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.

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