Spanish wines, after all, are great for discovering new varietals that can be added to my Wine Century Club list - and, sure enough, that little sparkler contained about 90% Trepat.

Now, I've never heard of Trepat and neither, apparently, have many others. It barely garners a paragraph's mention in Jancis Robinson's Oxford Companion to Wine. It's an indigenous grape to North-East Spain and is mainly used for light rosés and Cavas. I didn't see any note of the grape being grown outside of Spain and, even there, as little as 3500 acres may remain planted. It doesn't seem, however, to go by any other name of grape and certainly not by one that I submitted with my WCC application. So, it's helping to get me started on my second hundred varietals.

This little discovery also reminded me that I completed a cross index review of all the varietals that I had set out in my membership application and there were a few glaring omissions. So, I'll just mention here that, in addition to the Trepat, I've also polished off wines - already included on The List - that featured the Nebbiolo, Kerner, Caladoc and Petite Sirah varietals.

There are at least four Nebbiolo wines already on The List (including way back at #159). The Kerner can be found at #336 and the Petite Sirah was on full display at #464. Funny thing is that both postings for the Kerner and Petite Sirah even referred to the Wine Century Club. I just never mentioned them on my application form. Silly me.

The Caladoc was a bit of different situation. We finished this bottle off during a stretch where I was so tight for time that I didn't actually write up the wines or times where they were enjoyed. I simply added them to The List. This Argentine wine was added back at #269 and should have been an early addition to my WCC application - particularly since it was a pure varietal wine. The grape is a French cross of Grenache and Malbec. So, it might not be a surprise that it made its way to Mendoza. I've never seen it before and haven't seen it again - since I picked it up at the Vancouver International Wine Festival back in 2009. I'd hate to think that I missed out on a great addition like this for the WCC.

With these "new" varietals, my compilation list is increased by another five grapes and currently leaves me at 106... with plenty more to come.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bubbles, Biceps & Beads

It's time for yet another Pride Parade and this year's edition just goes to shows that, even when the basic show remains the same, there are always new and exciting aspects to the party. Firstly, we were lucky in that Boo didn't have to work this year! We were doubly lucky in that Miss Jaq joined us for the third year running.

Last year, we had a great little time setting up shop outside Lady Di's and She Who Must Be Obeyed's home. Despite the fact that the gals were away partying in Chicago for the weekend (poor timing if you ask me), they let us use their place as home base. I don't think they knew, however, that we'd be moving a healthy selection of garden furniture down to the street to set up a more festive and comfortable viewing station.

It certainly gained the respect of neighbours and passers-by. Plus, the primary bonus was that we were more prepared this year and we were able to bring along some vinous libations and go cups to make our party juice not so noticeable - a far cry from last year when we were limited to pre-Parade Mimosas and a bottle of wind-down wine. There is a certain cachet in toasting the better floats and costumes.

880. NV Voga Italia Sparkling (Trentino - Italy)

I figured it's a festive celebration, why not start off with some bubbles. From the time I saw the first stylish bottle of Voga Italia's product on the local shelves, I thought they've perfectly captured a marketing tool that could serve them well if the wine's any good. Their original bottles stood out enough on their own, but the Sparkling bottle kicked it up another notch.

What more could you ask for at a gay extravaganza - bubbles with style?! The wine's a simple Chardonnay & Pinot Grigio blend made by the Charmat method (a simple injection of carbon dioxide into the finished wine) which is the same method used for Prosecco. Knowing that, I'd pretty much expected a Prosecco-like wine and that's what it was - although perhaps somewhat drier than most of the Prosecco's found in our market. It certainly served the purpose of getting us primed for the main event.

881. NV Segura Viudas Brut Rosé (D.O. Cava - Spain)

As for the second bottle, it might not have been as stylin' as the Voga, but it was bubbly and it was pink. So, I figured it's Parade-worthy as well. By the time I was able to slip away and open it, the parade was well under way (after all I didn't want to draw even more attention to ourselves than our little suite had already managed). Just down the street from us, the cutest little fairy was enjoying herself almost as much as the big fairies were. So, I had one of our more colourful neighbours pose for a picture with her. This is a simple example of how wonderful the Parade can be.

Then again, the floats packed with dancing boys are another kind of wonderful all together. Part of our exterior design was a BBQ which allowed us to grill up lunch for our happy crew. This particular float just left me wondering how their wieners compared to our's. Nasty? You bet, but if you can't laugh at the Pride Parade, when can you?

As was to be expected, the colour and the colourful just kept coming and coming. There were plenty more pictures to add to this post - but I suppose the blog is as much about wine as it is about the events we drink it at and the people we drink it with. So, I'll move on to our third bottle and, by now, all the beef sausage at lunch (and beefcake in the Parade) had us thinking red wine.

882. 2006 St. Hallett Faith Shiraz (Barossa Valley - Australia)

Big and bold, we all needed a little Faith to keep our collective energy up. By now, our neighbour Red and her gal pal, Venus - two ladies that could challenge any of the dancing queens that I know had joined up with us, as had my niece, Stargirl, and some of her friends. A couple hours of dancing, clapping and catching beads can tucker an old guy out you know. Well, okay, maybe not really, but man does not live on bubbles alone. At least not this man.

As things wound down and we started getting close to the end of the parade, we finished off the last of the Faith and started working on the dismantling of our little sidewalk suite. We had at least two other groups say that they wanted to join with us next year in creating an even more festive party zone. In fact, I think they were more akin to challenges being issued. You know - same time, next year - but anything you can do, we can do better. Sounds like fun. Hopefully, Lady Di and SWMBO are still game. Maybe a few mirror balls and lasers?

Once we had everything back in the garden where it belonged, we hiked on down to the Pride Festival to check out the crowds and enjoy a final bottle of wine.

883. 2008 Puerto Bonita - Vinos Sin Ley - G5 (Vinos de Madrid - Spain)

Another appropriately named wine for the day - "Vinos Sin Ley" translates as "Wines Without Law." Naturally, all of this sipping on the street and at the Festival's beach parkside is completely frowned upon by the state. But, sometimes, a guy's just gotta do what a guy's gotta do. I've added at least one other Vinos Sin Ley wine to The List and I'm bound to do so again because I'm quite enthralled with their take on "creative innovation using nonconventional methods of harvesting, fermenting, blending, ageing and labelling." With Spain taking on an ever-increasing presence in global recognition for its wines, new takes on old methods can be invigorating.

Their G series of wines are all based of Garnacha (or Grenache) - just as the M series features Monastrell (or Mourvèdre wines). On the hillside, the girls weren't enjoying the G5 as much I was, but that might have been because Red and Venus had a dinner party they had to rush off to and they still hadn't been able to find the Trojan boys that were out and about. Venus was sure that at least one of them had to be straight because he was pointing his big sword at her during the parade and smiling.

We can all dream, can't we?

What do you say? Same time, next year? I, for one, can't wait.